Lyon is a delightful city. Beautiful and refined like Paris, it is less hurried and less crowded than the French capital. And besides fine museums and excellent shopping, it enjoys a deserved reputation as one of the world’s great wine and food destinations.
France’s third-largest city was founded by the Romans in 43 B.C. at the strategic confluence of the Saône and Rhône rivers.
During the Middle Ages, it became a trading entrepôt between northern Europe and the Mediterranean. Later, Lyon developed into a major silk-weaving center, a business that still continues, albeit on a smaller scale. Today the city is an important banking center, as well as the base for major pharmaceutical and chemical companies.
Given Lyon’s popularity with foreign travelers, it is surprising that it has few upscale hotels of real character, aside from the 30-room Villa Florentine (which we have long recommended). So when I learned of the new 37-room Villa Maïa hotel, I headed southeast from Paris for a long weekend.
Arriving after an effortless two-hour, 290-mile train journey, I headed straight to Le Garet, one of my favorite bouchons, for lunch. (A bouchon is a local take on the French bistro, which specializes in hearty, carnivorous comfort food.) It was a relief to find this snug little place exactly as I’d left it two years earlier. The Lyonnais adore their bouchons, patronize them avidly and, in a prosperous city where rents are rising, watch over them like hawks. (Their popularity means that reservations should be made at least a week in advance.)