I won a trip to visit Lyon and was taken by this lovely city betwixt two rivers. If you visit, I bet that you, too, will simply fall in love with the pralines, bouchons and traboules! Read on to learn more.
Last year I entered the Sofitel Wine Days contest on Facebook with a photo I’d taken in France the year before. Later I found out, I’d won the trip for two to Lyon on Air France, a 5 night stay at the Sofitel Bellecour and a visit to a vineyard for the day (Vis Ma Vigne) with Agamy!
Disclosure: I was given two 3 day Lyon City Cards to visit attractions and for public transportation from Visit Lyon. All opinions are solely my own. Due to winning a contest for a trip to visit Lyon, I am at under no obligation to publish anything about my trip. I am doing so of my own accord.
I was elated, as you can imagine! I planned the trip for September, wanting to travel a bit after the high tourist season, and took my mother as my guest. Here are the highlights of my trip to Lyon. I will share my Vis Ma Vigne experience in a separate post.
Why Should you Visit Lyon?
I shall list ten reasons, but there are so many more!
- The food. Lyon has been given the title of gastronomic capital of France. Others claim it to be beyond French borders.
- The city itself is a UNESCO World Heritage site. If that’s not a reason to visit, I don’t know what is!
- History. So much visible history, going back to Roman times.
- It’s a beautiful and very walkable city.*
- The only city where you can go trabouling.
- Museums. (Including the Miniature Museum.)
- Pralines. Mostly Pralus pralines and brioche!
- Bouchons. Which go hand in hand with the food, but still a reason to go.
- The doors! I loved all the doors and I know others love doors, so this is good reason, right?
Mad About Macarons and Lyon
My friend, Jill, from Mad About Macarons had gone to Lyon a few months before me and sent me a lot of tips. She has written several posts about her visit, one of which she wrote for me while I was there, which you can find HERE. In fact, it’s such a comprehensive post about Lyon, that much of what I’m sharing with you is similar to Jill’s content.
One of the first things Jill told me to try was the pink pralines, but not just any pink pralines. They had to be from Pralus. At first I thought that there couldn’t be that much of a difference in a funny looking pink candy; but gracious me, there was such an outstanding difference, it was incredible.
Even my mother, who does not have a sweet tooth, adored the pralines, but especially the praline brioche from Pralus. We bought a rather large one which we devoured over the next few days as we traveled to Italy! By the way, Turin is under a four hour train ride away.
I even bought a package of the expensive pralines. I was naughty the other day and actually crushed them up to try to copy the Pralus brioche in my kitchen! The pralines are pink, sugar coated almonds and hazelnuts (they use the best quality nuts, which makes all the difference in the end result).
To me, it was a great success! The only problem is, I have no pralines left. 😭 I used the recipe for my Cream Buns, if you’re interested.
Okay, let’s leave the pralines for now, but suffice it to say that you will see pink baked goods everywhere in the city when you visit Lyon!
They are also famous for other candies, like Coussins de Lyon from Voisin. They are like little pillows with marzipan and the other shape has a praline filling covered in a white chocolate coating.
Bouchons are simply little cafes which are rather similar to Italy’s trattorie. They started as a place for Lyon’s historical silk workers to eat lunch. The menus at the bouchons are all very similar and serving more peasant style food than haute cuisine. I will say that if you’re vegetarian, you won’t have many choices on the menu. Dishes are very “snout to tail” inspired, with many offal choices, like Andouillette, which I actually found very tasty. You’ll find black pudding with apples, fish dishes, veal, lamb, and of course pork and various parts of these meats.
One of the things I’d highly recommend is trying quenelle. It’s a difficult dish to describe as there’s really nothing I’ve every had that is similar to it, but it’s a kind of traditional Lyonnaise pastry served in a sauce. This crayfish version I had at Chabert et Fils was very good.
These are essentially Lyon’s secret inside passageways, used as a shortcut to cross the long streets, especially for the old silk makers carrying bolts of expensive silk. They are really a fun, yet historical way to explore Lyon. You can take a guided tour as the doors can be difficult to find since they look like any other door.
My mother and I took a guided tour and I would recommend it. It’s not just trabouling.
Sofitel Bellecour Hotel
Our “home” for five nights, while we were in Lyon, was at the Sofitel Bellecour (an Accor Hotel). It is situated facing the Rhône River, in the center of the city. It is perfectly located to use as a base for exploring Lyon. My mother and I walked most places, but we did occasionally use the metro, bus and the funicular (to go to the Notre-Dame de Fourvière Cathedral). Public transportation is included in the Lyon City Card (see below).
It was always nice to be welcomed into the lovely lobby when we had been out for the day.
The hotel has a modern flair and although our room was very small, the bathroom was a good size and the bed was heavenly. We also loved the room darkening shades on the window as well as the beverages (more in the fridge). Honestly, we didn’t spend much time in our room as we were mostly always out exploring and eating!
Breakfast at the Sofitel Bellecour
One highlight of my trip to Lyon was the breakfast buffet at the Sofitel Bellecour. It was absolutely phenomenal. You know me, right? Quality is at the top of my priorities when it comes to food and this buffet was quality in all aspects of the meal. I hope you do experience this breakfast if you visit Lyon.
From freshly squeezed juices, hot chocolate and coffees that were top notch, to almost every kind of breakfast food imaginable, Mum and I were in breakfast heaven; and the view over the Rhone River was fabulous!
Due to the Sofitel being a 5 star hotel, I wanted to be discreet about my picture taking at our table. I also didn’t feel it was appropriate to be taking photos of the buffet when guests were serving themselves.
I would have been content to only have the bread and butter that was being served, it was that good. However, there were pastries, fruit, vegetables, cooked options such as eggs, bacon, sausages, potatoes, so much cheese, salumi, yogurt. It was difficult to think about lunch while we were in Lyon, simply because breakfast was so incredibly enticing.
The Area Near the Sofitel Bellecour.
This flower sculpture/artwork (not sure what it’s properly called) was near the hotel. Whatever it was, it was very pretty.
Place Bellecour is the largest square in Europe and it’s steps away from the Sofitel Bellecour.
Sightseeing and the Lyon City Card (1, 2, 3 or 4 Day Pass)
If you’re going to visit Lyon for a day or more, it absolutely make sense to purchase a Lyon city 1, 2 or 3 day card. There’s so much to see and do in Lyon, and many of them are included with the card. I’m going to write a separate post to cover them. (As you can see above, you can buy them ahead of time online and even get a better price.) I took so many photos and it’s a shame not to show them to you so you can get a better idea of what you’d like to do while you’re in the city.
*Two Things I Disliked About Lyon
Yes, you read that correctly. If you have followed me for any amount of time, you’ll know how very honest and forthright I am. There’s no beating around the bush that I was just not happy about two separate issues during my visit to Lyon. I want you to be aware of them too, so you don’t write to me and say, “Goodness, Christina! Why on earth didn’t you mention these things?” Luckily, Lyon has many more positive attributes that will ensure visitors will continue to come, but in my opinion, these two issues should be addressed.
- The smoking. You might say that smoking is a big problem all over Europe and you’d be correct. However, in my opinion, the smoking in Lyon was much worse than many other big cities. Given that everyone smokes outside when they’re eating, this wasn’t an option for my mother and me. However, we found that when we sat inside, the smoke outside still made its way to us. There was no escape. It was truly disappointing to have to deal with so much smoke, especially when we ate. I realize that if you are a smoker, this won’t bother you, but I want my non-smoking audience to know how I felt. Remember, this is hardly my first time dealing with smoke in Europe.
- The dog poop. Yes, it’s that much of an issue that I need to address it here. It’s a significant problem. Lyon probably can’t or won’t do much about the smoking issue, but they absolutely can and should do something about the dog poop all over the city. Some places were better than others, but in certain areas, one should not walk without looking down. There’s apparently no rules or common courtesy about picking up after one’s dog in Lyon, and not everyone owns a chihuahua! It’s such a shame as Lyon is truly such a walkable city. I did a quick google search to see if anyone else had something to say about this issue. While there are mostly articles discussing the issue in regards to France and Paris, I found this hilarious rating system for Lyon’s dog poop problem: Megan rated it at a 1.5 out of 5 (5 being “a blind man could walk safely down the sidewalks without soiling his shoes”). The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was on my very last night in Lyon. I was taking a photo of a bridge over the Saone River, and was concentrating on composing my photo (see above) when it happened. I stepped right into a massive pile of dog doo-doo! You can imagine that I wasn’t happy. I walked into some grass and tried pulling my shoe along to get it out, but I had some pretty deep grooves underneath my soles. The whole way back to our hotel, I stuck my shoe in puddles, pulled my shoe along on more grass, trying my best to clean it out, as my mother patiently waited. It was much cleaner as we almost reached our hotel, so I went for one last scrape in some grass. Yep, you probably guessed it: I stepped in another mound of feces!
Please, Lyon: implement a law that will make leaving dog droppings an offense punishable with some hefty fines!
(Another site with similar discussion.)
If you plan to visit Lyon, below is the very helpful tourism bureau that you can use online (click on ONLY LYON), but there is also an office in the main square, Place Bellecour.
For hotel information, click here Sofitel Bellecour, Lyon
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