Lyon is France's second most important city, with a reputation as a gourmet capital. The old town is a UNESCO heritage centre, with a record number of Renaissance buildings. Rhiannon Magor discovers how vegan it is...
French cuisine is known as being focussed around animal products. While it may be hard to find vegan food in smaller towns or cities, Lyon is more vegan-friendly. There are a small number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants, plus others who sell themselves as plant-based and the bulk of the menu is vegan. Especially during the day, many ‘ordinary’ cafés and restaurants offer vegan courses.
As a traditional French city, eating times follow national norms, so do check opening/serving times and make reservations. Check vegoresto.fr (also on Facebook and Twitter), enter Lyon as a city and check the map for options, but here are a few of the best eateries offering vegan food.
Where to eat
Gaia is an eco-friendly café and coffee house located in Croix-Rousse. Although there are usually enough seats for cake and a drink, they ask guests to reserve for lunch. They also prefer diners to order the dish of the day to reduce waste.
Vegan burgers, salads and other changing lunches are available on weekdays, with brunch at the weekends. They offer returnable containers for guests to take home leftovers. They also sell handmade bags for take-away pastries and cakes.
Open: Sat and Mon-Weds 10 am-6 pm, Sun 10 am- 5 pm (closed Thu-Fri), 5 rue des Nuits, gaia-coffeehouse.com
Like An Elephant (vegan)
A small vegan restaurant close to Metro Croix-Rousse. Reservations are necessary at weekends, and recommended in the week. The portion sizes are large by French standards, in all courses.
The menu changes, but mains usually include a burger with potatoes and salad plus seitan or tofu-based dishes. The vegan cheese board was very tasty, and we especially enjoyed the chocolate mousse dessert. They also serve a range of vegan beers from small French breweries.
Open: Tues 7 pm-10:30 pm, Wed-Sat 12-2 pm, 7 pm-10:30 pm, Sun 12-3 (Monday closed), 11 Montée Saint Sébastien, vegoresto.fr/lyon-69001/like-an-elephant/
Against The Grain (vegan)
This is a small no-frills vegan tea room and canteen located a few streets east of the Rhone. Everything is organic and prepared daily, with low-cost simple meals served until 2:30 pm or when the food runs out.
There is a definite 12:30 lunch rush and most tables are reserved in advance, but it is possible to eat outside or to take the food away. The exact menu changes daily, but typically includes soup for as little as €4.50/8, wrap plus salad for €7 or a vegan plate.
Open: Tue-Sat 11:30 am – 6 pm (closed Sun-Mon), 135 rue Sébastien Gryphe, facebook.com/atgvegan/
Au Bonheur des Chats (vegan)
For the human visitors, Lyon’s oldest established cat café is 100% vegan. Drinks and cakes are always available, but the other menu items depend on the day and time of visiting. On Saturdays and Sundays they serve a set brunch, while on weekdays they offer a Buddha Bowl or vegan Croque Monsieur.
A small breakfast menu is available from Tuesdays to Thursdays. The cats come through the local organisation Ron’Rhône and are available for adoption. Reservations are possible from 1:30 pm onwards, but if customers do not arrive on time the spot will be given away. On arrival expect to disinfect hands before being allowed to touch the cats.
Open Mon 3 pm-7 pm, Tue-Fri 9 am-7 pm, Sat-Sun 11:30 am- 6:30 pm, 20 Rue Salomon Reinach, au-bonheurdeschats.fr
Culina Hortus (vegetarian, vegan options available)
Culina Hortus is an award-winning fine dining vegetarian restaurant close to Hôtel de Ville Louis Pradel. Reservation in advance is required, so I was unfortunately not able to get to eat here.
All courses are vegetarian, but vegan is possible if you inform them in advance at the time of booking. From January 2020, their evening meal menu will increase to €58 for canapés, two starters, two courses, two desserts and sweets. The lunch menus are slightly cheaper and each changes regularly.
Open: Wed-Sun 12 noon-3 pm, 7 pm-11 pm (closed Mon-Tues), 38 rue de l’arbre sec, culinahortus.com
L’Estanco du Marche (mainly vegan, some animal-based extras)
Located close to Metro Foch, just a short walk to the Botanical Gardens, L’Estanco du Marche offers organic meals and juices inspired by London and Australia. Their products are seasonal and freshly prepared and their lunch menu includes a ‘Vegan Plate’ (mixed vegetable and rice), bagels, soups and salad.
There is a range of gluten-free and vegan cookies. Their real speciality is the freshly prepared juices, a mix of fruit, vegetables and superfoods aiming to provide quality minerals, vitamins and nutrients. There is one for detox, another for recharging your batteries and the ‘L’Antioxidante’ especially offered to alleviate stress. Everything is available to eat in or to take away, and can also be ordered via Deliveroo.
Open: Mon-Fri 9 am-3 pm, 4 rue Pierre Corneille, estancodumarche.fr
Fruta Madre (vegan)
Fruta Madre is a catering service and deli-style café in Croix-Rousse offering lunches to eat in or take away. You pick a selection of their pre-prepared vegan dishes to create your own meal.
The dishes are a mix of seasonal vegetables, beans and other legumes, plus soup, vegan cheeses, juices, desserts, houmous and tortillas. Most food is taken away and there’s a discount for bringing your own container.
Open Tues-Fri 11 am-3 pm, 5 pm-7 pm, Sat 1o am-6 pm (Sun-Mon closed), 10 Rue d’Austerlitz, fruta-madre.business.site
Laska (vegetarian, vegan options available)
Laska is a small vegetarian restaurant offering fine dining. All their foods are home-made and organic, and there is always at least one vegan option. I visited in the evening, when they offer entrée plus main course for €29 or three courses for €31.
At the time I visited the vegan entrée was chopped butternut squash in purified squash and tomato sauce with horseradish aioli, and the main a beetroot crusted loaf served with mushrooms gravy, shredded cabbage, hazelnuts and sesame purée.
They only have a few tables, so a reservation is required. The lunch menu starts from €13.50 and changes daily, while the evening menu is available from 7 pm and is updated every 3 weeks.
Open: Mon to Fri 12 noon-9 pm, Sat 4 pm-10 pm (Sunday closed), 13 rue Terraille, laska-lyon.fr
My Petite Factory (mainly vegan)
This is a coffee shop and organic café on Rue Neuve. They open at 10, but during the week warm food and fresh drinks are available from midday.
The majority of meals are vegan and they also serve a mix of vegan and non-vegan cakes but as much as possible is lactose and gluten-free.
The ingredients can change, but their speciality is the Buddha Bowl. There is a second branch at 26 Rue de la Thibaudiére and food from both is available for delivery by Uber Eats.
Open: Mon, Weds, Thurs 10 am-6 pm, Tues 11 am-4 pm, Fri-Sat 10 am-7 pm (closed Sunday), 17 Rue Neuve, mypetitefactory.com
Top five places to visit
1 Take the funicular up to the Basilica and Museums at Fouvière
Looking down from a hilltop above the city, the ‘Basilique Notre Dame de Fouvière’ is visible almost everywhere in the city. Built at the end of the 19th century, the Basilica is home to a religious art museum, but the area around it also offers views across the city.
Also in Fouvière you’ll find the Museum of Gallo-Roman Civilisation, built into the hillside next to the Roman amphitheatre. The easiest way to reach the hilltop is the funicular railway, via Line 2 from Saint-Jean. No special ticket needed as this forms part of the public transport network. fourviere.org
2 Join a walking tour of Old Lyon
A number of companies offer English-language walking tours of Lyon and one of the best is through Free Tour Lyon, who offer a tour of Old Lyon.
Lyon contains the world’s largest concentration of renaissance buildings, plus some Roman ruins, alongside modern graffiti-style street art. A reservation is required via the website in advance. The tour is free, but the guide expects a tip. freetourlyon.com
3 Visit Parc de Tête d’Or
Located in the 6th Arrondissement, this large urban park is popular with both tourists and locals. The name comes from a legend of a golden statue of Christ’s head being buried in the area.
The main park contains a boating lake, boules court, horse-riding and a war memorial on an island. Covering 290 acres, the park also contains Lyon’s botanical gardens. Entry is free of charge. lyon.fr/lieu/parcs/parc-de-la-tete-dor
4 La Croix-Rousse
La Croix-Rousse is a hill and neighbourhood in the northern part of the city. There are several cultural spots on the hill, including art galleries and wine bars, along with many restaurants including Gaia, Like an Elephant, Fruta Madre, and only a short walk to Laska.
Another vegan restaurant, Toutes les Couleurs, is located on the walk down from the top of the Croix-Rousse hill to Old Town. Various points on the hill offer spectacular views over the rest of the city.
Toutes les Couleurs, 26 rue Imbert-Colomès, touteslescouleurs.fr
Confluence is a former industrial area, where the Rhône and Saône rivers meet, giving it the distinctive name. This revitalised area is where conference visitors may find themselves staying.
The best-known building is the Musée des Confluences, home to a science centre, anthropology museum and other exhibitions. There’s also parkland and a shopping mall (Confluences).
Musée des Confluences, 86 quai Perrache. Mall, 112 cours Charlemagne, confluence.fr/centre
If you’re keen to book various tours in advance take a look at Isango!
Where to stay
Hôtel Des Artistes – A small 3-star hotel located in the centre of Lyon. Pets are allowed, a breakfast buffet is available and parking can be arranged at extra cost. If advised in advance, the hotel can arrange vegan items including plant-based milk at breakfast, but this is not something they guarantee. 8 Rue Gaspard Andre, Hotel-des-artistes.fr
Staycity ApartHotel – There are several ApartHotels where you can do your own cooking. Staycity have 143 apartments with their own kitchens on Rue Garibaldi, close to station Jean Mace. Rue Garibaldi, staycity.com/lyon/ruegaribaldi
Getting there and getting around
There are flights from Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Dublin, Edinburgh, London, Manchester and Southampton to Lyon Saint-Exupery.
At the time of writing, Lyon’s public transport site was unfortunately not compatible with Google Maps. Public transport information is available in English, with a journey planner on the city’s public transport site. The city and outskirts have an extensive network of metros and buses. For buses out of town, check timetables in advance. tcl.fr/en
Those not wishing to use transport can download an app to rent a city-bike. Bikes are available 24/7, providing one is nearby. Bikes are through Vélo’V and can be picked up from, and returned to, 340 spots in the city.
Rhiannon has lived in Amsterdam for almost 12 years. When she’s not chilling out or thinking about food, you can find her at the climbing gym or experimenting with unusual types of yoga. She frequently posts about vegan Amsterdam on her blog amsterdamschat.com
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