Welcome to Lyon France! This lovely city is centrally located between Paris and Marseilles and is the gastronomic capitol of France. It’s combination of history—it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site—and commerce make it a unique and thriving metropolis in France. As an added benefit it’s close to routes for Burgundy wine tours and Rhone and Provence wine tours.
Lyon has so much to offer its visitors, from rich cultural haunts like museums and Roman ruins, to chateaux and wineries where exquisite wines can be sampled, it is almost a shame to not spend a week or two indulging in all that Lyon has to offer. Though some of us do not have that sort of time and may be interested in experiencing two or more regions in France. For those looking to spend only a few days in Lyon, discover all that is great about the gastronomic capitol in a three-day sojourn.
Day 1: Welcome to Lyon France
- Plan to start your day around 10am at the epicenter of Lyon gastronomy: Les Halles Paul Bocuse. This market dates back to 1859. After a renovation in 2006, it became home to 56 specialty food shops and restaurants. There is an amazing variety of in season foods. Everything is fresh—each stall is a small gastronomic oasis.
- Pause at 11am like the locals and stop by a seafood bar for some oysters and wine. Don’t forget to bring a large tote and your appetite! Then spend the afternoon visiting the historic district of Lyon. Its medieval old town is one of the best-preserved in Europe.
- Make sure to discover “les traboules” or passageways built as far back as the 4th century. These passages were used by silk merchants to convey goods from one place to another. Some are beneath the city and closed to the public. But there are plenty above ground if you take time to look around.
Day 2: Beaujolais Beyond Nouveau
- Most people equate Beaujolais with lesser caliber wine. But there are ten crus waiting to be discovered in the region, about a half hour from Lyon France.
- Start your day in Beaujolais with a visit to a local producer. Here we visited an organic producer. He offered us excellent rosé and red wines, and gave us an informative primer on how to taste wine. His passion was infectious.
- Be sure to schedule a visit to a cru producer and discover the power the Gamay grape can express. These particular grapes offerless complex characteristics—lots of red fruit and candied aromas. Bu there are some crus that can produce full-bodied, complex wines.
- Also a hallmark of Beaujolais, are the chateaux amidst the medieval villages. This chateau proved to be an amazing stop. The wines and gardens, are worth the detour. The gardens are designed by Le Notre, the chief gardener for King Louis XVI and the one who designed the gardens at Versailles.
- Before leaving the lush landscapes of Beaujolais, stop at a local village. Look for one designated as one of the “Most Beautiful Villages” of France. This one is famous for its homes made with “golden stones.”
Day 3: Romans and Côte Rôtie
- The vineyards of Côte Rôtie are on a rocky, steep incline. Vines are difficult to work, but they produce some of the some of the most expensive wines in France. The region’s whites are from Viognier grapes. Its reds are from Syrah varietals.
- Though Côte Rôtie has a reputation for producing stellar Viognier wines, my companions and I tasted an amazing white produced from the Marsanne grape. And as for the region’s reds, I fell for the St. Joseph wines.
- After a morning touring the vineyards and tasting great wine, travel to Vienne for lunch and be sure to discover the Roman ruins. The city’s ancient amphitheater is larger than the one in Orange. It holds eleven thousand spectators at the time. It is still used for the city’s Jazz festival that takes place two weeks every July.
- Vienne is also home to an archaeological museum that is worth the detour. It houses an impressive collection of mosaics and statues. This gives the visitor a glimpse everyday Roman society, and the archaeological process that uncovers these ancient treasures. Here a private guide is a must.