A walk in Lyon, between Saône and Rhône

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To discover Lyon requests some days to appreciate its various aspects. One of the main charms of the city indeed lives in multiplications of districts with different styles that have appeared in Lyon through the centuries. The city was born more than 2000 years ago and its history was rich and prosperous. If the first inhabitants of Lyon were Celtic tribes, we attribute gladly the paternity of the city to Romans who named it Lugdunum, to pay homage to the God Lug, the god of the sun, the light and arts, and set up him as capital of the Gauls. When Francs invaded France few centuries later, Lyon lost its status of capital for the benefit of Paris. However, and in spite of times a little more difficult, it did not mean the decline of the city which knew gorious times, and quite particularly during the Renaissance, thanks to its economic activity, in particular to the work of the Silk and in its banking activity. At the same time the city stood out as a big place of the European culture, with the book, first, then by becoming the cradle of the cinema thanks to its inventors, the Lumière brothers, who made their first steps in Lyon. From the God Lug to the Lumière brothers (Lumière means light in French), the loop was lockep up.

Among most beautiful districts of the city, you should not miss Old Lyon. Made up of districts St Jean, St Paul and St Georges, it nests between the Saône and the hill of Fourvières. It was formerly the center of the city. From Renaissance times it inherited a magnificent architectural ensemble with more than 300 perfectly kept houses which makes it the second biggest district of this kind in the world after Venice. One of the characteristics of the district are its “traboules” (no translation for this word typical from Lyon). Traboules are these narrow and arched corridor connecting buildings. They played an important role during the dark hours of the history of Lyon. The city was indeed one of the high places of the French Resistance during the German occupation of the Second World War and this labyrinthine network helped in organising secret meetings.

In front of Old Lyon, on the oriental bank of the Saône is the “Presque’Île”, a peninsula on the river. This peninsula was formerly an island because the confluence the Rhône – the Saône was further north, at the foot of the Croix Rousse. It had to wait for the works of the engineer Perrache (who gave his name to the Lyo train station) to be connected to the rest of the city. It hosts both the 2 main squares of the city, the square Bellecour and the square des Terraux. The most important, the square Bellecour is nothing less that the 3rd the biggest square of France. It is the central point of the city but I prefer however the square des Terrauxt. Its modern architecture, with fountains enlightened by optical fibe emphasizes magnificently its central fountain, created by Bartholdi, the sculptor of the Statue of Liberty. Originally it was ordered by the city of Bordeaux which was however unable to pay it. Good for Lyon which got it ! Not far from the place of Terraux, I advise you an address which I like very much, the bar Les Poupées Russes where we drink excellent cocktails (19 rue Désirée). At the end of the peninsula was built a natural history museum, the Museum of Confluences. With its modern architecture, it does not leave insensible. You like or you hate. I let you make your opinion. However, from its roof we discover attractive views on Lyon. At the other end of the peninsula, on the banks of the Saône, I advise you to take a walk on the uais des Pêcheries which are invaded by the secondhand booksellers on saturday and sunday. If the weather’s good, have a stop for a drink at the Brasserie de la Pêcherie. From its terrasse you have lovely view on the Saône river ad on Fourvière cathedral.

One of the assests of Lyon is its exceptional location. At the confluence of two rivers, shielded from two hills. On the West Fourvière, the ” hill which prays” with in its basilica on its heights and in the East the Croix Rousse, ” the hill which works ” where used to live and work numerous craftsmen. The hill of Fourvière is accessible in cable railway from Old Lyon. The bravest ones can however reach it by one of the steep streets which go through picturesque districts. Once arrived at the top of the hill, you appreciate the magnificent point of view on the city. This one offers hardly any artistical interest but has a somptuous point of view at 360° with views on Lyon and the Alps. You just have to climb 260 steps to enjoy it !

On the other side of the rivers, the hill of the Croix Rousse as the place where silk workers, the “canuts” as we called them, were living. With the invention of the loom “Jacquard” weaving machine, they had to work in buildings with at least 4 meters of ceiling. Thus they left the unsuitable districts of Old Lyon to build buildings planned for their work on the hill of the Croix Rousse. Thus this district is strongly bound to activity of weaver of Lyon.

During your visit of Lyon, I advise you two gourmet stages:
– The Bistrot de Lyon, a real bar of the 1900s with its decoration from this time and situated rue Mercière. On the menu you will find the great classics of the Lyon food.
– The brasserie Georges (near the train station Perrache). It is an unmissable place for Lyon gastronomy with the luxurious decoration of a big brasserie of the 19th century.

Lyon is in 45 minutes / one hour of the campsite Coin Tranquille. Do not hesitate to come to see me at reception so I can give you few good advices to circulate or park your car in the city.


This year in Lyon, by downloading an app on your smartphone on the website collectifspaceopera.wordpress.com, you can hear 39 statues talking with the voices of famous inhabitants of Lyon. They tell you the History of the city.

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