Discover why Lyon is known as the "human sized" city - with its charming walkability and beautiful riverside vistas, you'll want to stay right in the heart of town. And while public transportation is top-notch, being surrounded by the pulse of the city is an experience not to be missed!
Listen up, folks! You'll want to stick to this roughly drawn area or get as close as you can. Lyon is all about two rivers, the Saône and the Rhône, that come together (known as the Confluence, pretty cool huh?) and is ruled by two massive hills. When deciding where to stay, keep these factors in mind. If you're not a mountain goat, steer clear of those towering hills.
Keen on hotels? Check out my comprehensive guide to Lyon's fabulous hotels at all levels. We're talking everything from luxury to hostels.
Curious about how to get around? Check out my article "Where is Lyon?" to learn about transport to and from Lyon as well as our public transit.
Where to Stay in Lyon's Arrondissements
Lyon is the third-largest city in France and it is divided into nine arrondissements. Each of these districts has its own unique character, architecture, attractions, and culture. Whether you're looking for a place to live, visit on vacation, or just explore the city, this guide will provide you with an introduction to each of the arrondissements of Lyon.
Just like in Paris, the Arrondissements are not numbered in any way that makes sense to a normal person naming things. They kind of spiral? Maybe?
1st Arrondissement of Lyon
Lyon's 1st Arrondissement encompasses the neighborhood called Les Pentes de la Croix-Rousse, which is the slope of a hill, and the base of said hill.
Les Pentes is a super fun area that is full of tiny winding staircases, covered passageways, artists, bars, and street art. One of my favorite wine bars in Lyon, Odessa Comptoir, is right there in front of the gorgeous covered courtyard of Passage Thiaffet.
The main thoroughfare here is La Montée de la Grande Côte which is a long staircase lined with restaurants, bars, and artisan boutiques. It is worth taking time to explore this area, and if you do watch out for the abandonned Roman ampitheater! No, not the big one that is also a Roman museum, the other one! Yes, Lyon has 2.
At the base of Les Pentes is the Opèra, the Hôtel de Ville, and Place des Terreaux. These are all quite nice landmarks that you must go look at. This is the top of the Presqu'île, or "peninsula", being in between the two rivers and all. This nugget of town is pretty dense and crowded at night, and is where all of the Lyonnais young people congregate on weekday evenings to drink heavily.
Overall this is an excellent Arrondissement and has lots of bars, restaurants, and cute boutiques.
2nd Arrondissement of Lyon
The 2nd Arrondissement in Lyon comes just after the Hôtel de Ville and the Place des Terreaux and takes up the rest of the Presqu'Île. This is a long and skinny arrondissement that runs between the two rivers and has at least 3 very distinct neighborhoods. I recommend these as convenient areas to stay in during your trip.
The top of the 2nd is lots of shopping and restaurants, including my favorite restaurant street Rue Neuve, and Lyon's famous and more touristy restaurant street Rue Mercière. This is also where the Grand Hôtel-Dieu is, a fabulous complex recently renovated from being a prestigious and many hundreds years old hospital. No ghosts there at all!
As we move south you hit Place Bellecour, once voted France's ugliest square. I disagree and think it is quite nice, but you may prefer the lovely Place des Jacobins which is just above it.
There is an excellent farmers market on the banks of the Saône river every morning except for Monday on Quai Saint Antoine.
South of Bellecour we have the Ainay neighborhood, which is quite fancy. This has art galleries, antique merchants, designer clothes, and some great restaurants.
Keep going South and you reach the Perrache train station, which is a hideous minefield of misery. Avoid.
Perrache and it's rail lines and highways and roundabouts slices the Presqu'Île in two, but if you do manage to cut your way through it you'll reach the Confluence neighborhood.
This is a modern neighborhood developed relatively recently that has a very industrial vibe. French people enjoy it but I see absolutely no reason why any tourist would bother going there, particularly if you're from a country that includes new architecture.
The Confluence Museum is a good museum for those of us who live here, but I wouldn't bother if I were just visiting.
3rd Arrondissement of Lyon
The only place you need to go here is the Les Halles de Paul Bocuse, the famous food market. Les Halles is awesome!
The rest of the 3rd is not amazing, the parts closest to the river are nice but the rest of it is boring and residential. Our largest train station, Gare Part-Dieu, resides here as well as some ugly skyscrapers and a Westfield mall. I really only go to this part of town if I have a good reason. The train station is terrible.
Curious about getting to and from Lyon, as well as how to get around? Click here to read my guide to transport in Lyon.
4th Arrondissement of Lyon
The Croix-Rousse is the "hill that works", famous for the silk industry which built up this plateau sitting above the city in the 1800s. This is where I live and host my wine tastings in my fabulous converted silk factory apartment. We have lots of great restaurants and a fantastic farmer's market every day except for Monday morning.
It's out of the way and up a giant hill, so I don't recommend staying up here, but it's worth visiting. Especially if you're coming up here to hang out with me!
5th Arrondissement of Lyon
The 5th Arrondissement includes Lyon's medieval Old Town, or Vieux Lyon and is a must-visit area of the city. Yes, it's touristy, but you're a tourist! I am not a tourist and I still go there all the time because I'm obsessed with the Renaissance secret passageways and courtyards that litter the whole area. These are called traboules and they are the best thing ever.
We have an ancient cathedral at the base of the "hill that prays" or the Fourvière, and the incredibly opulent basilica on top of that hill. I recommend taking the funicular up because those stairs will destroy you.
Also up on top of the hill is the Roman Ampitheater that's open to the public, this is part of our Roman Museum.
There are loads of other museums in this Arrondissement, including the Gadagne Museum which is a history museum, and the Museum of Cinema and Miniatures, a strange place that has lots of movie props. Cinema was invented here, bet you didn't know that!
In terms of food it's largely touristy but there are some great places on the Rue de Boeuf, including the Food Traboule which is a beautiful indoor food court where the city's coolest young chefs have stalls.
This is a good area to stay in if you are visiting Lyon.
6th Arrondissement of Lyon
The 6th is largely residential and includes the gorgeous Parc de la Tête d'Or. If you are here for a few days, it's very much worth visiting. It's our massive park and has a lake, botanical gardens, and fabulous old glass jungle greenhouses.
Lyon's 6th Arrondissement is where the fancy people live, so if you like swanning around feeling fancy you should have a walk from Foch, close to the river, to Brotteaux. Lots of good restaurants and shopping. Very few tourists.
7th Arrondissement of Lyon
This is where most of the students congregate, and there are loads of cool bars and restaurants in this neighborhood. If you are a cool young person, you will like this area a lot. Also off the beaten path for tourists.
8th Arrondissement of Lyon
Residential and not somewhere you need to go. Hit and miss, some very charming neighborhoods, but mostly sprawling and a bit sketchy. Sketchy in Lyon is still pretty not-sketchy from an American perspective, but still.
9th Arrondissement of Lyon
Out of the way and very residential. I don't recommend this neighborhood for tourists.
So that's my totally unbiased guide to Lyon's neighborhoods.