Travel To Lyon
From hidden corners of the city, to the best local restaurants, art museums, and the most scenic views in town, a Parisian transplant shares her discoveries
Head of Housekeeping; Villa Maïa
Estelle Germanetto has a distinguished pedigree. She was schooled in haute hospitality at glossy Parisian establishments such as The Ritz, Georges V, and Fouquet's, where she’s honed a passion for the savoir recevoir and a meticulous attention to detail. From composing a floral arrangement to adjusting the placement of a rug, her daily duties are carried out with rigor, expediency, and verve. First impressions are important, she says, but her paramount concern is exceeding guest expectations even before a request is made. “One aspect of my profession that I highly regard is interacting directly with clients‚ cultivating close rapports while guarding the utmost discretion.” At Villa Maïa—with just 37 rooms—Estelle gets to carry out her mission on an intimate scale.
Set on the hilltop district of Fourvière, once the site of a roman settlement, the hotel is a striking departure from the more classical properties of Lyon. Guests of the posh hotel can marvel at cutting-edge design and enjoy luxe amenities such as a thermal bath-inspired spa, Carrara-marble bathrooms with heated floors, and a meditation garden. Gourmets can grab a table at the Michelin-starred restaurant helmed by chef Christian Têtedoie, who serves his signature dishes such as lobster, tête de veau, and regional cuisine in a setting with spectacular views at an altitude.
The Best Of Lyon
Estelle Germanetto, a Parisian transplant to Lyon shares her insider’s guide to the France’s capital of gastronomy.
Twists And Turns
Navigate Ancient Passageways
Lyon was once the center of the silk-weaving trade, and the regional capital’s old quarters are connected by a system of traboules—covered passageways once used for the transport of fabrics. Here, an afternoon wander can spur a sense of adventure. Navigate through the maze of hidden courtyards, vaulted corridors, and winding staircases. There’s an aura of mystery about the thoroughfares, which evoke an erstwhile era (certain sections of the network sheltered the masquiard forces, French Resistance fighters during World War II). If you’re planning an independent excursion through the tunnels, follow the arrows accompanied by lion’s heads when in Vieux-Lyon. The passageways in Croix-Rousse, farther north, are designated by a bronze shield.
A network of traboules or covered passageways were developed to transport bolts of silk throughout the city. Photo courtesy of Lyon Tourisme et Congrès.
Cityscapes At An Altitude
The views are always commanding from higher ground, and a ride up the funicular to Fourvière is where you can capture the most glorious of perspectives. A five-minute jaunt from the hotel can get you to the esplanade of the Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourvière (8 Place de Fourvière; +33-4-78-25-86-19) and its imposing statue of the archangel of Saint Michel. From this vantage point, the panoramic views span over rooftops and river banks to the snow-capped Alps far in the distance. There are plenty of impressive sights inside the basilica, too: cases of liturgical treasures, stained-glass windows depicting the Virgin Mary, and elaborate gold mosaics adorning the cupolas.
A view of Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourvière. Photo courtesy of Lyon Tourisme et Congrès.
An Urban Nature Retreat
The Parc de la Tête d’Or (Place du Général Leclerc; +33-4-72-69-47-60) is the place where Estelle goes when she needs respite from the hectic pace of cosmopolitan Lyon. She derives pleasure from taking an unrushed saunter through the garden’s boulevards, soaking in the lush greenery and colorful bursts of flowers. The park has many other ways for visitors to indulge in the outdoors and stay active and engaged on warm and cold weather days. Take a tour the greenhouses, which contain more than 16,000 plant species or go for a side-by side bike ride around the lake. There’s also a popular rose garden and a zoo that’s appealing to both children and adults.
Flowers in bloom at Parc de la Tête d'Or. Photo courtesy of Lyon Tourisme et Congrès.
Explore Art Through The Ages
Europe’s rich history runs deep, and the Musée des Beaux Arts de Lyon (20 place des Terreaux; +33-4-72-10-17-40) acts as a grand repository for treasures from the Old World’s cultural heritage. Set in a Benedictine convent restored by Villa Maïa’s own Jean-Michel Wilmotte, among other notable architects, the museum holds masterpieces from celebrated maestros—Rembrandt, Rubens, Monet, Matisse, and Picasso—as well as an eclectic assemblage of decorative arts, and coins and medals. The collections span from antiquity to modern day, so a journey to the museum can feel like a lesson in world history. Estelle's favorite pastime is a tour of the sculpture gallery, which holds the largest collection of Rodin statues outside of Paris, and an amble through the classical courtyard garden, where a statue of Apollo—god of the arts—presides over a pond.
Inside one of the galleries at the Musée des Beaux Arts de Lyon. Photo courtesy of Xuan Che.
Market Excursions And Old-World Taverns
Lyon is France’s gastronomic capital—and foodies shouldn’t miss a meal at a bouchon, the local name for a traditional tavern. At these iconic joints, often adorned with checkered tablecloths, don’t expect polished silverware, micro-servings, or any upscale refinery. You can, however, count on a warm, approachable atmosphere and traditional Lyonnaise cuisine, like plates of quenelles (meat dumplings) or tablier de sapeur, white-wine marinated beef tripe fried in a coating of breadcrumbs. When considering your next meal, look for the official “Bouchons de Lyon” designation for a guaranteed authentic establishment. If you’re short on time, Estelle suggests an excursion to Les Halles de Lyon—Paul Bocuse (102 Cours Lafayette; +34-4-78-62-39-33), a covered market named after the lauded chef from Lyon. It’s packed with tantalizing displays of unbeatably fresh local products. Peruse the stalls and prioritize the regional specialties like St. Marcellin and St. Félicien cheeses ripened by the renowned cheese monger, La Mère Richard; charcuterie, including cured sausages known as rosette de Lyon; and for a sweet finish, , a buttery bread sprinkled with pink sugar-coated almonds.
Inside a traditional Lyonais bouchon, Café Comptoir Abel (25 Rue Guynemer; +33-4-78-37-46-18). Photo courtesy of Lyon Tourisme et Congrès.