Discover the Hidden Treasures of Lyon's 1st Arrondissement

Les Bouquinistes book market on the river Saône | © Courtesy of
Les Bouquinistes book market on the river Saône | © Courtesy of
Photo of Charlotte Cornish
13 April 2018

Lyon is a city full of intrigue and diversity with seemingly endless offerings, from picturesque architecture, rich cultural landmarks and world-famous gastronomy to endless bars and clubs. Lyon’s charm lies in the fact that it refuses to be defined by a single characteristic; instead, each arrondissement, or borough, has its own distinctive personality. Lyon’s 1st arrondissement is no exception: Situated at the northern end of the Presqu’Île, encompassing La Place de Terreaux and Les Pentes de la Croix-Rousse, it has a wealth of beautiful places to discover.

La Grooverie

Bar, French, $$$
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The interior of La Grooverie | Courtesy of La Grooverie

Nestled on Les Pentes de la Croix-Rousse, La Grooverie is a bar that epitomises the quarter’s cool, retro vibe. Inside you’ll find leather sofas, vintage game machines and vinyl record sleeves adorning the walls – and there’s often a cult film classic being silently projected too! However, it’s the people as much as the decor that give it its atmosphere: Hip, open and friendly, La Grooverie attracts a stylish crowd. What’s more, there’s live music from Tuesday to Saturday, from music jams and open mic nights to jazz sessions. If you’re into live music and love to groove, La Grooverie in Lyon’s 1st arrondissement is the place to be.

Place Sathonay

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place sathonay
Strolling through Place Sathonay | Courtesy of

A stone’s throw from La Grooverie you will find the charming little open space that is Place Sathonay, which will make you forget that this is the centre of France’s third-largest city. A tree-lined square surrounded by bars, cafés and Lyon’s 1st arrondissement’s city hall, this quaint spot is a popular destination for pétanque players. Visit the nearby Broc’Bar, a bar with colourful red and yellow seating, for a perfect place to sit with a drink and people watch.

Le Bal des Ardents

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An archway of books | Courtesy of La Bal des Ardents

Tucked away just off the grand Rue de la République, this charming little bookshop would be easy to miss, if it weren’t for its breathtaking front door. An impressive tower of precariously-stacked, hardback books arch over the doorway, meaning entering the shop feels like passing through the enchanted wardrobe into a Narnia of books! Once inside, the magic continues with ceiling-high bookcases with wooden ladders to reach the topmost shelves. And if this isn’t enough to satisfy your thirst for culture, Le Bal des Ardents also regularly hosts poetry evenings, author meetings, lectures, talks and debates.

La Librairie la Bourse

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With three stores in the Terreaux district, the little empire of La Librairie la Bourse proposes a retro haven of first- and second-hand books, vinyl and DVDs. It specialises in cinema, therefore wandering between the rows of DVDs arranged by genre, author and actor feels like stepping back in time to a world before Netflix and online streaming. The eclectic playlist and pillar-box red shelving make for a fun combination – go check it out for yourself!

Chez Émile's Records

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Chez Émile's "Wall of News" | Courtesy of Chez Émile Records

Lyon’s independent vinyl specialist and record store has a stripped-back aesthetic with white walls, exposed brickwork and bare wood shelving. It’s clear the music takes centre stage in this establishment. In fact, records, dating from the ’80s right up to the present day, fill the shelves and cover the walls. Chez Émile’s image is as cool as its record collection – a definite go-to for music lovers.

Les Bouquinistes Book Market

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The book market by the water | Courtesy of

There’s nothing better on a Sunday morning than to stroll along the bank of the river Saône, surrounded by second-hand books of all topics, authors and prices. The Bouquinistes (second-hand booksellers) market offers the perfect opportunity to discover rare and interesting books as well as a selection of vinyl. Toward lunchtime, you may even catch the sellers themselves settling down for their lunch bought fresh from the market, Saint Antoine, further down the river. Once you’ve finished browsing the vintage covers, be sure to check out the Bibliothèque de la Cité (city library) mural opposite, on the corner of Rue de la Platière.

Le Bec de Jazz

Music Venue
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Unassuming from the outside, Bec de Jazz is the epitome of a hole-in-the-wall venue. On entering you will be greeted by a tiny bar, from which you are obliged to buy a drink in order to proceed through to the jazz room. Modest, dark and with art on every inch of wall, Bec de Jazz feels like being in your friend’s living room, except there’s a piano in the corner on which someone plays spectacular live jazz piano. Expect great jazz music and lots of dancing, Bec de Jazz is a popular destination for those in the know.

Le Péristyle

Music Venue
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Listen to jazz beneath the opera house | Courtesy of Opéra de Lyon

Every evening throughout the summer, the space under the arcades of Lyon’s Opera house gets transformed into a jazz concert venue. Dine during the day in the shade of the arcades or have a drink in the evening while listening to every colour of jazz music that the region has to offer. There’s no entry fee and no need to reserve in advance, this jazz café terrace has a convivial, laid-back feel – a perfect place in Lyon’s 1st arrondissement for those balmy summer nights.