Villa Maia is perched on the top of Fourvière Hill – a peaceful hilltop area (and former Roman settlement) just outside the old town where you’ll find ancient ruins, a handful of bars and restaurants and an imposing gothic basilica.
Lyon’s St Exupéry Airport just over an hour away. From here, the hotel can arrange transfers via Mercedes V class vehicles for €170 each way.
Lyon perrache is a 30-minute walk from the hotel (15 mins by car) and operates inter-city services to and from Paris, Marseille, Montpellier and Nantes as well as a number of inter-continental routes throughout Europe. Lyon Part Dieu, the city’s main station, is 50-minutes from the hotel – transfers can be arranged for €110 each way.
There’s round-the-clock valet parking next to Villa Maia, operated by staff for €39 a night.
Worth getting out of bed for
There’s a lot to get through in this Unesco-designated city, so let’s start from the (quite literal) top. At the top of Villa Maia’s praying hill, you’ll find the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière, a formidable gothic church known by locals as ‘the upside-down elephant’ because of its four towers which, from a distance, look like legs poking out of a large, elephant-scale body. The basilica is an excellent example of late-19th-century French ecclesiastical architecture, lined with mosaics and achingly ornate interiors. Book a full tour to learn more about its fascinating history, and pop into the Museum of Sacred Art while you’re there. Making your way down the hill, stop at the Ancient theatre of Fourviere where you’ll find the remains of Lugdunum, an important ancient city in Roman Gaul. The ruins are picturesque but if you want to see them animated, visit in June for the Nuits de Fourvière Festival; a celebration of theatre, music and dance that’s seen everyone from Radiohead, Nick Cave and the Rolling Stones (who, by the way, chose to rest their weary heads at the hotel post-set) grace its stage. Straight down the winding cobblestone streets and you’ll end up in the old town, one of the oldest (and largest) renaissance districts in Europe where you can lose yourself for hours cafe-hopping and people-watching. Look closely and you’ll find many secret courtyards, staircase towers and tunnel-like traboules folded into the buildings – La Tour Rose in Saint Jean being one of the prettiest.
As you dally around you’ll notice an unusual amount of puppet displays; the main character, Guignol, is somewhat of a Lyonnaise mascot created by a dentist during the French Revolution to keep patients occupied during treatments. Visit the Maison de Guignol to see the marionette and his friends come to life at an intimate, antique puppet theatre. In Place des Terreaux, the city’s grandest square, the Musée des Beaux-Arts is housed in a 17th-century abbey, and houses the country's largest collection of works outside of Paris. Spread over 70 rooms, mooch your way through some 600 Egyptian artefacts, renaissance paintings and a fair share of Modernist masters too, from Renoir and Cezanne to Picasso and Ernst. Speaking of modernists, there’s an architectural revival bubbling in Lyon’s industrial district La Confluence, with avante-garden buildings and urban projects cropping up every few months. The Pantone palette and laser-cut facade of Le Cube Orange is one such example, but the jewel of the district is the geometric, chrome Musée des Confluences, a science and anthropology museum not dissimilar to Bilbao’s Guggenheim. And, if all that culture-vulturing has left you parched, the hotel has just the ticket. Thirty minutes outside the city in a historic rural estate, Villa Maia’s owner has a vineyard, Domaine de La Chaize, where you can sample some of the finest Beaujolais the region has to offer.
A short walk up the hill will bring you to Guy Lassausaie’s new opening, Bulle, a chic bistro in the shadow of the imposing La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière where Lyon’s best-dressed head for drawn-out lunches overlooking the city. Dinner is an elegant affair with locally elaborate dishes like royal flat-leaf parsley, frogs, porcini mushrooms and root parsley in yellow wine garlic emulsion. Tried and tested Café du Soleil is a must for more traditional cuisine. Tucked away in a cobblestone corner of the old town, this Bouchon Lyonnais offers an authentic taste of the city, but take note, with piled-up plates of sausages, coq-au-vin, duck pâté or roast pork on the menu, you may need to swap those post-dinner drinks for a half-hour sieste.
Ok, it’s more of a gelateria than a cafe, but ice cream can be breakfast too – especially if it’s Arabic coffee flavour. At Vieux Lyon’s Terre Adélice you’re likely to find any flavour, actually; Roquefort, African almond biscuit, pine nut, tomato and basil, pumpkin, gingerbread – if you can imagine it, they probably have it.
Talk about grandeur, Le Florian has it in buckets. Think red velvet banquette seating, dark sultry wood, stained glass, antique oil paintings and ornate chandeliers lit up by candlelight. If Venice’s baroque San Marco spot springs to mind, you’re on the right track; this Florian is a gilded replica of Floriano Francesconi’s iconic cafe, though its offerings are a little more, well, boozy. Opt for the exotic Floston Paradise, made with aged Havana rum, mango, hydrolat hibiscus & jasmine, acid solution ginger and mint. But if gin is your liquor of choice, backstreet Cigale Lyon is a contemporary ‘gintoneria’ showcasing some of the best blue ruins in town.