The Cultured Foodie : Walking Tour of Vieux Lyon
Lyon’s historic district, known as the Vieux Lyon (Old Town), is the first place I bring all our visitors for a walking tour. These cobblestone streets are home to Lyon’s most well-preserved Renaissance architecture, fascinating historic details, and some of Lyon’s best treats for foodies. It’s the perfect place to take walk and discover the rich history of Lyon.
Perhaps one of the most intriguing and fun aspects about this neighborhood is how so many of the most interesting things seem to be a bit hidden away, a bit secret. Vieux Lyon is impressive and dense and it’s easy to miss some of the most fascinating details of the neighborhood. That’s why Clémence and I have come up with this walking tour, our guide to the Vieux Lyon, to help you get the most out of your visit and to share with you our very favorite things about this neighborhood.
You’ll find a free audioguide with Clémence here to download and take with you as you walk through this amazing area of Lyon and discover her favorite architectural and historic details. Down below, I’ve paired my favorite places and foodie stops that you’ll come across as you follow Clémence. We’ve also included all the addresses for these places at the bottom because the neighborhood does have a few tourist traps and we want you to find the very best things!
St. Jean’s Cathedral
Recently renovated inside and out, St. Jean’s Cathedral is a natural place to begin any walking tour of the neighborhood. On the audioguide, Clémence will tell you about her favorite details in the façade as well as the interior of this historic cathedral.
One of my favorite things about the cathedral is the Jardin Archeologique a bit behind the main building on its left side. The ruins here that date back to Roman antiquity and reveal that this site has been an important religious place since the beginning of Lyon’s story. I love the juxtaposition of historical periods here, something very special to this area and that makes Lyon so rich. Also, this little spot is a bit off the beaten track and you can see locals here walking their dogs or just taking a break from the bustle of the crowded streets nearby.
Perhaps one of the most unique and well-known architectural aspects of the Vieux Lyon, are the traboules (passages) that connect the parallel streets and invite us to take a peek at the interior courtyards of the historic buildings around us. Clémence will tell you how to find two of these famous passages in the audiotour and you can compare the architectural details of the two as you listen.
As you go between the two traboules Clémence suggests, you’ll come upon one of my very favorite places in Lyon: La Boulangerie du Palais. This postage-stamp sized bakery often has a line trailing out the door because everyone wants to get one of their famous brioches aux pralines! You’ll see this distinctive pink specialty all over the shops and bakeries in the neighborhood, which, contrary to appearances is only pink in color, not in taste. At La Boulangerie du Palais, a mix of caramelized nuts is gently folded into the succulent, fluffy crumb of a perfect French brioche. Trust me, it’s worth the wait!
Rue des Trois Maries
As you walk through Vieux Lyon, you’ll realize that rue St. Jean and rue du Boeuf are the main arteries of the neighborhood. Clémence invites us to go off the beaten track and soak up the Renaissance archtecture on rue des Trois Maries, where eveything feels much more calm. As you pass through Place de La Baleine, you’ll come across my personal favorite ice cream shop: Terre Adélice. Their list of flavors will make your head spin and its always a struggle for me to decide: a scoop of Valrhona dark chocolate sorbet and sweet creamy chestnut ice cream made from chestnuts sourced just beyond Lyon…. Local ingredients, many organic, and ingredible flavors! You’ll be finding excuses to come back throughout your whole trip to Lyon.
Place du Change
After you discover the historic quirks of the architecture of this bustling square with Clémence on the audioguide, head up the rue Soufflot to one of my favorite little shops for souvenirs: Les Ardoises de Lyon. They specialize in chalkboards of all shapes and sizes that make great gifts (flat and easy to pack!) Or you may decide that you just need one for yourself, as they are perfect for noting your nightly menu, grocery lists and give your home kitchen a little touch of French bistro.
Rue Lainerie / Juiverie
Clémence will take you to see an amazing spiral staircase, tucked away in a Renaissance courtyard off of rue Lainerie, take your time to marvel at this beauty! Then she’ll guide you to rue Juiverie where you can visit the courtyard of Philibert de l’Orme on your own, you’ll see that texts already provided on site to point out the architectural details of this special place. Clémence then will guide you to some cheeky sculptures just next door… At this point, You’ll be just a block or two away from one of my favorite wine bars in the area: Daughter Wine Bar. A charming, tucked-away place facing the Saône, they specialize in vins naturels (natural wines made without sulfates) and have great bottles and wine by the glass, not to mention all the delicious things to try on their ever-changing, seasonally-influenced menu. To top it off, friendly service, great advice, and a relaxed yet hip décor.
St. Paul and beyond
Our walking tour ends at St. Paul Train Station, just in front of the church of the same name. After you take a moment to admire this lovely church, you can pop into any number of bars and restaurants on this street for lunch or to grab a drink. Hungry? Grab an updated Croque Monsieur at the very hip, Croque ‘n Roll. If you’re a beer lover, check out La Mie Graine – its name is a play on words that suggests the “migrain” you’ll have after a night drinking all their amazing Belgian and craft beers.
If you decide to keep walking, Clémence suggests that you take the red passerelle Saint Vincent to see Lyon’s “wall” of fame, an incredible tromp l’oeil fresco featuring Lyon’s best-known personalities over time. Your can head to Place Sathonay next, it’s one of my favorite spots in the city, to enjoy a drink or a meal on a shady patio along the square.
- Jardin Archéologique Saint Jean Rue Mandelot, 69005 Lyon
- La Boulangerie du Palais 8 Rue du Palais de Justice, 69005 Lyon
- Terre Adélice 1 Place de la Baleine, 69005 Lyon
- Les Ardoises de Lyon 3 Rue Soufflot, 69005 Lyon
- Daughter Wine Bar 21 Quai de Bondy, 69005 Lyon
- Croque n’ Roll 6 Rue Octavio Mey, 69005 Lyon
- La Mie Graine 11 Place Saint-Paul, 69005 Lyon