Markets are more than just assorted food and drinks on tables in France, they are a culture in their own right. France’s markets are a staple of any visit to the country and an easy way to fit right in with the knowledgeable local populace. Being France’s culinary capital gives Lyon a certain kudos in this regard with the city’s famed produce making it something of a mecca for foodies. From the finest cheese in the region to specific local varieties of sausage, the city boasts a number of world-class options for the hungry traveller.
Situated on the banks of the Saône, beneath the spectacular Basilica de Fourvière, the Marché Saint-Antoine is one of Lyon’s premier food markets. Open throughout the week – except Mondays – the market is great for grocery shopping and watching the world go by. Though usually quieter on weekdays, the market builds to a crescendo on the weekend turning it into one of the city’s most popular spots with cafes and bars punctuating the busy thoroughfare. Most of the produce is local with an emphasis on quality following on from a tradition of goods arriving by boat along the river before being displayed quayside for hungry punters.
One of Lyon’s largest outdoor markets, the Marché de la Croix-Rousse takes up most of the Boulevard de la Croix-Rousse atop the city. Overlooking the rest of Lyon, and within the city’s World Heritage Site, there are few better places to peruse a variety of vendors or find a tasty treat. Open every day – except Monday – the one-kilometre strip is the city’s busiest and liveliest. The emphasis here is, once again, on local produce and more importantly, local identity with most of the vendors working here also living in the historic working-class district.
Located in Lyon’s lively 7th arrondissement, the Marché Jean Macé combines thronged food stalls with a flea market close to the area’s eponymous train station. The market has a real neighbourhood feel and contains much of the same quality of produce that you’d find in some of Lyon’s bigger and better-known areas. Here, people queue for slow-cooked chicken and freshly made bread as if it were the Louvre in mid-summer, while onlookers attempt to peer around them to glimpse baskets of vegetables. While predominantly a food market, the Saturday morning sprawl extends up Rue Jean Jaurès where all sorts of clothes, bric-à-brac and other assorted trinkets can be found.
Dating back to 1859, Les Halles de Lyon is something of an institution within the city, especially given its association with one of Lyon’s most famed chefs, the late, great Paul Bocuse. As such, the various vendors are among the city’s finest with French staples of meat, bread, cheese and wine all on display. The market is located within walking distance of the city’s main train station, Part-Dieu and was redeveloped in 2004 with 13,000 square metres of regional delights. Lyon’s first indoor food market is a must-visit during any trip to the city.
A little way from the centre of town is the Marché de Monplaisir/Ambroise-Courtois in the city’s 8th arrondissement. Accessible by metro, close to the Monplaisir – Lumiere stop, this market boasts a real range of products and is pleasantly situated close to the equally worthwhile Musée Lumière. Replete with a strong organic selection and a variety of food stalls, there’s something for almost every taste here with Asian and Italian options mixed in amid the French fare.
Another riverside market well worth a visit is the Marché des Quais du Rhône Victor Augagneur, which extends from the Pont de la Guillotière to Pont Wilson in Lyon’s 3rd arrondissement. Narrow and densely packed, this market straddles the river with fresh fruit, cheese, wine and vast selections of olives. Meat lovers will be well rewarded here, too, while admirers of Levantine food are well stocked with stalls selling Lebanese couscous salads, tabbouleh, börek and other Middle Eastern delicacies. Set against one of the nicest stretches of the Rhône, it’s easy to see the appeal of a stroll through some of the city’s best sights and smells throughout the week.
While not actually located in Lyon’s wonderful Tête d’Or park, the market bearing its name isn’t diminished by its lack of verdant surroundings. Situated in the city’s 6th arrondissement in the Brotteaux neighbourhood, the Marché de la Tête d’Or doubles as a food market selling the usual French market fare and a flower market as well. It’s certainly worth a visit on your way to the park, especially if you’re planning on having a picnic here on a Saturday afternoon.