- River deep, mountain high
- Country life
- Wine, wandering, winter sports
Named for the river running through it and the mountains at its edge, Rhône-Alpes is a region of vinous valleys, mighty peaks, lakeside spa towns and scenic drives.
It’s the home of Evian water and hot-air ballooning, distinguished vineyards and world-famous cuisine. Honey-coloured châteaux watch over farmland and forest, and the snow-speckled tips of the Alps line the region’s pockets, drawing the flashest skiers to white velvet slopes at Courchevel, Chamonix and Val d’Isère. There’s Europe’s highest summit, Mont Blanc, and its deepest gorge (in Ardèche). And the culinary traditions of France’s second city, Lyon, are among the most revered in the world, Beaujolais and the Côtes du Rhône providing the accompanying nectar.
After winter, wine is Rhône-Alpes’ favourite thing. Follow the wine route through Beaujolais, calling in at the villages of Brouilly, Saint-Amour, Fleurie, Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent. The Rhône valley also produces great Côtes du Rhônes reds. And the Alps don’t miss out on the action – Savoie produces its own white, in vineyards clinging to the hillsides.
- In bigger towns and cities, cabs can be flagged down on the street or picked up at a rank. In remote areas, book in advance, or prepare for a long walk.
- Tipping culture
- Restaurant and café bills usually include a service charge (service compris) but it’s customary to leave a small tip.
- Siesta and fiesta
- Most restaurants observe mid-afternoon downtime between 2pm and 4pm. A lot of small shops, even in city centres, also close for lunch, and most shut on Sundays.
- Packing tips
- A Prada ski suit for the slopes; an appetite for rich repasts if you’re spending time in Lyon.
- Recommended reads
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley; or Mont Blanc, her husband Percy’s poetic ode to the peak. French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano.
- Brimming with fine restaurants, Lyon is one of the centres of French gastronomy, and Beaujolais is a Milky Way of Michelin stars. Regional specialities include tender Charolais beef, creamy Saint-Marcellin cheese, and saucisson sec, as well as quenelles (fish or meat dumplings) and boudin noir (black pudding). The countryside is dominated by vineyards, the source of wonderful wines such as Chablis and some Côtes du Rhône appellations. Towards the mountains, Savoyard cuisine offers more than just raclette, tartiflette and fondue; delicious pike, perch and trout swim in Lake Geneva and the surrounding Alpine rivers. There’s a noticeable influence from Italy – it is just the other side of Mont Blanc, after all.
- Euro (€).
- Time zone
- GMT + 1.
- Dialling codes
- France: +33; south-east: 4.
- Do go/don't go
- The ski season lasts from early December to April, and the high-altitude slopes mean you’re in for good snow. Hikers and mountain bikers will love meandering over the grassy hills in high summer. Cherry blossom blooms in May, and there’s more spectacular colour in autumn, when the leaves are turning. At lower altitudes, winter can be rainy.
Don't go home without...
…following the traboules of Vieux Lyon – some 40 ancient, labyrinthine passageways used by the city’s silk-makers during the 18th century to carry their delicate fabrics under cover from Silk Hill down to the river barges.