I love Lyon. I lived there for ten months, so I might be a teensy bit biased, but it’s an absolute cracker of a city. It’s overlooked by so many city breakers – which is perhaps no bad thing, for it means it doesn’t get completely swamped with tourists like my current hometown – yet has lots to offer the discerning visitor, from world-class museums and cultural venues to picturesque streets and top-notch grub. Although you could easily spend longer than a weekend in Lyon, à la Travel Man, I’ve compiled an itinerary for time-poor visitors wishing to get a flavour for the city in a short space of time. If you missed it, you can catch up on the first part by clicking here. Otherwise, grab yourself a brew and settle in for part two . . .
09:00 | Begin your day with a trip to Les Halles de Lyon, a celebrated indoor market brimming with local delicacies, fresh produce and cosy eateries. Take in the sights and sounds, but save your euros for the outdoor marchés, as they’re better value for money. Opposite the entrance on Cours Lafayette, there’s a fresque in homage to Paul Bocuse, widely recognised as the founding father of nouvelle cuisine.
10:00 | If you’re feeling peckish (or haven’t breakfasted yet), then there are plenty of artisan boulangeries to choose from in the area. Boulangerie des Cinq Sens, Le Fournil de l’Artisan and Pâtisserie Taffin are just a few of my favourites; do check opening hours before you roll up, as many bakeries close (or open for shorter hours) on Sundays and/or Mondays.
10:30 | Follow Cours Lafayette to the Rhône. Cross Pont Lafayette, and you’ll reach Place des Cordeliers, with the Palais du Commerce on your right and Saint Bonaventure on your left. If the latter is open (and a service isn’t in progress), it’s well worth popping inside, as it’s home to some beautiful stained glass windows.
11:00 | Carry on along Place des Cordeliers (which becomes Rue Grenette after the intersection with Rue de la République), until you reach Quai St. Antoine. Here, you’ll find Marché St. Antoine, Lyon’s largest outdoor food market (and my own personal favourite). Stalls are packed with seasonal produce, and everything from half a roast chicken complete with diced potatoes to wedges of local cheese and crates of fresh fruit is available. You can dine like a king on a pauper’s budget here, so if the weather’s good for picnicking, now’s the time to stock up.
12:00 | Detour down Rue de l’Ancienne Préfecture to see Place des Jacobins, which is a hot contender for the most picturesque square in Lyon. If you’re in need of a pit-stop, try Slake Coffee House (9 Rue de l’Ancienne Préfecture); their homemade lemonade is particularly refreshing.
12:30 | Next up is La Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière, which is perched atop ‘La Colline Qui Travaille’ (The Hill That Prays) and commands stellar views across the city. Cross the Saône via Passerelle du Palais de Justice, and take a slight left onto Rue de la Bombarde. Turn right onto Rue de Bœuf, and take Montée des Chazeaux up towards the Parc des Hauteurs. While ascending the (many) steps, don’t forget to look behind you every now and again, as there are some spectacular views across the rooftops of Vieux Lyon. When you reach the top, turn left onto Montée Saint-Barthélémy and enter the Parc des Hauteurs. Meander up through the park, and you’ll emerge in a car park to the right hand side of the basilica. (Alternatively, for those with limited mobility, there’s a funicular which runs from the Vieux Lyon metro stop and drops passengers right outside Fourvière.)
13:30 | Once you’ve taken in the panoramic views from the terrace (and had that all-important energy boost from your picnic), venture inside the basilica. La Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière is awe-inspiringly ornate: sculpted columns give way to high, vaulted ceilings, decorated with intricate turquoise and gold designs, while mosaics depicting biblical scenes cover the walls. If you think you’ve seen it all, think again: beneath the basilica is a cavernous crypt, which would dwarf many a local church. If you’re not pushed for time, take a look at it before you move on.
14:30 | From Place de Fourvière, turn left onto Rue Roger Radisson and descend towards the Théâtre Gallo Romain, a pair of Roman theatres. Set into the hillside, these relics of antiquity now host open-air concerts and performances, including the summer arts festival Les Nuits de Fourvière. Exit the complex onto Rue de l’Antiquaille, and turn left to return to Vieux Lyon via Montée Saint-Barthélémy and Montée des Chazeaux. (Luckily, it’s all downhill this time!)
15:30 | Turn right onto Rue de la Bombarde, then take another right onto Rue des Antonins. Follow it to the end, and you’ll find yourself in Place Saint-John, with the magnificent Cathédrale Saint-John towering above you. Inside, you’ll find some beautiful stained glass – mostly traditional pieces, with some modern ones thrown in – and an ancient astronomical clock. Beside the cathedral, you’ll find the Jardin Archéologique St. John, which is worth a small detour.
16:00 | Vieux Lyon is an ideal place to flâner – that is, to stroll or wander, and go where the fancy takes you. Explore the side streets and traboules, people-watch at one of the many cafés or hunt down more of the city’s famous fresques. If it’s ice cream ‘o’ clock by your watch, stop by Terre Adélice, for a scoop of sorbet or two.
Related: A Guide to Lyon’s Municipal Museums
18:00 | Head to Les Fleurs du Malt for an apéro, before finding dinner in Vieux Lyon. There’s something for everyone (even the teetotallers among us, myself included), but they’re best known for their enormous selection of beers.