City Spotlight: Les Pentes de la Croix-Rousse, Lyon
Perched mid-way up the steep slopes of the Croix-Rousse in Lyon’s first arrondissement, an intriguing creative quarter lies waiting to be discovered close to metro station Croix Paquet. Historically the neighbourhood of Lyon’s silk workers or “canuts”, Lyon locals know the city’s Croix-Rousse area as “la colline qui travaille” (the hill that works).
This is to distinguish from “la colline qui prie” (the hill that prays) on the other side of the Saône river, crowned by the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière that watches over all of Lyon.
Typical of the city, the buildings in the area are plain and unassuming, although there is something mysterious about them. Like Vieux Lyon, there are several historical traboules linking between the narrow streets, passageways that were once used by the canuts to keep the silk from getting wet when being transported. Yet in stark contrast to bustling Vieux Lyon, the mood is nonchalant and the streets are quiet and a little bit grimy; graffiti-smattered and not a tourist in sight.
The canuts may be long gone, but the neighbourhood has maintained its textile connection. Running true to the proverb, a quiet hive of activity takes place on rue Burdeau and the surrounding streets, home to a number of ateliers where artists can be seen at work from the footpath.
The best known creative coin of the area is Passage Thiaffait linking rue Burdeau to rue René Leynaud, which was once a traboule used by a community of silk industry workers in the mid 1880s. The lane now houses a number of workshops and boutiques of the Village des Créateurs, an association of young designers working in the Rhône-Alpes region including botany-inspired jeweller Andrea Vaggione and edgy fashion designer Boris Fuchy.
On a smaller scale, cute atelier-boutique Les Audacieuses on rue René Leynaud is the collaborative outlet of three different local designers, offering a kitsch assortment of “fait maison” clothing, jewellery and décor. Fringed lampshades and debonair feather hair pieces give the shop a fun retro feel; a little ray of sunshine in the otherwise moody area.
A few steps down the hill at the crossroads of rue Abbé Rozier and rue des Capucins is Café Mokxa, a hub for hip Lyonnaise. Run by New Zealander Rosamund Morris James and Frenchman Sadry-Alexandre Abidi, the café is one of the few in Lyon serving decent coffee, roasting their own beans and supplying to several other clued-up cafés around the city.
Good coffee combined with delicious homemade cakes and paninis is a winning combination, and Rosamund is a handy source for local know-how.
At night the area boasts a few hot-spots for savvy locals, with Japanese-French fusion restaurant L’Ourson Qui Boit on rue Royale booked out months in advance. Grungy late-night jazz club Le Bec de Jazz on rue Burdeau wakes up towards midnight, somewhat fitting in this cool and collected playground of creative minds.
by Jenny Wylie