PopulationMetro: 1,665,000
Delicious and daring, Lyon is an ancient river city with big plans.

Lyon is a city to be savored nose to tail, past to future, literally and figuratively.

It ranks an impressive #45 in our diverse Product category that measures the ‘hardware’ of a city: its institutions, transportation and infrastructure. Lyon is led by its Convention Center ranking of #15 globally, but it’s the city’s reengineering of its livability that shows where this historic capital of Roman Gaul is heading. And if the city’s middling Attractions and Museums rankings rise with the investment, that’s just icing on the gâteau.

The Confluences neighborhood, a 370-acre urban redevelopment, brings together not only Lyon’s two fabled rivers, the Rhône and the Saône, but gives new life to an industrial urban wasteland. Designed to be one of Europe’s most sustainable neighborhoods, the Confluence is home to audacious architectural attractions like the astonishing Musée des Confluences, the Orange Cube (a cultural center) and its equally spectacular neighbor, the Green Cube, the Pavilions of Salins du Midi, a commercial hub and a leisure center accessed by passenger boat. There’s also the Sucrière, a refurbished warehouse that’s now home to the important Biennale d’Art Contemporain, which recently reflected on the theme of modernity through the lens of Floating Worlds. (Best of all, there’s a bar with a terrific view on the roof.)

Place 38
Product 28
Programming 6
People 57
Prosperity 41
Promotion 9

In the heart of this French neighborhood of the future is a 34-acre park, known as the “green heartbeat” of the peninsula. This arresting landscape likely contributes to Lyon’s high ranking for Google search results.

But voyageurs can’t eat their phones. Besides being a UNESCO World Heritage site—did we mention the Instagrammable Old Town and Lyon’s #67 rank for global Culture, up four spots over last year?—the home of chef Paul Bocuse is also renowned for its cuisine, whose ranking will ascend in the future as visitors catch fragrant wind of it. A traditional bouchon-style restaurant is a must, and at Daniel et Denise, you can check off a few bucket-list items: pot-roasted calf kidneys, sautéed brains and tête de veau. Or head to the newer-school Kitchen Café. And don’t forget, in case that wasn’t flavorful enough, that Lyon is the gateway to the Beaujolais wine region, which fans out immediately to the northwest.