Cycle Route La Voie Bleue
No. of cycle route V50
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Added on 19 May 2012,
on 03 Jul 2020
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Lyon, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, FR (164 m NHN)
Apach, Grand Est, FR (164 m NHN)
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7 days a week from 9 to 18 clock
Lyon is the capital of the Rhône-Alpes region and the Rhône département in France. A city of half a million, Lyon alone is the country's third-largest city, but its metropolitan area is only second in population to Paris. Lyon is mostly known as an economic centre with many corporate headquarters and bustling financial, IT and natural science industries, but it is also rich in historic and architectural heritage, and has a very vivid cultural life. It is also considered the gastronomic epicentre of France.
Founded by the Romans, with many preserved historical areas, Lyon is the archetype of the heritage city, as recognised by UNESCO. Lyon is a vibrant metropolis which starts to make the most out of its unique architectural, cultural and gastronomic heritage, its dynamic demographics and economy and its strategic location between Northern and Southern Europe. It is more and more open to the world, with an increasing number of students and international events.
The city itself has about 470,000 inhabitants. However, the direct influence of the city extends well over its administrative borders. The figure which should be compared to the population of other major metropolises is the population of Greater Lyon (which includes 57 towns or communes): about 1,200,000. Lyon and its metropolitan area are rapidly growing and getting younger, because of their economic attractiveness.
Lyon may not have world-famous monuments such as the Eiffel tower or the Statue of Liberty, but it offers very diverse neighbourhoods which are interesting to walk around in and which hide architectural marvels. As time goes by, the city also becomes more and more welcoming for pedestrians and cyclists. So a good way to explore it may be to get lost somewhere and enjoy what comes up, and not to always follow the guide...
A good point for visitors is that most attractions will not cost you a cent: churches, traboules, parks, etc. For those intending to visit several museums (which are almost the only attractions you cannot see for free), the Lyon City Card may be of interest. Available from the Tourist office and some hotels, it costs €21 for one day, €31 for 2 days and €41 for 3 days. It includes unlimited rides on the public transport network, free or reduced entry fee to major museums and exhibitions and one guided tour per day per person (Vieux Lyon, Croix-Rousse, etc.). The price is still a bit high, so count before you buy to see if this is a good deal considering your plans.
Do not hesitate to buy a detailed map with a street index from a book shop or a newsagent; many places of interest or good restaurants are located in small streets you will not find on simplified maps, such as the ones you can get from the Tourist office.
Whatever the time of year (except for the Fête des Lumières), tourists are not very numerous yet, but they concentrate in a few small areas, especially Fourvière and Vieux Lyon, where the pedestrian streets are just as crowded as the Champs-Élysées sidewalks on sunny weekends.
- The view from Fourvière basilica, and the basilica itself.
- Streets and traboules in Vieux Lyon, St Jean cathedral.
- Traboules in Croix-Rousse.
- Musée Gadagne.
- Parc de la Tête d'Or.
Off the beaten path:
- Musée urbain Tony Garnier and États-Unis neighbourhood.
- St Irénée church, Montée du Gourguillon, St Georges neighbourhood.
- A drink on Place Sathonay.
- St Bruno church.
- Parc de Gerland.
- Gratte-ciel neighbourhood in Villeurbanne.
After Venice, the Old Lyon, a narrow strip along the right bank of the Saône, is the largest Renaissance area in Europe (well, it's actually far behind Venice). Its current organization, with narrow streets mainly parallel to the river, dates back to the Middle Ages. The buildings were erected between the 15th and the 17th centuries, notably by wealthy Italian, Flemish and German merchants who settled in Lyon where four fairs were held each year. At that time, the buildings of Lyon were said to be the highest in Europe. The area was entirely refurbished in the 1980s and 1990s. It now offers the visitor colorful, narrow cobblestone streets; there are some interesting craftmen's shops but also many tourist traps.
It is divided into three parts which are named after their respective churches:
- St Paul, north of place du Change, was the commercial area during the Renaissance;
- St Jean, between place du Change and St Jean cathedral, was home to most wealthy families: aristocrats, public officers, etc.;
- St Georges, south of St Jean, was a craftsmen's district.
The area is generally crowded in the afternoon, especially at weekends. To really enjoy its architectural beauties, the best time is therefore the morning. Around lunchtime, the streets somewhat disappear behind restaurant terraces, postcard racks and the crowd of tourists.
Guided tours in several languages, including English, are available from the tourist office (€7-€12).
- ⊙ St Jean Cathedral, place St Jean (M: Vieux Lyon). M-F 8:15AM-noon, 1:45PM-7:30PM, Sa Su 8:15AM-noon, 1:45PM-7PM; services (no visits) M-F 9AM and 7PM, Sa 9AM, Sun 8:30AM and 10:30AM (high mass). Officially, the cathedral is dedicated to both St John the Baptist (St Jean-Baptiste) and St Stephen (St Etienne) and has the title of primatiale because the Bishop of Lyon has the honorary title of Primat des Gaules. Built between 1180 and 1480, it is mostly of Gothic style with Romanesque elements; the oldest parts are the chancel and the lateral chapels, and as one goes towards the façade, the style becomes more and more Gothic. The cathedral hosts a spectacular astronomical clock originally built in the 14th century but modified later. It is especially worth seeing when the bells ring, daily on the hour from noon-4PM. Over the main door, the rose window, known as the "Lamb rose window", is an admirable work of art depicting the life of St Stephen and St John the Baptist. Free, appropriate dress required.
- ⊙ St Jean archaeological garden (Jardin archéologique), rue de la Bombarde/rue Mandelot/rue des Estrées (M: Vieux Lyon). Next to St Jean cathedral (on the northern side), this small garden shows the remains of the religious buildings which occupied the site before the cathedral was erected. The oldest remains date back to the 4th century (baptistery of the former St Etienne church). Free.
- Traboules (M: Vieux Lyon). Closed at night. The traboules are a typical architectural feature of Lyon's historical buildings. They are corridors which link two streets through a building, and usually a courtyard. Many traboules are unique architectural masterpieces, largely influenced by Italy and especially Florence.
Some of them are officially open to the public. They link the following addresses:
- ⊙ 54 rue St Jean <> 27 rue du Boeuf (the longest in Lyon)
- ⊙ 27 rue St Jean <> 6 rue des Trois Maries
- ⊙ 2 place du Gouvernement <> quai Romain Rolland.
To open the doors, just press the service button next to the door code keyboard. If you are unable to enter from one side, try the opposite entrance. In the morning, many other doors are open for service (mail, garbage collecting), so more traboules are accessible. There are traboules in almost all buildings between Quai Romain Rolland and Rue St Jean/Rue des Trois Maries, and others between Rue St Jean and Rue du Boeuf. Free.
- Renaissance courtyards (M: Vieux Lyon). Closed at night. Besides the buildings cited above, some have very beautiful courtyards but no real traboules (that is to say, no crossing from one street to another). The most outstanding are: Maison du Chamarier (37 rue St Jean) and Maison du Crible (16 rue du Boeuf), in which stands the famous "Pink Tower". Free.
- Rue St Jean (M: Vieux Lyon). This cobblestone pedestrian street is the main axis of the area. It is full of souvenir shops and restaurants mainly intended for tourists. Local people are aware that real good bouchons are extremely rare here. On a sunny Sunday afternoon, it may be hard to walk because of the crowd of both locals and tourists. You can also check out the more quiet rue des Trois Maries which runs parallel to rue St Jean, between place de la Baleine and rue du Palais de Justice.
- Rue du Boeuf (M: Vieux Lyon). Parallel to Rue St Jean, this street is much more quiet and just as beautiful. It also has a number of restaurants, more expensive than in rue St Jean but, on average, much more worth the money.
- Place du Change (B: C3-Gare St Paul). The largest square in the area has two remarkable buildings. The Loge du Change, on the west side, was partially built by the great architect Soufflot. It is now a Protestant church known as Temple du Change. It can be visited on Saturdays. Religious services on Sundays, 10:30AM. Opposite is the Maison Thomassin, with its Gothic-style 14th-century façade. The Thomassins were a powerful merchant family in the Renaissance. Above the 2nd floor windows are the arms of the King of France, of the Dauphin (heir of the Kingdom) and of Duchess Anne of Brittany. Unfortunately, the courtyard is closed to the public.
- Rue Juiverie (B: C3-Gare St Paul). Another typical street of Vieux Lyon. It is named after the Jewish community who originally settled there but were expelled in the 14th century. Check out the back courtyard at Hôtel Builloud (number 8); it has a magnificent gallery on the first floor, designed by Philibert Delorme who was one of the most prominent local architects during the Renaissance.
- ⊙ St Paul church, rue St Paul (B: C3-Gare St Paul). A very nice church, with mixed Romanesque and Gothic styles. The oldest parts are from the 10th century.
- St Georges neighbourhood, rue St Georges, rue du Doyenné and other smaller streets (M: Vieux Lyon). St Georges is the name given to the south part of the Vieux Lyon. It has nice Renaissance buildings which, however, do not really compare to the palaces of St Jean; on the other hand, it is much more quiet than the St Jean area.
- Montée du Gourguillon (M: Vieux Lyon/F: Minimes). This picturesque montée (sloping street on hillside) starts behind Vieux Lyon metro station and ends quite close to the Roman theatres of Fourvière. It was the main link between the river Saône and the top of Fourvière throughout the Roman era, Middle Ages and Renaissance. Nowadays it keeps a medieval spirit. Around numbers 5-7 is Impasse Turquet, a small cul-de-sac named after Etienne Turquet, an Italian who is said to have founded the silk industry in Lyon in 1536. In this small passageway are the oldest houses of the city, dating back to the 13th or 14th century, with wooden balconies.
- Palais de Justice, Quai Romain Rolland (M: Vieux Lyon). The historical court house, also named "the 24 columns", was built between 1835 and 1842 by architect Louis-Pierre Baltard. It is a fine example of French "neo-classical" architecture. It now hosts only the criminal court (Cour d'Assises) and the court of appeal. The other jurisdictions moved to a new building in Part-Dieu in 1995. The most famous trial held there was that of the former head of the Lyon Gestapo, Klaus Barbie, in 1987. The building is currently undergoing major refurbishment works.
Take the funicular up the hill from Vieux Lyon metro station, or if you are fit, walk up Montée des Chazeaux (starts at the southern end of Rue du Boeuf), Montée St Barthélémy (from St Paul station) or Montée du Gourguillon (from the northern end of Rue St Georges, behind Vieux Lyon metro station). This is a 150 m (500 ft) vertical ascent approximately.
Fourvière was the original location of the Roman Lugdunum. In the 19th century, it became the religious centre of the city, with the basilica and the Archbishop's offices.
- ⊙ Fourvière basilica, place de Fourvière (F: Fourvière), ☎ +33 4 78 25 86 19. 10AM-5PM. Masses: Mon-Sat 7:15AM, 9:30AM, 11AM, 5PM, Sun 7:30AM, 9:30, 11AM, 5PM. Built in 1872 and dedicated to the Virgin Mary, patron saint of Lyon, this massive church made of white marble has been compared to an elephant with its feet up. It is a typical example of the 19th century "eclectic" style, with architectural elements recalling antique, classical and Gothic eras. The Byzantine-style interior decoration is extremely exuberant, too much so for some people. Tours of the roof and bell towers are available in the afternoons for €6. Free.
- Musee d'art religieux (Museum of Religious Art), 8 place de Fourvière, ☎ +33 4 78 25 03 04. Daily 10AM-12:30PM and 2PM-5:30PM, closed in January and February. The small museum holds treasures donated to the church for its construction.
- ⊙ Esplanade de Fourvière (Panoramic viewpoint), place de Fourvière (F: Fourvière). Next to the basilica is the panoramic viewpoint, with the best view over the city. If the weather is clear, Mont Blanc can be seen in the distance. This is a very good point to start your visit of the city because you can really see its general layout.
To go down from there, you can take Montée Cardinal Decourtray, then Rue Cléberg and Rue de l'Antiquaille which lead to the Roman theatres, or walk down through the Jardins du Rosaire, a nice garden; then stairways lead to Rue du Boeuf in Vieux Lyon. Of course, you can also take the funicular.
- Metal tower (M: Fourvière). Next to the basilica stands a smaller (86 m, 282 ft) replica of the Eiffel Tower, completed in 1894. Its construction was supported by anticlerical people in order to have a non-religious building as the highest point in Lyon, which it actually is with an altitude of 372 m (1272 ft) at the top. It now serves as a radio and TV antenna and is closed to the public.
- Roman theatres (F: Minimes). These two well-preserved theatres are the most important remnant of the Roman city of Lugdunum. The Gallo-Roman museum was built next to them. The summer festival "Nuits de Fourvière" takes place here every year, which may cause access restrictions in the evening from June to early August. Free.
Saint-Just neighbourhood, south-west of the Roman theatres, has less famous but also interesting historical sites.
- ⊙ St Irénée church, 51 rue des Macchabées (F: St Just), ☎ +33 4 78 25 43 26. Church 8:30AM-6PM daily, crypt Sa 2:30PM-5PM, closed in Aug. The oldest church in Lyon, and one of the oldest in France. The site is built on a Gallo-Roman necropolis which was in use for centuries, until the Middle Ages. Some sarcophagi from the 5th or 6th century are visible in the courtyard. The crypt dates back to the 9th century and was renovated in the 19th century. Early Christian remains (from the 4th-6th centuries) are kept inside. The church was rebuilt in the 19th century in a neo-classical style with a Byzantine influence. An arch from the 5th century remains. Behind the church, the calvary built in 1687 is also a great viewpoint. Free.
The area, especially the traboules, may be worth taking a guided tour (available from the tourist office).
Croix-Rousse is known as the "working hill" but for centuries, it had been as much of a "praying hill" as Fourvière. On the slopes was the Roman Federal Sanctuary of the Three Gauls, which comprised the amphitheatre (built in 19) and an altar (built in 12 BC). This sanctuary was abandoned at the end of the 2nd century. In the Middle Ages, the hill, then called Montagne St Sébastien, was not part of the free town of Lyon but of the Franc-Lyonnais province, which was independent and protected by the King. The slopes were then dedicated to agriculture, mostly vineyards. In 1512, a fortified wall was built at the top of the hill, approximately where Boulevard de la Croix-Rousse is today. The pentes (slopes) and the plateau were therefore separated. The slopes became then part of Lyon while the plateau was outside the borders of the city. Up to thirteen religious congregations then settled on the slopes and acquired vast pieces of land. Their possessions were seized and many buildings destroyed during the French Revolution.
Croix-Rousse is known as the main silk production area, but the industry did not exist on the hill until the early 19th century and the introduction of new weaving technology; at that time, silk had already been produced in Lyon for over 250 years. The industry gave birth to a unique architecture: the canuts' apartments had very high ceilings to accommodate the newly introduced Jacquard looms, which were up to 4 metres high; tall windows gave the necessary natural lighting for the delicate work; and mezzanines provided space for family life. The neighbourhood is still one of the most densely populated in Europe. The first revolt of the canuts in 1831 is regarded as one of the first social conflicts of the industrial era. It gave the hill its reputation of a "rebel" neighbourhood. In 1852, the commune (town) of Croix-Rousse, actually the plateau, was made a district of Lyon. Local people still talk about "going to Lyon" when they go down to the city centre. Then important works were undertaken, such as the construction of the first funicular in the world, linking the plateau to central Lyon (it started in Rue Terme; the tunnel is now a road tunnel), or the creation of the Croix-Rousse hospital.
Nowadays the plateau keeps a "village" mood, the slopes still have a "rebel" spirit, with many artists and associations based there, but the sociology of the neighbourhood has considerably evolved with the renovation works and the subsequent rise in real estate prices and massive arrival of upper-middle-class families (bobos). Local authorities, however, are committed to preserving social diversity.
The name "Croix-Rousse" comes from a limestone cross which was erected at the top of the hill in the beginning of the 16th century. It was then destroyed and rebuilt several times. A replica installed in 1994 can be seen on Place Joannès Ambre (between the hospital and Croix-Rousse theatre).
- Amphithéâtre des Trois Gaules, rue Lucien Sportisse (M: Hôtel de Ville). This Roman theatre is the place where the first Christian martyrs of Gaul were killed. Documents say that it was the largest theatre in Gaul at that time, but nobody knows exactly how far it extends under the neighbouring buildings, nor what remains from the Roman era after centuries of construction. After the recent closing of the old Fine Arts school (the grey building overlooking the theatre), a debate was initiated about what should be done with this exceptional archaeological site. The theatre can be seen from the street but is not open to the public for safety reasons.
- Montée de la Grande Côte (M: Hôtel de Ville/Croix-Rousse). This steep street has Renaissance buildings and offers a very beautiful view over the city from its top.
- Croix-Rousse traboules: Look for the lanterns over the doors and the specific signs.
- 7 rue Mottet-de-Gérando <> 8 rue Bodin
- 9 place Colbert <> 14 bis montée St Sébastien: the beautiful Cour des Voraces.
- 14 bis montée Saint-Sébastien <> 29 rue Imbert-Colomès
- 20 rue Imbert Colomès <> 55 rue Tables Claudiennes
- 30 bis rue Burdeau <> 17 rue René Leynaud (passage Thiaffait)
- 6 rue des Capucins <> 1 rue Sainte Marie des Terreaux
- 12 rue Sainte-Catherine <> 6 place des Terreaux
- Mur des Canuts, Boulevard des Canuts (M: Hénon). This painted wall is dedicated to the history and typical architecture of the Croix-Rousse hill.
- ⊙ St Bruno church, 9 impasse des Chartreux (B: 2/13/18/45/61-Clos Jouve). M-Sa 3PM-5PM. The only Baroque church in Lyon. The interior is magnificent, especially the altar (by Servandoni, modified by Soufflot, 18th century) and the canopy (by Servandoni). Free.
- Jardin Rosa Mir, 87 grande rue de la Croix-Rousse (M: Hénon). 1 Apr-30 Nov, Sa 3PM-6PM. This amazing garden was built by a Spanish refugee, Jules Senis, and dedicated to his mother. Senis had cancer and had made the vow of building this garden if he ever came out of the hospital; fortunately, he did. The garden is a fine mixture of mineral and vegetal elements, in a style influenced by Gaudi's works in Barcelona. Free.
For the people of Lyon, Presqu'île is the place to go for shopping, dining or clubbing. It also represents a large part of the city's economic activity.
This narrow peninsula between the Rhône and Saône rivers was largely shaped by man. When the first inhabitants settled on what was then called Canabae, the junction of the river was located near the current site of St Martin d'Ainay basilica. South of this point was an island. From 1772, titanic works led by engineer Antoine-Michel Perrache reunited the island to the mainland. The swamps which existed there were then dried out, which allowed the construction of Perrache station, opened in 1846. Northern Presqu'île was largely redesigned from 1848; the only remaining Renaissance part is around rue Mercière.
Most of the action on Presqu'île actually takes place between Terreaux and Bellecour. Between Bellecour and Perrache, the neighbourhood of Ainay is traditionally home to the Catholic bourgeoisie. Perrache station and its "exchange centre" (freeway interchange, car parks, metro and bus station) are a very important border; going from one side to the other is a challenge, be it on foot or by car. The area south of Perrache is dealt with in the next section.
- Place des Terreaux (M: Hôtel de Ville). This large square was completely redesigned in the 1990s by the artist Daniel Buren. On the East side stands the City Hall. On the North side, you will find the fountain sculpted by Bartholdi, the 'father' of the Statue of Liberty; this fountain was moved from the West side when the square was renovated. It now faces Palais St Pierre, which hosts the Museum of Fine Arts.
- ⊙ Hôtel de Ville (City Hall), place des Terreaux and place de la Comédie (M: Hôtel de Ville). The city hall, built in the 17th century, has a very beautiful façade on Place des Terreaux. The most notable feature of this façade is the sculpture representing King Henri IV on horseback (in the middle of the upper part). Unfortunately, it is impossible to visit the building except during the "Heritage days" (Journées du patrimoine) in mid-September.
- Opera house, place de la Comédie (M: Hôtel de Ville). Opposite the City Hall stands the opera house. The 1826 theatre built by Chenavard and Pollet was completely redesigned by Jean Nouvel who kept only the façades and the foyer on the first floor. The building was reopened in 1993. The history of these works was epic: a lot of technical problems occurred and the final cost of the project was six times the initial estimate. Today, the glass top has become a classical landmark of the city but the interior design is criticised, for both aesthetic and functional reasons.
- Mur des Lyonnais, rue de la Martinière (M: Hôtel de Ville). This impressive painted wall portraits some of the most famous people who were born in Lyon, from Renaissance poet Louise Labé to the Lumière brothers, the inventors of cinema, to chef Paul Bocuse.
- Place Sathonay (M: Hôtel de Ville). A charming neighbourhood square planted with old plane trees. Just sit at a terrace, watch the locals playing pétanque and enjoy the mood.
- St Nizier church, place St Nizier (M: Hôtel de Ville). Very nice church of flaming Gothic style.
- Rue Mercière (M: Cordeliers). This cobblestone pedestrian street is the only significant remain from the Renaissance in Presqu'île. The name of the street refers to the clothing industry. There are traboules connecting the street to the buildings on the Saône bank. The street hosts very numerous restaurants which are far from being all good.
- Place des Jacobins (M: Cordeliers/Bellecour). The state of this square is typical of the "automobile-friendly" urban planning of the 1960s: it is covered with tarmac, too much so given the reasonable traffic around it. A renovation project is under way, which should give the square a greener aspect. The main interest is the central fountain (1885) by architect Gaspard André and sculptor Degeorges. The four statues portray Lyon-born artists: painter Hippolyte Flandrin (1809-1864), engraver Gérard Audran (1640-1703), sculptor Guillaume Coustou (1677-1746) and architect Philibert Delorme (1510-1570).
- Hôtel-Dieu, place de l'Hôpital (M: Bellecour). The majestic Hôtel-Dieu was the oldest hospital in Lyon and is one of the largest buildings in Presqu'île. The façade along the river Rhône is over 300 m (984 ft) long. The first hospital was built in 1184-1185; it was modified several times before Soufflot designed the current building, built from 1741 to 1761. The large dome was completed in 1765. The newly built Grange Blanche hospital (today Edouard Herriot) became the main medical centre in the city in the 1930s. Hôtel-Dieu doctors were pioneers in numerous specialities, including radiology (Etienne Destot), oncology (Léon Bérard), surgery (Joseph Gensoul, Matthieu Jaboulay) and orthopedics (Louis Léopold Ollier); they contributed in making Lyon the second medical centre in the country after Paris. The building no longer fits the needs of modern medicine, therefore the hospital has been closed down in 2010. Its future is not completely clear; it should be at least partially converted into a luxury hotel and shopping mall.
Hôtel-Dieu hosts the Lyon hospitals museum (Musée des Hospices civils de Lyon).
- Théâtre des Célestins, place des Célestins (M: Bellecour). Designed by Gaspard André and opened in 1877, the building has a beautiful Italian-style façade. In the middle of the quiet plaza outside the theatre stands a strange periscope in which you can see rotating geometric shapes, like a kaleidoscope. Those were actually painted in the car park beneath the plaza by the famous artist Daniel Buren and they are reflected by a rotating mirror. To enter the car park and see the other side, take the stairway on your right when looking at the theatre.
- Place Bellecour (M: Bellecour). The largest clear square in Europe. In the center stands the equestrian statue of Louis XIV ("under the horse's tail" is a usual meeting point for locals). Apart from this, it is rather empty, windy and not so pleasant. A renovation project is under way. Between the southeast corner of Place Bellecour and the river Rhône is Place Antonin Poncet. There was a hospital there (Hôpital de la Charité), built in 1622 and demolished in 1934. The only remain is the bell tower (Clocher de la Charité) built in 1667.
- ⊙ Basilique St Martin d'Ainay, rue de l'Abbaye d'Ainay (M: Ampère Victor Hugo), ☎ +33 4 72 40 02 50. M-Sa 8:30AM-noon, 2:30PM-6PM, Su 8:30AM-noon. The only entirely Romanesque church in Lyon, dating back to the 11th-12th centuries. The abbey of Ainay was one of the most powerful in France between the 13th and the 16th centuries. A must-see for its very nice atmosphere. Free.
- Boat trips on the Saône (Navig'Inter company), Quai des Célestins (M: Cordeliers/Bellecour, near Passerelle du Palais de Justice), ☎ +33 4 78 42 96 81. 28 Mar-8 Nov, Tu-F 2PM-6PM, Sa Su 11AM-6PM. A boat trip can be a good way to see Lyon from a different point of view. Boats will take you either upstream to Ile Barbe or downstream to the Confluence. Night trips available on Fridays and Saturdays. €9, child €6.
The area south of Perrache is turning from a mostly industrial area into one of the most interesting neighbourhoods in the city. There were until very recently two prisons (closed down Apr 2009), a wholesale food market (recently moved to Corbas in the southern suburbs) and large warehouses and workshops belonging the national railway company SNCF. One of the largest development plans in Europe was put under way a few years ago with the construction of a new tram line and the opening of a cultural centre (La Sucrière). The Western side of the area now boasts a number of new buildings, most of which are interesting pieces of contemporary architecture. The new headquarters for the government of Rhône-Alpes region has just been put into service, and a new mall is well under way. A new phase of the project is about to start with the demolition of the huge former wholesale market.
So far there is one major attraction: the "Musée des Confluences", which opened in 2014 and is becoming a must-see for its architectural audacity and its art collections. Otherwise, it is interesting to take a walk or a bicycle ride there to see how Lyon can still be evolving after 2000 years of history.
Cité Internationale, from the park side.
- Cité Internationale, quai Charles de Gaulle (B: C1). This business and residential area is the most important urban project Lyon has seen in recent years. Designed by the famous Italian architect Renzo Piano (also known for Beaubourg modern art centre in Paris and part of the Potsdamer Platz area in Berlin), it comprises a convention centre, hotels and luxury apartments just between the Rhône and Parc de la Tête d'Or.
- États-Unis neighbourhood, boulevard des États-Unis (T: Etats-Unis-Musée Tony Garnier). This neighbourhood was built by the famous local architect Tony Garnier in the 1920s to house industry workers. Along with Edouard Herriot hospital, it is one of the masterpieces of this visionary architect. The main axis of the neighbourhood, boulevard des États-Unis, was named to honour the United States, which had just entered World War I when the street was opened in 1917. 25 wall paintings made in the 1980s and 1990s show examples of Garnier's work and his "ideal city projects"; see also "Musée urbain Tony Garnier" in the museums section.
- Ile Barbe (B: 31/40/43-Ile Barbe). This charming island on the river Saône is the only inhabited island in Lyon. In the 5th century, one of the first monasteries in Gaul was founded there. It became a powerful Benedictine abbey (from the 9th century) but was finally ruined in 1526 by Protestants, during the religious wars. Of the three churches that existed on the island, only the Romanesque Notre-Dame remains. The island also has other old buildings in a quiet and green environment. The suspension bridge was built in 1827.
- Gratte-Ciel, Cours Émile Zola / avenue Henri Barbusse / place Lazare Goujon, 69100 Villeurbanne (M: Gratte-Ciel). The neighbouring city of Villeurbanne can be seen as the 10th arrondissement because the urban continuity with Lyon is obvious. It has, however, a strong identity of its own. As an industrial town, Villeurbanne has always had a very strong left-wing political inclination. It was governed by the Communist party for the first decades of the 20th century. A strong testimony of this era remains in the form of massive Soviet-style buildings erected in the 1930s. The Gratte-Ciel ("skyscrapers") ensemble comprises the city hall, the National Popular Theatre and housing buildings, including the skyscrapers themselves. These are 19 stories high. They are not skyscrapers to American eyes, and were not even in the 1930s, but they were considered huge by European standards at that time.
Museums and Galleries
- Palais Saint-Pierre / Musée des Beaux Arts (Museum of Fine Arts), 20 place des Terreaux (M: Hôtel de Ville), ☎ +33 4 72 10 17 40. M, W, Th, Sa 10AM-6PM, F 10:30AM-6PM, partial closures noon-2:15PM, ticket office closes 5:30PM. €6, reduced €4, under 18, EU students, and some others free, audioguide €3 or free for some.
- Musée d'Art contemporain (Museum of Contemporary Art), 81 quai Charles de Gaulle (B: C1-Musée d'Art contemporain), ☎ +33 4 72 69 17 18. Wed-Sun 12PM-7PM. Holds only temporary exhibitions which are often very interesting and popular. Fees vary depending on the exhibition.
- Institut Lumière - Musée vivant du Cinéma, 25 rue du Premier Film (M: Monplaisir-Lumière), ☎ +33 4 78 78 18 95. Tu-Su 11AM-6:30PM. Closed 1 Jan, 1 May, and 25 Dec. Open on bank holiday Mondays. Located in the Lumière brothers' house, this museum presents an interesting history of cinema through various items and film excerpts. Also worth seeing for the lovely architecture. €6, under 18 and students €5.
- ⊙ Musées Gadagne: Historical museum of Lyon and International puppet museum, 14 rue de Gadagne/1 place du Petit Collège (M: Vieux Lyon / B: C3-Gare St Paul), ☎ +33 4 78 42 03 61. W-Su 11AM-6:30PM except public holidays. After 10 years of major refurbishment works, these museums dedicated to the history of the city and to puppets (like the famous Guignol from Lyon) were reopened in June 2009, with great public and critical success. The building itself, a magnificent Renaissance palace, is worth a visit. A nice garden and cafe have also been created at the top of the building (free access). Unfortunately there is no view, however. Portions of the local history museum were closed (galleries 7-9) during June 2015. Temporary exhibitions are shown. The puppet museum is mostly for kids and is skippable if you don't read French and don't have a fascination for either the local puppet tradition or seeing a small number of typical pieces from the most known and easily collected traditions (Turkey, Java, Japan, Siam). Wheelchair or pram access is possible to the historical museum through a labyrinthine series of lifts, though only to portions of the puppet museum. 1 museum: €6 including audioguide, 2 museums: €8, 2 museums + temporary exhibition: €10. Under 26 and disabled: free.
- Musée urbain Tony Garnier, 4 rue des Serpollières (T: Etats-Unis-Musée Tony Garnier), ☎ +33 4 78 75 16 75. Visitor centre: Tu-Sa 2PM-6PM, guided tours Sa at 2:30PM or by appointment for groups of 10 or more. This museum was created during the renovation of the États-Unis neighbourhood in the 1980s and 1990s, and the inhabitants were strongly involved in the project. The museum comprises a recreated apartment of the 1930s, which shows how life was like in these very modern housing units, and the 25 wall paintings depicting Garnier's work and ideals. You can also see the walls on your own but you will miss the interesting comments on the history of the area and the social project behind it. Guided tours: €6, under 18 €4, children under 5 free; audioguide: €5, under 18 €3, children under 5 free.
- Centre d'Histoire de la Résistance et de la Déportation (Museum of the Resistance during World War II), 14 avenue Berthelot (T: Centre Berthelot), ☎ +33 4 72 73 33 54. W-Su 9AM-5:30PM, Closed on holidays. Located in the former Gestapo regional headquarters, this museum depicts the daily life in Lyon under the German occupation and keeps memories of this tragic period. Often holds exhibitions (mostly photography). €3. Free for children under 18.
- Musée des Arts Décoratifs / Musée des Tissus (Decorative Arts museum / Fabrics museum), 34 rue de la Charité (M: Ampère Victor Hugo), ☎ +33 4 78 38 42 00. Tu-Su 10AM-noon, 2PM-5:30PM, closed on holidays. Great if you are into old European oil paintings, or relocated Egyptian, Greek or Mesopotamian antiquities. An impressively large local numismatic gallery. Housed in an interesting building with a pleasant courtyard. Probably disappointing if you have come from larger museums such as those in Paris, unless you have a specific local history or antiquarian focus. €7, free for children under 18.
- ⊙ Musée gallo-romain de Fourvière, 17 rue Cléberg (F: Minimes-Théâtres Romains), ☎ +33 4 72 38 49 30. Tu-Su 10AM-6PM, closed 1Jan, 1 May, 1 Nov and 25 Dec. The second largest museum in France, it has all kinds of things relating to Rhone-Alps history. A free visit to the Roman theatres may be just as interesting for those not into the details. €4, reduced fee €2.50, under 18 and disabled free; free for all on Th.
- Musée de la Miniature et des Décors de cinéma (Miniature and Movie scenery Museum), 60 rue St Jean (M: Vieux Lyon), ☎ +33 4 72 00 24 77. M 2PM-6:30PM, Tu-F 10AM-6:30PM, Sa Su 10AM-7PM. Created by artist Dan Ohlmann, this private gallery shows about 120 miniature models of all kinds of scenes: houses, restaurants, workshops, schools, etc., from Lyon or elsewhere, historical or contemporary. The accuracy of the models is astonishing and some sections will be real fun for children. Movie sceneries are also presented. The gallery is in a large 16th-century building called Maison des Avocats (Lawyers' house). €7, under 15/student €5.50.
- Musée des Hospices civils de Lyon (Lyon hospitals museum), 1 place de l'Hôpital (M: Bellecour), ☎ +33 4 72 41 30 42. M-F 1PM-6PM except public holidays. This museum recreates the rich history of medicine in Lyon; it also exhibits art works donated to the hospitals by their benefactors (paintings, sculptures, pieces of furniture). A number of items come from the former Hôpital de la Charité, demolished in 1934. Full fee €4, student €2.
- Musée de l'Imprimerie (Printing museum), 13 rue de la Poulaillerie (M: Cordeliers), ☎ +33 4 78 37 65 98. W-Su 9:30AM-noon, 2PM-6PM, closed on holidays. An excellent collection of some facets of printing, apparently recently re-presented. The collection features some particularly early works and a reasonable amount of supporting material. Unfortunately, the collection is quite biased towards local Lyonnaise history and thus coverage of printing as an art remains regrettably rather spotty overall. Minimal coverage of photographic processes, weak coverage of typography, zero technical information about later post-physical developments such as postscript and TeX, etc. Note that there is zero disabled or child-friendly access (no lifts, and no strollers allowed for fire safety reasons). Budget about an hour and a half if you are in to this sort of thing, 45 minutes otherwise. €5.
Parks and Gardens
- Parc de la Tête d'Or, Between boulevard des Belges, quai Charles de Gaulle and boulevard de Stalingrad (M: Masséna / B: C1-several stops around the park). 15 Oct -14 Apr 6:30AM-8:30PM, 15 Apr-14 Oct 6:30AM-10:30PM. Completed in 1862, this 105-hectare English-style garden is one of the largest and arguably one of the most beautiful urban parks in France. It is a popular place for families as well as joggers. The highlights of the park include the large greenhouses, the botanical garden, the rose garden and the recently added "African plain" in which animals wander in a natural-style environment, perfect for children.
- Rhône banks, quai Charles de Gaulle, ave de Grande-Bretagne, quai de Serbie, quai Sarrail, quai Augagneur, quai Claude Bernard, ave Leclerc (M: Foch, Guillotière, Stade de Gerland). The right bank of the river Rhône has recently been turned from an ugly car park into a 5-km promenade with various landscapes and great views over the Croix-Rousse and Presqu'Ile areas. The place had immediate success among locals. A bicycle is perfect to enjoy it, except on sunny weekends, when it is too crowded to ride safely.
- Parc de Gerland, avenue Jean Jaurès (M: Stade de Gerland). The Rhône banks promenade ends here. This recent park does not have the majesty of Parc de la Tête d'Or but it is far less crowded and boasts some nice examples of modern landscaping. Still under development, it should cover 80 hectares when completed.
- Saône banks, quai Rambaud, quai Saint-Antoine, quai Gillet (M: Perrache, Hôtel de Ville, B:40 Fontaines-sur-Saône). Following the success of the Rhône banks operation, the municipality decided to do renew the operation, this time with the Saône river. The aim is to create a 22km-long promenade between along the Saône banks, separated into two distinct parts (for now) : between Confluence and île Barbe, and between the neighboring cities of Fontaines-sur-Saône and Rochetaillée-sur-Saône (north of Lyon). Work is still ongoing but some portions are already open. The promenade extends largely into suburban teritory and is much greener than the Rhône banks. The portion near Rochetaillée features many waterside restaurants (guinguettes) serving fresh fish.
- Parc Sergent Blandan, rue du Repos, rue de l'Epargne, boulevard des Tchécoslovaques (T: Lycée Colbert). A recent park, built on the grounds of former military barracks. It includes a large skatepark and many sports playgrounds. Still under development, it should cover 17 hectares when completed.
- Parc des Hauteurs, place de Fourvière/Montée Nicolas de Lange (F: Fourvière). Located between the metal tower of Fourvière and the Loyasse cemetery, this is rather a promenade with a nice footbridge offering great views towards the Monts d'Or and Beaujolais. There is an aerial adventure course and a skiing and mountain bike slope.
- Jardin des Curiosités (Garden of Curiosities), Passage des Hauts de St Just (F: Minimes/St Just). Small garden hidden in the bottom of a street/car park, behind a metallic door. It was designed by Canadian artists in a surrealistic spirit (recalls Magritte or Dali). Also a very nice viewpoint over the southern part of Lyon.
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