Located in the Rhone-Alpes region and the third largest city in France (after Paris and Marseille) Lyon is an underdog when it comes to French tourism. It makes a nice change from the overcrowded streets of Paris or the expensive hotels in the south. Most importantly of all, Lyon is known as the foodie capital (capitale de la gastronomie) of the whole of France. Given that the French are known for their classic cuisine anyway, this is a pretty big medal.
I’m normally very much a savoury girl. Give me crisps over chocolate or starters over pudding any day. But something about visiting Lyon turns me into the biggest sweet-tooth. Maybe it’s the delicate beauty of their patisserie or the bright colours of the eclairs. Perhaps it’s the velvety smooth and fancy chocolate. Or maybe it’s just that I’m vegetarian and not the biggest fan of foie gras, ham or oysters, which are in abundance in Lyon.
Either way, Lyon is an absolute sweet-tooth heaven and there are sumptuous treats waiting around every corner. Here are my picks of the best sweet-tooth spots in the culinary capital.
The first time I tried Macaron it was before they got trendy. Everywhere in London sells them nowadays but trust me, they still don’t compare to the ones you get in Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, the largest covered market in France. A lighter than air mouthful of meringue, Macaron are not to be confused with macaroons, which are a completely different, chewy biscuit (usually coconut). Macaron come in an assortment of colours and flavours. For special occasions, our family buy Macaron from Seve, who have an outlet in Les Halles. They specialise in Chocolates and Macaron specifically and the quality is outstanding. Flavours range from pistachio, to apple tart-tatin, raspberry, and Earl Grey. The chocolate/passionfruit and the salted caramel are my all-time favourites. They are to die for.
Ice cream possibly isn’t one of the things that the lyonnaise would boast about themselves (they have far too much to brag about food wise anyway!). Nonetheless, no sweet-tooth should go through the scorching Lyon summer without a really good ice cream to enjoy. There are two absolute gelato-gems that I can recommend. One is Glacier Amorino on Rue Saint-Jean, over the River Saone in the old town. Again, I’d definitely recommend the salted caramel, but the nutty sorbets are also excellent.
The other is in the sixieme arrondissement (the sixth out of Lyon’s nine divisions). ZoZo Gelateria is on Cours Franklin Roosevelt, and makes a nice stop back from the Parc de la Tete D’Or. Flavour-wise You won’t regret going for the Songe D’Ete which rather beautifully translates into “Summer Dreams”. It’s a stunning mixture of Passionfruit, Papaya and Mango, and you can genuinely taste all the flavours dance across your tongue one at a time. It’s awesome.
Cafe Gourmand is the French equivalent of afternoon tea. Simply a black or white coffee, served with a selection of mini pastries or chocolates. It’s perfect for those (such as myself) who have difficulty choosing just one thing and would rather go for a small taste of a lot of little things. Bernachon, which is also on the Cours Franklin Roosevelt, does an excellent Cafe Gourmand. It’s a luxury chocolatier and patisserie, their desserts are quite literally a work of art. Despite their high standards, you can still get Cafe Gourmand for around €6 each, which is brilliant value for the quality of cakes that you’re getting.
There’s no shortage of bakers in Lyon- or France in general for that matter. Go around any street corner and you’ll likely find a boulangerie whose croissants and pastries are far superior to Gails or Selfridges in London, but are a fraction of the price. One of my family’s regulars is the Max Poilane Boulangerie, on the corner of Rue Cuvier and the Avenue Marechal de Saxe. It’s worth getting up early to nab the almond croissants (or chocolate almond croissants) before they sell out. In the afternoon, the pastry selection- including the family favourite Apricot/Pistachio- is exquisite.
Well I could hardly write a whole post dedicated to lyonnaise sweet-tooth treats without including a tribute to the crepe. Everyone knows how much I love pancakes. The truth is that there are several places in Lyon that you can get a decent crepe – they’re outside every other restaurant in the old town if you fancy eating and walking along. Still my recommendation would be to sit down at Suzette & Co, which is just of Rue de la Republique in the city centre. The crepes are delicious and very reasonably priced. Plus it’s a nice place just to sit and watch the world go by after long day shopping, exploring and indulging.