Courting Beauty: Hotel Sofitel Bellecour Lyon
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To The Point
Hotel Sofitel Lyon Bellecour is a great choice for visitors to Lyon. Pros: central location, great views of the Rhône river, walking distance to all of the tourist spots. Cons: outdated décor and room fixtures.
On a recent business trip to Paris, I found myself with a few days free and decided to pop down to Lyon to explore France’s culinary capital. The Sofitel Lyon Bellecour is centrally located, and the prices were more than reasonable given that it was peak summer season and I booked at the last minute.
There are a whopping 30 Accor properties in the city of Lyon proper, ranging from the budget Ibis and F1 brands to the M Gallery properties and the Sofitel. As this was a last-minute situation, I originally started with HotelTonight, my go-to for spur-of-the-moment hotel reservations, but the Sofitel didn’t even appear there. I then opened up my Accor app and logged in with my LeClub number, and a search immediately pulled up the Sofitel. As a LeClub Classic member (the basic/entry level status at LeClub), I got a 5% discount on their published rate.
There were a number of different options, including various room categories, breakfast/no breakfast rates, cancelable rates versus pay now, etc. I booked a superior room with a double bed and a river view. The rate was $195 with the discount, down from the published rate of $206.
There are a number of options you can then add through the app once you’ve selected your rate. Everything from early check-in and late checkout to bottles of wine in your room on arrival. Seeing as I was in France, I wasn’t worried about rosé or Champagne being readily available and just went to the payment page. I paid with my Platinum Card® from American Express and voilà! Off to Lyon!
Hotel Sofitel Lyon Bellecour was brilliantly situated in the heart of the city, right in the Second Arrondissement on the Rhône River side of Presque’ile, the peninsula that runs through the middle of the city and ending where the Saône meets the Rhône. I was within walking or biking distance of just about everything. The city had a great bike-share program that was easy to use, and a station was around the corner from the hotel. The hotel was also a five-minute walk to the subway and the bus station. There was really no where in Lyon you couldn’t go on public transport from within five minutes of the hotel, and it was just 10 minutes from the main train station by taxi.
Check-in and Lobby
I took the TGV down to Lyon from Paris and arrived punctually at 11:50am at the Part-Dieu train station, Lyon’s main station. (Lyon Perrache, closer to the Sofitel Bellecour, is the secondary station that does have some TGV service, but Part-Dieu is the main station and has much more frequent service to more destinations.) I jumped in a taxi and was on the doorstep of the Sofitel Bellecour within 10 minutes.
Orchid centerpieces in the front hall of the lobby, tasteful wooden sculptures, high ceilings, and plenty of natural light gave a warm and welcoming first impression of a chic, modern hotel. I was there long before the official 3pm check-in time, but the helpful woman behind the desk made a few calls to housekeeping and told me she’d have a room ready within 20 minutes. She immediately handed me a coupon for a welcome drink and invited me to sit out on their terrace. I hadn’t even finished my rosé Champagne when a key was brought out to me and I was wished “bon séjour et bon repos” (“a pleasant stay and a nice rest.” Apparently the trip from LA had taken its toll …).
All in all, I was in my room more than two hours before the check-in time and less than 30 minutes after arriving in Lyon. Not bad at all.
The hallways and rooms had a decidedly less modern feel than the lobby did. On the plus side, I had a commanding view of the Rhône and the Seventh Arrondissement.
The king bed was topped with luxurious memory-foam pillows and a fluffy duvet that nearly pulled me in and didn’t let go for three days. And bonus: It was an actual king bed, not two mattresses shoved together, as you often find in Europe. No waking up at night sinking into the middle of the bed here!
The room featured a walk-in closet that had the usual: bathrobe, slippers, safe, etc. It also included a full-size umbrella, but I never needed it. The closet was small, but a walk-in is a walk-in and always a welcome treat.
The large bathroom had all the standard features but nothing over the top. Despite the less-than-modern feel, I will say that the bathroom had great lighting and lots of mirrors, including a magnifying mirror. Perfect for getting your makeup just right before a night out or taking the de rigueur towel-only bathroom selfie.
All in all, the decor in both the room and bathroom were a little outdated. Wood paneling, beige carpeting and walls — it had a slightly ’90s, boring feel to it. There was only one outlet next to the bed and a single USB port on the desk. Technologically, the room did have three notable features: a massive flat-screen TV that you needed a pilot’s license to operate, a fabulous Bose speaker and a Nespresso machine.
It was SO nice to have the option to make coffee in the room without having to use one of those when-was-it-last-cleaned hotel-room kettles. In sum, it was not the most modern room à la W or Kimpton, but still spacious and comfortable. And, frankly, the great view of the river made up for what the room lacked aesthetically.
Food and Beverage
The Sofitel Lyon Bellecour only had two restaurants, but what it lacked in quantity it more than made up for in quality.
Its impressive breakfast buffet was served on the eighth floor, offering guests panoramic views of Lyon while they enjoyed their morning coffee. An impressive selection of pastries and freshly baked breads, as one would expect in France, was offered along the back wall. Fresh fruit, freshly squeezed juices, artisanal jams and spreads were offered as well. The hot options were less impressive than everything else on order, but fortunately eggs to order were available, so I was saved from consuming yet another plate of hotel scrambled “eggs.”
The same space used for breakfast became Les Trois Domes, a Michelin-starred restaurant headed up by Christian Lherm. The restaurant offered Lherm’s interpretation of modern French cuisine, an impressive list of Rhône wines, and of course, fabulous views of Lyon and the Rhône.
Downstairs was Le Silk Brasserie, where classic brasserie dishes were offered alongside some typically Lyonnais culinary treats. The Brasserie was nice because it had a terrace where you could sit outside. Pets were welcome, should you have been so French as to have your little muffy along with you for dinner. (Small dogs are ubiquitous in France and can often be seen peeking over tables in restaurants, hoping for a scrap of filet or a sip of Côtes du Rhône.)
There was also a terrace outside the front entrance of the hotel where apéro (“happy hour” à la Française) was served. The bar in the lobby had an impressive selection of Champagnes available, as well as a full cocktail menu. Not to worry, yours truly went out of his way to sample most of them, and I can happily report that they were all more than fit for consumption.
The Sofitel Lyon Bellecour had a few extra amenities for guests. Nothing over the top, but again, what it lacked in quantity, it more than made up for in quality. Most notably, they had the SoFit Spa. After a long journey from Los Angeles, it’s fair to say that I looked less than my best.
After a nap, I popped down for an hourlong custom facial and I left feeling and looking 10 years younger. The extensive spa treatment included everything from hot-stone massages and facials to Mon Premier Spa (“My First Spa”) a menu of treatments for 6- to 12-year-olds who haven’t yet discovered how much fun it is to spend mom and dad’s money on spa treatments instead of on the app store. All in all, it was very French — teach kids to take a minute, relax and pamper themselves.
Other amenities at the hotel included a small gym and meeting rooms.
I would absolutely stay at the Sofitel Lyon Bellecour again. True to the Sofitel brand, it offers an upmarket experience to guests. While the décor in the rooms and halls definitely needs updating, I’m not going to let that keep my away from an otherwise above-par hotel. The massively comfortable beds, delightfully helpful and polite staff, delicious breakfast and ideal central location all make the Hotel Sofitel Lyon Bellecour a solid choice when visiting France’s culinary capital.
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