Get your bearings
Part-Dieu station is in the heart of the modern business district of the same name, best known for the pencil-shaped, 42-storey Tour Part-Dieu skyscraper. Lyon’s excellent underground and buses (tcl.fr) link the district to the Presqu’île, as the long, tongue-like peninsula lapped by the Rhône and Saône rivers that comprises central Lyon is known.
The Presqu’île has elegant, mostly 19th-century architecture with stylish shops, busy cafés and superb restaurants lining its mostly pedestrianised north-south boulevards. The largest open space is the Place Bellecour, which also contains the Tourist Office (lyon-france.com), which sells a Lyon City Card (€29,90 for 48 hours) with unlimited public transport and free entry to museums.
The Presqu’île’s steep northern district, known as the Croix-Rousse, was once a quarter for silk weavers but is now a trendy area for arty youngsters. La Confluence, at the tip of the Presqu’île, is the largest current urban redevelopment in Europe, while Le Vieux Lyon, on the Saône’s west bank, is a Unesco-listed area notable for its concentration of magnificent Renaissance architecture.
Lyon-Saint-Exupéry airport is 25km east of Lyon’s centre. The fastest, cheapest way to get into town is on the Rhônexpress tramway, which reaches Part-Dieu station in less than 30 minutes, with departures every 15 minutes (6am to 9pm) and half-hourly (5am to 5.30am and 9.30pm to midnight) (rhonexpress.fr). Taxis cost roughly €40 to €50.
Take a hike
From Place Bellecour, stroll down Rue Auguste Comte, the artery of antique shops. Make a brief detour left, down Rue St-Hélène, for the fascinating Musée des Tissus et des Arts Décoratifs at 34 Rue de la Charité (mtmad.fr) which displays the glories of Lyon’s silk and textile industry.
Near the Gare Lyon-Perrache, Lyon’s second major train station, stop for a drink at the vast Art Deco Brasserie Georges at 30 Cours de Verdun Perrache (brasseriegeorges.com) which has been in business since 1836. Continue down the Cours Charlemagne for the Confluence district.
Lunch on the run
Many Lyonnaise prefer a proper Sunday lunch, but for a perfect compromise between a big formal meal and a light midday one, head for the Café Brasserie Chantecler at 151 Boulevard de la Croix-Rousse (cafechantecler.fr), a lively bobo (“bourgeois bohemian”) hang-out with everything from a first-rate salade Lyonnaise (endive, bacon, poached egg) to steak tartare and smoked salmon club sandwiches.
No serious food-lover should miss Lyon’s sprawling covered market, Les Halles de Lyon – Paul Bocuse at 102 Cours Lafayette (closed Monday; halles-de-lyon-paulbocuse.com).
Look out for Sibilla, the celebrated charcuterie producer, and La Mère Richard, a fromagerie famed for the quality of its creamy, runny, gently lactic St-Marcellin, produced in the nearby Dauphine region.
Bernachon, 42 Cours Franklin Roosevelt (bernachon.com), a bean-to-bar chocolate producer, is a brisk 20-minute walk from the market. It should be seen both for its tea salon and pastries, and for its sumptuous chocolates.
There are great cocktails to be had at Soda, 7 Rue de la Martinière (soda-bar.fr), which is decorated with posters of crooners who liked a drink, including James Brown and Frank Sinatra. The serious young mixologists do everything from a classic sazerac to a Champs-Elysées cocktail (cognac, Chartreuse, Angostura bitters and lemon juice).
Dine with the locals
Japanese cook Takao Takano was sous chef to Nicolas LeBec, Lyon’s gastronomic golden boy, until his career crashed and he high-tailed it to China. With great discretion and modesty, Takano stepped into his boss’s shoes, and his elegant restaurant Takao Takano at 33 Rue des Malesherbes (takaotakano.com), is now one of the most popular tables in town.
Takano has an encyclopedic knowledge of French cooking, which allows him to make subtle changes that completely renew a classic dish. Delicious examples include steamed cod garnished with baby peas, seaweed and sun-dried tomato, and a sauce of cardamom-flavoured smoked milk and melted raw butter.
The Musée des Beaux-Arts at 20 Place des Terreaux (mba-lyon.fr; closed Monday; €8) has a strong collection of 20th-century European paintings including works by Cézanne, Degas, Manet, Monet and Renoir. The ancient Egyptian collection is also outstanding. Don’t miss the bedroom set that Art Nouveau artist Hector Guimard designed for his wife.
Icing on the cake
Impress everyone when you get home with your tales of football excitement and some top notch cooking with the skills you learned from a Market Table Class or a French Pastry Workshop at the excellent Plum Lyon Teaching Kitchen cookery school at 49 Rue des Tables Claudiennes (plumlyon.com, courses from €90). It’s run by the gastronomically gifted Lucy Vanel, an American who trained as a pastry chef in France. Her well-run course will leave you with lots of new seasonal go-to recipes that are simultaneously modern and traditional, but profoundly French.
Additional research by Francesca Street