Capturing The Essence of Lyon, France

So far, Lyon is my favorite city in France. It has all the benefits of a cosmopolitan city but it feels more like a small town and has a  great laid-back atmosphere. Although there aren’t many attractions per se, it’s a wonderful city to just wander around in soaking up the atmosphere and all the “Frenchness” surrounding you.

Getting There:

Lyon–Saint Exupéry Airport makes it easy to reach the city from all over Europe with several great flights going between UK (Birmingham, London-Luton and Dublin are just a few). You can use websites like for parking your car at the airport in Birmingham and Luton, and can book your parking there and at other airport locations on their website. From the airport you can take the tram-train Rhônexpress to the city for €13 one-way (30 min) – the train is a more convenient way of reaching Lyon with three stations to arrive at, Part-Dieu station being the most central one. These three things are what for me really capture the essence of Lyon…

City Of Food

Lyon prides itself to be France’s best food capital, and it truly is – that is, if you’re a fan of pig cooked in a hundred different ways..!

One of the main things to do in Lyon is to dine at the many Bouchons (traditional Lyonnaise restaurants), but the menus are excessively meat heavy so there wasn’t much to choose from for vegetarians like us.

Instead, we decided to explore Lyon’s sweets and snacks, which fortunately there was plenty of!

What to eat: Make sure you try the Praline tart and St Martin cheese – two local specialties that are really tasty.

Also make sure to check out the St-Antoine market where stalls sell plenty of local specialities and delicacies – especially during weekends!

Hidden Treasures

There is more to Lyon than what meets the eye – literally. On the historical cobblestoned streets of Lyon are doors leading to old traboules, a type of traditional passageways that are used as a way of moving between buildings hidden from the outside.

It was primarily used by silk manufacturers to quickly transport their silk to the merchants by the river. Textiles were also transported in the traboules as they were sheltered from bad weather.

Some of the traboules are said to date back to roman times, and many of them are from the medieval century.

The traboules are open to the public, and residents live in the buildings and use the traboules every day, but since people live there you should respect their privacy while you’re there.

Where: Finding the traboules can be difficult without a map, but fortunately all the traboules in Vieux Lyon and Croix-Rousse are marked in red on the city map that you can get for free at the tourist office (with a numbered list above the fold). There is also an app you can use to find your way.

Views And Gardens

When exploring the traboules you will be walking through some of Lyon’s cutest neighborhoods and oldest areas, but after some time wandering the streets of Vieux Lyon and Roisse croux you may want to find a place to relax and enjoy some nature or views.

The most famous viewing point in Lyon has to be the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, overlooking the whole city and its rivers.

The cathedral is truly beautiful, and the views are nice as well, but just like with the views from the eiffel tower it’s missing one important thing – the cathedral itself.

The best view in Lyon is the one overlooking the old town with the cathedral in the background, perched on top of the green hill – and you get it from the riverside walk along Quai des Célestins and Quai St-Antoine.

But the walk up to (or down from) the cathedral is worth the visit alone, as you walk through beautiful lush gardens and flower plantations. It’s an oasis in the middle of the city.

Another lovely green area in Lyon is the Parc de la Tête d’Or, a huge park expanding 290 acres and a favorite picnic hangout among locals. There is a lake, gardens, ponds with exotic birds and small open-air zoo that is free to visit.

These are just a few things that make Lyon so special, what are your favorite things about Lyon?