THE BEST FOODIE THINGS TO DO ON YOUR NEXT TRIP TO LYON, FRANCE

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Considered to be the gastronomic capital of France, and to many, therefore, the world, Lyon represents a foodie pilgrimage like no other. 

The capital of the country’s Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, the city occupies a unique position both at the confluence of two of France’s major rivers, the Rhône and Saône, and sitting at the foothills of the Alps. With the world renowned Beaujolais and Burgundy wine regions to the north and south respectively, and the fertile land associated with all these geographical features on its doorstep, Lyon has a pantry unrivalled pretty much anywhere else on the planet.

And boy, does the city make use of it. Not only does Lyon have a long and rich (so very rich) history of producing some of France’s most celebrated chefs and a whole host of iconic dishes in its arsenal, but it’s also the home of humble bistros unique to the city, known as bouchon. All of this means that you’ll eat incredibly well on your foodie holiday to Lyon, whether you’re dining in a humble brasserie, breaking bread from a boulangerie, or enjoying a Michelin starred meal.

If you’re visiting the city to experience its world famous cuisine and culinary culture, then you’ve come to the right place to write your itinerary; here are the best foodie things to do on your next trip to Lyon, France.

LA MÈRE BRAZIER & OTHER ‘MÈRE’ RESTAURANTS

We had to start here, where this famous food city’s culinary reputation was cemented. The real superstar chefs of Lyon, long before Bocuse, Têtedoie et al, were known as Mères Lyonnaises, the Mothers of Lyon.

Starting out as cooks for Lyon’s influential bourgeois households in the 18th century, many Mères went rogue and opened their own restaurants in the city in the mid 19th and early 20th centuries. It’s in these restaurants that some of Lyon’s most iconic dishes were conceived, with many of these groundbreaking cooks earning Michelin stars in the process. 

Numbers were bolstered during the Great Depression, when many households had to let their cooks go, and in 1933, Mère Bourgeois became the first woman to ever receive 3 Michelin stars. 

Mère Brazier (whose real name was Eugénie Brazier) is arguably the most influential of all the Mères, holding 3 Michelin stars in two restaurants simultaneously in the 1930s. It’s in her restaurant La Mère Brazier that the legendary chef Paul Bocuse, among so many others, earned his stripes, and the restaurant is still open to this day on the banks of the Rhône in Lyon’s 1st arrondissement

Now in the capable hands of chef Mathieu Viannay, and incredibly for a restaurant with so much history, La Mère Brazier still goes from strength to strength. For visitors to Lyon keen to experience the city’s unique food culture, this restaurant is a must visit.

L’AUBERGE DU PONT DE COLLONGES (RESTAURANT PAUL BOCUSE)

Lyon’s food culture is so influential, so legendary, that there’s a danger we’re going to run out of superlatives and we’re only on tip two. We had to reserve a few for the big man though, a chef who, to many, is the greatest to ever do it; the late, great Paul Bocuse.

Described shortly after his death in 2018 as a colossus of French cooking, and a pioneer of nouvelle cuisine, his flagship restaurant l’Auberge du Pont de Collonges (often referred to, simply, as Restaurant Paul Bocuse) sits just 7km north of Lyon. A visit here is to experience true Lyonnaise and French culinary heritage with iconic (there’s that word again) dishes like his black truffle soup and his fricassée of Bresse chicken with cream and morels still on the menu.  

If the €250 per person price tag puts you off, then there are several excellent brasseries in Lyon operating under the Bocuse banner, each dedicated to a different regional French cuisine.

Brasserie Le Nord offers up Lyonnaise standards such as pike quenelles, pan fried calve’s liver a la Lyonnaise, and Burgundy snails, while Brasserie Le Sud specialises in the lighter Provençal style of French cooking; expect bouillabaisse soup, cod in aioli and other dishes which lean on the Mediterranean and North Africa for inspiration.

Brasserie l’Est nods towards East Asian cooking whilst remaining decidedly Lyonnaise, and l’Ouest does classics with a modern twist. If you’re keen to experience a meal with the Bocuse seal of approval but at a fraction of the price of his flagship (a set menu will set you back in the region of €30 at these four) then it’s to one of the chef’s compass themed brasseries you should head.

TRADITIONAL EATING HOUSES CALLED BOUCHONS LYONNAIS

You don’t have to spend big and dine fine to enjoy Lyon’s famed cuisine. Quite the opposite, in fact; arguably the best place to eat in Lyon are the city’s bouchons, a type of affordable, convivial restaurant unique to the city. 

Here, the cuisine is unashamedly rich, hearty and local, with none of the nouvelle cuisine flourishes of the city’s most famous son and mothers. Instead, expect typical regional dishes like salade lyonnaise (a salad of lettuce, bacon and croûtons and poached egg), light and fluffy quenelles of local river fish, usually pike, various types of saucisson, and plenty of offaly bits, our favourite of which is tripe cooked in onions. Just delicious!

There are only 22 official bouchon in the city, but many more that offer the same mixture of warm welcome, local wine by the jug, and hearty-as-hell Lyonnaise fare. Our favourites? Well, chef Joseph Viola heads up three in the city, all named Daniel et Denise and all boasting very capable cooking indeed. Alternatively, Café Comptoir Abel is perhaps Lyon’s most beloved bouchon. Check out a commendably extensive guide from the guys at Explore France here for more recommendations.

LE HALLES DE LYON & OTHER MARKETS

Of course, the culinary scene in Lyon isn’t only about brasseries, bistros and Bocuse; it’s the produce of the region that is truly the city’s trump card. 

Le Halles de Lyon is the city’s premier market for such produce, with 13’000 square metres, 3 floors and 48 food vendors peddling some seriously good charcuterie, baked goods and confectionary, as well as butchers, fishmongers, and greengrocers all selling the best that Lyon and the surrounding region has to offer. 

Our favourite vendors here include Trolliet butchers, Joanny Durand fishmongers, the cheesemonger Mère Richard and the chocolatier Maison Sève, but half of the pleasure of heading to markets like these in France is using your nose and palate (most places will offer you a taster, within reason!), and finding your own favourites. For truffles, however, there’s a dedicated store, Passionnément Truffes – Maison Blanchet, which is well worth a look, if only for the intoxicating aroma that hits you as you enter!

Whilst you can enjoy lunch at Les Halles )you’ll also find several excellent restaurants here, including Chez Léon and Chez Les Gones), any self respecting foodie should try cooking with this most premium of produce, providing you’re staying in a self catering accommodation in Lyon, of course.

Honestly, it’s difficult to go wrong when the raw ingredients are this good. So, once you’ve stocked yourself up with Lyon’s finest fresh produce, why not cook your own Michelin starred meal at home?

Other great markets in the city include the outdoor markets Marché Saint-Antoine, which runs along the banks of the Saône, and the Marché de la Croix-Rousse, in the Croix-Rousse neighbourhood. 

ENJOY A PICNIC OF LYON’S FAMOUS CHEESE & CHARCUTERIE

Let’s talk a little more about Lyon’s most famous and revered produce; namely, its cheese and charcuterie, which provide the base for the most indulgent picnic imaginable. 

The Dauphiné region, an hour’s drive southeast of Lyon, is famed for its cheeses, including Saint Marcellin, Saint Felicien and the superb goat’s cheese rigotte de Condrieu. To Lyon’s west, the Lyonnaise mountains host farms producing the finest pork products, including the incredible rosette de Lyon and Jesus de Lyon saucissons. The terrines, pâté and rillettes produced on these farms are equally as extraordinary.  

For a sample of some of this revered cheese, head to Le Fromager de Saint Georges, a minute’s walk from Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste on the banks of the Saône, whilst just a ten minute walk away and across the river at Pont Alphonse Juin, you’ll find Charcuterie BONNARD, one of the finest purveyors of the good stuff in town.

Now, you just have to find a park for a long and leisurely picnic! Parc de la Tête d’Or, stretching over 290 acres, is one of France’s largest parks and is only a short walk north of Les Halles. Alternatively, Parc du Confluent, which runs along the Rhône, is another glorious green space in Lyon. Should the weather not be looking too pretty, once you find a furnished accommodation rental in Lyon, you could take your hoard back and enjoy your feast there.

And if you’re extending your foodie tour of France and are heading north to the capital, then check out these 5 IDEAL tips for dining in Paris on a budget.

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