Lyon Travel Information

Mother Earth Travel > France > Lyon > History

Vieux Lyon - Vieux Lyon is without doubt the most famous and most visited area of the town, especially since its classification as a world heritage centre by UNESCO. Beside the The Saone river, Old Lyon and the hill of Fourviere at night Palais épiscopal Saint Jean and the Cathédrale Saint Jean, you will find many townhouses which date from the middle ages and the Renaissance: the Maison du Soleil (Saint Georges quarter), the Tour rose, the Auberge du Gouvernement, the Maison Thomassin, the Hotel Laurencin, the Maison des avocats, the famous Cour des Loges hotel, the Maison du Chamarier (Saint Jean quarter), the Hôtel Paterin, and the Hôtel Bullioud where the architect Philibert Delorme built his famous trompe l'oeil gallery (Saint Paul quarter). From the Middle Ages the area was reserved for trade and fairs, as shown by the Loge du Change, which was once a bank and then became a Protestant place of worship. Fans of architecture will be delighted to pace the paved alleys and the traboules - these famous passages link alleyways together and through them you can explore the interior courtyards of the townhouses. Those fond of archaeology will be interested in the remains of the primitive cathedral in the Jardin archéologique situated at the north side of the present day sanctuary. Old Lyon (Vieux Lyon) has an undeniable charm, with its boutiques, its 'bouchons' (restaurants which specialise in Lyonaise cuisine) and its colours, which make you think of Italy.

Fourvière - Old Lyon is situated at the foot of the Fourvière hill. Fourvière represented the very heart of the old town, which explains the large number of Gallo-Roman remains, which jut out from its slopes. The Gallo-Roman civilisation museum presents the history of Lugdunum. Not far from this museum is the Archaeological Park of Fourvière (theatre and Gallo-Roman ampitheatre) where lovers walk in the summer. Today the hill is home to many ecclesiastical communities who live near the famous Basilique de Fourvière, whose strange architecture dominates the whole town. Don't miss the superb view from the Esplanade de Fourvière).

Presqu'île - This is what we call the spit of the land, which stretches from the Rhône and the Saône to the foot of the Croix-Rousse hill. This is the commercial centre of Lyon with the Rue de la République and the Rue Victor Hugo which give out onto the place Bellecour, a meeting place for many people of Lyon. Stylish shops are to be found around the Rue Edouard Herriot, the Rue Comte houses the majority of Lyon's antiques dealers and the Rue Mercière boasts all styles of restaurants. Why not take a stroll along the adjacent streets instead of hovering over the most attractive shop window? South of the Presqu'île there is the Saint Martin d'Ainay, one of the rare Roman churches preserved in Lyon, as well as the very interesting Musée des Tissus, which is in an eighteenth century townhouse.

Terreaux - The Terraux area takes its name from the old moat which protected the north of the town in the Middle Ages. Today it includes the surrounding areas of the place des Terreaux, which was redone by Daniel Buren in 1994. This quarter has many monuments like the wonderful Opéra de Lyon, which was renovated by Jean Nouvel, the Palais Saint Pierre which today houses Lyon's Musée des Beaux-Arts and the Town Hall. The Rue Sainte Catherine which runs along the north of the Place des Terreaux is known for its many pubs, but it is not necessarily the most pleasant part of the quarter!

Croix-Rousse - The Croix-Rousse is known as the former den of the silk workers, which Lyon was famous for until the nineteenth century. The buildings were constructed in the nineteenth century to house the large weaving looms invented by Joseph-Marie Jacquard. The density and shape of the buildings transformed the Croix Rousse into a maze scattered with passageways, which gave them their name - the traboules. The slopes of the hill are also home to many restaurants and bars, where all types of cuisine are to be found. The Croix-Rousse hill became the home of the artists, and the Ecole des Beaux Arts was built on it. By taking an alleyway you will undoubtedly find one of hill's special places like the Amphithéâtre gallo-romain where the first Lyonaise martyrs were sacrificed, or the Jardin des Chartreux where there is a superb view over the town.

Part Dieu et Villeurbanne - The left bank of the Rhône is to business what the right bank is to tourism. The 'pencil' of the Part Dieu as it is called, is surrounded by and essentially made up of offices. There is a marvellous view over Lyon from the top floor of the restaurant panoramique le Méridien. Those who travel by train know that the train station is an ideal pretext to go shopping in the huge shopping centre of the Part-Dieu. Not of interest to tourists? Not if one considers the contemporary architecture and especially the Cité des Gratte-Ciel complex, one of the first workers' housing developments of the 1920s, situated near the Hôtel de ville de Villeurbanne which marks the architectural grandness of the period.

Gerland et les Etats Unis - The Gerland quarter, in the south of Lyon, is especially renowned for its football stadium, its pharmaceutical laboratories, its weekend traffic jams and its new university campus. The area is gradually coming to life after its industrial past, and this can be seen in the Halle Tony Garnier, the last vestige of the industrial estate built by the famous Lyonais architect. Tony Garnier was also responsible for a contemporary of the Gratte Ciel - a utopian estate in the quartier des Etats Unis,. Architecture enthusiasts can also visit the Musée urbain Tony Garnier, which details the architect's ideas, and appreciate the murals which adorn the façade of the buildings. Near the American quarter do not miss the wonderful Mosquée de Lyon.

Quartier Tête d'or - The north of the left bank is thought of as the peaceful, residential area of the town, where old buildings stand beside chic boutiques. Here you can take a stroll in Lyon's only big public garden, Tête d'Or Park, which houses botanical gardens and the Jardin zoologique de la Tête d'Or. Not far from the park on the banks of the Rhône, there is an 'estate' which brings together a cinema complex, the new conference hall and the unmissable Musée d'art contemporain.