Did you know that Lyon was voted “Europe’s Leading City Break Destination” last year? It’s not hard to see why. Lyon is perfect for a little getaway – there’s lots going on, but not to the point that it’s overwhelming. You can make a weekend out of it, or stay awhile, if you’re not in a hurry. The city has evolved so much in the last few years, with loads of hip cafés and new restaurants setting up shop. It’s a city close to my heart, and if you ask me, it’s ze place to be in France. (I should know – I stayed for three years.)
I love Lyon all year round, but there’s something about summer. (For one thing, it’s the only time of year I actually want to leave my apartment after 9 pm.) Summer means rosé-drenched picnics, sunny afternoons with a cone of melon sorbet, and finally being able to wear that sundress that sits untouched in my closet nine months a year.
I admit that last summer, there was a period when it was so hot that I spent three days prone on the couch in front of the fan watching Orange is the New Black and drinking grapefruit Pulco like it was my job.
But when you’re not hiding from the scorching heat, Lyon is pretty great in the summer. Here are a few things I love to do during the estival months in Lyon.
When I moved to Lyon from Paris, I complained that there wasn’t enough international food. Since then, two things have happened. 1) I realized I was wrong and 2) a ton of new cool restaurants have opened up! About half of the places on this list opened after I moved to Lyon (which was in 2013).
By the way, I’m using “international food” fairly loosely here – in most cases, I don’t mean “100% authentic food the way it is served in its country of origin” (because how the hell do I know what “real” Ethiopian food is like) I mean “not French.”
Because I love baguettes and quiche and all, but I don’t want to each French food all the time.
Hi! I’ve been writing more and more about Lyon this year, and some of you have told me that you found these posts useful (which is awesome, because otherwise why am I doing this?) I’m so glad to hear it – thank you for the feedback.
It goes without saying that I really liked all these places, or I wouldn’t have put them on the list! But there are a few that I love – my favorite favorites – so I’ve marked them with a ❤.
There are loads of fantastic wine bars in Lyon – feel free to comment if you have a favorite I haven’t included. These are simply places I have been to (many times, in some cases) that I think are great.
❤ La Cave d’à Coté: Cozy, great planche of charcuterie & cheese (Closed Sunday)
Le Vin des Vivants: Pretty terrace, low prices (Closed Sunday and Monday)
❤ Autour d’un Verre: Classy but casual, tasty tapas. Some outdoor seating, but the ambiance is inside. (closed Sunday. Owner speaks very good English.)
Bones & Bottles: Oh-so-hip, a little pricey, great food – small plates. Limited outdoor seating. (closed Sunday and Monday. English spoken)
There is something really nice about sitting down for a snack or a cup of tea in a beautiful setting. I’m not one to prefer the fancy schmancy over something simple, but I can’t deny that I like drinking out of a pretty cup. Here are a few places in Lyon where you can enjoy the asthetic as much as your goûter.
Jeannine & Suzanne
Jeannine & Suzanne is a new café in the 2nd arrondissement. Everything is beautiful. The tables, the chairs, the walls, the floors, the ceiling, even the ashtrays outside (pretty metal tea boxes). Oh, and the food is beautiful too. Their little tarts are works of art, and they have a long list of tea and other beverages. The kitchen is visible through a glass wall. The vibe here is modern-beautiful-quirky. Aka, totally Instagrammable.
It is no secret that I like French bread (and croissants and pains aux raisins and éclairs and… well, you get the idea). When people ask what brought me to France, I tell them it was the boulangeries. Whenever I am mad at France because the Sécu refused my carte vitale application for reasons they made up, I go get myself the best pain aux raisins I can find. (Something I didn’t know before I moved to Paris: All the flaky pastries like croissants and pain aux raisins are called viennoiseries in French.)
As I slowly get ready to leave Lyon, I find myself wanting to write about it more and more. (So if you have any questions about Lyon, let me know.) I can’t believe I’ve been here three years! I’ve lived up in the Croix-Rousse neighborhood and down on Presqu’île, so those are the areas I know the best, but I try to make it a point to eat croissants all over the city.
Here’s a list of some of my favorites:
Every year, Lyon hosts La Fête des Lumières, an elaborate festival of lights with colorful and dramatic installations all over the city. I’ve shared some photos from my first Fête des Lumières in 2013, but it’s impossible to do justice to the gorgeous moving lights and cinema set to music.
December 8th is the official day of celebration, so the festival always includes the 8th and extends over four days including a weekend. The population of Lyon supposedly triples during the festival, and I believe it. Streets are blocked off, security guards herd pedestrians like cattle, restaurants are booked solid, and you have to queue just to get down into the metro. Accommodation prices are astronomical, even to rent a student loft on Airbnb.
But this year the Fête des Lumières was cancelled two short weeks before it was set to open. Continue reading “Lyon: La Fête des Lumières”
It’s been three months since I ditched my metro card for Vélo’v, Lyon’s bike-sharing network. I learned how to bike when I was a kid, but I haven’t rolled on two wheels much since the early 90s. (Apart from the terrifying Vélib incident in Paris of 2013.)
[Note: Vélo’v and Vélib get their names from the word vélo, which means bike in French.]
But it turns out that I love the Vélo’v system in Lyon. There are a lot of bike lanes and bike paths, so I feel safe most of the time, and since there are so many Vélo’v stations, it gives you a freedom that you don’t get when you’re confined to the metro. I just pick a bike and go. Plus, now that I don’t live in a fifth-floor walk-up anymore, I have to get in some exercise so I don’t feel guilty about taking the elevator when I get home. (To the second floor. Just because I can.)
It’s not all rainbows on wheels, though. Here are a few situations where my vé-love turns to vé-loathe:
- At 8:30 a.m. when there are no bikes anywhere – the early birds took them all.
- At 6 p.m. when everyone is having apéro on Presqu’île and there are no open spots at the Vélo’v stations to park my bike. It’s worse than looking for a parking spot!
- When the bike seat is too high and refuses to budge to where I can actually reach the pedals, no matter how hard I whack it. (I’ve learned that twisting it back and forth is a better method than whacking. I’ve also learned that violently whacking the seat of a bicycle in an attempt to lower it makes you look crazy.)
- When pedestrians amble across the bike path like dazed cattle who have wandered out of their pasture. I am not a skilled cyclist; it would be much easier for them to wait for a second than it is for me to brake abruptly and wait for them to saunter by while I wobble precariously, trying not to fall off my bike.
- Oh yeah, falling off my bike. That happened this week. I have banged up hands, knees, and elbow (the right one) and a bruise the size of an avocado on my leg. It started out pink, turned purple, and today it’s black. I actually put off my visit to the préfecture because I didn’t want to sit on the sidewalk for five hours with that bruise!
But still, Vélo’v pass is ridiculously affordable (it only costs 25€ for the entire year. That’s opposed to 60€ per month for public transport) and it’s a fun way to get around when the weather’s nice. If you’re comfortable on two wheels, this might just be the way to go.
How it works:
First, you buy a pass at one of the many red Vélo’v stations.
One-day pass: €1.50
Three-day pass: €3
Week-long pass: €5
Annual pass: €25, or €15 if you’re under 25 (Annual passes must be set up online.)
The first 30 minutes of each ride are free (60 minutes with certain passes), and then there’s a small extra charge per hour. But you can just switch out your bike for a new one at any station to avoid paying extra.
Keep in mind: At peak times, it may be difficult to find an available bike or an available parking space.
For more information, visit www.velov.grandlyon.com.
Have you ever used a bike sharing system? What did you think?
Lyon’s annual Fête des Lumières is spectacular, but it has its downsides.
With such a huge influx of people, the city’s population triples for the weekend. Therefore, we can make a few conclusions: one, it will be difficult to find accommodations, two, prices will skyrocket because of the demand, and three, Lyon will be crowded.
So I have a few ideas to help you make the most of the Fête des Lumières and your time in Lyon.
In a week and a half, the population of Lyon will triple for four days. Hotels have been sold out for months, and good luck getting into a restaurant in Vieux Lyon.
La Fête des Lumières!
Lyon has more than one claim to fame (the invention of cinema, the silk industry of Croix-Rousse, and Paul Bocuse, to name a few) but the Fête des Lumières is by far the most important annual event.
I didn’t know what to expect from the Fête des Lumières (which literally means “festival of lights” in case you were wondering). I kind of imagined lots of little tea lights in windows. That’s part of it; Lyon residents do sometimes put little candles in their windows. But it’s more like an artistic explosion of colorful moving light all over the Lyon that transforms the city into a magical alternate universe fueled on vin chaud for a span of four days.
Here’s a look at last year’s Fête des Lumières.