On route to the Provence my mother and I stayed a few nights in Lyon & Annecy. Lyon is a city I have often passed by, but have never stopped, so it was about time to stay a few nights in Lyon. I was very happy that I finally decided to visit Lyon as it is an amazingly diverse city, with a beautiful old town and many interesting sights! Lyon is quite hilly and it hosts two rivers (the Saone and the Rhone). The rivers flow directly through the (old) city and the city is connected via many bridges, of which some are pedestrian. The bridges and the rivers definitely give Lyon a fun aspect. We visited during perfectly sunny days, so people were enjoying the city from the water as there are many terraces located at the docks and on boats. From Lyon it is only a short drive to Annecy and I would definitely recommend that combination.

A typical pedestrian bridge which connects two parts of the city
The pinkish houses are quintessential Lyon

What to do in Lyon

Walking tour: We started off our time in Lyon with a (free) walking tour. We booked with Free Tour Lyon and walked for two hours with our guide Paul. Paul was incredibly knowledgeable about Lyon and its history and explained all of that in perfectly understandable English. During our walking tour we mainly visited Vieux Lyon (old town) and Croix-Rousse. Croix-Rousse is a hipster area, a little rough on the edges and filled with street art and coffee bars. Vieux Lyon is more fancy, with Renaissance buildings, cute squares and touristy restaurants. Lyon is a city with many quirks. One quirk is that it has enormous murals with depictions of city life in Lyon. My favorite mural was the “Fresque de Lyonnais”, which looks like a real life building and features several historical and more recent persons. Another quirk of Lyon is that it has secret passageways. These passageways often lead from street to street via a courtyard of an apartment complex. It is a super special activity to be able to visit these private courtyards! The passageways were designed in the era in which Lyon was famous for producing silk, to keep the silk off the dirty streets.

The old amphitheater from which you had lovely views over the city and the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere (top right)

Musee de Confluences: We took the Vaporetto to the Musee de Confluences (4 euro one way). This museum is located in the Confluence neighborhood, which is a neighborhood with very modern architecture which also hosts a huge shopping mall and a lot of office buildings. This may sound boring, but it was a fun change of pace with the historical city center and the architecture was at times really futuristic and impressive. From the Vaporetto it is a 15 minutes walk to the Musee de Confluences. It is a science museum, but we visited the museum to enjoy the modern architecture. If you are not going to visit any exhibitions you can visit the building for free. From the top of the museum you get great views of Lyon and its surroundings, but I mainly loved the beautiful architecture and especially the footpath that floated in the air (pictured below).

Food: Lyon is also known for its traditional food. In the “Bouchons” you can have traditional meals, but make sure to translate what you’re about to order because it can be quite adventurous. The meals have funny names such as the Silkweaver’s brain (Cervelle de Canut) and Fromage de Tete (pork head cheese which actually isn’t cheese). Saint-Marcellin is the most famous cheese from this region.

Practical information Lyon

Lyon is the third largest city in France so naturally the public transport is well developed. Lyon is served by a combination of metros, buses and trams. We stayed in a B&B just outside of Lyon and buses ran frequent and late (midnight). Lyon is not yet discovered by the masses, so most of the activities and food are really affordable. A glass of wine costs about € 3,50, public transport € 2 per ride and there are restaurants for all budgets. Our B&B cost € 65 per night including breakfast and parking. Because Lyon is not very touristy yet, not everybody speaks English, but I got by with a combination of English and super basic French.


Stunning Lac d’Annecy in the morning

From Lyon you could easily do a day trip to Annecy (1,5 hours drive), however we decided to stay in Annecy for the night. Annecy is mainly famous for its beautiful, green-blue lake. From the lake a small river flows right into town (Annecy Vieille Ville), which adds a lot of charm to the old, colorful houses. As I recently visited Colmar and the Alsace I have to admit that I was a little bit underwhelmed by the old town, as it was a little less colorful and well maintained than Colmar. Luckily the lake is absolutely stunning, so Annecy is well worth a visit! It is lovely to be able to stay in a cute town and go for a swim in the lake in the afternoon. Another reason to visit Annecy is the delicious traditional meals. Lyon is located closely to the mountains, so you will find many cheese specialties that will remind you of a winter holiday. We had baked Reblochon cheese with charcuterie and potatoes for lunch (carbs & cheese, can it get any better?). You will find cheese focused restaurants all over Annecy, with Savoyard and Fondue as popular dishes.

Typical view of the colored houses and the canals
The lake is the perfect backdrop for some twirls..

Practical information Annecy

We stayed in an Ibis hotel in the old town (€ 120 a night). I found the hotels in Annecy to be at the pricy side, but if you want to make a budget visit, there are many campsites near Annecy. These campsites create a lot of tourism, so it is possible to do a boat tour, rent a water bike etc. Annecy therefore is also very suitable to visit with kids. Luckily you can find many parking garages near the old town, which makes it easy to visit Annecy. Our parking garage cost € 1 per hour, which is a good deal.

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