Visiting Lyon – A City Guide
Strategically located at the confluence of two rivers, France’s third city is a cultural capital, an industrial centre and one of Europe’s gastronomic hubs. It’s also the birthplace of cinema, and bursts with cultural vitality, including festivals, museums and a dynamic nightlife scene.
Lyon: city layout
Lyon is comprised of nine arrondissements (neighbourhoods) that straddle the Saône and Rhône rivers. West of the Saône, Fourvière hill and Vieux Lyon – the city’s oldest quarters – form the 5th arrondissement.
Between the two rivers, the 1st and 4th arrondissements together form the trendy area known as Croix-Rousse. To the south of this, on a peninsula formed where the rivers meet, is the 2nd arrondissement and Presqu’île. An ongoing docklands regeneration project known as La Confluence, a trendy new cultural and shopping area, will eventually double the size of Presqu’île.
East of the Rhône is the 6th arrondissement and Les Brotteaux, a wealthy neighbourhood containing several museums and the city’s largest park.
What to see and do in Lyon
Vieux Lyon, France’s largest medieval old town, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. You can stroll through its narrow, atmospheric streets and well-preserved courtyards. At night, most major landmarks are romantically floodlit.
Looming over the old town is Fourvière Hill, which you can ascend via a funicular railway. Sights at the top include the Notre Dame de Fourvière Basilica and the Theatres Romains de Fourvière – two Roman theatres. One is the largest in France, and is home to an annual cultural festival.
To the east, in the 6th arrondissement, Parc de la Tete d'Or includes botanical gardens and a boating lake.
The concierge recommends…
Hotels in Lyon
Lyon has accommodation options throughout the city to fit every budget. Many of the more upmarket central hotels are located in historic buildings. An excellent public transport network means you can cross the city easily no matter where you stay.
Hotels in the 6th arrondissement put you close to the Parc de la Tête d’Or, the city’s convention centre and several museums. Also here is Les Brotteaux, one of Lyon’s best restaurant and bar areas.
The suburb of Vaise, north of the Old City near the Perrache railway station, is convenient to important attractions as well as several outlying business areas.
If you stay in Vieux Lyon you’ll be in the city’s historical heart, and close to most of the top sights. Nearby Presqu’île peninsula is a centre for high-end shopping, and home to several restaurants and museums.
Eating Out in Lyon
Lyon is a gastronomic capital. It’s the home of Paul Bocuse, often listed among the world’s greatest chefs, and there’s a high concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants. You may also want to visit a traditional bouchon. These old-style taverns, often with wood panelling and checked tablecloths, serve local Lyonnaise cuisine.
The area around Place Bellecour and Hôtel de Ville, at the north end of the Presqu’île peninsula, has long been at the heart of Lyon’s dining scene. There are also plenty of trendy places to try in the Croix-Rousse neighbourhood.
The 6th arrondissement has plenty of restaurants for you to explore, both French and international. The southern half of this neighbourhood, Les Brotteaux, is one of the city’s highest-regarded restaurant and bar areas.
The 7th arrondissement is booming culturally, and has dozens of informal bistro-style restaurants. In particular, Guillotière, near the river, is a multicultural district serving cuisine from around the world.
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Shopping in Lyon
Central Lyon is packed with upmarket boutiques and eclectic shops. You’ll also find department stores and shopping centres, and around 40 markets sell fresh produce, often direct from the farms. One favourite souvenir to take home is the local sweet treat, coussins de Lyon.
For luxury goods and designer fashion, you’ll be spoiled for choice in central Presqu’île, which is filled with galleries and arcades. The Carré d’or (Golden Square) area, between Place Bellecour and Place des Cordeliers, has a wide range of high-quality boutiques.
North of Presqu’île, Croix-Rousse is a happy hunting ground for bargains. Many young artisans have moved here, and you’ll find second-hand clothes stores, designer boutiques and specialist book shops.
The more modern business district of Part-Dieu, east of the Rhône in the 3rd arrondissement, is home to the Centre Commercial Part Dieu, a shopping centre with over 260 retail outlets on four floors, including a branch of the Galeries Lafayette department store.
Top markets in Lyon
Culture & Nightlife in Lyon
In recent decades, Lyon has become a cultural hub, with a wide range of arts venues and popular annual events. Art buffs can explore galleries across the city, music lovers have no shortage of performances to choose from and ravers can dance into the early hours.
You’ll find numerous art galleries and studios in the former silk manufacturing district of Croix-Rousse. South of here, the 7th arrondissement is a trendy multicultural area with a thriving nightlife scene, thanks largely to clubs such as Live Station DIY.
Presqu’île, and particularly the area to the south of Place Bellecour, is another place that’s now full of galleries and late-night bars.
Some Lyon suburbs also have great nightlife , including Villeurbanne and Vaulx-en-Velin. The latter is mainly popular for Grrrnd Zero, a cultural centre in a former factory that has a buzzing underground arts and music scene.
Music clubs and live venues in Lyon
Visiting Lyon with a Family
From museums to adventure parks and zoos, Lyon has a wealth of offerings to keep kids of all ages amused. Older children will enjoy the huge range of exhibits in the city’s museums, while toddlers can let off steam in one of the many parks and playgrounds.
A highlight for many smaller children is Parc de la Tete d'Or, the largest urban park in France. You’ll find a boating lake here, as well as a traditional carousel for children to ride on. It’s also home to Lyon Zoo, which is free to enter.
Other notable central parks you may want to check out include Parc Blandan and Parc Chambovet. Several city squares have playground areas, including Place Bellecour, in the heart of Presqu’île.
Family attractions in and around Lyon