Located in the southeast, the second largest city in France is blessed with great rail and public transport links, and, more importantly… the best saucisson (French cured sausage) there is. Once the capital of silk, Lyon is now the centre of French gastronomy. The main railway stations, Gares de Lyon-Part-Dieu and Lyon-Perrache, are centrally located, close to the buzzing hills of Croix-Rousse and Fourvière, and to the Saône and Rhône rivers. Lyon’s provincial charm, antique and Renaissance treasures, and local restaurants called “bouchons”, are just a 1h30 train ride away from Marseille, 2 hours from Paris, 5 from London and 6 from Milan.
Lyon Part-Dieu is the main station for high-speed and international railway lines, with trains serving Lyon Airport, Brussels, London, Barcelona and Milan. It is centrally located east of both rivers, in the business district of La Part-Dieu, facing an eponymous huge shopping mall. A 25-minute walk north leads to the Parc de la Tête d’Or, one of Lyon’s most beautiful sites. Its lake, row boats, zoo, carousel and rose garden make it a favourite among the locals.
20 minutes west of the Tête d’Or, the hill of Croix-Rousse floats between the rivers. It’s home to trendy bars and shops, a Roman amphitheatre as well as the Mur des Canuts, Europe’s largest fresco. It represents the life of the Canuts, silk-weavers who worked in Croix-Rousse in the 19th century. At the foot of the hill lies the Presqu’île (Peninsula) which includes key landmarks such as the Place des Terreaux. This grand square hosts the City Hall and the Museum of Fine Arts – one of the most important in Europe, with collections ranging from ancient Egypt to the Modern art period.
Travellers arriving south of the Presqu’île at gare de Lyon-Perrache (high-speed and regional trains) should stop for lunch at the Poêlon d'Or. Located between the station and the 15-acre Bellecour Square, it’s one of Lyon’s best bouchons. Specialities such as saucisson brioche (pork sausage baked in brioche), quenelles (dumplings filled with creamed fish) and pink praline pie, are served on a red-and-white checked tablecloth that just screams France. At the southern tip of the Peninsula, the former industrial port of Confluence surprises with its ecological, futuristic architecture – particularly that of its eponymous museum, which examines the relationships between science and society.
Getting to the Old Town (Vieux-Lyon) from Confluence is easy, thanks to river shuttles on the Saône. The vaporettos stop at Bellecour Square before hitting the Old Town at Saint-Paul regional train station, just west of the city. This part of Lyon the city is a plunge into its history and culture – particularly the Saint-Jean area – with its Renaissance courtyards, traboules (hidden passageways through buildings), bouchons, and Saint-Jean-Baptiste gothic cathedral (12th-15th century
The Old Town is overlooked by the sumptuous Neo-Byzantine basilica Notre-Dame (19th century), perched on the hill of Fourvière and accessible by funicular. This hip neighbourhood is bursting with lively bars, alleys, gardens and Gallo-Roman vestiges such as including the ancient theatre of Lugdunum. It even has a metallic tower that strongly resembles the Eiffel Tower… Paris had better watch out!