Where is the French capital of gastronomy? It is an arm wrestle between Paris and Lyon, the two largest metropolitan areas of France. If Anthony Bourdain possesses any credence, the title will indubitably go to Lyon. It probably won’t go uncontested, and I am known to favor Paris for reasons too many to count, but this year, I decided to snoop around Lyon to find out for myself exactly why Lyon is a contender. Armed with a growling, seemingly bottomless pit of a stomach, I wandered the streets of this very French city where very little is known – Lyon.

This is what I found.

Spoiler alert. Lyon gets this one.

Counting (Michelin) Stars

Paul Bocuse is the revered godfather of gastronomy and seeming poster child of Lyon. His restaurant, Auberge du Pont de Collonges, has garnered worldwide recognition for keeping three Michelin stars for fifty years, making it perhaps one of the greatest restaurants in the world today. I couldn’t delude myself that my checkbook could manage to dine at this legendary establishment, but I am sure it is worth saving up for. The secret, though, is that Monsieur Bocuse founded Institut Paul Bocuse, a hotel and restaurant institute and you could get meals inspired by Mr. Bocuse, prepared by apprentices and students, at a fraction of the cost.

Woman on Top

And while $500 dinners are not in my future (or present, actually), I did have a rather hypnotic meal at two-Michelin starred, La Mere Brazier, founded by Paul Bocuse’s mentor, Madame Eugenie Brazier. I’ve been fortunate to have had many extraordinary meals in many places around the world, but this one is for the books. The food was decidedly delirious, decadent, and generous. The army of staff was impeccable and on point, but sans the righteousness and snobbery one might expect at a two-star Michelin establishment.

Bet on Bouchon

For traditional and casual Lyonnaise food, one must experience a bouchon. It is here one will find food typical of the seasons and of Lyon. There are many of them littered around, but make sure you look for the garants de la tradition culinaire Lyonnaise – the Lyon culinary tradition guarantee.

Rue Merciere

The pedestrian-only Rue Merciere is a series of narrow alleyways and cobblestone streets lined with sidewalk cafes and is etched in my memory as one of the most endearing in all my travels in Europe. It has a contained and elegant buzz and is never rowdy or overly touristy.

Market Share

There is a huge food market in Lyon named after Monsieur Paul Bocuse (see #1 above). I told you, this dude’s a hometown hero. Les Halles de Lyon – Paul Bocuse is a one-stop shop for everything that is edible and is awesome about Lyonnaise food. For a less dizzying and overwhelming outdoor option, the riverbank of is host to Marche Saint-Antoine Celestins, a farmers market featuring local produce – and cheery farmers that I would daresay beats the scoffs one might see in its rival, Paris.

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