My husband and I spent 10 days at Lyon's Hotel de la Cité a month ago (August 2013) and, even a month later, nothing has faded from our memories of a sublime "séjour" with them. I'm quite sure it was the finest hotel stay anywhere in my or my husband's 66 years. It is noteworthy that neither or us have ever before been inspired to write a hotel review, certainly not a glowing one like this. I'd lived in France, based in Paris, for 18 months 30 years ago but never visited Lyon, and this was my husband's first trip to France, so this review is one of discovering Lyon for the first time through the great fortune of being based at Hotel de la Cité.
Everything about our room and the hotel was impeccably well thought out and tastefully executed in terms of the function and the aesthetics of our room on the 5th floor overlooking the Rhone River (and the occasional swan or three drifting by). But what made it beyond compare in our experience was the service. Three of the reception desk staff in particular, who were our "regulars" on duty during our stay, went out of their way to provide whatever assistance we needed - directions, advice, any kind of assistance at all - and they were gracious and helpful to the max. This began the night of our arrival with Luic on duty helping us navigate the parking and baggage situation (which turns out to be much 'friendlier' than a couple of earlier reviewers had indicated as to the ability to park temporarily in front of the hotel for baggage upon arrival and departure) and by the next day and for the rest of our stay, Jerome and Benjamin proved that Luic was no fluke. All of them gave us their enthusiastic and dedicated attentions as needed and we could not be more grateful for how they made our stay in Lyon so very pleasant. The housekeeping staff also gave our room exceptional daily attentions in perfect accordance with our requests.
Before choosing Hotel de la Cité for our extended stay, I had read all the reviews of several hotels in Lyon. What I decided we wanted most of all was a tranquil setting for our hours of repose, away from sounds of traffic and tourism (and, et oui, hélas, cigarette-smoke-filled air which prevails in all the most central hubbubs), downsides which seemed inevitable with virtually every other location. Those considerations plus the draw of being alongside a splendid city park and overlooking the Rhone made our decision. We couldn't have picked our hotel and location more perfectly.
The limited critiques I'd seen of this hotel focused either on its distance from those hubbubs of activity or on the parking/baggage situation mentioned above. We found both of those points to be overstated and instead quite manageable.
The ease of Hotel de la Cité in regards to distances within the city is that there is direct bus service every few minutes from the Hotel to almost anywhere in the city directly (no transfer needed) or, in some cases, to a bus or metro transfer such that virtually anywhere can be reached with at most one transfer and within 10 to 15 minutes. (I recommend buying 'carnets' of 10 tickets at a time to save money on fares. Each ticket is good for transfers or return trips on any public transportation within 1 hour of initial use. Also scroll down the vending machine list for the special all-day tickets available on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays - or the special evening fares for bus/metro trips that begin after 7 pm. A machine at the bus stop by the hotel sells all these ticket choices - you need coins for these machines.)
Thus the second critique I read before choosing Hotel de la Cité, concerning its distance from "the places to be" - the hub of restaurants, museums, etc., also proved easily navigated -- and far overcompensated for by the tranquility of our hotel and room, the extraordinary service, and the ready availability of 3 different bus lines - C1, C4 and C5 -- leaving from the hotel branching toward any direction and getting you to those "hubbubs" within 10 minutes of travel time. It's 10 min by bus C5 from the hotel to Place Bellecourt, 15 min. with one transfer from the C4 to the C3 to arrive in Vieux Lyon or 10 min. on the C1 to Croix Rouge. Even to get to l'Hopital Edouard Herriott - the hospital complex nowhere near the tourist areas, which was the reason for our extended stay in Lyon, was reachable easily either by a bus-metro transfer or a comfortable 30 min no-transfer trip on C26 available at another bus stop only a 2 minute walk from the hotel, etc. In sum, the city is very navigable by public transportation and takes very little time to learn to utilize it. Bus stop digital signs advise you of wait time for the next bus, some lines having a maximum wait of 10 min., other lines in off hours still no more than 20 min. between buses. And, btw, for Americans like ourselves, the cleanliness and maintenance of bus and metro lines will only add to your realization of the failure of Americans to invest in public infrastructure. Signage on the other hand is not reliably better than in the US - both on roads and sometimes in public transport too, there will be good direction indicators 4 times out of 5 but that 5th time where direction indication is lacking can throw you, even if you speak French as I do (and the French themselves acknowledge their signs can be inadequate and cause sudden road stress -- oo la la! -- not knowing which fork off of a rounadabout to take).
And nothing everything requires city transportation from the hotel. In non-summertime temperatures, all the hotspots in town are very pleasantly and leisurely accessible on foot – along the Rhone and/or Saone rivers or through the park (to be discussed in a minute). And for occasions when one might want dinner in walking distance of the hotel, there is a Trattoria with quite excellent food (I recommend the salmon pizza in particular -- although be prepared for a long wait time for initial service if their sidewalk tables are filling up) a few doors west from the Hotel within the large complex that is Cité Universitaire. This Trattoria also does take-out, which could be an excellent choice for dinner in one's room whenever that might suit. Also note that there is an Amphitheater a few doors away on the east side of the hotel with the potential for excellent concerts during your stay that you could attend with a short walk from your hotel room.
While there is paid parking underground next to the hotel at the same rather steep daily rate - 15 E - that is standard at almost all parking lots in the city (and requiring repayment each time you come and go), we solved the parking situation to our great satisfaction with a garage called Parc Lafayette downtown (on Rue Pierre Corneille - bus stop Saxe-Lafayette, 10 min away on the C4 line from the hotel) for the most reasonable parking rates in Lyon. (It is true that, if you have a car in Lyon, you must plan for paid overnight parking somewhere and the advantage of Parc Lafayette -- bookable online via neoparking.com – is not only half the cost elsewhere but also offers the unique ability to take one's car out at any time during your stay without extra charge).
And I haven't even discussed yet a key factor for us in choosing this hotel, namely that it borders the largest city park in all of France, dating from the 1800s - Le Parc de la Tete d'Or - an enormous city park with meandering routes along its lake, up through its hills and its zoo, its puppet theater, its botanical gardens, its velodrome ... with walkers, joggers, clusters of kids learning to zipline through the foresty areas or picnickers on vast expanses of grass, one full-service restaurant, one brasserie, snack stands, etc. It is a lovely park that warrants a visit just as much as do the great museums and flurry of restaurants, gastronomique and otherwise.
Finally, let me add a word about dining in Lyon in general - since i'm turning this hearty applause for Hotel de la Cité into an advice column on navigating Lyon from this hotel as a base. Perhaps you would already know this, but it took a while for us to figure out that "gastronomique" (an adjective for which Lyon is arguably most famous) essentially refers to one particular domain of cuisine - one that is heavily focused on meat including such exoticities as calf's head, entrails etc., but which includes more commonly cuisined meat cuts as well. If you happen to be people like us who tend to prefer seafood or you want vegetarian dishes, the most lauded 'gastronomique' restaurants may not be your best candidates for finding items on the daily 'menu' that interest you. Two of our favorite meals in town were dinners at a Paul Bocuse brasserie a 5 min. bus ride on C1 from the hotel to the Brotteaux stop - Brasserie de l'Est - and a lunch at the Restaurant de Fourviere atop the cable-car-mounted hill in Vieux Lyon. (The latter requires also some patience in terms of wait time but the food and view of the entire city from its outdoor tables were quite worth the wait.)
What I discovered was a terrific website - http://www.lesideesrestos.fr/restaurants-lyon/index.html - that lists restaurants in Lyon by category of cuisine so that you can readily find choices for seafood or for a creperie or organic food ("bio" in French) or two dozen different kinds of international/ethnic restaurants - or regional cuisines of France like Provençal or Basque -- which do not fall into the "gastronomique" category but which can be equally worthy of your consideration, or more so if calf's head et al. isn't your cup of tea. In August, a timing that was required for the main purpose of our visit, one must be prepared for a sizeable number of restaurants as well as shops to be closed, although along the main hubbubs on Presqu'ile or in Vieux Lyon, most restaurants -- and glaceries for many yummy flavors of gelato or sorbet! -- were open and busy (and, again hélas, cigarette smoke also filling the air, so be prepared for that as well).
But I don't want to end on a note of smoke in the air, for there was none of that in, or coming and going from, our lovely hotel. This review wants most of all to leave you with our complete delight in having spent our 10 days in Lyon at the Hotel de la Cité. And thanks again in particular to Benjamin, Jerome, et Luic. Vous étiez divine!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Crowne Plaza Lyon – Cité International stands out as a point of reference in the luxury hotel business in the heart of the famous urban architectural project, the Cite International of Lyon. This hotel was first conceived by the Italian architect Renzo Piano, already well known for the design of the prestigious Georges Pompidou centre in Paris.The Crowne Plaza Lyon – Cité International is located between the banks of the Rhone River and the Parc de la Tete d'Or and just steps away from the largest Congress Centre in Lyon. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- De La Cite Concorde Hotel