This historic city is the gastronomic capital of France – and the French would probably argue (and possibly be right), the entire world. The best-known chefs all encourage gourmands-in-the-making to make the pilgrimage to beautiful Lyon, nestled in between the Burgundy and Provence regions of France. Many top chefs train here, attending culinary schools or gaining prestigious work under any of the city’s renowned rockstar chefs. There are nearly 2,000 restaurants here, including 11 with Michelin stars, to cater to half a million residents and hungry visitors.
Lyon is known for its variety of fresh market food, signature dishes, and bouchons. A bouchon is a very Lyonnaise type of restaurant with a fun, convivial setting that offers traditional, almost homey fare -- which is usually meat-centric. Think a boisterous family gathering with pork and organ meats – andouille sausages, blood sausages, and even intestines. (Yes, you read that right). Because to fully taste and embrace all of Lyon’s magic, you’re invited to bring your most adventurous palate.
This is a city that enjoys artful cuisine with a twist and plenty of surprises. Forget meat and potatoes or chain restaurants with standard fare menus. Perhaps even forget haute cuisine, (which Lyon also offers) -- because traditional Lyon food fare is often a hearty and adventurous experience. Specialties include intestines, brains, andouille, old-fashioned pig-snout salad, beef muzzle, calf’s foot, and quenelles (airy, breaded fish dumplings bathed in a creamy sauce).
And, of course, cheese plates and French bread. St. Marcellin is a local cheese specialty – a soft unpasteurized, mold-ripened cheese that is made with cow’s milk. Rumored to be King Louis XI’s favorite, it is known as a king among cheeses with a texture varying from firm to very runny with a mild slightly salty taste and an intensely rustic, nutty, fruity flavor. Pair it with a baguette – plain, poppy seed, sesame seed, the choice is yours! Of course, there’s never a lack of choices for cheese in France – be it delicate, creamy, soft, hard, pungent, gooey, cow, goat, or sheep – a cheesemonger will be sure to help guide you through.
Along with cheese, you’re sure to get your fill of sweets in Lyon. Macarons of all inventive varieties are readily available – skip the chocolate and mint as you may find everything from foie gras to mushroom to tarragon flavors. Perhaps a signature brioche aux praline. Or a savory sandwich. Or your choice of charcuterie, dried sausages, patés, and hams.
The late Paul Bocuse is one chef whose name is often spoken of in Lyon – and seen – as his portrait graces many murals in the city. If there’s time, it’s fun to either snap a photo at any of these locations or pop into one of his restaurants.
Lyon is certainly the city to indulge in all of your French foodie fantasies, decadent dreams, and love of adventurous cuisine.
Enjoy France's culinary capital for yourself on a Burgundy or Provence river cruise itinerary!