Oddly, it wasn’t the food that drew me to Lyon.

Stringy innards served in traditional bistros called bouchons never did it for me, but when you get past this and discover Lyon’s fusion food, vegetarian fare, street food and haute cuisine, it’s difficult to find a city to match it. 

A brief history lesson: Lyon’s reputation for great food comes from clever marketing, a dose of luck, and women. In 1900, the Michelin brothers, who made tires in Clermont-Ferrand, wanted a way to up their sales. They came up with the idea to publish a motorist’s guidebook to France, including road maps, restaurants and hotels, to encourage people to drive more. More motorists = more tire sales. 

Lyon, squarely on the route between Paris and Nice, began to see more and more footfall. The (largely women-run) bouchons that had hitherto passed under the radar began to attract tourists and restaurant critics alike. In 1933, a former farm girl from l’Ain, now a single mother who’d worked her way up the ranks in service and bouchon kitchens, became the first person ever to be awarded six Michelin stars. And while it’s Paul Bocuse’s name splashed across markets and restaurants all over the city, it was six-starred Eugénie Brazier who trained him. 

Fast-forward over 90 years, and many bouchons have changed little since Brazier’s time, except to inflate their prices. Lyon’s culinary scene has had another stroke of luck, though. With the reputation for great food already in place, young chefs looking for cheaper digs than Paris flock here. It means the restaurant scene is varied and innovative, and if mealtimes are religious elsewhere in France, they’re gospel here.

Here’s what I eat in Lyon…

Pink brioche with icing sugar sprinkles
Have a sweet start to your day with a buttery brioche from Antoinette Pain & Brioche © Antoinette Pain & Brioche


Croissants are a sugary sweet start to the day, but Lyon’s breakfast specialty is even more indulgent: pink praline brioche. No one quite knows how the praline first came to be pink, but the nutty, sticky praline the color of bubblegum in buttery brioche, is heaven. Pralus’s sharing-sized brioches deservedly make you the most popular guest at a party, but if you’re looking for something snack-sized, head to Antoinette Pain & Brioche. There’s a fusion twist on every dish in Lyon, and this one’s in the form of a pink praline babka from My Little Babka. I’m British, so sometimes I can’t resist a savory brunch. Hands down, the best are the breakfast croques from Le Desjeuneur in Croix-Rousse, served daily.

L: Exterior of cafe decorated with flowers. R: Waiter with a plate of iced-coffees
Un Brin de Folie is a cafe and florist with a welcoming atmosphere © Un Brin de Folie


If you drink your coffee black, pretty much anywhere will serve you a decent espresso for little more than a euro. Un Brin de Folie has good coffee, but I love it for the atmosphere. Inside a florist’s shop, you feel positively oxygenated going there, and it runs wreath-making workshops on-site too. Flat whites are hard to come by, and the best I’ve found is at Grimpeurs, a bike shop-cum-cafe, but it doesn’t come cheap. ¸s hot chocolate, infused with warming spices, is to die for.

Haute-cuisine lunch at Jeremy Galvin
Jérémy Galvan is where you go for a full sensory experience lunch © Lauren Dupont


Grab-and-go fare instantly marks you out as a tourist in France, but some of the street food is too good to resist: Toke’s quirky empanadas, for example, with fillings like moussaka and palak paneer, or La Coquetterie’s overflowing gyros, where music blasts from a vinyl record player as you wait. 

Food Traboule is one institution that everyone knows, but I still can’t get enough of it. A food court with 12 different types of cuisine, it’s hidden in the traboules (covered passageways) that characterize the old part of the city. A victim of its success, the queue sometimes snakes along the street, so I like to go for a mid-week lunch when it’s not too busy.

Lyon has 21 Michelin-starred restaurants, and although this is by no means where I’d regularly eat, it would be remiss of me not to mention my favorite. Jérémy Galvan’s eight-course lunch menu is a full sensory experience, where you’re invited to put on headphones for certain courses and often have no idea what you’re eating.

Cafe-cum-bike repair workshop
Enjoy drinks by the Rhône at Velcroc © Velcroc


My apéro (pre-dinner drink) spot changes with the season. As soon as the days lengthen, I celebrate with an Aperol Spritz on the Opéra’s roof bar, Les Muses. It’s open from 6pm Wednesday to Sunday, and you can be nosy and look down into the inner courtyard of the Hôtel de Ville. West-facing, the views of the sunset behind Fourvière Basilica are really special. Velcroc is my current favorite people-watching spot, another cafe-cum-bike repair workshop right by the Rhône with regular early evening live music events.

L: Franco-Lebanese small plates. R: Blistering Neopolitan pizza
L: The mezze at Franco-Lebanese restaurant, Ayla, is always changing and always fresh © Canabae Studios; R: Try a blistering Neopolitan pizza at Vico © Vico Pizzeria


I can’t stop talking about Ayla, I can’t stop writing about Ayla, I can’t stop thinking about Ayla, but I also can’t tell you what to eat, because it always changes. Just know that it’s Franco-Lebanese and even the most boring vegetables become an explosion of flavor. Although this is France, the crown for best pizzeria is hotly contended in any foodie city. Finding the best pizzeria in Lyon is a job I’ve taken very seriously, and the undisputed champion is Vico Pizzzza in the 2ème. The dough-to-sauce ratio is perfect. It’s tiny, book in advance. For a treat dinner, try Alebrije’s Franco-Mexican tasting menu. Chef Carla Kirsch Lopez somehow runs the kitchen and finds time to serve several dishes and chat with guests too. Drink multiple margaritas.

L: Stuffed tiger sits above fireplace. R: Spicy margarita cocktail
La Faute aux Ours is the perfect spot to start and end your night in Lyon © La Faute aux Ours


When I first came to Lyon, I was a student and we’d dance until the small hours at Le Sirius péniche (live-aboard narrowboat) bar. It’s amazing that, 11 years on, this is still a reliably good spot, although it still prioritizes vibes over cleanliness. Another spot for a boogie, La Faute aux Ours, is busy regardless of the day of the week. The decor is a weird and wonderful mix of your grandparents’ best china and outsized dildos. La Cave des Dominicains (Friday evenings only), may be the cheapest place to drink in the city. Run by monks in the cellars of their convent, the evening winds down with prayers for the pie-eyed students that frequent the bar.

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