Hi -- Will be in Lyon for a two or three days in early November. Not familiar with the city at all, and wondering what neighborhoods/arrondissements might be most well located for sightseeing, shopping, restaurants. Planning to look for an Airbnb and prefer not to be right in the middle of a commercial district on a noisy street, but otherwise open. No specific plans or sights on the agenda (yet!) -- mostly want to get a feel for the city. explore food shops/markets and restaurants. Thanks for all help and advice!
The Lyon tourist office is promoting the Croix Rousse neighborhood this season so there are extra exhibits happening there and the market is a joy to sample.
But if it's your first visit the main things to check off are the old town with its traboules and the church and Roman ruins museums up the hill. There are many other places to include, of course. The Lyon card is a good deal because even after the museum admissions expire you can reload the card as a transit pass at any major station.
My impressions from my brief visit: Vieux Lyon (below the cathedral and Roman theatre) is ideal. I loved wandering around there, plenty of unique shops and restaurants, and the secret passageways are cool. Anywhere north of Place Belcour would probably be good too, this area felt a bit more like Paris with some lovely buildings but more urban.
Between Place Belcour and the train station (Presquile?) was noisy and very commercial. A bit “newer” the buildings and streets lacked any character. My hotel was in this area and it felt quite desolate/sketchy at night.
Croix Rousse had really piqued my interest, but did not get a chance to explore there. I was trying to find restaurants from an article in Saveur I had found and a lot of them were in Croix Russe. IMO that’s a good sign for a neighborhood! It may seem a bit far from the action, but getting around Lyon was very easy. There are tons of trams, metro and taxis. Location did not seem critical to enjoying the city.
I found Lyon to be quite underrated, I think you’ll enjoy your time there!
Thanks Awr! Very helpful! I am going too!
While Vieux Lyon at the foot of Fourvière hill is worth a stop, I would not advise staying there. It is packed with tourists and is one of the most touristy areas of town. It's worth a visit, just not recommended as a place to stay.
As others have mentioned, Croix-Rousse is a distinctive area and also worth a visit. It's easy to get there using Métro line C, which includes a stop at Croix-Paquet, reportedly the steepest metro stop in Europe with a slope a little over 17 percent. Croix-Paquet is the last stop before you would disembark at the Croix-Rousse stop. You'll notice when you get on line C the smell of lubricating oil -- that's because line C is too steep for steel or rubber wheels alone, so it has to have a cog drive in the center between the rails.
While Lyon is mostly located in a flat alluvial plain, it's these two hills -- Fourvière (called the hill that prays, owing to its almost garish Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière) and Croix-Rousse (called the hill that works, owing to the prevalence of silk production shops in the area during its heyday) -- that give the city some of its character. You may see a couple of words on signs or posters around Lyon that may be unfamiliar even if you speak French: canuts and gones. Canuts is the local name for the silk workers that formerly populated Croix-Rousse and other parts of Lyon, and gones is the local name for kids that's sometimes used to refer to adults from Lyon, much as people may use the English word "kids" as a familiar term for adults.
The hills were where the early Celtic inhabitants lived, because they were easiest to defend. That's why the Romans, after Caesar's campaign of Gaul, built the two amphitheaters at the top of Fourviere and a smaller one at the foot of Croix-Rousse -- to entertain the inhabitants and slaughter the occasional Christian, bear, or lion.
My advice for most visitors would be to stay in the presqu'île area between the Saône and the Rhône rivers, north of Place Bellecour but south of Hôtel de Ville-Louis Pradel. If you really want it quiet, you could stay over in the 6th arrondissement (Lyon's priciest area). I know of at least one Airbnb there that some friends used on a visit. It's a short bus or métro ride from there, or a somewhat longer walk, to get to most attractions. A bit sterile for some, but if you want it quiet, that's probably the quietest part of town.
Feel free to send me a note if you want any other suggestions. This comment probably is too long and boring by now!
Thanks so much for the comments -- this is great information, and brings a useful focus to my search for a spot to stay in Lyon. Really appreciate the help!
Stayed in Vieux Lyon and glad we did. Yes,somewhat touristy, but it was beautiful. Quick walk everywhere.
Croix Rousse is nice to stay in as well. I stayed at the Hotel de la Croix Rousse, which was very nice, which is up on the plateau on top of the hill. Be careful about staying anywhere on the actual hillside, as it really is steep and you may find getting around exhausting if you aren't near a bus stop or Metro station.
Don't miss Les Halles de Paul Bocuse, upscale market hall with everything wonderful.
Thank you for the additional replies! I especially appreciate the heads up about the steep hillside in the Croix Russe. Will be traveling with a friend who has mobility concerns and hilly terrain is challenging. Just read a bit about Les Halles de Paul Bocuse -- it sounds like just the kind of place we want to visit. Vieux Lyon also sounds charming. Again, many thanks!
We would be remiss if we didn't highlight the fine arts museum -- it is worth a full day on its own. More.
If your traveling companion has mobility issues, I might caution you about staying in Vieux Lyon. Last year when we last visited Lyon, I had a mobility issue (poorly healed broken foot bone that needed repair) and although the area is charming, the ubiquitous cobblestoned streets were a serious challenge to navigate with an unstable foot. We visited the old town for a few hours and stayed in the Presqu’île area, just a block off of Place Bellecour - mostly flat, with modern pavement.
Good tip, JenS -- thanks!
We were just there in October 2019. Stayed at the Hotel Le Royal on Place Bellecour with a view of Fouvier from our room. Definitely go there. There is nothing like it. The city is beautiful, expensive, but beautiful. We did not find the area we were in tho be noisy or too commercial. The train was right across the street, so very handy. The food is excellent no matter where you go. It will be cool so bring something warm and walk, walk, walk. What a fabulous city to walk in. So much better than Paris.