Last summer, on our whirlwind Europe tour, we stopped in Paris for a few days, and I left mostly disappointed. I’m not sure what I expected, but it’s probably safe to say that I had imagined dinners in cozy brasseries, strolls along narrow cobbled streets, and other such romantic scenes. Instead, I found an aloof, sprawling city that stank of pee and offered mostly sub-par food. I couldn’t help feeling that Paris, despite it being the French capital, was a poor representation of France.
But still, I knew there had to be more to France than an iron tower, street crepes, and overcrowded attraction sites. And so this year, when we found ourselves planning another summer in Europe, we decided to give France another chance – a proper one – with a month in Lyon.
Anthony Bourdain’s show first put Lyon on our radar when he called it the gastronomical capital of France. I had walked away from Paris still perplexed with what exactly constituted French cuisine. From my experience, it was just baguette sandwiches, nutella crepes, and french fry gyros. We drooled over the charcuterie and traditional dishes featured on the show, and the next thing we knew, we were looking up rental prices.
We may have come to Lyon for the pâté croûte and saucisson, but we also found an instantly lovable city.
Despite the fact that Lyon is France’s third largest city, it felt more like a small town. It is a very walkable city, which made it feel more intimate.
Our airbnb rental (and here comes the shameless plug: get started with $20 off here!) was a gorgeous loft at the bottom of the hill in the Croix-Rousse area, right next to the Saône River. We couldn’t have picked a better location. This was a lively area full of small brasseries, bars, and boutique shops.
Okay, I know I just said it was a lively area. But you may have noticed that these pictures are all strangely devoid of people. This is because we happened to visit during that month when all locals flee the city. The ghost town atmosphere didn’t bother us too much at first… that is, until our favorite charcuteries and markets all started closing one by one.
Another thing I loved about our area: the vibrant street art! All of these were found only steps away from our building.
The most famous of all is the La Fresque des Lyonnais, an entire painted building featuring the historical figures of Lyon. Of course, the most easily recognizable one is that of Paul Bocuse, often considered the father of modern French cuisine.
It’s slightly amusing to sit on the bench for a hour (grab some goods from the nearby bakery first!) and see how many tourists come up to take selfies with Paul Bocuse.
Right across the river from us is Old Town, an area with narrow cobbled streets, boutiques, and numerous bouchons (traditional Lyonnaise diners). This was a favorite hang out location to stroll around and pop into shops.
Up the hill from Old Town is Fourvière, on top of which sits the large white church that looms over the entire city, The Basilique Notre Dame. Also, do you see the tower to the right of the church? It’s Lyon’s own Eiffel Tower! Apparently, it’s even higher than the real one in Paris.
I finally found the charming French city and easy French way of life I was looking for in Lyon. And I hope you enjoyed this little visual tour of Lyon also! If this inspired some wanderlust in you, then just wait for the food part! ;)
Have you been to Lyon? What other French towns would you recommend?