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Best Area in Lyon for 1st Time Visitors

My husband and I will spend 4 nights in Lyon in early April next year and I would appreciate any advice for what area we should consider staying in and why. We will be traveling by train and don’t plan to do any day trips. If you know of an apartment or hotel that you would recommend that would be helpful as well. I appreciate any information you can give. Thanks!

Posted by
116 posts

I've been to Lyon three times in the last 5-6 years and really, really enjoy it. It's the third largest city in France and has A LOT to offer. It's got a really wonderful Museum of Fine Arts over near Place Terreaux, which is by City Hall and the Opera. You should really check out Notre Dame d'Fauveire at the top of the Hill (the walk up the hill is pretty as it weaves through a garden, but it can be a bit strenuous so some people use the funiculare). There are beautiful overlook views of the entire city, and beyond, from there. About an 8-10 minute walk from there is a beautiful Roman amphitheater where they still hold outdoor concerts. Check out the Croix Rousse neighborhood as well. There is another Roman ruin there, the Theater of Three Gauls, although it has been closed on two of three times I visited there. The area of "the Confluence," where the Rhone and Soane Rivers meet, is also worth a visit as the Museum of the Confluence is there. The Old Town is absolutely worth a visit as you'll find a great fountain/statute by Bartholdi, along with lots of pretty buildings, tiny, narrow, pedestrian-only cobble stone paths filled with shops and restaurants called "bouchons" (some which are tourist traps). There are two other museums (Museum of Silk and Museum of Lumieres which I'm told are excellent, but I have never been). It is a fantastic city to see at night, especially the walkways along the river. If you're looking for a more relaxed atmosphere, the "Parc Tete d'Or" is a gorgeous park right down town with a full zoo, lakes, lots of flower beds and walking paths.

Finally, if you like wine and food, you can't go to a better city. Burgundy and the Cote d'Rhone are just a short train ride away and you can gorge yourself on some of the best food/wine in France, at very reasonable prices. For dinner, I like "Le Dandee," near the Bourse and for lunch, "Le Atelier d'Ainay," a five minute walk from Place Bellecour. You should also check out the massive "Les Halles de Paul Bocuse" a smorgasbord of French eateries, delis, markets and restaurants created by the late master chef Paul Bocuse.

Good luck,

Posted by
2452 posts

RS and other guidebooks recommend staying in the area between the rivers just above Place Bellecour, mentioned in the previous helpful comment, but to me that is like staying near Market St or the convention center in San Francisco -- I prefer a spot in the old town that isn't too too close to the metro stop and funiculaire but still an easy walk with great transit connections and character -- there's a pricey spot in an old hotel particulier but another converted mansion is much less expensive:
The Phenix --

They have rooms with views of the river, which if you check the map you'll see at that point is away from the hustle-bustle mostly instead of towards it, but the hip (and touristy) hangouts are all easily walkable, and you're right near a train station Gare Saint Paul and the tram lines S1 and C3 that connect you to the transit network - for instance the fine arts museum is about 5 minutes by tram, and you should plan on at least half a day for that museum and the surrounding square.

I have mixed feeling about city cards generally but the Lyon City Card is a great deal if you like museums. It includes both museum entries and transit, and even after the museum portion is used up you can re-charge the transit credti at any station (even though the TI staff may not be aware of this feature).

To expand on the previous comment mentioning of tourist traps, a chat I had with a transit worker - not a TI employee - was revelatory. He said that if you eat in the old town you will be getting tourist quality food at tourist prices. There are exceptions, though -- an old family-run gelato shop, a bouchon called 3 Maries, some others. To eat well and locally, you need to go closer to the Opera House or the Croix Rousse, also mentioned above.

The Lumiere Bros. mansion and nearby have been turned into a museum of cinema and it has been re-done recently and is great, including a good bookstore and cafe.

The deportation/Holecaust museum is emotionally devastating -- bring the names or other info of your lost relatives and you can get details from their computer stations, and the artifacts on display are touching and personal. The cells used by Klaus Barbie to hold torture victims are now multimedia exhibits.

Be sure to get Opera tickets or other shows some time ahead!

Posted by
10214 posts

Thanks to you both for all the excellent information. Avi, have you stayed at that hotel?

Posted by
330 posts

We’ve been to Lyon twice, most recently in March 2019. Both times we stayed at the Hôtel des Célestins located just off Place Bellecour. A few blocks from a major metro station, the hotel’s central location on the Présqu’île was ideal for our plans. The “Classic” room on the back side of the hotel was charming and quiet, but small (some might say “tight”) and included a fantastic breakfast. Hotel staff were helpful and friendly. I found this hotel in a RS guidebook and have seen other positive mentions on this forum.

That said, on a future visit I might consider something in the old town (I had to nix that idea on this last trip as I was in need of some foot surgery and wasn’t sure how easily I could navigate the cobblestoned streets - as it turned out - not well). The area is also centrally located and quite lovely.

I agree with Avirosemail, The Lyon City Card is a good deal if you like museums, which we do. The card covers a handful of wonderful must-see museums and a bunch of quirky/niche museums (a puppet museum and a museum of cinema miniatures and props to name two). The card also includes public transportation on city metro and busses. We were especially impressed by the Musée des Confluence (world class natural history and science), the Resistance and Deportation History Center (one of the best we’ve visited) and the Musée Lumière (I enjoyed touring the house as much as learning about the brothers who invented cinema). My personal favorite, the Textile and Decorative Museum (not to be confused with the much smaller Silk Workers Museum), is currently closed for renovations.

Posted by
10214 posts

Thanks JenS.

I found an interesting looking Airbnb and I’m wondering if anyone can help with the area. It’s in Vieux Lyon, located by the Vieux Lyon metro station. Airbnb doesn’t give an address until you book it, although I have had some success by messaging the host and asking. Clues I got from reviews were that it’s “around the corner from Le Pique Assiette” and that it is 2 minutes from a cathedral. I looked up Le Pique Assiette (4 Rue de la Baleine) and it is close to the river. Does anyone know that area?

Reviewers mentioned that it is a busy area, but once inside it is quiet. I’m fine with that. The area may be touristy, but I’m a tourist.

Posted by
782 posts

That is a good location,near the Funiculaire to the Cathedral,Roman Museum and Amptheater.

Posted by
10214 posts

Thanks Mike, that’s good to know. I’ll have plenty of time to pick your brain about Lyon. ;-)

Posted by
10214 posts

The apartment is located at 46 rue Saint-Jean 69005 Lyon if that helps anyone.

Posted by
619 posts

Hi Andrea, below is my lengthy, quasi-complicated response. Plz bear with it and I guarantee you'll be satisfied afterward.
We stayed in an apartment that was in the old town, a lodging that was part of the actual 'La Tour Rose' miraboule (i.e. a more picturesque cousin of those traboules seen throughout). Note that I am *not referring to the nearby luxe hotel with the same name.
Below is a link to our unique TR of Lyon. At section #399, one may see imagery taken of that aforementioned apartment, its on the far left of both my daytime then nocturnal images.
If you stick with the entire series, you'll see that another person has included some of their own shots of France in general, before I again return to feature more of our TR up until the #416 conclusion.
Hope this helps. Happy to pass along contact info for the local couple who own and rent out that apartment 'if' they're still doing so.
I am done. the end.

Posted by
10214 posts

Wow, great photos! Do you have your rental information?

Posted by
330 posts

Andrea, 46 rue Saint-Jean is in a very central Vieux Lyon location. It’s just a few blocks off the Saône river, not far from The Red Bridge, a lovely pedestrian bridge that connects the old town to the Présqu’île. We were in that part of town on a sunny Saturday afternoon in late March and it was bustling with happy tourists.

Posted by
427 posts

I think "the best area" depends on your interests. The location you've identified -- 46 rue St. Jean in Vieux Lyon -- is in the middle of an extremely touristy area; the only one in Lyon, really. I would characterize that area as interesting to visit, but there's no way I would want to stay there for even one night. Too many people, too much noise, too much of a touristy feel.

In my opinion, the presqu'île area is better. Hôtel des Célestins or Hôtel des Artistes, just north of Place Bellecour, would be good choices. Both are reasonably priced, decent places to stay. The owner of Hôtel des Artistes is a particularly nice guy -- very friendly and helpful. We stay in one or the other whenever spending the night (or two or three) in Lyon.

From there one can easily get to the usual sites of interest, such as Vieux Lyon, Place Bellecour, Place Jacobins, Place Terreaux, the shopping areas along rue République, rue Edouard Herriot, and rue Victor Hugo, Marché Saint-Antoine, Parc de la Tête d'Or, Les Halles, fine arts museum, deportation and resistance museum, Croix Rousse, Fourvière with its basilica and Roman ruins/museum, Musée des Confluences (natural history museum) and so on.

The restaurants are better and less tourist-oriented as well.

One warning -- Lyon's main train station, called Gare de Lyon Part-Dieu, is undergoing a major multi-decade renovation project that is scheduled to extend until 2030. It's affecting the entire Part-Dieu district, so there's a tremendous amount of construction going on in that area, including several of the nearby office buildings and the large shopping center across the street from the station.

I will admit my perspective is more that of a resident than a tourist. We lived there for a few years and I go there several times a year for shopping or other reasons. Drove there yesterday for an appointment.

Posted by
10214 posts

Sammy, I appreciate your knowledge as someone who has lived there. I checked both hotels you mentioned and it seems April is too far out to book or check prices. I also checked on and Expedia and it said no rooms were available for my dates. It’s likely too soon for them as well. I did book the Airbnb apartment, but I can cancel with no penalty.

Posted by
619 posts

Hello again Andrea,
Good to see that you're getting plenty of responses, including ones from locals like Sammy--always the best possible result. Below is the contact info for the abovementioned La Tour Rose rental apartment, accurate as of 2016. As has been pointed out, its neighbourhood is somewhat t....tou...t-tour... (I can 'ardly make the saying of thees 'orrible word) touristy. Normally, we run a mile from overly-commercial tourism, but this time we really enjoyed its offerings.
Et merci pour les bon mots aux fotos!
I am done. The end.

PS don't miss the quai St Antoine market, one of the best of its kind. One could do a 2-fer along with it, as the poterie market plus more modest stamps market, are both nearby on the same day.

Patrick et Francoise Mouton
fixe phone) 33(0) 4 27893058
mobile) 33665032434