Opening October 19, 2019, the much-anticipated La Cité Internationale de la Gastronomie will cement Lyon’s status as a mecca for food lovers the world over. Part museum, part sensory experience, part anthropological study, the Cité explores the most fundamental experience of humankind—preparing, cultivating, gathering around, and eating food. It is housed in the Grand Hotel Dieu, still a hospital only 20 years ago.
“The purpose is proposing a vision of culinary culture, where excellence, diversity and openness are the guiding principles that will give life to this historic monument” according to Michelin-starred chef Régis Marcon, President of the Cité Internationale de la Gastronomie Strategic Orientation Committee.
These values of the institution are made manifest in the very layout of the Cité—the four floors of over 4000 square meters (43055 square feet) are dedicated to various themes. The second floor houses the permanent exhibit dedicated to gastronomy (designed by Casson Mann). The third is home to the Gastro’Lab (a workshop and co-working space for culinary professionals) and the Miam Miam space, a family-friendly interactive approach to instruct visitors about food cycles and consumption. Temporary exhibits and an open kitchen for tastings will live on the top floor.
In 2010, UNESCO added the French gastronomic meal to its “Intangible Heritage” list. To honor this accolade, France has set up a network of four international cities of gastronomy: Lyon, Dijon, Tours, and Paris-Rungis. These four cities uphold the values of sharing, savoring and eating well, which are the watchwords of French gastronomy. Each city has its own specialties and will promote gastronomy in France and around the globe, ensuring the traditions are passed down to future generations. The Cité Internationale de la Gastronomie of Lyon is the first of its kind in France.
From its opening in the twelfth century, the Grand Hotel-Dieu de Lyon took in the poor and travelers, offering an opportunity to rest and eat healthy food, and recover. For nine hundred years, this hospital has been a flagship of health in Lyon and in France. Its architectural structure is as innovative as the medical progress made there. In addition to the gardens where medicinal plants were cultivated, the facility had four large rooms laid out in a cross shape around a central chapel with a dome. This innovation enabled staff to separate the wounded from contagious patients and to ventilate the rooms, which significantly improved the patients’ survival rate.
The new Cité Internationale de la Gastronomie is located beneath the dome of those four wards in the oldest part of the Grand Hotel Dieu (17th century). The Cité not only represents a journey through the pleasures of the table, but will also explore the related themes of health, well-being, and the renowned French concept of art de vivre.
The former hospital has been completely renovated to house shops, restaurants, and an InterContinental Lyon - Hotel Dieu, however, only by visiting the La Cité Internationale de la Gastronomie can you admire the interior spaces and architectural details of this historic monument, a jewel of France’s built heritage. With its mission to address issues of healthy eating and good food, the International City of Gastronomy is both preserving and fulfilling the Grand Hôtel-Dieu’s prime historical objective.