8am // Hotel Okko
A design hotel that hits all the right marks
Our day starts after a good night’s sleep at Hotel Okko. This hotel is part of a small but growing chain of hotels around France that try to upgrade the idea of affordable hospitality. Behind it all is Olivier Devys, who worked for the mega-brand Accor 16 years and managed to convinced his superiors that there is room on the market for another hotel chain that is a bit different than all the others.
The results are stunning and make this hotel our first choice in Lyon. There is a big focus on interior design, something that is evidently as soon as you enter the beautiful historic building. The staff is super friendly and helpful, the rooms cleverly designed. Apart from the bigger picture, it’s the small things that made us fall in love with this place: Free and fast wi-fi, a lobby with plenty of space to hang out in, a canteen that serves free (!) drinks and snacks all day long and power outlets next to both sides of the beds so you can charge your gadgets while you sleep. Luckily, part of the concept are also affordable prices, rooms start at 99 Euro/night (approx. 112 USD). So this stay won’t break the bank.
To start your day, walk along the banks of the Rhône and over the Pond Morant bridge into the city center. You pass the wonderful bookshop Datta which is still closed at this hour. But peek inside if you like. Walk up a small hill, and you’ll end up on a lovely square. Time for breakfast.
Hotel Okko // 14 bis, Quai du Général Sarrail // website
8.30am // La Boite à Café
Breakfast at the best cafe in town
La Boite à Café serves the best coffee in Lyon, hands down. The small coffee shop belongs to Moxka, a small-batch coffee roaster in the city. It’s a tiny place that is always busy. Pick your favorite from the selection of baked goods (baked by Konditori a few streets down where we will have lunch), order your drink and squeeze in. It’s going to be a long day.
La Boite à Café // 3 Rue Abbé Rozier // Mon-Fri 8am-7pm, Sat 9am-7pm, Sun 11am-7pm // website
10am // Fourvière
This hill overlooks the whole city and hosts some of Lyon’s most famous sights
After breakfast, it’s time for some sight seeing. Our next destination is on the other side of the Saône river. You can walk this first stretch of the way, or you take the Metro for two stops starting at Hôtel de Ville, the city hall, and walk from there. The whole walk should take about 20 minutes, and it’s a nice one, so if you can, opt for that.
Cross the Saône and walk through the cobbled streets of Lyon’s old town. This area is always flooded with tourists, and it’s easy to see why. Old, colorful houses line the narrow streets. Find the Metro stop Vieux Lyon (‘Old Lyon’) and purchase a return ticket for the cable car at the machines. There were once five different routes of the old Funiculaires de Lyon in operation, but now, the only two remaining funiculars are going up the Fourvière hill.
Once you are on the hill, find your way to Notre Dame de Fourvière, the cathedral overlooking the city. From here, you have a spectacular view of Lyon. Soak up the sight, and then walk down the hill a bit, following the signs that point to the Minimes Theatre Romain, the Ancient Theater of Fourvière.
This Roman theater was built in two phases and could house up to 10.000 people when it was completed. Today, it’s the venue of the popular Les Nuits de Fourvière festival of performing arts. Take your time to explore the place and make sure to snap plenty of pictures. At this time of day, it shouldn’t be too crowded up here.
Afterwards, take the funicular down the hill and switch to Metro line D at the bottom. At Saxe - Gambetta, change again to the B line. Get off after just one stop at Place Guichard - Bourse du Travail. Our next destination is just a very short walk away from the exit.
11.30Am // Les Halles Paul Bocuse
French food at its best, from meats to seafood, vegetables to pastries
Lyon is a food city and home to several legendary dishes and chefs. The most famous of them all is of course Paul Bocuse. Considered one of the best chefs of the 20th century, he was named ‘chef of the century’ by Gault-Millau in 1989. Bocuse also founded the Bocuse d’Or, the world’s most famous cooking competition, that takes place every other year in Lyon. He left his mark all over the city, where he is in charge of no less than five restaurants.
The food market Les Halles Paul Bocuse exists since 1859, and its housed in this building since the early 1970s. It was only in 2006 that the city of Lyon decided to change its name and dedicate the structure to Bocuse.
When you enter, you can see why. It’s basically a showcase of culinary Lyon. All the iconic staples of the local cuisine are here: the quenelles, little dumplings that come in all sorts of shapes and varieties, the truffles, the sausages, the foie gras, the pastries. There is a lot to see here. Walk through the stalls, maybe buy yourself some edible souvenirs, but hold up on the sweet stuff. Next stop: wine and chocolate!
Les Halles Paul Bocuse // 102 Cours Lafayette // Tue-Sat 7am-10.30pm, Sun 7am-4.30pm // website
12.15pm // Vavro & Co
A charming wine store that also looks good
A short walk away from Les Halles lies Vavro & Co, a modern wine shop that we love. The interior is stunning – tall shelves line the walls and hundreds of oversized light bulbs illuminate the place – and the staff here is the most welcoming and friendly. They ae the opposite of snobbish wine folks but know so much about wine. If you have any questions they are happy to help, and you can find decent bottles for under 10 Euro (approx. 11,50 USD).
Vavro & Co // 46 Cours Franklin Roosevelt // Tue-Thu 10am-12.30pm & 2.30pm-7.30pm, Fri & Sat 10am-7.30pm // website
12.30pm // Bernachon
Sweet treats for chocolate lovers. You won’t find better chocolate anywhere
Hello // Salut
Thank you // Merci
Yes // Oui
No // Non
Maybe // Peut-être
DO & DONT'S
Do: Soak in the architecture, Lyon is the second largest renaissance city in the world.
Don't: Don’t go crazy. It’s also the headquarter of Interpol, the international police federation.
Next we visit Bernachon, a wonderfully old-fashioned chocolate shop and patissier two houses down the street. No matter what time of day, there is always a line here. Do yourself a favor and buy yourself a treat. The small petit fours are rather cheap and worth every cent. This is heaven in two bites!
Bernachon // 42 Cours Franklin Roosevelt // Tue-Sat 8.30am-7pm, Sun 8.30mam-5pm // website