Normally on a short weekend location is the most important factor for a hotel for me, but on this trip I wanted to make sure we had breakfast too. I ended up booking a 100 Euro/night rate at the Hilton Lyon.
We were put on the executive floor and given executive lounge access due to my HHonors Gold status (still 100% on executive lounges outside of the USA). The room was small but comfortable, nothing to write home about pro or con. There was a really nice view of the Parc Tete d’Or from the hotel – supposedly one of the largest parks in Europe.
Breakfast was simple but satisfying, generally just eggs, bacon, sausage, and an assortment of continental breakfast type foods. During happy hour and “sweet time” there were various snacks out, including hot hors d’oeuvres, which I found pretty tasty. And all the chips I could eat, woohoo! We avoided the hotel restaurant due to the fact we were in the food capital of the world.
The biggest downside of the hotel is its location – it’s about a 30 minute walk to the city center. Still, it’s in a nice little convention center complete with a movie theater, casino, and restaurants. The architecture of the complex, both the hotel and the entire Cite Internationale, is actually pretty cool. Though I wouldn’t recommend it, you could stay there and never leave.
Parc Tete d’Or
The best part of the hotel’s location is its proximity to the Parc Tete d’Or, a beautiful, expansive park that made me wish it was summer. We wandered around the park in the rain and I was still impressed with its natural beauty (the fall foliage didn’t hurt).
There is a large lake in the middle of the park; you can rent boats during warmer weather. The park is also chock full of playgrounds and there is even a zoo – a FREE zoo. I thought the free zoo would be, um, not that great but it actually was pretty nice (the price obviously factoring into my evaluation). I mean the Stone and Franklin Park Zoos here in Boston are great and all but they cost money!
An interesting thing we noticed in Lyon is that it seems to be a city for runners – it feels like Boston in that way. We saw people jogging at all hours of the day and night and there are tons of beautiful paths that you can jog on – in the park, along the two rivers, or even through the city center itself. I kinda wish I had brought my running shoes to burn off all the calories I ate! Then again, I haven’t run more than a mile in……let’s just move on.
Walk to the City Center
Since the hotel is so far away, it’s worth noting your options for getting to the city center. There is a convenient bus that takes you right in there but to be honest we didn’t even bother inquiring the price. We’re walkers and that’s what we did.
It’s about a thirty minute walk to the city center and there are multiple ways to get there from the Hilton. You can walk along the river, you can walk through the Parc Tete d’Or, or you can walk through more urban areas. They all felt super safe (we asked the hotel and they said it’s fine at all hours and our experience echoed this).
Lyon is home to two rivers – the Rhone and the Saone – the Hilton and Cite Internationale are along the Rhone. Walking along the river is beautiful and there is a path that runs along a large part of the river. I wasn’t sure if it was a permanent thing or what (it rained most of the weekend) but a lot of the paths on the Saone looked flooded. Weird.
Anyway like any European city there are a billion bridges you can choose to cross the rivers on including a handful of pedestrian ones. I have an affinity for walking across bridges so I really just loved strolling around the city. I always found it to be a pleasant walk but if walking is not your thing you might want to take the bus or find a different hotel.
Salon du Chocolat
The absolute best part about living in the Cite Internationale was that we were a two minute walk away from the Salon du Chocolat. What is the Salon du Chocolat, you say? Only a traveling chocolate exhibition featuring some of the best chocolatiers in the world! And it just happened to be in Lyon the weekend we were there.
The exhibition was in some kind of exhibition hall – and it was crazy. I mean its like a convention, except instead of weird gadgets or gizmos, everyone is featuring chocolate and candy at their booths. Free samples? Yes, thank you very much. And chocolate for sale of course, including some really unique things like hard candies flavored with flowers (Maison Boissier), a Coca-cola flavored chocolate bar that crackled when I ate it (Newtree), and of course products from Lyon’s very well known, very amazing Bernachon.
Jess was in heaven and I had a pretty good time too. Besides just gorging yourself on samples and spending way too much money on chocolate bars, there were also demonstrations by famous chocolatiers (with free samples!) and also an ongoing “chocolate art” creation station. Some of the stuff these people made out of chocolates blew my mind.
Not convinced? There is also a fashion show featuring clothes that have chocolate on them! What?! Who thinks of these things? And finally, there are demonstrations/lessons/workshops both for kids and adults. The kids dressed up in aprons and making chocolate are especially cute and make me want to return with Little M when she’s old enough.
So it cost us 10 Euros each to get in but we spent a few hours there and I thought it was well worth it. We had a lot of fun, got a nice little sugar high going, and Jess got to sit on an Eclair. All in all, a great time.
The Hilton Lyon is located a bit far away from the city, but that doesn’t mean you’ll lack things to do. The Parc Tete d’Or is lovely and the Cite Internationale has a lot of things to occupy your time. We almost went to the movies just because we never get to do that at home (we missed our show because we slept in, haha). And if you happen to be in town when the Salon du Chocolat is visiting – cha-ching!
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