Walking Tour of Lyon, France
Lyon, France, bills itself as the “gastronomic capital of France” but it has much more than good food to offer the tourist. There are three basic areas of the city which are the domain of the traveler.
Fourviere Hill is the location of the white-domed Notre Dame Basilica. The inside is covered with mosaics depicting the events in Mary’s life. The Lower Church is dedicated to St Joseph and is considerably less elaborate. Note the golden statue of the virgin outside the church.
Vieux Lyon (the Old Town) has perhaps the largest concentration of Renaissance buildings in the world and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area is noted for its covered pathways (Traboules) which link streets and homes. Entry into this mysterious world is through heavy doors. Unfortunately, only a few of the 300 or so are actually open to the public, but these are worthwhile in that they provide access to several hidden courtyards. The St Jean Cathedral is an interesting combination of Gothic and Romanesque architectural styles since its construction spanned a considerable amount of time.
Presqu’ile refers to the land between Lyon’s two rivers and is the major shopping district of the city. Place des Terreaux is its vibrant center and contains the City Hall and a famous fountain by Bertholdi (the sculptor of the Statue of Liberty).
Vieux Lyon, the Old City, is a wonderful place to walk, with its interesting alleyways known as traboules, its cobblestone streets, and Renaissance mansion. Nearby Presq’ile, the more modern city center, contains a number of additional sights for the visitor.
My walk begins on Presq’ile, the island between the Saone and Rhone Rivers, at Place Terreaux. The focal point of this square is an incredible fountain, designed by Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, the architect and builder of the Statue of Liberty. The most important buildings on the square are the Town Hall (Hotel de Ville), to the north, and the Museum of Fine Arts, an excellent museum, to the south.
From here, walk south on Rue President-Herriot, which leads to another notable square, Place Bellecour, where you will find the Tourist Information Office. You can obtain an detailed city map which includes how and where to access the many traboules, passageways which connect parallel streets and which open into lovely courtyards or snake underneath buildings and streets. Also on the square is an impressive equestrian Statue of Louis XIV.
Exit the square by walking west on Rue Col. Chambonnet, then right along the river on Quai des Celestins, and left, across the river, on the Palace of Justice footbridge, into Vieux Lyon. The elegant Palais de Justice faces you as you cross. Now, turn right on Quai Romain Rolland to #17 and take the traboule behind the door to #9 Rue des Trois Maries. Next, go to #6 Rue des Trois Maries and take the traboule to 27 Rue Saint-Jean. Turn left on Rue Saint-Jean to reach Place Saint-Jean and Lyon’s interesting Cathedral, built over several centuries and containing a mix of architectural styles. Be sure to check out the stained-glass windows of the choir and the Astronomical Clock, which chimes at noon, 2, 3, and 4 PM.
From here, continue south on Rue Saint-Jean to Place Edouard Commette and take the funicular to the top of Fourviere Hill. Here, you will find, besides the great views, the remains of a Roman settlement, including the Romain Theater and an Odeon. Other relics from Roman times are displayed in the nearby museum. However, the most significant attraction on the hill is the beautiful and enticing Notre Dame Basilica. It is both a symbol and major landmark of the city and must be explored.
After your visit, walk down the hill on Montee Saint-Barthelemy, and turn right on Montee des Carmes Deschausses to Place Saint-Paul, location of another of Lyon’s major churches.
Now, take a short detour, part of the way down Rue de la Juviere, to see several Renaissance mansions, the Hotel Patenin and the Hotel Bullioud. Return to the square and take Rue du Docteur Augros down to the river, and turn left on Quai de Bondy. Then, cross the river on Passarelle Saint-Vincent. Continue straight ahead when you reach the shore, and then turn right on Rue Bouteille, and left on Rue Fernand Rey, then right on Rue du Jardin des Plantes, to reach the Botanical Gardens, for a welcome break from the city streets.
After your respite, continue beyond the gardens, and then turn right onto Rue Terme, and then left on Rue d’Algerie to return to the Place des Terreaux, where your walk began.