Lyon is the queen of French gastronomy. It is the city with the largest concentration of Michelin-star restaurants in all of France. Paul Bocuse has no less than five brasseries in Lyon that are slightly cheaper than his flagship L'auberge du Pont in the neighboring Collonges, but prices are still high. Culinary enthusiasts don't have to feel sad though, as you don't have to choose a Michelin-star restaurant to enjoy excellent food in Lyon. To supply all these restaurants, the city has a huge fresh-food market in the Halle de Lyon, where butchers, fishmongers, cheesemongers, caterers, and vegetable and fruit traders offer their merchandise. Farmers from the surrounding areas have their own market at the Quai St Antoine.
Because of the large number of Renaissance buildings, Lyon's historic medieval center is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a pedestrian area full of nice stores, restaurants, bars, terraces and charming squares. The so-called traboules – small covered alleyways that were used by silk workers to bring their merchandise from their workplaces on the Presqu'île to the Croix-Rousse neighborhood – are typical for the city. These alleyways run straight through private houses and courtyards. You should also visit the Saint-Jean Cathedral, which was built between the 12th and the 15th centuries and is a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic architecture.
At the far north of the Presqu'île there is a lively square: Place des Terraux. On the south side of the square lies a former abbey from the seventeenth century, which now houses the Musée des Beaux Arts. The collection is enormous: Ranging from ancient Egyptian art and works by Flemish, Dutch, Italian and French masters to a large collection of impressionist paintings and modern art.
Lyon was the capital of Roman Gaul and you can still find many remnants of these times. The Gallo-Roman Museum (Musée de la Civilisation Gallo-Romaine) has a large collection of inscriptions, sculptures, mosaics, sarcophagi and ceramic and glass objects that were found during excavations in Lyon and its surroundings. France's oldest Roman theater is situated right next to that museum, on the Fourvière Hill. Admission is free and the hill provides a beautiful view of the surroundings.
On that hill you'll also find Lyon's symbol: Notre-Dame de Fourvière. This basilica was built at the end of the nineteenth century and looks quite bulky because of its four solid octagonal towers. It is therefore also nicknamed 'the upside-down elephant'.
It is not only gastronomy that plays a prominent role in Lyon; traditionally, it is also the city of silk. In the Musée des Tissus you can learn everything about the origin and history of Lyon's silk industry. Here you can also admire beautiful silk objects, not just from France, but also from Spain, Italy, the Middle East and the Far East. This museum – in the Hôtel de Villeroy – is combined with the Musée des Arts-Décoratifs, where furniture and musical instruments from the 17th and 18th centuries are exhibited.
In and around Lyon
Lyon's surroundings are beautiful and very diverse: The Alps begin southeast of the city and south of the city lie the deep gorges of the Ardèche. Obviously, the Rhône River also plays an important role, as well as many other rivers with vineyards on top of the slopes.
Southeast of Lyon lies the department of Isère, which mainly stands out because of its enormous differences in height. There are beautiful hiking and biking routes in the Parc Naturel Régional de Vercors, along the impressive caves in this area.
In the vicinity of Lyon you will also find many picturesque and historic towns. We only name a few; when driving around in your rental car, you will come across many others. Near Lyon lies the ancient town of Crémieu with beautiful medieval ramparts, a marketplace dating back to the fifteenth century and ruins of a castle where the rulers of the Dauphiné once lived. Pérouges lies about thirty kilometers northeast of Lyon. Leave your rental car outside the center and wander through narrow, winding, cobblestone streets that often form the backdrop for film recordings.
Many people consider the Haute Savoie, east of Lyon, one of France's most beautiful regions. The high mountains (here you'll find for example the Mont Blanc Nature Reserve) and beautiful lakes in particular, draw many tourists. Nearby the department's capital, Annecy, lies a lake that is often called Europe's cleanest lake.
In general, it is not difficult to find accommodation in Lyon. There is a large supply in all categories. We do recommend booking your hotel in advance if you want to visit Lyon during the annual Fête des Lumières or when large exhibitions are held at the Eurexpo complex.
Lyon has many parking garages, where you can park your rental car at a reasonable rate. You can also park out on the streets, but parking is usually limited (to one and a half or two hours) and the rates are higher than when parking in a garage. Many parking garages are operated by Lyon Parc Auto. You can receive more information about parking at their office on Place de Cordeliers.
The P+R areas on the outskirts of the city are a good alternative. Here you can park for free and then take public transportation (trolley, streetcar or bus) to Lyon's center.
The airport's full name is Lyon Saint Exupery Airport and it is located twenty kilometers east of the city. You can easily reach the airport by rental car. It is located along the A432, which connects the A42 (Lyon – Grenoble) and the A43 (Lyon – Chambéry) freeways. The route to the airport is clearly signposted.