Founded by the Romans at the strategic confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers in 43 B.C., France’s third city has diverse appeal, but it is a magnet for epicures and oenophiles in particular — the Beaujolais region lies to the north, the Côtes du Rhône appellation to the south. The city’s renowned gastronomy focuses on the meat-oriented regional menus of the traditional inns/restaurants, or bouchons.
Lyon is also the birthplace of cinema — the Musée Lumière celebrates the Lumière brothers’ invention of the cinematograph — and the capital of the French silk trade. Tour the traboules, a network of passages that once protected textile workers carrying silk from the rain and were later used as hiding places by the French Résistance.
Two hours from Paris by train, Lyon has recently become one of the most innovative French cities, which shows in its strikingly renovated Nouvel Opera House. The Vieux Lyon Renaissance quarter is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Shop & Cook
Run by American Lucy Vanel, a French-certified pâtissier, Plum Lyon Teaching Kitchen (49 Rue des Tables Claudiennes) is a charming cooking school in the Croix-Rousse district, a residential part of Lyon that, beginning in the 18th century, was the headquarters of the silk-weaving industry.
Book a daylong Market Table Class, which includes a morning visit to an outdoor market, cheese shop and bakery, followed by an afternoon spent cooking. Courses are limited to a maximum of eight students and are taught in English. Vanel also offers French Pastry Workshops, children’s workshops and private cooking lessons by advance arrangement.
Lyon has a variety of fascinating museums that reflect the city’s long history and great wealth. Not to be missed is the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon (20 Place des Terreaux), one of the country’s leading fine arts museums.
The dramatically designed glass-and-steel Musée des Confluences (86 Quai Perrache) is is intended to be perceived as a crystal meeting a cloud at the southernmost point of the Presqu’île, the junction of the Rhône and Saône rivers. It is a striking building with interesting archaeological and ethnological collections, as well as a fine restaurant. To learn more about Lyon’s past as a major textile-producing center, visit the beautiful Musée des Tissus (34 Rue de la Charité).