This fantastic French city will sweep you off your feet
By Lisa Butterworth
Sure, Paris may be the romance capital of France, but just a two-hour train ride away is a city that’s equally charming, just as French, way less crowded, and yes, I’ll say it, even more delicious: Lyon. It even beats Paris in river count, too, with the Rhône and the Saône both flowing through its center. Walk the city’s narrow streets, dip into its many boulangeries, marvel at its pastel-colored buildings, soak up its indie entrepreneurial shopping scene, and you’ll be shouting, “Lyon, je t’aime!” in no time.
The Croix-Rousse neighborhood is an indie shopping haven: Get adorable cookies and colorful party goods at Coney Cookies (14 Rue Sergent Blandan), eclectic housewares and gifty items at L’Effet Canopée (18 Rue des Capucins), and handmade wares like jewelry, totes, and super-cute prints from a collective of creative ladies at lafabriq (106 Montée de la Grande-Côte). Then dip into indie bookstore Ouvrir L’Oeil (18 Rue des Capucins) to see how much cooler French covers are on your favorite tomes. Scope vintage threads at Leonard (19 Rue Hippolyte Flandrin), and if you ask nicely, maybe they’ll usher you into the secret back room, where racks of incredible French work wear will appeal to your androgynous side. For a bottled souvenir, head to Antic Wine (18 Rue du Bœuf)—simply rummaging through the dusty crates in the tiny shop’s cellar is half the fun.
Eat & Drink
Lyon is known as one of the great culinary capitals of the world, so if there’s one thing you should splurge on while you’re here, it’s food. Get your fill of bread, cheese, meat, seafood, pastries, and more at Les Halles de Lyon (102 Cours Lafayette), a gigantic, indoor gourmet food market with dozens of vending stalls and restaurants. (A lot of the cheesemongers will vacuum pack their goods, so stock up on stinky souvenirs!) Treat yourself to a meal at the quaint and airy Le Bistrot Du Potager (3 Rue de la Martinière). Grab a booth upstairs and order as many of the small tapas plates—featuring fresh, Spanish-twist takes on French dishes like tartines and croquettes—as your stomach can handle. You’ll be drinking wine like it’s water, but Lyon knows its way around a craft cocktail, too. Pop into the dark, speakeasy-style L’Antiquaire (20 Rue Hippolyte Flandrin) for high-end versions of low-end classics (including the best White Russian that will ever hit your lips). For a bit more swank, hit The Monkey Club (19 Place Tolozan). This laid-back bar feels like a trip back in time with its leather banquettes, vintage bric-a-brac, and deep jewel-toned décor, and the A+ cocktails are like tasty sips of history.
The Monkey Club
Treat Yo’ Self
It’s hard to find a bad pastry in Lyon, but you’ll score some of the best at Boulangerie Saint Vincent (49 Quai St Vincent), a teeny-tiny spot with a glass case full of buttery goodness. Ogle the magnificent cakes at Sébastien Bouillet (15 Place de la Croix-Rousse), then duck into the patissier’s more rustic spot next door, Goûter, for hunks of bread pudding and pink pralines—candy-coated almonds that are a Lyonnaise specialty. Caffeinate at Mokxa Cafe (3 Rue de l’Abbé Rozier), where you can sip your espresso on their cobblestone patio, or at the lady-run Le Tigre (91 Montée de la Grande-Côte), which also serves up the rare gluten-free treat. When you need a carb break, head to La Fabrique Givrée (66 Rue Saint-Jean) for incredibly flavored ice cream from peach and pistachio to chocolate and wine (!).
Lyon is a veritable treasure trove of gorgeous vistas, cool nooks and crannies, and awe-inspiring architecture, so simply walking around is a treat in and of itself (keep your eyes peeled for awesome and plentiful street art). But for a breathtaking view, head to the top of Montée de la Grande-Côte, the main thoroughfare in the Croix-Rousse quarter. Grab a bike from one of the many bike share stands and cruise along the Rhône, working your way to Lyon’s grand green space, Parc de la Tête d’Or. Keep an eye out for the exotic animals—like giraffes and flamingos—that populate its free zoo, which is not at all sad like most American zoos. Then reward yourself with a crêpe from the magical little stand by the park’s carousels. Stunning murals will catch your eye all over Lyon, but the Fresque des Lyonnais (2 Rue de la Martinière) is particularly worth a visit. This public work of art features famous past and present Lyon residents, from poets to chefs, providing a glimpse into what the people of this incredible city hold dear.
Montée de la Grande-Côte
Parc de la Tête d'Or
Photographed by Elise Julliard
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