Emma Killick (pictured, centre) wrote some of your favourite guides to Paris in The Holiday Goddess Handbag Guide. Here, she takes the five-hour trip from London to Lyon in search of the best places to dine, and wander…

Lots of cities claim to be the “Paris of the East.” I think that the “Paris of the East” is Lyon. It has the grandeur, the architecture, the history, and even an island in the middle like the Île de Cité, but all on a smaller, more manageable (and decidedly less crowded) scale.

For tourist attractions, don’t miss the Resistance Museum (14 Avenue Berthelot), the fabulous Hôtel de Ville (one of the great city halls at Place de la Comédie), and the Museum of Fine Arts (20 Place des Terreaux). Unsurprisingly, a smattering of impressive churches can also be found if you just wander the streets, which is always what I like to do. Then there’s the Roman Amphitheatre, up on the hill behind the old quarter (6 Rue de l’Antiquaille, Monteé de Fourvière). Lyon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for good reason.

All of France is really about food and wine, but Lyon promotes itself as the capital of all things gastronomic. Surrounded by the Burgundy and Côtes du Rhône wine-producing regions, great, local wine is obviously on offer. Apparently they call the local traditional restaurants “bouchons”. It kind of makes sense because a “bouchon” is a cork. But it is also a traffic jam . . . bottleneck, I suppose, stuff caught in your throat? Geez, I don’t know, but it is what it is. Lots of menu items will say “a la lyonnais”, which basically means it’ll have onions in it.

Head to Rue Mercière – one of the pedestrianized streets on the island between the Rhône and Saône rivers. The whole street is filled with restaurants with the tables spilling on to the road in the way the French do so well, with the change in style of chairs demarking one from the next. Generally, you can’t go wrong, but the traditional, and fabulous, Le Mercière is at number 56 (http://www.le-merciere.fr). When your senses are overwhelmed by the sights and smells of an entire street of restaurants, the best way to decide which one to pick is to: (a) meander down the whole street first, (b) see which ones are busy, (c) linger long enough to make sure the busy ones are full of the discerning French, not foreign-speaking tourists, (d) take a look at the food on the tables (if no one has any, move along because you’ll be waiting forever) and see if it is appealing, and (e) include a bit of destiny in your decision – if the place has passed the test so far and a table is just freeing up – pounce! If you aren’t starving, another suggestion (and what we did) was find a bar with a good vista – stools are good for this – and take in the surroundings while sipping on an aperitif. You can subtly sift through the above criteria and be ready to make your move casually.

We plonked ourselves down in the bar opposite Le Mercière and help was on hand from the barman when the table at the restaurant was nearly nabbed by new passersby. We were being so British (well, my partner was) and so polite – the waiter had said he would call us over when he had cleared and reset the table. Zut alors, two pushy people tried to sit down when the waiter turned his back! The barman saw our distress and ran across faster than I could clumsily remove myself from my barstool and took care of business for us. He was so friendly and helpful we said we would return for coffee after dinner. He insisted that we go away and explore the city by night, walking off our dinner over the Saône to the oldest part of Lyon. Only after this were we allowed to return. And he was right. The French really know how to light up an old building, don’t they? Lyon has an advanced degree on the subject and even has a festival of lights. We made our way to the Saône and walked over the Pont du Palais de Justice and wandered through Vieux Lyon. After a couple of quaint squares we reached Beef Street (rue de Boeuf – it sounds so much better in French, doesn’t it?) and couldn’t resist stopping at a little bar for a cointreau. But, yes, we did return to see Mr. Friendly for a coffee. . . and another cointreau.

There’s a good blog about Lyon at http://www.nileguide.com/destination/blog/lyon/category/travel-tips/ It hasn’t been updated in a while, but it has great local info (including stuff like how to use the city bike system) and is an entertaining read.

You can get there by train from London in five hours. Changing in Lille, rather than Paris, is the most stress-free way to do it (if you go via Paris you have to change stations, and that’s about 5 kms of a challenge you don’t need with luggage). Bon voyage.

Holiday Goddess Editors

About Holiday Goddess Editors

Holiday Goddess. Travel for Less.