Lyon Should Be Any Food-Lover's Next Destination Gallery
February 21, 2018
France's second-largest city is full of culinary delights, both classic and contemporary
Lyon Should Be Any Food-Lover's Next Destination
Tell anyone in the States that you are going to France and chances are their response will be something along the lines of, “Oh, I’ve always wanted to go to Paris!” The City of Lights looms large when we think of this European country — yet France has much more to offer than just Paris.
If you're a food-lover with a reverence for French cuisine, for instance, the city of Lyon should be at the top of your travel wish list. The second largest metropolitan area in France, Lyon boasts a culinary heritage that runs from the rustic and traditional to the nouveau and revolutionary.
It lies in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, allowing it unparalleled access to farms, fish, and wine, and every meal here seems a celebration of local ingredients. However your tastes run, there is a dish for you in Lyon. The traditional Lyonnaise bouchons, or local bistros, proudly serve up the rich, hearty food of the so-called Mères, or Mothers, the women in domestic work who became the foundation of Lyonnaise culinary culture in the seventeenth century. If you seek to experience French cuisine on a more exalted level, a meal at one of the late Paul Bocuse’s restaurants is a must. And for the contemporary palate, Lyon boasts a collective 20 Michelin stars to tempt your curiosity and your tastebuds. If you're a lover of food and France, you're sure to be in awe of the culinary wonders of Lyon.
Vieux-Lyon — old Lyon — is packed with history and charm. You can get lost wandering the cobbled lanes as you search for traboules, the hidden courtyard passages connecting neighboring streets. Grab a crêpe from a street vendor as you wander, or a sweet bun loaded with candied pralines, a specialty in Lyon.
Lunch or dinner at a bouchon is an essential in Lyon. These cozy, cluttered eateries keep alive the simple but delicious traditions of the Mères lyonnaises. Order à la carte or go in for the menu of the day, and don’t forget the wine!
Tarte aux Boudin Noir et Pommes
The Mères began as domestic workers; when they turned to selling their recipes, they relied for success on their ability to make the most out of every ingredient. Don’t be surprised, then, to see calves’ feet or head cheese on a bouchon menu. This blood sausage and apple tart is a challenge for some diners, but is a surprisingly delightful dish.
Saucisson en Brioche
Unadorned, rustic, and hearty — that's Lyonnaise cuisine. Many of local specialties may not be the most eye-catching dishes, but they certainly won’t leave you hungry. This sausage encased in brioche dough is as simple as it looks, but pistachios in the sausage add an extra layer of flavor and texture.
Lyon’s signature sweet is the coussin. Shaped like a small pillow, this confection, made of marzipan and chocolate infused with curaçao, derives its shape from a seventeenth-century tradition: Legend has it that Lyon was spared from the ravages of the plague after city officials offered the Virgin Mary a candle and coin on a silk pillow. In 1960, the chocolatier Voisin used the story as inspiration for this now-iconic treat.
Up on Fourvière Hill, an area rich with history (and the site of the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Lugdunum), a convent-turned-hotel, Hôtel Fourvière, boasts stunning views and, at its Les Téléphones restaurant, delicious dishes. These are creations full of nuanced flavor, like savory chestnut soup with pheasant and mushrooms and perfectly seared duck breast punctuated with tart grapefruit (above).
Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse
A must visit for food lovers, the Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse is a showcase of the best vendors of every culinary delight the city has to offer. The market stalls are filled with freshly baked breads and pastries (above), just-shucked oysters, and rainbow-hued macarons. Stop at the counter of La Mère Richard for their specialty, Saint Marcellin cheese, or at Sibilia for a cured rosette sausage. You can expect to leave with wallet empty but arms full of edible prizes.
Institut Paul Bocuse
As Lyon’s great culinary patron, Paul Bocuse’s name can be found on many a food-related endeavor. At Institut Paul Bocuse, aspiring chefs, sommeliers, and managers train in a working restaurant, honing their skills as they serve real customers. Cooking classes are also available with the school’s chefs. Admittedly there is a deep satisfaction in creating something as sophisticated as a foie gras crème brulee — even if you could never hope to replicate it in your own kitchen.
Paul Bocuse’s Restaurants
Naturally you can find a number of the recently deceased culinary legend's restaurants across the city. His flagship L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges (also just called Paul Bocuse), just north of the city, is a worthwhile visit for the dedicated gourmet. You can also choose to visit one of his four regionally-focused brasseries. They each present cuisine from a different part of France, as indicated by their names: Le Nord (north, above), l’Est (east), Le Sud (south), and l’Ouest (west).
Les Trois Dômes
This sleek restaurant on the top floor of the Sofitel Hotel looks out over three domes in the Lyon skyline. Les Trois Dômes has held a Michelin star for 12 years running, and their dinner service proves the streak well-deserved. From dainty foie gras ravioli to artfully presented and perfectly prepared octopus, every dish is thoughtful, detailed, and worthy of savoring.
International City of Gastronomy
By the end of 2018, Lyon will become even more of a must for food-lovers, with the opening of the International City of Gastronomy. It is at the heart of a project that is breathing new life into an old hospital on the Rhône (above). The updated complex will preserve the history of the building while adding new wings to support shops, offices, and the luxury Grand Hôtel-Dieu. The International City of Gastronomy will celebrate French cuisine and gastronomy — which, incidentally, was listed as a UNESCO-protected cultural heritage in 2010. If foreign travel isn't in your plans, consider visiting one of America's 20 best cities for food.
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