On my flight from Berlin to Lyon, I read in a magazine (not sure if it was the EasyJet Magazine Traveler) – that Lyon had the 3rd largest China Town in France, the other 2 both being in Paris.(**edit: I read it in the Guardian Top 10 Things to do in Lyon, acually gives a quite poor list of things to do – which lists Lyon Chinatown as a major attraction )
I was a bit confused as I had never heard of any China Town in Lyon before, neither had my family nor any locals that I had quizzed about this. I smelt adventure.
China Towns are usually quite a fun place to visit – there’s always a fantastic of mix local flair, tasty restaurants, and curious shops. Most people will be familiar with the images of the various china towns in San Francisco, Amsterdam, and London – so I was already mentally picturing what this place could look like.
So like any sane person, armed with the internet and a healthy dose of skepticism I googled it and came across this interesting blog post of a fellow traveler.
In short: She couldn’t find it while she was there. But she did manage to find the address/Location later on, and she even added a Google maps street view link.
I clicked on the Google maps link and TBH – it was a let down. It looked somewhat desolate and, well, empty.Not really what I was expecting from Lyon Chinatown. Nevertheless I decided to venture down and check it out for myself rather than trusting some images from Google.
The Quartier Chinois can be found somewhere between rue passet and rue pasteur in the 7e arrondisement and is apparently spread out across a few Blocks . Its fairly easy to get to as the Metro /Tram/Bus Station Guillotière is just up the street.
Lyon Chinatown – Not what you expect
The unknowing France/Lyon tourist will soon realize that the Frenchman takes his lunch break (and in fact any opportunity to stop working to drink a watered down espresso) deadly serious. Between 12 and 2 – 99% of the shops will be closed. Its best to show up before 12 or after lunch – unless you want to eat here – beware the restuarants get packed quickly.
I arrived by metro and when I walked up to the Metro Exit/Entrance I was greeted by a large crowd of older Arabic men eating sun flower seeds. While this is quite a common sight in certain areas of Berlin (I’m looking at you kottbusser tor) I was a bit startled at the size of the crowd. Trying to get my bearings and to spot a clue as to where this china town was, all I could find was a wild mixture of Bric-a-brac stores, mobile phone shops and kebab places. Lyon Chinatown this was not – but I knew I was in the right area. I wandered down the rue de marseille and spotted the rue passet. sweet! I had found it.
Now if you were expecting to be greeted by something like this:
Yeah that ain’t happening.
You’ll be greeted by this:
Now if you compare the google street map view and the image above, you can see that the area has suffered quite a bit as some of the Chinese/Asian shops have left.
So at first glance the heart of Quartier Chinois / Lyon Chinatown is between Rue Passet and Rue Pasteur. You’ll spot about 3 or 4 restaurants, some which are Chinese and some Vietnamese. Judging by the smells, and peering in through the windows – they must have been serving some good food as they were packed, with no chance getting a seat. seems like i had to scratch the idea of getting some nice pho for lunch.
Now while the Quartier Chinois fails as a traditional China Town, where you can stroll through and enjoy all the clean and touristy glitz and glamor, it shines through its Supermarkets and Restaurants. Alone the Rue Passet boasts 4 Asian Supermarkets – each of which cater to a different customer/culinary taste.
Despite the French having a long tradition of Asian, and especially Vietnamese food – Lyon shows a distinct lack of Asian restaurants. Judging from how busy the restaurants were and the good reviews they’ve gotten, the restaurants in the Quartier Chinois / Lyon Chinatown are probably your best bet it you are looking for some authentic Asian cuisine. The prices are average for Lyon, with meals starting at around 10 euros.
If you decide to stroll down the streets, you’ll find a nice quaint sushi place, but that’s about it. There isn’t much more to Lyon Chinatown than this street.
Don’t bother coming down to the Lyon Chinatown if you are looking for a tourist spot, instead take a stroll through the supermarkets and go for a good Chinese/Vietnamese meal.
Rue Passet / Rue Pasteur
Metro (D)/Tram (T1)/Bus C12 /C23