An introduction to our 9-day France itinerary
Lyon, Dijon, and Paris — highlights, day trips, and practical information
Mr. TWS and I feel very lucky. Our trip in late November/early December marked our sixth time in France, fifth time in Paris, and first time in both Lyon and the Burgundy region. And I’ll be happy to return again and again, exploring new places and revisiting favorites.
This 9-day France itinerary is a summary of our trip listing hotels where we stayed, restaurants where we ate, and highlights we enjoyed. Future posts will provide more information and photos. The photos here are also part of the Traveling with Sweeney Instagram gallery where you can find more travel inspiration.
How we got around
We traveled by train on this trip since our plans were to stay within the three cities and take small group tours to Beaune (and Burgundy wineries) from Dijon and to the Champagne region from Paris for which transportation was provided. This worked out perfectly for what we wanted to accomplish. To get to our destinations, we took the TGV high-speed trains from the station in Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) Terminal 2 direct to Lyon Part-Dieu; Lyon Part-Dieu direct to Dijon-Ville; and Dijon-Ville direct to Paris Gare du Nord. This itinerary could have been reversed, but since we were also flying home from CDG, we wanted to end the trip in Paris and take a taxi to the airport from our hotel.
Three days in Lyon
I’d heard much about Lyon’s gastronomy, friendly people, historic landmarks, and architectural beauty. My high expectations were easily met, and I highly recommend a visit. Historic sites of Lyon, including those in Vieux-Lyon, Fourvière Hill, Croix-Rousse Hill, and the Presqu’île, are included in Lyon’s UNESCO World Heritage Site designation.
“The long history of Lyon, which was founded by the Romans in the 1st century B.C. as the capital of the Three Gauls and has continued to play a major role in Europe’s political, cultural and economic development ever since, is vividly illustrated by its urban fabric and the many fine historic buildings from all periods.” — UNESCO
Where we stayed
Hôtel Le Royal Lyon – MGallery Collection (an Accor Group hotel) — 20, place Bellecour
Lyon highlights — more information in this post about Lyon
- Vieux Lyon — Wander, dine, admire architecture, and visit landmarks in the old district of Lyon’s three areas — St. Paul, St. Jean, St. Georges quarters.
- The Presqu‘île (Peninsula) — Stay and spend time on the peninsula between the Rhône and Saône rivers. This is the city center where there are hotels, restaurants, shops, and public squares.
- Place Bellecour — This is the third largest square in France. Our hotel was right across from the square and we passed by and through it several times a day. At the time of our visit, the Ferris wheel was in the square and we took a ride for the fun and the views.
- Roman ruins — On the hillside of Fourvière Hill, be amazed at the ancient Roman ruins. (Lyon was known as Lugdunum in Roman times).
- Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière — Go inside to admire the late 19th century mosaics, stained glass windows, chapels and statues. Outside the basilica is a vista point for expansive views of the city. While there, don’t miss looking at Tour métallique de Fourvière (“Metallic tower of Fourvière”), Lyon’s small “Eiffel Tower” lookalike.
- Cathédrale St-Jean (Lyon Cathedral) – The 12th century cathedral is notable for its astronomical clock and is a beautiful landmark of Old Lyon.
- Musée Cinéma & Miniature by Dan Ohlmann — We were surprised by the extensive collection of cinema memorabilia, costumes, props, and other articles in the cinema part of the museum. But we were particularly amazed by the incredible detailed miniature creations by the museum’s founder, Dan Ohlmann (who you might see by chance while visiting, as we did).
- Traboules — Look for these hidden passageways originally built during the silk trading days of Lyon when workers used them to protect their fabrics from the elements when transporting them through the city. About 40 of 400 traboules are sometimes open to the public. Look for shield-shaped bronze plaques that mark the traboule entrances. Key streets to explore are rue Saint-Jean and rue du Boeuf.
Fourvière Hill tip — For your visit to the Roman ruins and basilica, take the funicular from the Saint-Jean Metro station up Fourvière Hill. Take the Minimes (Théâtres Romains) exit for the ruins. We walked up to the basilica from there. After visiting the basilica, we walked down the hill on a winding path (accessed behind the church) through a wooded area to Vieux Lyon. Watch your step for uneven and slippery surfaces, but it’s a lovely, quiet walk.
Where we ate
It’s no wonder that Lyon is considered the gastronomic capital of France (although some Parisians may disagree). We learned very quickly that there is no such thing as a traditional and light meal in Lyon. The bouchons are particularly memorable for their hearty regional dishes. Every meal we had was delicious.
- Les Lyonnais at 19, rue de la Bombard — warm and welcoming bouchon in a perfect location for lunch after while exploring the old city
- Le Comptoir des Marronniers at 8, rue des Marronniers — Our first night’s dinner on this street popular for its bars and restaurants set the tone for the next few days of delicious meals near Place Bellecour.
- Comptoir Chabert at 14, Quai Romain Rolland — certainly the most filling of our lunches in Lyon with three courses of large bowls and platters filled with local specialties
- Le Vivarais at 1, place Gailleton — modern decor with traditional dishes near the river
- Le Sud at 11, place Antonin Poncet — vibrant Chef Paul Bocuse brasserie specializing in Mediterranean cuisine
Breakfast in Lyon tip: Skip it — at least if you want to really enjoy scrumptious (but filling) Lyonnais lunches and dinners.
Two days in Burgundy (Dijon, Beaune)
Where we stayed
Grand Hôtel La Cloche Dijon – MGallery Collection (an Accor Group hotel) — 14, place Darcy (This was our favorite of the three hotels we stayed in during this trip to France.)
- Wandering around — With only two days (and one day for a Burgundy day trip), we knew that we wouldn’t be able to spend time exploring the landmarks and museums of Dijon, but thoroughly enjoyed walking around and stepping inside a couple of notable places — Palais des Ducs et des États de Bourgogne (which also houses the Musée des Beaux Arts) and Église Notre Dame (13th century Gothic church near the palace).
- Day trip to Burgundy vineyards and Beaune — On our small tour group led by local guides of Authentica Tours, we drove through the beautiful countryside and visited two wineries where we sampled the primary wines of Burgundy — Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Lunch on our own in the picturesque village of Beaune was an added treat.
Where we ate
- Chez Léon at 20, rue des Godrans in Dijon — wonderful meal in this small and cozy restaurant with convivial ambiance. Try the bœuf bourguignon!
- Restaurant de la Porte Guillaume at Hôtel du Nord on Place Darcy — very good Burgundian menu in simple, modern space convenient to our hotel
- Bistrot 8 Clos at 8, rue d’Alsace in Beaune — bustling bistro with delectable regional dishes and excellent wines
Four days in Paris
Where we stayed
Hôtel Pont Royal Saint-Germain-des-Prés — 5, rue de Montalembert in the 7th arrondissement
Paris highlights — additional recommendations (particularly for first-time visitors) can be found in our posts from previous trips)
We decided to take a slower pace on this visit to Paris. Instead of trying to see everything we missed on previous trips, we wanted to focus on the pleasure of just being in this exceptional city. As always, we hope to return again.
- Le Marais — This vibrant and fashionable area of Paris is one to be savored as you walk around, shop, and feel special Parisian charm along is narrow streets and small squares.
- Musée Picasso — Take time for art appreciation at this museum in Le Marais that has the world’s largest collection of Picasso’s work during various periods of his life.
- Atelier des Lumières — This was our second time at this venue. We loved the Klimt and Hunterwasser immersive art experience (the first of exhibitions ) a few years ago and couldn’t wait to see the Gaudi and Dali exhibition on this trip. It was enthralling.
- Place des Vosges — We met our friend at this beautiful square surrounded by luxurious residences, including the former home of Victor Hugo, dating back to 1605. Enjoy a coffee or glass of wine at Café Hugo.
- Place de la Bastille — Take in the historic site where the “storming of the Bastille” prison took place on July 14, 1789, during the French Revolution.
- Day trip to Champagne — We had a full day small group tour booked through Get Your Guide with local Wine Passport guides. It was nice not to have to plan transportation or book our own reservations at the champagne houses.
Where we ate
- L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon Saint-Germain at Hôtel du Pont Royal 5, rue de Montalembert (7th arrondissement) — two Michelin starred restaurant with exceptional dishes and top-notch wait staff — expensive, but a real treat for a special occasion (Mr. TWS’s birthday).
- Le Servan at 32, rue Saint-Maur (11th arrondissement) — inspired French/Asian fusion fare in contemporary and pleasant setting
- Cinq Mars at 51, rue de Verneuil (7th arrondissement) — excellent dinner in this small, cozy restaurant on a quiet street near the rue du Bac with quite possibly one of the best pork chops I’ve ever had
- Bistrot de Paris at 33, rue de Lille (7th arrondissement) — bustling bistro with warm and comfortable ambiance where we also dined on a previous visit to Paris
- Café des Musées at 49, rue de Turenne (3rd arrondissement) — lovely café where we had lunch in between our time at Musée Picasso and meeting a friend at Place des Vosges.
- Huguette at 81, rue de Seine (6th arrondissement) for the seafood lover in you — a fun and friendly place for people of all ages in the busy Saint-Germain area
- Le Saint-Germain at 62 rue du Bac, (7th arrondissement) our go-to café for morning coffee and croissants just as it was a few years ago when we stayed at another hotel in the area
General France itinerary tips:
Traveling by train tip: We travel first class by train when possible, primarily for extra space and distancing. Try to book ahead as soon as you know your itinerary in order to ensure desirable seat assignments (you must have seat assignments on trains in France) and less expensive fares. You can book up to three months in advance. We used the official French railways (SNCF) booking site oui.scnf (iPhone app and website).
Train travel from CDG tip: I waited a little too long to book our tickets from CDG to Lyon and only second class was available, which was quite crowded. It stands to reason that many people traveling from CDG by train will have significant amounts of luggage. Traveling in any class will likely be crowded with limited luggage storage, but your chances are better for comfortable travel by selecting first class.
CDG Terminal 2 tip: The Sheraton Hotel is located directly above the TGV station if you have extra time for lunch or drinks before your train departs.
Packing tip: Packing light is especially important when traveling by train for easier storage on the train and navigation through the stations.
Taxi tips: Make sure you follow signs to the official taxi stands outside of the stations. Ignore the solicitations of taxi rides inside the station, especially in Paris. There are flat fees to/from CDG to Paris right bank: 53 euros and Paris left bank: 58 euros. We’ve sometimes asked our hotel to schedule a taxi ride for us for our return to CDG from Paris city center on our final day, but be prepared for a surcharge and be sure to specify that you want an official Paris taxi.
Dining and reservations tip: Although you can always find great food in France, make reservations to enjoy the best spots. In each city, we found that reservations were highly recommended or essential. There were other recommended restaurants that did not have availability when we tried, but we were lucky to get last-minute reservations in a few of the places listed here and were happy with each experience. For L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, I made reservations three weeks in advance through their website. I don’t know if it was necessary to do so that early, but didn’t want to take a chance.
Lunch is usually served in restaurants from noon until 2:00 or 2:30 and they open for dinner at 7:30 or 8:00, so plan accordingly. The exception to this was our reservation at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon Saint-Germain which was at 6:30 pm, the earliest (and only) seating time option we had available.
Attraction tickets tip: It’s a good idea to book ahead for tickets to major venues or for day trips. We booked our Burgundy day trip and Champagne day trip through Get Your Guide. For the Atelier des Lumières exhibition, we booked online about a week earlier.
Stay tuned for more about our nine days in France.
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