21 July 2014

Suitcase. Lyon, France - Travel Guide

I would describe Lyon as the littler, sweeter cousin of Paris. This beautiful city has history dating back to Ancient Roman times, the streets are paved with cobblestones and the centre of town is bordered by two rivers: the Rhône and the Saône.  At the western side of the city lies Fourviere Hill and the Basilica of Notre Dame church which appear to act as a guardian as they watch over Lyon; it is quite an incredible sight. Known as “the stomach of France”, Lyon’s streets are lined with traditional bouchons and you would be hard-pressed to find a café that doesn’t offer a plethora of baguettes and croissants.

The Saône River

The Rhône River

Place des Jacobins

Lyon is much smaller in size than Paris so you don’t need as much time to see it all; I would recommend 3-4 days. In that time you can see the city centre; shop around Bellecour where there are plenty of chain stores and designer boutiques; sit by the fountain at Place des Jacobins; wander the banks of the Rhone and the Saone; ride the funicular up to the top of Fourviere Hill where the views across the city are breath-taking; visit the Basilica of Notre Dame church; and take a trip up to the Parc de la tête d’or (Park of the Golden Head), with its expansive gardens and never-ending lake this is probably the most beautiful park I have seen (but shhh don’t tell Central Park I said so).

View from Fourviere Hill

Basilica of Notre Dame

Parc de la tête d'or

France express trains run to and from Lyon so it’s easy to reach the city if you’re in the country. I arrived from Paris on the TGV which travelled the 460km in a mere two hours. There are two central train stations in Lyon; Part Dieu and Perrache; from these stations you can take day trips on the regional TER train. I visited the little village of Annecy which is nestled in the Alps; the slow regional train is 5-hours return from Lyon but it is well worth it. Within the city of Lyon you can get around town using buses, taxis and bicycles (like the Paris velo system). They also have a strange version of trams, which are really more like buses in disguise. The city centre is not very large and pretty much everything is within walking distance.

The village of Annecy at the foot of the alps
Lyon has an incredible number of restaurant and café choices; they line every street and alleyway. The most common are the Lyonnais bouchons which serve French food traditional of the region. This style of food is quite heavy with lots of creams and sauces but it’s certainly worth a try. While in Lyon I was lucky enough to enjoy two dinners at the restaurant Archange. This petite restaurant with just ten tables is nestled near the first arrondisment and an exquisite three course menu will set you back €29.50. The food is French with a modern twist and the dishes are as pretty as a picture – I would highly recommend visiting. Le Lyon Castel patisserie at the foot of Fouviere Hill serves the best pastries and tarts I’ve ever tried – be sure to stop in for a sweet treat.

Duck l'orange at Archange
Raspberry Tart from Le Castel patisserie

One of the many sweets shops in the old town

I’m so glad I had the opportunity to visit the city of Lyon; compared to Paris it is a quaint little place with plenty of French culture and history to offer its visitors. I was lucky enough to arrive in Lyon on Bastille Day – each year on this day there are fireworks set off from the top of Fouviere Hill, the French gather on the banks of the Saône and I watched the most beautiful show of lights I have ever seen. Vive la France.

Photos by Krissie.