Old town of Lyon in France is perfect holiday spot for food & culture lovers

LYON is the gastronomic capital of a country obsessed with food.

But there’s so much more than eating to explore in its evocative old town. It has more than 2,000 years of history to discover as well as fantastic shopping and quirky museums.

WHY SHOULD I GO? From the cobblestones of its historic old town to the sweeping panoramic views from Fourvière hill across its two rivers, France’s third largest city is a striking and surprising destination for any first-time visitor.

With its incredible gastronomy, ancient Roman ruins and vibrant nightlife, it’s an ideal weekend getaway.

And as the Cote d’Azur is less than two hours away by train, it’s also the perfect stop-off for those planning a trip to the south.

ARE THESE STREETS MADE FOR WALKING? With two majestic rivers piercing the city centre — the grand Rhône and the smaller Saône — Lyon is a particularly scenic place to see on foot.

The cobbled paths and mysterious passageways of Vieux Lyon, above right, or old Lyon, are often busy with tourists but are also unique and perfect for photo opportunities.

Head to the vast Parc de la Tête d’Or for a tranquil stroll. Spanning almost 300 acres, France’s largest urban park is an oasis of calm that also contains a boating lake, botanical gardens and even a zoo.

While the quirky hillside neighbourhood of Croix-Rousse will give your legs a good workout, its charming cafes, winding streets and colourful public art make it worth the walk.

ANYTHING FOR THE BUCKET LIST? Take the funicular railway up to the summit of Fourvière hill and admire the stunning views across the city and beyond.

On clear days, the rocky peaks of the Alps are visible in the far distance.

While you’re up on the hill, don’t forget to explore the absurdly ornate Notre-Dame de Fourvière basilica before making the five-minute walk over to the Roman amphitheatres, which date from around 15BC.

See where the movies began at the elegant Musée Lumière. The museum tells the story of the Lumière brothers – cinema pioneers and inventors of the cinematograph.

And no trip to France would be complete without a stroll through a bustling market. Get lost in the array of tasty meats, cheese and vegetables of the Marché Saint-Antoine, which runs along the banks of the river Saône every week.

WHERE SHOULD I EAT? As Lyon is France’s gastronomic capital, visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to food.

For a diverse introduction, head to the lively food market Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse and sample as much as possible from the many stalls and bars.

The local classics include the andouillette sausage, Salade Lyonnaise and the sweet tarte aux pralines.

The picturesque Rue Mercière in the Presqu’île area of the city has a canopied collection of fine restaurants where you can dine al fresco on some authentic French cooking into the evening.

If you want to push the boat out then Lyon has 20 Michelin-star restaurants to choose from, including the La Mère Brazier.

But if you prefer to keep things simple, you can’t go wrong with buying a fresh baguette, some cheese and ham to go with it and sitting on the steps at the side of the Rhône in the sun.

GO: Lyon, France

Train it from London St Pancras to Lyon via Paris or Lille with prices from £170 return.

Or fly with easyJet from Luton with fares from £70 return.

See easyJet.com.

Rooms at the Mercure Lyon Centre Plaza Republique from £82per night.

See accor.com.

I FANCY A DRINK: Stylish bars spill out onto the cobbled streets of Vieux Lyon, so order a glass of local Beaujolais and watch the world go by.

Les Berthom is a cracking little pub for enjoying the weather outside with a few beers, while the Venetian-inspired Bar Le Florian has a wide range of tempting cocktails to choose from.

Fancy a more unique experience? Le Sirius is a permanently moored boat bar on the Rhône that’s a great party spot at weekends with a buzzing atmosphere.

WHERE SHOULD I STAY? For good-value accommodation right in the heart of the city, the 4H Mercure Plaza Republique ticks all the boxes. Rooms are compact but feature all the necessary facilities including complimentary water and wifi.

Downstairs, the small bar and terrace are good for refuelling after a long day discovering the city.

And with so many amazing places within walking distance including the old town’s many restaurants and the pedestrianised Carre d’Or shopping district, it’s an ideal base.

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