by Anthony Peregrine, The Telegraph, December 17, 2018
Fine food and culture abound in this most French of French cities.
Lyon has been a significant city for 2,000 years. It has two great rivers, world-class records in commerce and industry, a Renaissance centre to rival any in Italy and a dedication to cuisine remarkable even by French standards. Go see for yourself, right now while the monumental grandeur stands stark against winter. If it’s wet, first-rate shops, museums, restaurants, theatres and the Paul Bocuse market beckon. Eurostar’s (eurostar.com) fastest trains take five hours from London, changing in Paris.
Hotel Carlton Lyon (1 on the map above) is four-star plush, dignified and central. Room-only doubles from £118. The Lyon outpost of design mini-chain Mama Shelter (2) is groovy enough without casting aside the middle-aged. Doubles from £62.
Start from the Place Bellecour (3) – a square vast enough to host a small war – and plunge into the Vieux Lyon, where France’s finest Renaissance centre crams in around the Gothic St Jean Cathedral (4). Take the funicular up Fourvière Hill for the all-seeing Notre-Dame Byzantine basilica, then the great classical amphitheatre and archeo-museum where Lyon began as “Lugdunum” (lugdunum.grandlyon.com). Walk back down the hill, stopping halfway at the Phosphore wine bar for lunch (tetedoie.com; two courses £17).
Lyon’s shiniest museum looks contemporary but the Musée des Confluences (5) is traditional, romping through evolution, the animal kingdom, death, life and the universe, (museedesconfluences.fr; £8).
Join a small group tour eating its way round Vieux Lyon via tastings at key outlets. It’s four hours and £62pp (lyonfoodtour.com).
Photo by ventdusud/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
Poshest shopping (YSL, Rykiel) is around Place des Jacobins (6), though certain hip outfits (Marie Sixtine, Bobbies) are moving to the Hotel Dieu redevelopment (grand-hotel-dieu.com).
Lyon centre throbs with bars, but my daytime and aperitif favourite is the discreet Bourbon’s House (7), a mix of French panache and London cocktail bar (bourbonshouse.com; cocktails £10.50). Move on to the Maison Mère (8) on Place Gabriel Rambaud for all-night revelry (mmlyon.com).
Lyon has more great restaurants per head than anywhere in France, but real Lyonnais eating is in neighbourhood bouchons, tie-loosening spots for trad dishes such as chicken with crayfish or pike dumplings. The most venerable is Comptoir Abel on Rue Guynemer (9) – three courses from £24; cafecomptoirabel.com).
Off the map
Take a city bike (velov.grandlyon.com) out to the Musée Lumière in the family mansion of movie pioneers Auguste and Louis Lumière. A riveting stroll through the earliest cinema days (institut-lumiere.org; £6).