Lyon is a city with cosmopolitan architecture, countless activities, superb gastronomy, world-class accommodation and modern event space. And that’s what every meeting planner and business traveler expects from a destination. Lyon, France’s third largest city, combines quintessential ancient France with a modern, contemporary vibe to create one of the most unique business travel destinations in the world.
Lyon was born from the hill of Fourvière on which stands the basilica of Fourvière with its dazzling white colors and the ancient forum and the Roman theatres. The area known as Roman Lugdunum dates back to the first century BC. The population then developed in old Lyon on the bottom of the hill of Fourvière and bordered by the Saône in the Middle Ages as well as the Croix Rousse, which housed the traditional silks and the traditional buildings of the 19th century.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, the city expanded further east on the peninsula between the Rhône and the Saône (called the “Presqu’Ile” in French) in the style of Beaux Arts architecture .
Finally, Greater Lyon ends at Part Dieu, which is to the east of the peninsula. The area is very contemporary having been built in the 1960s and 1970s. Part Dieu mixes modernist contemporary architecture and contains much of the meeting space.
The mix creates a great view of the skyline from all directions. And to help you familiarize yourself with the city, the ONLY LYON the visitors office provides friendly, accredited and knowledgeable guides who can arrange tours for up to 30 people.
Anne Ravel was the guide during my visit, and she explained to me that the city of old Lyon was constantly constrained by space since the district is bordered by the hill and the river. As a result, the medieval city decided to build passages through the buildings to alleviate road traffic. These passages (known to locals as Traboules) are unique to Lyon and they remain open to the public today – some even have art shops and restaurants located inside.
Anne also mentioned that a visitor can distinguish the Old Town as truly medieval due to the exterior placement of the stairwells (the placement inside the building had yet to be invented).
If you’re traveling to Lyon and you’re on a business trip, you’ll appreciate how all that history contrasts with the modern hotels and contemporary spaces. Although the city offers many leisure activities, the majority of visitors are business travelers (65%) compared to leisure (35%).
Hotels in Lyon, France
The Lyon conurbation has 225 hotels for around 16,800 hotel rooms. In Lyon, as in the rest of France, independent or local government agencies rate hotels on an annual basis based on various factors. The distribution of hotel categories is as follows: five 5 stars, 43 4 stars, 62 3 stars and 79 hotels of other categories.
I stayed at Carlton Hotel, McGallery Collection. It is located in the heart of Almost Island, a stone’s throw from Place Bellecour. The hotel has 80 rooms and combines old-world Haussmann architecture — it has a facade that dates back to 1894 as part of the Petit Palais — and modern amenities. The 4-star Carlton, McGallery Collection hotel was renovated in 2013. It features comfortable meeting space, a full-service spa, and a lobby bar.
Cour des Loges is a full service 5 star hotel located rue du Boeuf in the heart of old Lyon. The full-service business travel hotel features a breathtaking Renaissance-era courtyard, two restaurants (one of which is 1 Michelin star), and a full-service Pure Altitude Spa. The guest rooms retain the original Renaissance character and are loft style with stairs leading up to the bedrooms.
Meetings and conventions in Lyon, France
Lyon is in the process of building and expanding its Congress meeting spaces, according to Aimee Reategui, ONLYLYON’s press officer. The city has already created two main areas for meetings and special events.
Lyon-Confluence is the first district. This is the main center located on the southern tip of the Presqu’Ile. The entire 350-acre area is a man-made peninsula that contains modern architecture, Michelin-starred restaurants, and even eco-friendly buildings.
Event organizers should note that the city has a boat service (Le Vaporetto) which will regularly shuttle business travelers and event attendees from this area to Old Lyon and the Presqu’Ile. . There is even a contemporary museum in the Confluence dedicated to science and the arts.
Lyon International City is the other main convention space. It has over 25,000 square meters of coverage and the contemporary amphitheater – inspired by the Roman architecture of Lugdunum – is its central event space. There are over 500 hotel rooms on site and around 1,000 in the nearby area.
It takes 12 minutes by tram to get to Part Dieu station and 25 minutes by transfer to LYS airport. The entire complex can accommodate up to 3,000 participants in a plenary session format.
What’s unique for meeting planners and business travelers right now is that the city is currently promoting its low-cost WIFI hotspots. When I arrived, I went to the ONLYLYON office located in the heart of the city on Place Bellecour, and the staff provided me with a WIFI hotspot with connection for up to 10 devices. Reategui noted that the cost was 8 euros per day, but is reduced to 4 euros per day when you buy the City Pass.
Gastronomy in Lyon, France
Lyon is the Mecca of gastronomy. With 2,000 restaurants (including 14 Michelin stars), world-class culinary institutes and famous markets like Les Halles Paul Bocuse. In fact, it seems like everywhere you turn, the city is paying homage to Mr. Bocuse or another of its culinary legends.
In this context, Lyon is gaining its status as the gastronomic capital of France.
And Raval (my guide) explained that the reason behind the title involves Lyon’s unique geographical position, as each surrounding region like Beaujolais, Monts de Lyon and Ain (to name a few) brings a kind of agricultural product to the city.
Here are some recommendations for event planners and business travelers:
Les Halles Paul Bocuse is a totally enjoyable experience. This covered market has 58 unique restaurants and storefronts offering traditional ingredients and cuisines. Lyon takes such care of its title as the French capital of gastronomy that a municipal association must personally approve each member of Les Halles. There are also restaurants located in Les Halles that offer cuisine made from market produce.
AOC Les Halles, named after the French Wine Standard, offers 150 different kinds of wine. The restaurant Les Halles has a covered market as well as a large second floor with large bay windows that overlook the bustling Cours Lafayette. If you want the full Lyon culinary experience, try the meat taster as a starter. You can taste a variety of sausages and pâtés from the market. I also recommend a portion of fish or andouille as a main dish. There’s also a dessert sampler that includes shortbread, fruit, and coffee.
Les Bouchons is a type of restaurant that serves traditional Lyon cuisine. Chabert and Son cork is located near Place Bellecour and only 15 minutes walk from Part Dieu. Upon entering, you will notice that this plug has a cozy and intimate atmosphere. The staff makes you feel at home throughout the service. And you also share tables and also get to know your strangers.
I would recommend Chicken Liver Saladier Lyonnais as a starter. It includes a selection of charcuterie in a traditional white vinegar sauce. For the main course, you can choose one of the following dishes:
- Hot sausage and roasted potatoes: The minced sausage goes well with the light potatoes which seem to melt in the mouth with a white bernaise sauce
- Creamed chicken: Roasted chicken goes wonderfully with a thick white cream which is a typical dish from Lyon.
- Andouille au gratin and side dish of rice: Spicy, but not overpowering, andouille sausage was tossed with delicious potatoes.
- And don’t overlook the dessert — my waiter suggested a desert sampler: It included creme brulee, prunes and assorted homemade cakes. It was a great way to end the meal. Each of us in my party got to sample every last dish on the menu.
Of course, hotels in Lyon also offer incredible dining options – and some even have a Michelin star or two! A hotel café in the heart of old Lyon is Grocery Les Loges Cafépart of the Hotel Cour Les Loges in one of the main streets of Vieux Lyon.
The cafe has its own wine from a vineyard in the south of France (Domaine de Marie) and offers two delicious whites (Grenache blanc) and two reds (Shiraz). There is also an excellent traditional pâté from Lyon, a charcuterie spread. And they have daily fish and meat specials.
If you are traveling to Lyon on business and looking for something to do — or if you are an event organizer wishing to offer participants their choice of activities — ONLYLYON offers you a city map. It covers almost all the activities of the city for the price of one day, two days or three days as well as all public transport. I found it very useful as I discovered several different activities just from the pass card!
If you are looking to plan group activities, here are three suggestions:
- Hotel Guadagne: a Renaissance mansion renovated in 2009 containing both the historical (city) museum of Lyon and the puppet museum (part of the City Pass).
- Roman Theaters of Fourvière: These open-air monuments are perfect for an afternoon stroll. There is also a museum nearby with Roman sculptures and art (part of the City Pass).
Lyon is located in the heart of Europe and easily accessible from other business travel destinations.
Lyon Saint Exupéry Airport (LYS) serves more than 120 destinations and is the main point of arrival for international visitors. The Rhôneexpress is an aerial tram that runs every 15 minutes and arrives at Part Dieu station in 30 minutes. It is therefore a convenient route for business travelers and anyone arriving.
Lyon also has two train stations: Part Dieu and Perrache. Both offer easy connections to other French and European cities with high-speed TGV service. In fact, it takes less than two hours to reach Lyon from Marseille or Paris.
Public transport is excellent for getting around the city (and free with your Lyon City Card!). Lyon tends to have a fairly temperate climate all year round with hot summers and mild winters.
For more information on what you can do in Lyon, contact the ONLYLYON, the Lyon Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Updated. Originally published on October 22, 2015