Why visit Lyon?

My dear friend Mies, author of ACoupleStepsForward.com, asked me to write a guestpost about Lyon, where I lived for half a year.

Being busy publishing my Southeast Asia journals here first, I haven’t at all gotten around to editing the stuff I was writing there for myself. But writing about it again was very inspiring and reminded me what a great city it is.
I didn’t even manage to fit in all the must-see’s in this guestpost. I’ll get back on all that in a while. But for now, please go ahead and check out why I think you should visit Lyon.

South of France? Not really the first destination that comes to mind when the days start growing cold and dreary.

But there is one reason to book your flight immediately: in the weekend of December 8, Lyon will be magically lit and buzzing with travelers, crowding the streets to witness the spectacle called Fête de Lumière, which turns the entire city into an interactive stage where artists invite you to play in their show.

All you need to join in is accommodation (be quick, hotels and guesthouses tend to fill up pretty quickly, making it a difficult task to find something last-minute!) and two feet to carry you. Just walk out on the street to feast your eyes and belly on the countless stands with local specialties: sweet breads, meat pies and of course some vin chaud to keep warm.

I prefer summer though, and here’s why:

I’ve always been going on holiday to the South of France with my parents, passing Lyon on our way. From the car, the many gray banlieues that surround Lyon are pretty much all you can see, so when I first came here to work in June 2011 I was pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful ancient village, hidden away in the city center.

The public transport system in Lyon is superb. Get a TCL-card for the entirety of your stay. With this, you can log in to bus, metro, trolley and funiculaire.

Another great way to get around is by bike, another superb system. With any worldwide bankcard you can rent a bike from the Vélo’V ports you’ll find all over the city. Rent a bike for 24 hours or 3 days. You can return and take it out again anywhere during this period.

Bellecour is one of the central squares, where almost all metro lines connect.

From there it’s a small walk to the next metro station Vieux Lyon, where you can take the funiculaire up to the beautiful Cathédrale St-Just, as much worth a look inside as the view it gives you over the entire city.

Not far you’ll find the Théatres Romains, that feature some great open-air shows in summertime.

Walk back down through the park and take your time to stroll through the beautiful quarter of Vieux Lyon, go see the Musée des Miniatures et Décors de Cinéma, grab a drink at popular pub Saint James, and indulge in some ice-cream at the very best shop in town across from it that boasts over a 100 stunning flavors.

For a nice walk I have to insist: take the metro out to Gare de Vaise and spend an hour walking back to the center alongside the Saône.

Another square to visit is Place Terraux, next to the Musée des Beaux-Arts.

During summer l’Opéra features jazz concerts nearly daily, often free or otherwise easy to listen in on from the square.

From here you can walk up to Croix Rousse, another beautiful quarter with many little bars and livingroom-style hangouts.

Don’t forget to take Metro C up and spend a night roaming the artistic bars on Boulevard de la Croix Rousse.

Or go more in the direction of Cordeliers, find one of the many lovely bars in Rue Pizay or Rue du Garet. I’ve enjoyed many a night of live swinging in Le Bariton, tunes in Fée Verte and drinks around the tree on the terrace of 203.

For a late night dance out go to the quai du Rhône and get on one of the party boats. Ayers Rock is crowded any night.


I’m getting carried away. Back to daytime activities:

Spend at least a day in Parc de la Tête d’Or, with the jardin botanique, the palace of glass housing a bit of jungle, it’s deer camp, the zoo. Yes, it has giraffes, water buffalo’s, many monkeys and even a panther and elephants!

And don’t stop walking there, but go around the water to see if the Île du Souvenirs is open.

Don’t forget to bring a picnic basket to sit down on the field with the Lyonais, enjoying a warm summer’s day and playing frisbee.

For a cooldown, spend a day by the side of La Piscine du Rhône.

More culture is to be found in the 2ième. La Sucrière is always an important part of the Biennale de Lyon, which is usually held from September to December.

As the old industrial part of town it makes for a nice city tour.

Wine and dine with the locals in one of the many and all very delicious restaurants on Rue Mercière. Whilst sitting there on a crowded terrace sipping a nice robust côte du Rhône, the maître d’hotel is shouting something in French to one of his garçons as a busker is playing his accordion on the corner. As a little breeze plays through the small street to cool the city after another hot day, you’ll realize that this is definitely a town to come back to.

God, I miss Lyon.