THE CITY OF LIGHTS, LYON
Perhaps no city will be more memorable than Lyon as one of your ports of call on any south of France river cruise that sails the Saone or Rhone rivers. From river bank to the rising hillsides beyond, the pastel colors and architecture of its buildings portray a place of history, beauty, culture and refinement, tempting one to explore and breathe deeply of its relaxed atmosphere.
Lyon sits at the convergence of the Saone and the Rhone rivers, an ancient settlement – perhaps older than even Paris – so it is not unusual to find it is honored with one of UNESCO’s World Heritage dedicated sites in its old quarter, Vieux Lyon. The city has grown over the centuries to encompass nine different such areas each beautifully situated near one of the rivers or on the hillsides. It is hard to believe it is the second, some say third, largest city in France so quiet, so clean, so sophisticated its presence.
French Cuisine At its Finest
Each stop or “port” on a France river cruise is a step into the local culture and magic of the area, and each area has its own uniqueness. Lyon is a beautiful city, a cultural draw, a UNESCO World Heritage site as mentioned and therefore an historical attraction too – but it is for its food for which Lyon has become famous. Many areas in France offer delightful cuisine but it is the simple fare here elevated to gastronomical genius that has put Lyon on the map for gastronomes.
Paris immediately comes to mind when one thinks French cuisine but those in the know will tell you: no, go to Lyon, it has the reputation of being the capital of French gastronomy. The city boasts in excess of two thousand restaurants, and over twenty Michelin stars. Remarkable is it not! Famous chefs follow in the footsteps of a long succession of the Meres Lyonnaises, women from the 18th century to the 20th, who left their employ in the kitchens of wealthy homes to offer their recipes, made with local ingredients in original, tasty combinations, to the local workers and later, as their fame spread, to the upper class wealthy in the Mere’s restaurants of Lyon. Even most regular folk the world over have heard of Sauce Lyonnaise, Potatoes Lyonnaise and Coq au Vin, all traditional dishes. Consider sampling these dishes as well:
- Quenelles de brochet: These are dumplings made from pike and served in a creamy sauce.
- Gratons: These are bits of fried pork fat, usually served as a topping for salads or as a snack on their own.
- Cervelle de canut: This is a spread made from cheese, herbs, and shallots. It’s typically served on toast or bread.
But it’s not just traditional French food that you’ll find in Lyon. The city is also home to a number of excellent ethnic restaurants, so you can find just about any type of cuisine you’re in the mood for.
Things To See & Do in Lyon
Lyon boasts more than restaurants, having its fair share of exceptional museums, opera and ballet offerings, festivals and events. Lyon was once a centre for the production and weaving of silk ( look for a bouchon to sample a silk worker’s traditional morning snack with accompanying Beaujolais wine). Visit the Textile Museum for silk production history. Other museums are the Decorative Arts Museum, a museum celebrating the Marionette (puppet), and also a Museum of Miniatures and Cinema. Lyon is also famous as the birthplace of cinematography through the inventions of Louis and Auguste Lumiere.
Today Lyon is a centre for finance, pharmaceuticals and software industries. But wander the narrow, winding streets of its old quarter and you will forget its modern face. Marvel at the Renaissance era buildings and at the 150 plus trompe l’oeil works of art scattered on walls throughout the city. Shop the famous designer names in its boutiques; savour the wine in its cafes and relax with an evening of opera or ballet. There’s lots to do in Lyon.
Its Green Spaces
Of course, no visit to Lyon would be complete without spending some time relaxing in one of the city’s many parks and gardens. Some of the most popular ones include:
- Parc de la Tête d’Or: This is the largest park in Lyon, and it’s home to a zoo, botanical gardens, and a lake.
- Jardin des Plantes: This is a smaller, more intimate garden, with a number of rare and exotic plants on display.
- Parc de la Cerisaie: This park is particularly popular with families, thanks to its playgrounds and picnic areas.
If you are lucky enough to time your visit in May, plan to attend the Nuits Sonores, an electronic music event.
Visit Lyon between December 8th and 12th, you will see why it is called the City of Lights. Legend has it that years ago after the city was spared the worst of a plague due to the intervention of the Virgin Mary: a statue was erected to her while every window in the city held a lit candle in her praise. This tradition eventually became the modern light festival of today . Artists from around the world transform this elegant city into a city ablaze with their original creations set to music, sound effects, and videos.
So, if you’re planning a trip to France, or a France river cruise, be sure to put Lyon on your list. The city has something for everyone, whether you’re into culture, history, food, or just relaxing in beautiful surroundings. Contact your travel expert at this agency who will plan a trip to remember.
Footer image Lyon Street Light courtesy of Dimon Bir on UnSplash. All other photos courtesy of Adobe Stock unless otherwise noted. Article first appeared on Real Travel Experts.