In this series, our Lonely Planet locals share the restaurant and bar recommendations they tell friends coming to town about. This week, Anna Richards, a Lyon-based writer, shares the five places she encourages anyone visiting Lyon to try.
Lyon’s reputation as France’s foodie capital may be founded on a gout-inducing tradition of bouchons serving hearty plates of offal, but these days its dining scene is as varied as its patchwork quilt of quarters (neighborhoods).
Best of all for anyone who’s experienced dry, overpriced poulet frites from tourist traps by the Eiffel Tower, eating well in Lyon is surprisingly affordable.
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Les Assembleurs, Préfecture
Why should I go? You’re actively encouraged to mix your drinks.
What’s the vibe? A chemistry lab in a Mediterranean tapas bar. It works.
What should I order? The Tapas list changes constantly, but there are always plenty of cheese-based dishes to pair with your concoctions. Generous portions of patatas bravas (spicy potatoes) are a mainstay.
What about drinks? This is the fun part: the wines are on tap, and you get to blend different combinations. Simple tasting notes like ‘strawberry’ and ‘peach’ help guide your choices, as do the knowledgeable bartenders.
Where should I go after? It’s reliably lively until closing time. After that, head to a peniche on the banks of the Rhône. Le Sirius stays open until 3am.
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Regain, 1st arrondissement
Why should I go? Quintessential French fine dining without a gold card price tag.
What’s the vibe? Understated chic, the timeless trench coat of Lyon’s gastronomic scene.
What should I order? The set menu is three/four courses each with a choice of two dishes, punctuated by amuse-bouches, sorbets and inter-course appetizers, amounting to eight + courses. Advance booking is essential; state dietary requirements (even vegetarian) when you book.
What about drinks? There’s an impressive range of pre-dinner cocktails to whet your palate. The extensive wine menu has numerous options from neighboring wine regions Beaujolais and the Rhône Valley.
Where should I go after? If you’re not too full, shoebox-sized Les Valseuses is a 10-minute (uphill) walk. This dimly-lit bar hosts intimate concerts, has cheap beer and one of the best rum selections in the city.
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La Commune, La Mouche
Why should I go? ‘Discover’ the next big thing. Budding chefs try out here before opening their own restaurants.
What’s the vibe? East London covered market.
What should I order? Whatever you choose, don’t rush it. There are between five and 10 semi-permanent eateries; cuisines range from South Indian to Ukrainian.
What about drinks? They’re not cheap by Lyon’s standards, but the range of draught beers is reliably good.
Where should I go after? It’s a 20-minute walk to La Guillotière which is much livelier after-hours. Le Bouillon Paradis has rock-bottom prices and live music.
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Zoï, 1st arrondissement
Why should I go? Experience France’s vegan revolution.
What’s the vibe? Authentic French pâtisserie/boulangerie, just without the animal products.
What should I order? Impossibly buttery pain au chocolat, and take-away tiramisu.
What about drinks? The coffee is excellent and inexpensive.
Where should I go after? On a street-art tour of Croix-Rousse, the most colorful quartier. Don’t miss the giant fresco Le Mur des Canuts (in homage to Lyon’s silk-weaving history), and vibrantly painted staircases.
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Marché Alimentaire Saint-Antoine Célestins, Farmers Market
Why should I go? Ditching the supermarket in favor of outdoor markets has always been fashionable in France.
What’s the vibe? A game of Sardines with haggling and sharp elbows.
What should I order? As much cheese as you can carry (try local specialties Saint-Félicien and Arôme de Lyon). Save room for Lyon’s iconic pink praline brioche, sold at most bake stands.
What about drinks? Grab a bottle of wine and join the locals perched on the riverbank wall.
Where should I go after? Cross the river and zigzag uphill (or take the funicular) to Fourvière, Lyon’s hilltop basilica, for the best city views.
Anna first discovered Lyon as a student in 2013, when she consumed more than her fair share of Côtes du Rhône. Far from being nightmare-inducing, the local cheeses were the stuff of dreams, and in 2021, she moved to Lyon from Cornwall, swapping pasties for pastis.