France’s second city, Lyon, situated at the tip of the Rhône valley at the foot of the Alps – home to some of the world’s finest wine-growing regions – is widely considered to be the country’s gastronomic capital.

Here are five things that make Lyon worth a visit.

1.  There are a ridiculous number of restaurants

Home to more restaurants per square metre than any other place on earth, the Old Town, or Vieux Lyon as it is locally known, is full of cobbled lanes and Gothic and Renaissance architecture.

2. The Musée de Beaux Arts is amazing

Lyon is host to a number of museums, and the collection at Musée de Beaux Arts de Lyon is second only to that of the Louvre. The Textile Museum houses an impressive array of fine silks and tapestries from throughout the ages in an eighteenth century palace.

3. Lyon is foodie’s heaven

The Lyonnais are utterly obsessed with food. From the hearty working-man’s fare served at the city’s traditional “bouchons” (Lyon’s answer to the bistro) all the way up to the finest cuisine imaginable, a trip to Lyon is an opportunity to eat till your heart’s content. You will find tripe sausages (andouillettes) and baked pike mousse (quenelles) on most menus, as well as an array of pigs’ trotters, ears and other animal off-cuts, depending on the chef’s fancy.

Lyon masterchef Paul Bocuse’s brasseries are all very good, and not ridiculously expensive.

4. You can drink in style

The east bank of the river Rhône around Pont Guillotière is undoubtedly the city’s most beautiful spot for a drink. Take a seat on one of the converted barges that line the river and bask in the glory of both the Hôtel Dieu (a remarkable and imposing hospital built in the 18th century) and the Basilica Notre-Dame de Fourvière in the summer sun. By night, many of the barges transform into floating nightclubs.

5. Lyon is close to the Alps

The Alps are spectacular all year round, and Lyon is the perfect launch pad for a visit. It is only an hour to Grenoble on the train, even less by car, and from there the many resorts, traditional villages and looming peaks are all within easy reach. The Beaujolais and Côtes du Rhône wine growing regions are also accessible from Lyon. However, as organised tours are few and far between, your best bet is to hire a car for a day or two and head out into the countryside by yourself.

Essential information

WHEN TO GO: In winter for skiing in the Alps and summer for vineyard visits.
GETTING THERE: EasyJet and bmi fly direct to Lyon, or take a train from Paris (two hours).
VISAS: South Africans need a Schengen Visa.
CURRENCY: Euro. 1 GBP = 1.21 EUR.
GETTING AROUND: You can manage on foot, or public transport is good. Choose from the metro, trams, buses and the bike rental system Velo’V – the cheapest and easiest way to get around.
GOING OUT: A beer is €5.
ACCOMMODATION: Dorm beds from €17 and private rooms from €30.

Destination guide – France  
A weekend in Champagne, France
Deauville and Trouville – top ten things to do