Lyon: make the most of the culinary capital of France

Whether in the noisy throng of its food markets or in the quiet calm of its bouchons, you'll experience the full gamut of French gastronomy in Lyon.

Our top picks at a glance

  • Le Halles Paul Bocuse
    • Nearly 60 top-class food stalls selling countless gourmet delights. Sit down and get a snack or lunch, or just fill your picnic basket.
  • La Garet
    • The three-course lunch for €19.50 is a great introduction to the regional specialties.
  • Les traboules
    • Explore the city's 19th-century secret passageways for pastries, chocolates or a bottle of wine to take home.

What's so special about food in Lyon?

To put it simply, Lyon is where chefs go for inspiration. Its covered food markets are legendary: a swarm of delicious smells, noise and waving arms. It has more than 2,000 restaurants, including its characteristic bouchons – little traditional bistros that offer the perfect place to hole up for an afternoon. And if you know your food history, you'll have heard of the city's most famous resident, Paul Bocuse. The godfather of modern French cooking, Bocuse invented nouvelle cuisine in the late 1960s, has a string of Michelin-studded restaurants and has a food market, Le Halles Paul Bocuse, named after him. Lyon is his turf of choice.

The markets

On entering, the first thing that hits you is the smell. Fresh seafood, pungent cheeses and dry-aged charcuterie fill the air, as does the lively chatter of friends and family, catching up over a table of steaming lobsters, mussels and white wine. This is a wonderful place to see those founding French values of friendship and family, plus a love of good food and drink, played out in person. Fruit and vegetable displays are works of art, with gleaming piles of red peppers and black aubergines piled up next to fluffy green carrot tops and yellow sweetcorn. Saucisson hangs down in white nets from meat counters, with endless varieties of pies and patés stacked underneath. Rounds of waxy yellow cheeses, rustic baskets of fresh bread and strategically placed bottles of red wine create a bustling foodie atmosphere that you will want to take home with you.

Good for: Cheese, charcuterie, seafood, wine.

Don’t miss: Le Halles Paul Bocuse. Buy a small round of the country's finest Saint Marcellin cheese from specialist Mère Richard, taste artisan chocolate from Maison Sève and regional saucisson Jèsus de Lyon from charcuterie Maison Cellerier.

The shops

Intro: The narrow, winding lanes of Lyon’s old town are filled with promising little cafes, bakeries, chocolate shops, delicatessens and bars that are made for people-watching. Wander down some of the city's famous traboules – secret passageways used in the 19th century by silk traders, particularly around the Croix-Rousse district – to get a sense of how history enlivens and enriches this city. Then sit and ponder it over a coffee and a macaron.

Good for: Hand-crafted confectionery, flavoured liquers, edible souvenirs.

Don’t miss: On Rue de la Bombarde, artisan pastries and meringues dazzle from the windows of A La Marquise. Round the corner, Le Comptoir de Mathilde offers handcrafted chocolates and outlandishly flavoured rum drinks. Want to pair that charcuterie with a nice bottle of something? Head to Antic Wine on Rue du Boeuf to consult with an expert sommelier.

Discover Lyon for yourself on a river cruise in France