My beloved Lyon is a part of UNESCO’s World Heritage. No surprises here! Obviously its beauty, unique character and rich history have been recognized by UNESCO! I am very proud of Lyon!
Did you know that 427 ha so exactly 10% of Lyon, were listed as UNESCO World Heritage on 5 December 1998? I didn’t! So I started to explore the subject and confirmed for my knowledge that the Lyons places that are listed as UNESCO heritage are: Vieux-Lyon, Fourvière Hill, the slopes of Croix-Rousse Hill and much of the Presqu’île. This includes about 62 buildings. But why? What for did these places get such prestigious recognition? I know as I have seen and been there and it is obvious… But let’s start from the beginning and let me try to explain…
Fourvière is the oldest district of Lyon. It is a place of the original Roman settlement of Lugdunum (43 BC). It is located on the hill, on the west old part of the town, rising from the river Saône. Fourvière contains many religious buildings including convents, monasteries and chapels and the most spectacular is obviously the Catholic Basilica of Fourvière. Fourvière hill is also the home to the La Tour Métallique, one of Lyon’s most easily recognizable landmarks. This tower was actually privately built by the land-owners to rival the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It forms the highest point in Lyon and is in fact higher than the Eiffel Tower at its summit, due to it being on a hill. It is now a television relay tower. Fouviere Hill is beautiful and has a rich history that is why it has been awarded the UNESCO Heritage recognition prize. Me.. I love Fourvière Hill for its Basilica, of course, but also for the incredible ancient Theatre of Fourvière with its Lugdunum Museum and the amazing panorama. I could spend there hours…Good news: Thanks to the fact that Fourvière supports 2 ancient railway lines called funiculars, we don’t need to climb on the foot several hundred of steps to get there. I did it once when I didn’t realize what Fourvière hill is, and I was on my first walk in Old Lyon. Nowadays I take and recommend others to take the oldest funicular as it’s also an experience to have and with no additional cost than the metro fee. Lastly, for going down, I like to walk as this is very quick and the views are exceptional
The gems of Fourvière Hill worth seeing:
- Museum of Fourvière, collection of religious works of art,
- Archeology Park,
- Odeon, early second century,
- Gier Aqueduct, rue Cdt Charcot, rue Roger Radisson and at the angle of the montée du Télégraphe,
- Saint-Irénée church, 53 rue des Macchabées, XIX century for actual version, built on a X-XI century crypt,
- Ancient tombs, place Wernert,
- Ruins of Saint-Just, 13-15 rue des Macchabées, Lyon 5, built in three instalments over the V and XIII centuries,
- Thermal baths and -I century-Antiquity residential neighbourhood, rue des Farges, terraced over several streets,
- Antiquaille and the tomb of Saint-Pothin, rue de l’Antiquaille,
- Loyasse Cemetery,
- Saint-Irénée Fort and the Institut Franco-Chinois, rue Soeur Bouvier,
- Métallic Tower, montée Nicolas de Lange
The unmissable sites of Fourvière Hill:
- Basilica of Fourvière
- Large Roman Theatre, built at the beginning of the Roman Empire,
- Museum of Gallo-Roman Civilization
- Jardins du Rosaire on the side of the hill, beneath Fourvière Basilica
Vieux Lyon is the largest Renaissance district at the foot of the Fourvière Hill. Covering an area of 424 hectares, it is one of Europe’s most extensive Renaissance neighborhoods. Thanks to its paved old streets, colourful façades and secret passageways (les Traboules), the Vieux-Lyon was a key element in getting the city listed as a World Heritage Site by Unesco. The historical area has remained almost intact for centuries thanks to French government policy in the 1960s. There are three distinct sections: Saint Jean, Saint Paul and Saint Georges. I love walking through Vthe Old Lyon and admiring little shops, colorful bouchons, visiting Traboules and the magnificent Cathedral of St Jean. It is the place that cannot be missed in Lyon.
The gems of Vieux-Lyon, which you should not miss out on seeing:
- Saint Jean Cathedral and its astronomical clock.
- Saint-Georges (19th century) and Saint-Paul churches (from 11th to 19th C.)
- Gadagne Museums: Musée d’Histoire de Lyon (historical museum of Lyon) and Musée des Arts de la Marionnette (puppet museum), in Lyon’s largest Renaissance building.
- Cinema and Miniature Museum: with miniature models and Hollywood sets!
- Place de la Trinité for the charm, of its old buildings.
- Place du Change
- Courtyards and traboules (passageways): a free map showing the courtyards and traboules open to the public is available at the Tourist Office on Place Bellecour. Come and visit us!
La Croix-Rousse is a hill 254 metres high in Lyon. It is also the name of a neighbourhood located on this hill. The neighbourhood is divided into les pentes (slopes, belonging to the city’s 1st arrondissement) and le plateau (atop the hill, part of the 4th arrondissement). La Croix-Rousse is heavily influenced by the central role that Lyon played in the silk industry in France. The district started developing in the 18th century when the silk workshops moved here from the Vieux-Lyon area. With 30,000 canuts (name given to the silk workers in Lyon) the district was a hive of activity, and the city itself a major hub for textiles in Europe. La Croix-Rousse is nicknamed la colline qui travaille (‘the hill that works’) in contrast to the Fourvière hill, which is known as la colline qui prie. La Croix-Rousse is well known for its unique atmosphere compared to the rest of the city. This part of Lyon is full of traboules. These are covered passageways used by silk merchants to travel and ferry material between buildings while being sheltered from rain. The majority of buildings in the area have the large ceilings with exposed wooden rafters. The larger internal height available in these buildings, compared to other areas in Lyon, was necessary for housing the tall silk looms that were operated in the area. Here, past and present cohabit on a daily basis, with traditional silk workshops that are open to visitors, and the boutiques of young designers keeping the spirit of the canuts alive. In fact, Hermès still continues to produce its legendary silk squares close to Lyon! Visiting Croix Rouss is like a special adveture where you explore, discover and are surprised. Check it out.
The gems of Croix-Rousse Hill which are unmissable:
- The Gros Caillou and the Boulevard de la Croix-Rousse
- The Maison des Canuts, 10 rue d’Ivry.
- The Grande-Rue.
- Montée de la Grande Côte
- Roman ruins of l’Amphithéâtre des Trois-Gaules.
- Traboules and stairs: a free map showing the courtyards and traboules open to the public is available at the Tourist Office on Place Bellecour. Come and visit us!
- Place Bellevue : panoramic view of the left bank of the Rhône
- Jardin des Chartreux : The Villa Gillet and the Parc de la Ceriseraie, 25 rue Chazière
The Presqu’île is located in the heart of Lyon. It means peninsula and literally a combination of words “presque” (almost) and “île” (island). Extending from the foot of the Croix Rousse hill to the confluence of the Rhône and the Saône rivers, it has a preponderance of cafés, restaurants, luxury shops, department stores, banks, government buildings, and cultural institutions. On the place Terraux, you can find the magnificent Hôtel de Ville (city hall), Musee de Beaux Arts and famous fountain. I enjoy spending time in Presqu’ile as it is full of shops, beautiful buildings, it has my favourite Place St Jacobas and leads to Bellecour square. Ideal for shopping and walk but also to find a place to eat. Just on the bad side of things: it can get very busy but if this happens I always choose small streets to walk and avoid the big Rue de Republic.
The gems of Presqu’île district, which are unmissable:
- Place des Terreaux : Town Hall and Musée des Beaux-arts (Museum of Fine arts)
- Opéra de Lyon (Lyon National Opera House)
- Mural of the famous Lyonnais: trompe l’oeil painted wall depicting local celebrities.
- Saint-Nizier Church, Gothic
- Shopping streets in the city centre: rues de la République and Edouard Herriot
- Passage de l’Argue : nineteenth-century covered passageway with old shops.
- Place and Théâtre des Célestins
- Fontaine Place des Jacobins
- Place Bellecour
- Le Grand Hôtel-Dieu
- St-Martin d’Ainay Basislica: Lyon’s only Romanesuqe church.
- Hôtel de Ville
- Musée des Beaux-Arts
- Musée de l’Imprimerie
- Palais du Commerce
- Place Poncet
- Musées des Tissus and Arts Décoratifs
- Place Carnot
So do you have a desire now to go and check out the Lyon and at least the sites which are listed on the UNESCO Heritage? I would recommend, however, I would recommend starting to explore Lyon with those gems and carry on. As Lyon has more to offer. Do not forget about the Parc de la Tete D’or or the two rivers, Bellecour, Victor Hugo street which I love and the Confluence district, Ile Barbe just to name few my favourite places. Happy visiting Lyon!
All the photos of Lyon in this post have been contributed by instant_shots. Thank you!