A unique geographic location, a world renowned gastronomy and the quintessential European charms are the things that make Lyon a dream vacation prospect. The city sits atop the confluence of Saône and Rhône rivers and serves as the capital of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region; the old town is characterised by immaculate cathedrals, amphitheatres and a Renaissance-era cityscape, while the peninsular La Presqu’île has a more eclectic appeal.
Urban villages with terraced cafes and cobblestone streets and commercial centres with bustling avenues and gourmet restaurants are all packed into the city's nine central arrondissements. With each district having developed its own unique appeal, and we have compiled a comprehensive guide to help with just that. Here, we have listed some of the best neighbourhoods of Lyon and what they might have in store for you traveller!
The oldest neighborhood of Lyon, Vieux Lyon makes up a large part of the 5th arrondissement's waterfront. Majestic mansions dating back to the Renaissance period look over the meandering Saóne river, and a sight to behold especially in the warm lighting of the night. A stroll across the broadwalk running parallel to the river is easily one of most romantic experiences that there is. Landmarks including the Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Lyon cathedral and Musée des Arts de la Marionnette are also located in the vicinity.
The neighborhood's wonderful medieval cityscape, which was a chief factor in it being recognised as a UNESCO Heritage is characterised by a labyrinth of cobblestone streets and connected by the distinctive traboules passageways. The Rue de Boeuf, the Rue Lainerie and the Rue Saint Georges are among the typical hilly streets that are all lined with quaint terraced cafes and Michelin star restaurants. Some of these even have balcony seating with stunning views of the neighborhood, so arrive early to secure the best spot!
While the Vieux Lyon-Cathédrale Saint-Jean station is the major transport hub, the Saint Paul station of Lyon Tramline, located in the northern part of the neighborhood also connects it to other major arrondissements of the city. Vieux Lyon is home to some of the city's best hotels and luxury resorts and can be on the pricier side of things.
Adjacent to the quarters of Vieux Lyon is the all-out hilly neighborhood of Fourviére. And if you're looking to enjoy the spell of a lush scenery within city bounds, this is the place for you! The mountain top has plenty of shady trees and green spaces. None as serene as the Des Hauteurs Park, perching right below the major landmarks of Notre Dame Basilica and the Tour Métallique. The nearby Passerelle des Quatre Vents, a quaint bridge emerging out of a forested patch feels like it has been ripped right out of a fairy tale book!
Finding your way up to the top of the hill is a whole different experience altogether. You can do it two ways: either take the Funicular ride or challenge yourself to a bit of a hike. And while you might initially be drawn to the immaculate red cabin cars, walking up the steep slope has its own perks; not only do you get to go climb up the giant staircases, but can also make quick stops at the small parks to catch additional views. When you do reach the top, make sure to visit the Théâtre Gallo Romain, a gigantic Roman amphitheatre and it's adjoining museum.
The Funicular is the best way to reach Fourviére; there's multiple stops including the eponymous Fourviére and the Minimes Théâtres Romains stations, from where you can avail the service. The hotels at the top of the hill can be quite expensive so you might also want to look for a few cheaper options on the Western end.
The gateway to Lyon's 2nd arrondissement of sorts, the Place Bellecour is one the city's biggest public squares. At the centre of the square is a statue of Louis XIV and a ferris wheel, offering sweeping views of the riverfronts. It is surrounded by stunning Napoleonic mansions and an old town that has its own network of narrow alleys and picturesque streets; take a walking tour of these historic quarters and experience the old-world charm for yourself. Be on the lookout for designer boutiques, souvenir stores and artisanal candy shops that run out of these very buildings.
The southern tip of the neighborhood has a more modern vibe; the entertainment options are also correspondingly different. The sprawling outdoor mall, Confluence is the top choice for shopaholics owing to its several mid-range merchandise stores and serene setting on the river inlet. The waterfront itself is lined with cozy restaurants, while trendy bars and coffee shops dot the other major streets of the neighborhood. Many old post-industrial warehouses have also been repurposed as exhibition halls that warrant a visit!
Lines A and D of the Lyon Metro run through the 2nd arrondissement, with major stations at Perrache and Bellecour. The neighborhood is also accessible through a couple of Tramway lines. Hotels are largely centred around the Perrache station and fit the mid to luxury budget ranges.
Onto the city's cultural capital then! The 1st arrondissement of Lyon forms the connection between the southern tip of Presqu'ile and the rest of the city. It was the centre of the silk industry throughout antiquity and the vaulted ceilings and tall buildings reflect that very past. The Place des Terreaux, a beautiful plaza with the Lyon City Hall and the famed Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi-designed fountain centrepiece is the perfect starting point for your day in the neighborhood.
Other draws in the 1st arrondissement also comprise major cultural institutions as the Lyon Museum of Fine Arts and Lyon National Opera. The museum is housed in a 17th century abbey and showcases some of the finest works of Impressionist art. But the 1st arrondissement's appeal is not limited to just the fine arts; the boulevard de la Croix-Rousse, which forms the district's northern border is known for its distinctive cafe-theatres and alternative nightlife options in the form of quirky bars and basement venues with live music.
You can access the Metro Lines A and C from the Hôtel de Ville-Louis Pradel station. Also, the Lattre de Tassigny Bridge and the Masaryk Bridge connect the neighborhood to the parts across the Rhóne and Saóne rivers respectively.
Quintessential European chic and boho energy come together to make up the eclectic vibe of Lyon's 4th arrondissement. Sitting atop the Croix-Rousse hill, the neighborhood has an ethereal urban village charm. Winding cobblestone streets and staircases lead uphill and are dotted with medieval housing and courtyards. The neighborhood celebrates its working class history with the Le Mur des Canuts, one of largest art displays in all of Europe which depicts a usual business day in Croix-Rousse. The mural-painted streets really come alive during outdoor festivals and weekly flea markets.
A walk up the streets will also have you come across obscure eateries and hip outdoor cafes. Croix-Rousse's village charm also shines in the gastronomy, as you get your hand on the best French desserts at local patisseries and bakeries. Street markets sell the finest cheeses and wine, which you can enjoy while relaxing at one of the many leafy public squares. Or better so, get a takeout sampler and head over to a nearby gallery and discover the neighborhood's artistic talents!
Croix-Rousse is serviceable by Line C of the Lyon Metro. You wouldn't mind walking through the quaint streets for short distances so don't waste time looking for any other means of transportation. Hotels are decent, but you might want to go for the neighborhood's lovely homestays instead.
La Part-Dieu of the 3rd arrondissement is Lyon's own version of a skyscraper-heavy commercial centre. The eponymous La Part-Dieu mall is one of the largest in Europe and a dream for the urban shopper. But beyond that, the neighborhood is also one of the best places to enjoy the city's famed gastronomy. The Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse is one of the oldest food markets south of Rhóne and the go-to place for all food enthusiasts; it has everything ranging from fine dining restaurants to department stores selling specialty food to vendors with fresh produce.
Picturesque river-facing cafes, live music bars and beer halls line the waterfront; most establishments really come alive late into the evenings and lend a dynamic vibe to the neighborhood. The Avenue de Saxe and the Rue Vauban, two of the major thoroughfares of the neighborhood also have a wide variety of roadside restaurants, including takeaway joints, casual cafes and even a few great home-grown businesses serving local delicacies. Rest assured, you are likely to never run out of options to choose from in this part of Lyon.
Line D of the Lyon Metro has as many as six stations in the 3rd arrondissement, making La Part-Dieu one of the most easily accessible parts of the city. T1 and T3 lines of the Tramway are the other major transit lines that run through the neighborhood. Hotels are business oriented, but you should not have too much trouble finding a few good budget options.
And to round up our list of neighborhoods from Lyon, we come to the family-friendly 6th arrondissement. Located just north of its predecessor, this largely residential neighborhood is accentuated by the Parc de la Tête d’Or. The vast green space is situated on the banks of Rhóne river and is the perfect place for a quick getaway or an afternoon picnic; the premises comprises a botanical garden, mini golf, a small lake and even a small zoo. At a stone's throw, you'll find the Musée d'art contemporain de Lyon, a major centre for modern art.
The Cours Vitton and Cours Franklin Roosevelt are extremely walkable roads and double up as great shopping districts. While the former is mostly known for its upscale boutiques and souvenir shops, you will find a more varied range of shopping options around the latter. The old station at Gare des Brotteaux has seen a number of traditional brasseries come up around it in recent years. The Le Splendid and Brasserie de Brotteaux are immaculate in appearance and have an unmatched flair for the French cuisine, so make sure you drop by for more than just a viewing of the station's fantastic-looking facade.
Metro Lines A and B serve the entire 6th arrondissement, with stations at Foch and Masséna working as bookends or sorts. You can also access the neighborhood by taking a tram on the T3 Line. Hotels are easy to find, but apartment complexes and stunning beaux-arts mansions are also available for rentals.
That's our complete list of neighborhoods from the gourmet capital of the world. Take your pick, traveller. And, as always, au revoir!