As the epicenter of French gastronomy, Lyon is a city of tantalizing contrasts. There’s much to explore here, from the work of culinary visionaries to silk weavers’ secret passageways. After your choice of excursions, embrace the locals’ favorite mode of transportation with a patisserie-fueled bike ride—a great way to see the sights.
Two rivers: one tranquil, one torrential. Two hills: one for labor, where the sound of the silk weavers’ looms used to echo; the other for prayers, crowned by a spectacular basilica. Two cities, as different as night and day: one boasting colorful Old World façades, medieval mansions and hidden passageways; one with a sophisticated urbanity reminiscent of Paris. Situated at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers, and with roots stretching back over 2,000 years to the days of Julius Caesar, Lyon is a place of fascinating dualities. Today you have your choice of ways to explore this city of contrasts: Sample its culinary riches with a visit to its peerless market hall or follow the footsteps of the silk weavers in the old quarter. For a more active option, see the city from its extensive—and lovely—bike paths.
Exclusive “Do as the Locals Do” Lyon walking tour
No one eats better than the citizens of Lyon, a tradition that harks back more than a century, when women opened unpretentious restaurants, called bouchons, to feed hungry workers. The traditional bouchon serves hearty meat-based dishes, but quenelles—luscious dumplings—and a seasoned cream cheese called cervelle de canut are longtime local favorites too. While explaining Lyon’s important gastronomic history, your guide will show you the city’s bouchons and specialty food shops and take you into the legendary main market, Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse. There you’ll find stalls brimming with local produce, fish, game and cheeses,all beautifully displayed on black marble countertops—and you’ll have a chance to taste some of these delectable offerings. Don’t miss the macarons! On the way to these fabulous culinary destinations, you’ll see some of Lyon’s historic old quarter, with its many spectacular examples of medieval and Renaissance architecture, and les traboules, the city’s old passageways.
Exclusive silk weavers walking tour
Lyon’s history is entwined with silk, which dominated the city’s economy for centuries—at one time, almost a third of the city’s population were silk weavers. Jump on a tram and head for Lyon-Perrache station with your guide, who will take you into the historic Saint-Jean Quarter, part of the UNESCO-honored Old Town. The Gothic cathedral is probably the most striking heirloom of the Middle Ages, but the tall rose and ocher buildings dating to the Renaissance pay tribute to the importance of the silk trade with Italy in that era. Enter the courtyard of the Gadagne Museum, which is housed in an early-16th-century building, and stroll along Rue Juiverie, which has been occupied since Roman times and was once home to Nostradamus. You’ll see some of the traboules, the old passageways that snake between and through buildings, secret shortcuts that silk weavers took to keep their delicate fabrics out of the rain. You’ll pass cozy bouchons, which serve traditional local dishes, and you’ll have a chance to see a Jacquard loom in use. The afternoon is yours to spend in town at your leisure, shopping in the fashion or textile boutiques, visiting the antique dealers or simply relaxing with a glass of Beaujolais at one of the many cafés.
Exclusive guided “Let's Go” Lyon peninsula bicycle tour
Get out and about with a bike ride along the river. Lyon boasts a thriving bike-rental scene, which tells you just how popular this mode of transportation is—you will definitely have two-wheeled company as you pedal along the banks of the Rhône on a sunny day. Your route takes you over the new Raymond Barre Bridge, past the spectacular new Museum of Confluences (so named because it sits at the confluence of the Rhône and the Saône), and along the peninsula, a strip of land with the Saône on one side and the Rhône on the other. Here, houseboats tie up along the banks; swans float on the water; and locals take advantage of the lovely parklike setting. You’ll also have a great view of the Old Town on the other side of the river. This outing gives you a little taste of what it is like to live in Lyon, as well as a little exercise.