Our vision is to take you on day trips to cities around the world. Featuring the best local hangouts so you can experience life like a local on your adventures. Join us for A Day In Lyon, France.
Fresh from spending ten days trekking across Switzerland, where the main culinary experiences consisted of various types of fondue, we were happy to cross the border into Lyon, France, where meals were drastically cheaper and $50 covers a tasty 3-course meal at a local restaurant.
WANDER || Lyon's Characteristic Traboules
We spend most of our time walking along the Saône and Rhône Rivers, and the shopping street stretches from one end of the island to the other. We stayed at an Air B&B where the owner graciously helped us book all the restaurants and gave us insider travel tips such as an app called "Traboules" you can download to explore the hundreds of secret passageways weaving their way through the old quarters of Lyon.
While the app shows the various Traboules that are 'open' to visitors, our host mentioned that we could easily try pushing on gates and doors that lead into a building - if it opens, then you are free to roam. These passageways take you sometimes from one side street onto another, or into quaint courtyards and gardens. Perfect for adventurers who like to explore.
ARCHITECTURE || Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière
8 Place de Fourvière, 69005 Lyon, France
Whenever you explore a European city, most of the time you will visit churches built in different periods, and here in Lyon, the must-see spot would be the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière. Be prepared for a nice hike up to the spot (you could also go by bus, but why miss a nice opportunity for more exercise?), as the Basilica is positioned to overlook the city on Fourvière hill, aka the ‘praying hill’. Built in a Gothic Revival style, the basilica was built between 1872 and 1884 to thank God for the victory over the socialists in the famous “Communes”.
The Basilica extends onto the esplanade, which offers a breathtaking view of the city below. You can read more about the 'Treasure of Lyon' here.
RUINS || Ancient Theatre of Fourvière
17 Rue Cléberg, 69005 Lyon, France
For those ready to do some more walking uphill, head to the Ancient Theatre of Fourvière to take in the stunning architecture of the ruins of a pair of Roman Theatres. The theatres housed 10,000 seats, and is now used for open-air concerts and festivals, such as Nuits de Fourvière, which has taken place every summer since 1946 in the Ancient Theatre of Fourvière.
We were lucky that there were few tourists when we stopped by, allowing us to take photos of the awe-inspiring architecture. As I sat atop the upper steps, I decided to test whether it's true that historic architecture was designed with acoustics in mind, to help sound travel easily; so I said my companion's name at a regular volume while he was standing below on the performance stage. He immediately turned as he heard my voice, and I was again awestruck by the magnificent theatre design and architecture.
ART || Mur des Canuts
36 Boulevard des Canuts, 69004 Lyon, France
Coming from Vancouver, we are no strangers to mural art populating the city streets. There is a renowned mural in Lyon one must see, dedicated to the silk workers in the factories (Lyon is famous for its silk).
The first version of the mural was completed in 1987 on the back of a building that had a wall with nothing on it other than few ventilation windows. The result is a stunning mural depicting the an ultra-realistic lifestyle scene. This is Europe's largest wall mural painting at 1200 m2. The entire painting is an optical illusion, because like we just mentioned, nothing was there prior to this wall mural!
Standing from across the street, you would think that everything looks real. The fresco painting is given various levels of depth to make it seem like the set of stairs takes you upwards to other buildings. The 'windows' on the buildings are left slightly ajar to illustrate various lifestyle moments.
While the Mur des Canuts is the most famous mural in Lyon, there are many other murals to be seen. Such as the one below with a lifelike fish blown up to the size of a building. From our Airbnb apartment windows we could see a large-scale mural just across the river. Wander the city and you will be treated to these various art pieces.
ENTERTAINMENT || Place Bellecour
Place Bellecour, 69002 Lyon, France
A massive city square in the heart of Lyon, we know this part of the city for its ferris wheel. As the sun was setting we came upon this large car-free city square, and upon seeing the ferris wheel, we ordered a bag of churros from the vendor right next to it, and enjoyed a few moments soaring above the city.
From this large city square you can see the pedestrian traffic spilling into the various shop-lined streets, which are chock-full of coveted European high-street brands. It didn't help that we managed to visit while the Paris country-wide sale had just started; if you are visiting during their annual sale, you must bring an extra suitcase(!)
MUSEUM || musée des Confluences
86 quai Perrache, 69002 Lyon
You can take the streetcar to this iconic landmark, the Musée des Confluences, which was recently completed in December of 2014. It is a science centre and anthropology museum, and while we did manage to visit, we sadly did not have time to roam through the museum's various exhibitions. Though we do recommend stopping by to appreciate the architectural design, crated by Austrian firm Coop Himmelb(l)au.
ARCHITECTURE || Palais de Justice
67 Rue Servient, 69433 Lyon
Walking around Lyon meant we were often crossing one of the three bridges connecting the various parts of the city. In the evening as we walked back across the river, this stunning, illuminated building came into sight and I had to take a photo. I later found out this is this stunning architectural feat is home to the Rhône Assize court and Lyon’s Court of Appeal. It is also known as the "Palace of 24 columns", with its 24 neoclassical columns as a defining exterior detail that is hard to miss.
Read the rest of our visit to this cozy eatery here.
ARCHITECTURE || City Hall
1 Place du Petit Collège, 69005 Lyon
The Hôtel de Ville de Lyon is located in the Place des Terreaux, and is the City Hall of Lyon. Beautifully illuminated at night, we wandered upon this city square with the illuminated Fountaine Barthodi, The female sitting on the chariot represents France, controlling four rearing, charging horses that represent the four great rivers of France.
Lively chatter can be heard across the square as restaurant patios spill out onto the sidewalk - a nice spot to grab a drink before or after dinner.
DINNER || BIstro Pizay
4 Rue Giuseppe Verdi, 69001 Lyon
Being a strict carnivore, I instantly fell in love with the Lyonnaise salad. For those who don't know what that is - it is a salad with tons of bacon and an egg to top it all off. Who needs dressing when you have runny egg yolk? The chicken I had as the main was also well marinated and tender, and the housemade pear tart was just what I needed to recharge from a day of walking close to 16,000 steps.
A cozy little bistro on a bustling street, we chanced upon this eatery and enjoyed a nice meal. We would recommend it even if you just come for the salad(!)
DINNER || Les Retrouvailles
38 Rue du Bœuf, 69005 Lyon
First, let us save you the embarrassment of trying to look for a doorknob when you arrive at the restaurant. We had arrived for an 'earlier' reservation at 7:30PM (most people here have dinner in the later hours of the evening like 8:30 or 9), and had trouble locating the entrance to the restaurant. All the doors seemed closed, and when we peered in we saw people preparing in the kitchen, but evidently the entrance was where we were standing.
After waiting outside for about ten minutes, a gentlemen finally opened the door from the inside, and 'placed' a doorknob on the outside for guests to enter. I guess this means restaurants in Lyon mean it when they say they are closed, they even remove the doorknob!
The menu here is definitely authentic French cuisine you are unlikely to find anywhere else. The portions are sizeable, in that the shrimp and escargot dish I had was pretty filling, and the smoked duck appetizer was also on the heavier side.
The desserts are laid out on a centre table in the restaurant, and we tried two interesting desserts, one that was made of whipped eggwhite and another we were told was cheese (below right), which we were instructed to eat with sugar. Truly the first time we had consumed dessert like this but definitely a memorable experience. We had come upon this restaurant at the recommendation of our Airbnb host when we asked her for local eats, and it didn't disappoint!
As you can see, there is plenty to explore in Lyon, from the authentic French cuisine, to the mysterious Traboules connecting the city, to the various architectural landmarks that branch old and new architectural styles.
A wonderful city we would love to visit again, this time with a bit more planning to enjoy more great local eats!