Life in Lyon
The streets constantly buzz with the stereotypical beauty of the French way of life. Fresh croissants in the morning as everyone hurries off to work by foot, bike or car along the quays of the Rhône and Saône and casually chic glasses of wine by night, as they chat amongst friends and enjoy the bustling atmosphere of restaurants around them. Life in Lyon is a beautiful one. Rich in culture, food, wine and discovery. A life that I fell in love with and continue to enjoy everyday.
Lyon, unlike many other well-known French cities such as Paris, manages to maintain a beautiful balance between touristy and rich in activities and surprisingly peaceful and a slow paced. Having experienced Lyon as a tourist and now (more-or-less) as a local, I encourage, advise and insist again that Lyon is the city to be experienced through tourists eyes but NOT in a touristy fashion.
Things To See
Basilica of Notre Dame, Fourvière: To be honest, you can’t miss it. The magnificent, looming 150 year old basilica that sits at the top of the hill in Fourvière (suburb of Lyon) is just as impressive from the inside as the outside. Tourists generally tend to take the tram up the hill and then a tour inside the church, but they miss the hidden treasures! Take the time to slowly (and it will be slow as it is a decent hill) meander up to the church, through the hidden gardens which surround the front of Notre Dame. Then once inside, take the time to purely appreciate the beauty of the details literally embedded within the walls of the two stories. There are plenty of brochures and information around the area, that you don’t need the dorky headphones or the guide in order to discover what she has to offer.
- Roman Theatre: whilst heading back down the hill from Fourvière, be sure to pass by the Roman Theatre, the ancient site, still in use for concerts and shows, is always impressive and amusing, even if it is just for going down the giant, steep steps.
Vieux Lyon (The Old Town): There is nothing not to like about the cobble stones which wobble under your feet, the lively atmosphere of bars and restaurants everywhere you turn, the gorgeous old man and his crepe cart and the smell of bakeries, selling praline brioches (a speciality and must have whilst in Lyon). The old town is the original hub of Lyon which is just oozing with the classic Lyon Lifestyle. Young and old, tourists and locals, there is a mixture of it all. There are so many boutiques, places to eat and a constant flow different walks of life, it honestly suffices to sit outside at a cafe, drink a coffee and watch the world fly by around you.
- Boulangerie du Palais (Palace Bakery): it should be your first stop for all forms of pastry, a quick bite to eat or the most important, delicious praline brioche.
- Le Comptoir de Mathilde (chocolate shop): the rustic style boutique is as touristy as I like to get, but always a lovely place to stop buy, try some chocolate or speculoos spread and maybe leave with a souvenir or two.
- NuanC: the most magnificent handcrafted jewellery, drawings, sculptures, paintings and t-shirts. All designed and realised by the owner, you can always find your unique piece that suits you (I know I have quite a few unique pieces that suited me…). NuanC
Croix Rousse: Lyon is a city that stretches far and wide, with each suburb within the Presque-Ile (central area) subtly changing it’s charm. Croix Rousse is that are where you walk and you walk and, being positioned on the eastern hillside, you take in the views which surround you. Croix Rousse has a labyrinth of staircases and secrets passages which lead you in all directions and getting lost (which you more than likely will) is half the fun. The other half is the artistic, bohemian feel that fills the streets. With the plenty of pop-up galleries, art shops, open- galleries and more, I highly recommend that you don’t plan where you want to go, but just go get lost in the streets. Discover what it has to offer
Bellecour: The most well known, most visited and most loved area of Lyon. Bellecour, as suggested by its name, is a extremely beautiful and you will never be bored. It is the central shopping area with the Rue de la République extending all the way to the Town Hall, filled with a maximum of shops for a little afternoon of burning a hole in the wallet. However the first thing to do and the advice of my Dad that I always followed whilst discovering a new place is to “keep your eyes open and your head in the clouds”, the advice that I will always pass on…just look up. The architecture in the center of town is truly French, in the very best sense of the word, that you will fall in love, want to buy an apartment and move to France (as I did exactly that..).
- La Mairie (Town Hall), Place des Terreaux: regal and grande, the town hall is the style of building that make the tourists flock to Lyon. With the square surrounding and plenty of cafes, the only thing you have to do is sit back and enjoy.
- Musée des Beaux Arts (Gallery of Fine Art): if the the weather turns sours and the rain arrives to ruin your day (as it it often happens), an afternoon at the gallery is always a perfect way to soak up some culture and stay warm and dry.
- Place Bellecour: if you need a break, soak up some sun and drink a quick espresso, the square is a central area to meet up with people, catch the metro or just pass by for a look.
Places to eat
Lyon, like all over France, has a style of cuisine specific to the region. It depends completely on what your tastes are, what you’re willing to taste and what you’re searching for, but it is certain that you will not go hungry in Lyon. Of course, I have merely started catching at the surface of all the Lyon has to offer, but here are just a couple of my favourites
- Jonny’s Kitchen: a good old Irish bar/restaurant, we often go to Jonny’s with friends for the best burgers and a pint. The atmosphere is chilled and the staff (non of which are French) super cool, you will not be disappointed. [48 Rue Saint-Georges, 69005 Lyon]
- L’épicerie: for something more Lyonnais, this cute little cafe/restaurant is where I always take first timers in Lyon for a quick bite to eat. The idea is the entire menu is full of Lyon style ‘tartines’ (toasted fresh bread with toppings, like a bruschetta). Always a good place to start for something a little bit French without having to pay an arm and a leg. [24, cours Albert Thomas 69008 Lyon]
- Pain de Jacobins: croissants, baguettes, brioche, tarts, chocolate filled pastry, need I go on. The first and foremost task to accomplish whilst in France is living it like all the rest of the country and eat as much pastry as you can whilst you’re here. Pain de Jacobins is a small, up market bakery, right next door to where we live and our local. Cosy on the inside, the smell of freshly baked bread never disappoints. [3 Rue de l’Ancienne Préfecture de Lyon, 69002]
- Le Bouchon Lustre: always full and well reputed, Le Bouchon is a classic example of Lyon cuisine, eaten in a traditional restaurant (known as a bouchon Lyonnais). A lovely place to experience a true degustation of Lyonnais food in an upmarket, classy environment. [55 Rue Mercière, 69002 Lyon]
- Ninkasi: another burger (but who could get sick of burgers), however not like all the rest. The French adore their burgers and. Ninkasi brings a new style to the classic. All the products, meat and vegetable are found locally here in Lyon. They even produce their own mark of beer, each season a new ‘flavour’ that comes along. Never disappointed and never over priced, Ninkasi is perfect for anyone that appreciates a good burger. Ninkasi site (with address and menu)
Enjoy & Explore