Get Out of Paris & Run to Lyon

Why I liked Lyon better than Paris
[Old (Vieux) Lyon is soooo pretty]
Okay, so sue me – I am really not a huge fan of Paris. And I really don’t find it very romantic LOL. But Lyon won a place in my heart! My bf was also on the same page as me, and enjoyed Lyon a lot more. I know, I know, don’t hate me, but here’s why I preferred Lyon over Paris:

TRABOULES ARE THE STARS OF THE SHOW

Maison du Crible – Tour Rose is a pink traboule in Old (Vieux) Lyon with a tall round tower and many windows with balconies
[This is the inside of the Maison du Crible – Tour Rose traboule]
These are secret passageways THROUGH THE CITY. Need I say more?

Here’s some more info on tours and traboules themselves. We only did a few of them in the Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon) area, and please remember to respectful if you decide to check them out as they’re located in people’s apartment complexes.

Girl inside a traboule in Old (Vieux) Lyon
[Traboules are the shit]
At first, we thought they were all closed. But turns out, if you press the gold button on the door and push it open you’ll be able to get in! Just be sure to press on the unmarked button – if you press on one with a name under/above it, you’ll accidentally buzz someone at their apartment!

In the Vieux Lyon area, they’re often marked with a bronze plate. In Croix Rousse, they’re denoted by a sign with a lion’s head.

The entrance to a traboule in Old (Vieux) Lyon has a green door and bronze plate that marks the traboule
[You can see the bronze plate that marks the traboule’s entrance! To open the door, you’d press that unmarked button on the right side of the door]
This bronze plaque reminds us to respect those living in the traboules of Lyon!
[This is a close up of the bronze plaque on the traboule. It reads “Thank you for respecting the tranquility of the inhabitants of this traboule by crossing it in silence” (also don’t come at me if it’s wrong, lol, I used Google Translate)]
Here are the routes we did in Vieux (Old) Lyon:

  • 27 Rue St Jean connecting with 6 Rue des Trois Maries
  • 54 Rue St Jean with 27 Rue de Boeuf
  • 31 Rue du Boeuf with 14 Rue de la Bombarde
  • 2 Place du Gouvernement with 10 Quai Romain Rolland
  • 9 Rue des Trois Maries with 17 Quai Romain Rolland
  • 16 Rue du Boeuf (The Rose Tower)
Girl walking in a traboule in Old (Vieux) Lyon
[Another traboule]
The view out the top of a traboule in Old (Vieux) Lyon
[Don’t forget to look up!]
Traboules were originally used by silk workers to transport their goods quickly between streets. They also used them to keep the Germans from completely occupying the city during WW2. Wouldn’t you also be confused if people kept running into what looked like an apartment but then popping out on a different street??

Inside a pastel peach traboule in Vieux (Old) Lyon
[OBSESSED WITH ALL THE COLORS I SWEAR I LITERALLY WANT TO LIVE IN A PASTEL SUNSET NOW]
Inside a traboule in Old (Vieux) Lyon
[More traboule magic]
So yes, check out the traboules! They are so freaking cool. If we’d had more time I would’ve LOVED to find some in Croix Rousse. And take a guided tour because I feel like there are so many cool facts etc. that we could’ve learned. It was kind of fun trying to find them on our own, though – I’d definitely recommend doing that in one place and taking a tour in the other.

Maison du Crible – Tour Rose is a pink traboule in Old (Vieux) Lyon
[Another section of Maison du Crible – Tour Rose!]
The entrance to Maison du Crible – Tour Rose traboule in Old (Vieux) Lyon
[Some traboules, like the entrance to Maison du Crible – Tour Rose pictured above, have their doors already open so you don’t even have to press the button]

THE PRETTY OLD TOWN IS OH SO PRETTY

Saint Jean Cathedral in the main square in Old (Vieux) Lyon
[Saint Jean Cathedral in the main square in Old (Vieux) Lyon is a beaut, and in easy walking distance from our AirBnb in the 1st Arrondissement]
I mean, I know Paris is pretty, too, but I really loved Lyon’s Old Town! The architecture and the colors had me #dead.

The Herboristerie de Saint Jean is a pretty blue and white building in Old (Vieux) Lyon
[One of my favorite store fronts in Old (Vieux) Lyon, located in the main square]

THE COLORS JUST KILL ME (IN A GOOD WAY)

A store in Croix Rousse in Lyon on La Montée de la Grande Côte selling fresh fruits and vegetables.
[A market on the La Montée de la Grande Côte in the Croix Rousse neighborhood]
Many of the buildings in Old Lyon and the Croix Rousse area are pastel and perfect! Colors mostly came in hues of pink, orange, and yellow, but there were some pretty light blues as well. Regardless my eyes were doing a mega heart dance the whole time we were there.

Pink, orange, white, and brown stone buildings in Old (Vieux) Lyon
[Check out them colors THO and those details (MAJOR HEART EYES) – this was the view from the Musée Miniatures et Cinema in the old town, although you don’t actually have to do the museum to see it, these buildings are in the courtyard, but you do get a better view IMO]

LESS HUSTLE & BUSTLE

Montée de la Grande Côte, a street in Lyon's Croix Rousse region, is lined with pastel colored pink, orange, and yellow buildings and shops
[This is one of the main streets in Lyon in the Croix Rousse region – the La Montée de la Grande Côte – and you can see it’s really not that busy! This photo was taken on a Friday around noon for your reference]
I’ll be honest, Paris just totally overwhelmed me.

As I travel, I’m reminded time and time again that BIG cities really just aren’t my jam. Instead of feeling energized by all the people and (often loud) city life, I feel totally drained and filled with anxiety. I’d honestly say that this is probably the main reason I preferred Lyon!

Pastel buildings along the River Saône in Lyon
[People tend to congregate on the banks of the river in the evenings! This is on a Friday evening and it’s still not too crowded!]
It was still a big-ish city (the second largest in France!) but wasn’t as busy or loud. Also, the people were a little friendlier overall (at least in our experience), and life seemed to move at a slower pace. It was also pretty easy to get away and get lost in quiet alleyways if you wanted to. I’m sure those exist in Paris, but weren’t as easy to find.

A park with a view of the city on the way up to Fourvière Hill in Lyon, France
[This little park before the top of the Fourvière Hill was deserted]
One of our waiters told us that there’s a saying about Paris: “Paris would be a lot nicer without the Parisians”. Or something along those lines. He explained that Paris is lovely, but the people in Paris seem very busy and a little haughty. I’m not saying this is my personal opinion (and we did meet plenty of nice people in Paris!) but just his opinion on the overall vibe.

THE VÉLO’V BIKES ARE LIFE CHANGING

These Vélo'v Bikes parked at various stations in Lyon, France are a great and easy way to get around the city!
[I wish we’d had more time to use the Vélo’v bikes]
Okay, so I know that Paris has a similar bike rental system, but biking in Paris sounds terrifying (especially as a tourist). The streets are crazy busy and the traffic is nuts!

I know I didn’t TRY biking in Paris so maybeee I’m wrong, but I feel like I would probably accidentally cause 15 car crashes. Also, the roundabouts (namely the one right below the Arc de Triomphe) had NO LANES and it was a complete free for all and we saw people weaving in and out of traffic on their bikes and narrowly missing passing cars and to that I say NO THANKS.

Pink roses and scooters parked on a cobblestone street in Lyon, France
[Ok ok I know these aren’t Vélo’v bikes but it’s still some form of bike transportation so it counts!!!]
The Vélo’v bikes were pretty easy to check out (although you may want to watch a tutorial beforehand as we ended up having to ask some locals how the hell to do it haha, but once they explained it it was easy and made sense).

We wished we could’ve spent a whole day riding around, but we checked them out too late in the day and the weather was not so nice. It would’ve been lovely to ride them in between different stops and have a picnic somewhere.

Streets in Lyon are very bike friendly - they have bike lanes everywhere, and not too much traffic!
[The streets aren’t ALWAYS empty like this, but they’re a lot less busy than in Paris! Also, you can see their pretty wide bike lanes]
Plus Lyon has some lit bike lanes. It wasn’t at all scary and there weren’t nearly as many honking cars on the roads! And there are Vélo’v stations EVERYWHERE. So if you’re running out of time and need to return your bike, it’s pretty easy to find one. Plus there’s an app! Here’s more info on Vélo’v and how exactly it works, rates, etc.

MUCH SMALLER & MORE WALKABLE

Bridge crossing the Saône River to Old (Vieux) Lyon, which has plenty of pretty pastel buildings!
[A bridge we crossed to get from our AirBnb in the 1st Arrondissement to Old Lyon]
We didn’t use public transportation at all because everything was so close to where we wanted to go! I mean, there are definitely some cool things to see that are a little further out, but that’s when the Vélo’v bikes would’ve come in handy. But if you’re only staying for a couple of days, pretty much everything is in walking distance.

Main square in Lyon, France surrounded by lit up buildings at night
[The nightlife was super close by – this was about a 5 min walk from our AirBnb!]
We stayed in the 1st Arrondissement (basically just another word for a neighborhood) which was great! It was walking distance to both La Montée de la Grande Côte and the Croix Rousse area (about 10 min walking) and Old Lyon (about 20 min walking). It was close to markets and bars, but if you do stay in this area don’t get a place on Rue Ste Catherine as it can get very loud.

This was especially useful as many businesses/restaurants DON’T USE YELP. So, you kind of just have to walk around and stumble upon things. There are some that do, but it’s also kinda nice to stumble!

Peach pink balconies in Lyon, France
[The balconies in the hallway above our AirBnb were so cool]
Public transportation can be fun to use, but honestly, it’s just so much easier to walk everywhere and not have to spend time figuring it out (especially if you’re only staying for a couple days). You save money, and it’s overall less stressful IMO.

Plus smaller cities are so much less overwhelming to me, and typically have an overall friendlier vibe. The night life was also concentrated in a central area which was nice. We could just walk from bar to bar and not have to worry about taking the metro back to our AirBnb late at night.

THE FRESQUES ARE SCARY REAL

Fresque des Lyonnais is one of the many fresques, or huge murals, in Lyon, France
[Fresque des Lyonnais – hard to believe this is just a painting, right???]
These are super cool! They’re these giant murals on many of the walls in the city. They’re gorgeous and often almost look like the real thing!

My crappy photo above does not at all do it justice. It’s huge and so so majestic.

EASILY ACCESSIBLE & PRETTY VIEWS

The view of some stairs leading down to Old (Vieux) Lyon on our way up to Fourvière Hill
[The view walking up to Fourvière Hill is LIT, do it do it do it! We stumbled upon this and didn’t even know where we were going, we just kept going up!]
Aight aight I know y’all are gonna come at me and be like BUT PARIS HAS THE BEST VIEWS and yes, Paris does have some pretty amazing ones. Maybe even better than Lyon? Idk, I guess it’s just whatever your preferences are.

The view of Lyon from Fourvière Hill around sunset.
[The actual view from Fourvière Hill!]
The view from Fourvière Hill of Lyon around sunset.
[Another angle of the view form Fourvière Hill]
But we accidentally stumbled on Lyon’s views and a lot of them were much easier to find! Plus, they were in NATURE in the hills and I was like yaaas. I guess that would be another reason I liked Lyon better? It’s got more nature than Paris? I also feel like that typically just comes with smaller cities, though.

View of pretty pastel buildings from the top of the Mont Croisse Hill on La Montée de la Grande Côte in Lyon, France.
[View from the top of the Mont Croisse Hill! To get there, you just walk up La Montée de la Grande Côte]
Girl looking at the view of the Saône River from a bridge in Lyon around sunset
[Another pretty view – that of the River Saône]

THE CHEAPER PRICE, DUH

Girl in bar in Lyon, France
[Smiling because everything is cheaper than it was in Paris, including this beer]
AirBnbs in Paris are like twice the price as those in Lyon, and are usually half the size, too. And not even in the best area. SO. It’s kind of no brainer when you consider those factors!

Food is a little cheaper, too. And a lot of the things we did were free (walking around, checking out all them views, finding traboules) or very inexpensive (Musée Miniatures et Cinema), whereas in Paris we paid more for a lot of the attractions we visited (view from the Arc de Triomphe and Sacré-Coeur, etc.).

Maison du Crible – Tour Rose traboule in Lyon, France
[More of the Maison du Crible – Tour Rose traboule – the traboules are free unless you go with a tour]
Of course you can do Paris “on the cheap”, and there are plenty of free things to do, but many of the “popular” tourist attractions can get pretty pricey. That coupled with the higher price of accommodation meant we definitely spent more in Paris than in Lyon!

DA FOODZ

Man at a restaurant in Lyon with a plate of food - fries, a salad, burger, and wine
[This dude and his foods – fries, a salad, wine, and a very rare meat thing that he said was delicious at Café de la Place]
Lyon is KNOWN for its food. It’s actually famous for being the food capital of the France (some say the world???). There are “bouchons” all around that serve supposedly delicious traditional Lyonnaise meals – unfortunately we didn’t get to try any of them despite one of the most popular ones, Le Bouchon des Filles, being RIGHT outside our AirBnb.

Ravioli salad in Lyon, France
[This was my dish – a “ravioli salad” that was made up of little crunchy cheese raviolis, shaved parmesan, veggies, and some sort of delicious vinaigrette at Café de la Place]
If you want to eat there, you definitely need to make reservations in advance. We tried to go last minute and they were sold out for the night. Also, I don’t eat meat, and most bouchons have meals involving meat, meat, and did I mention meat? However, some of them have vegetarian options/sides, but we didn’t do enough research to actually find one.

Shakshuka - a tomato and egg dish - in Lyon, France
[This is Shakshuka, eggs cooked in tomato sauce, and it was SO GOOD! It’s popular in Israel but originated from North Africa/the Middle East. Got this at Le Desjeuneur]
So yes, don’t come at me, Paris has great food – but according to the internet, Lyon is the best. And I do admit that I enjoyed my meals there more than I did in Paris, although we didn’t really eat out much in general. We ate lots of croissants, sandwiches on the go, and food that our AirBnb hosts left for us because we be living that budget life yo.

IT FELT A LOT CLEANER & SAFER

Pastel orange building in Lyon, France
[This doesn’t really show how clean and safe it is lol but I like the picture so there you go]
Yes, Lyon had some graffiti, BUT it still seemed a lot cleaner than Paris did. I think that’s just what comes with the territory in a super big city I think, though.

I also felt safer in Lyon. Granted, we weren’t staying in the BEST area of Paris, but overall I would’ve felt more comfortable in Lyon had I been traveling alone. That said, I definitely wouldn’t say that Paris is dangerous (so by all means, solo travelers rejoice!) but I just felt a smidge safer had I been wandering around alone in Lyon.

GETTING TO LYON

Boat on the Saône River in Lyon, France surrounded by pretty buildings
[Or I guess you can also just take a boat LOL]
You can either fly into Paris and take the train to Lyon (what we did) or fly directly into Lyon! The fastest train takes about 2 hours from Paris to Lyon, and we had a great experience. Definitely arrive early, though, as the Paris train station we left from (Gare de Lyon) is pretty large and can be confusing! I’d imagine all the large stations in Paris are pretty similar.

There are two train stations in Lyon – Perrache and Part Dieu. We went to Perrache. I don’t think it really matters which one you go to either way, just make sure to get off on whichever one is closer to your accommodation.

Pastel buildings line the banks of the Saône River at sunset in Lyon, France
[THAT SUNSET THO YA FEEL ME]
So, what do you think? Will you check out Lyon instead of (or in addition to) Paris? What are your thoughts? Do you love Paris or were you not a fan?

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