Festivals and Events
Lyon’s Food Specialities and Local Gastronomy
“Bugnes”, a local treat for Fat Tuesday!
Lyon is proud if its title of gastronomic capital of France and the world—and it does deserve it. Located in the heart of a fertile region with characteristics that the geography, geology and climate express in various local products, Lyon is home to delicious specialties you can sample during your stay.
You will soon notice that there are plenty of eateries with different price ranges and menus. The “Bouchon” are typical Lyonnais restaurants. They are so small you usually literally rubbing elbows with locals! Note that this is not the best place for vegetarians with specialties like “rosette” (cured pork sausage), “saucisson brioché” (sausage baked in brioche dough), “grattons” (pork fat), “quenelle” (creamed fish or meat with breadcrumbs and egg, baked), “gratin dauphinois” (dish based on potatoes and crème fraîche), Saint-Marcellin cheese, praline tart… Avoid pricey touristic restaurants on rue Mercière or in the Vieux-Lyon.
Needless to say, a capital of French gastronomy attracts the best chefs and they are many starred restaurants. If they’re way above your budget, you can always try a “Toques blanches” approved restaurant, recommended by an association of chefs. But really, even your local brasserie may surprise you with fresh and delicious options.
Once you’ve eaten your way through Lyon’s specialties, you can embrace French gastronomy as a whole and sample menus from restaurants offering traditional Provence dish, crêpes from Brittany, Northern food, etc. There is also a lively international food scene—for instance, the best Thai restaurants are in Guillotière neighbourhood.
Fourvière, Vieux-Lyon and Saône River during the Festival of Lights (photo credit: Pierre Jean Durieu/ Shutterstock.com)
The Festival of Lights (“Fête des Lumières”)
The Festival of Lights is probably Lyon’s most famous event, both in France and around the world. For the entire week of December 8, the city is lit up with thousands of lights. City-run installations (about 70 of them) attract 3 million visitors each year.
Grumpy locals aren’t always happy to be forced to cope with this sudden predictable influx of visitors. Yet, many of them celebrate the Festival of Lights as well and pause to admire the “lumignons” (stout, fluted candles burning on windowsills). Do keep in mind that accommodation prices go up during the festivities.
If you want to follow the tradition, let candles burn on your windowsill or on your balcony on December 8—this is the actual religious holiday that expresses gratitude toward Mary, mother of Jesus. The popular festival held during the week is a secular celebration.
Music Festivals (Nuits de Fourvière, les Nuits Sonores, etc.)
Lyon is also home to many music festivals.
Nuits de Fourvière is an event taking place in Roman amphitheatres where famous international artists (musicians, actors or entertainers) perform. Nuits Sonores, an electro festival, is held throughout the city, both in traditional music venues and more atypical places.
Many of these music festivals are free—stay tuned to local media for dates and locations!
Other Festivals and Events (Biennale de la Danse, Tout l’monde dehors, Quai du Polar, etc.)
Tout l’monde dehors is a popular urban summer festival featuring activities and concerts. For instance, you can take a beginner yoga class, attend a puppet show, eat in a “guinguette” (riverfront greasy spoon) or attend a movie screening. All these activities are free and take place throughout the city.
A list of festivals in Lyon is available on the city’s website. Note that it doesn’t include events hosted by specific neighbourhoods or associations, so it’s not completely exhaustive. The Petit Bulletin is probably the best resource to keep an eye on all these events.