A leap back in time in Lyon's Croix-Rousse district

They are one of Lyon's most unusual districts, the city's 'bohemian' quarter. Lively day and night, the slopes of the Croix-Rousse, which lie behind the Place des Terreaux, are home to a multitude of bars, gardens, restaurants and even second-hand clothes shops. A factory district in the days of the Canuts, it has been modernised over the years while retaining the elements that contribute to its charm: traboules, endless staircases, a maze of narrow streets, walls covered in graffiti - you won't find this anywhere else in the city! The idea is to visit them with your nose to the wind. There's a treasure to be found around every corner: the Village des Créateurs in the heart of the Passage Thiaffait, the Cour des Voraces and the Prunelle staircase are just a few examples.

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The hill that works

Opposite the Parc de la Tête d'Or, the Croix-Rousse district and its strong history are bordered by the Saône and Rhône rivers. During the French Revolution, the area became a haven for workers in the silk industry. The legacy of this period is strong, with most of the architecture of the buildings designed for the weaving industry. Several metres under the ceiling, large bright openings and oak beams are characteristic of the district's flats.

Colourful buildings in Lyon's Croix-Rousse district

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The arrival of this industry led to Croix-Rousse being nicknamed the "hill that works", opposite the "hill that prays" at Fourvière. The silk capital and its working-class district, which was poor at the time and looked down upon by the inhabitants of other districts, were able to restore their image.

The canuts, silk workers

An emblematic and historic figure in Lyon, the canut is the person who has made the city so famous. The canut was in fact a silk weaver working on weaving machines in the 19th century. Grouped together in the famous Croix-Rousse district, the canuts worked in flats designed for the loom and the machines. Notorious for having led a major revolt, they nonetheless established unique traditions in the city that are still very much a part of Lyonnais customs today.

Status of the Canuts song, in the Square Dejean in Lyon

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Destitute due to falling wages as a result of the crisis, the Canuts revolted several times in the 30s and 40s, leaving their mark on the history of Croix-Rousse. The Maison des Canuts retraces the history of this period through exhibitions.

📍 Location: 10 Rue d'Ivry, 69004 Lyon

🕑 Length of visit: 1h

👛 Price:

  • Full price: 9 euros
  • Reduced: 6 euros (secondary school pupils and students under 26)
  • Free: children under 11 years old
Book your visit to La Maison des Canuts Lyon

Book your visit to La Maison des Canuts

An exhibition on the silk trades and a weaving demonstration immerse visitors in the life of the Canuts for an hour.
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A village in the city

The village atmosphere is one of the most striking features of a walk through the Croix-Rousse district. Small local shops, designer workshops and markets fill the lively streets of this bohemian district. At Croix-Rousse, life is lived on foot, everything is just a stone's throw away, and conviviality and exchange are to be found around every corner. The daily market on the Boulevard de la Croix Rousse and the shops on the Grande-Rue offer everything you need, without leaving the district. All the more so as the people of Croix Rousse are sometimes rather insular...

View from the Croix-Rousse slopes in Lyon

- © Pierre Jean Durieu / Shutterstock

The Parc de la Cerisaie and the Villa Gillet in its centre allow residents to enjoy a peaceful little life with green spaces. Other small parks and gardens are not to be outdone in Croix-Rousse, notably the Jardin des Plantes, where the remains of the Amphithéâtre des Trois Gaules bear witness to Lugdunum's strong Gallic past.

One discovery can hide another

The Gros Caillou, the symbol of the district, sits at the centre of a remarkable viewpoint from which visitors can see most of the city. A few streets away, the Cour des Voraces and its imposing staircase are housed in one of Lyon's many traboules. The visit continues in another of the district's traboules, the Passage Thiaffait, where the Village des Créateurs brings youth, creativity and uniqueness. The streets are very much marked by art, and many of the city's symbols actually come from Croix-Rousse. Such is the case of the Mur des Canuts, Europe's largest fresco depicting everyday life in Lyon.

Canuts wall in Lyon's Croix-Rousse district

- © Pigprox / Shutterstock

Take the time to wander around the district without an itinerary - it's full of surprises and constant entertainment. With its traboules, murals, panoramic views and historic architecture, Croix-Rousse is a fine example of Lyonnais savoir-vivre. After a long walk, get your strength back in one of the city's best bouchons: Le Bouchon des Filles.

📍 Location: 20 Rue Sergent-Blandan, 69001 Lyon

Opening times: 7pm - 10pm every day, 12pm - 1.30pm / 7pm - 10pm on Saturday and Sunday

by Jude JONES
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