Lyon: Five in the Fifth
About this time last year I visited Paris and wrote the post Paris: Five in the Fifth. Coincidently I found myself visiting Lyon which also has an interesting Fifth Arrondissement. I decided to write a similar post about Lyon’s Fifth.
The Fifth Arrondissement of Lyon encompasses Vieux Lyon and the Fourviere Hill both of which are included in the protected UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes other parts of the city of Lyon. Choosing five things in the Fifth was a little more challenging than it was in Paris as there is so much crammed in. As I have written about the traboules and courtyards of Vieux Lyon they will not be included here. They are however an important feature of Lyon and many are found in the Fifth as well as other arrondissements. You can read about the Traboules of Lyon elsewhere on this website.
Gallo-Roman Archaeological Park
Up on the Fourviere Hill the archaeological park contains a large Roman theatre built around 15 BC. The theatre once seated 11,000 spectators. Nearby is a second century Odeon which was used mainly for music and recitations. Between the two and above the theatre is a well preserved Roman road lined with the ruins of shops and other buildings. Today both amphitheatres are used for performances during “Les Nuits de Fourviere”, a summer festival. The city’s Gallo-Roman Museum over looks the site.
The Fourviere Basilica
In October 1870 the Prussian army was advancing on Lyon. The citizens promised to build a new place of worship if the Prussians were turned back. The Basilica, perched high above the city on Fourviere Hill is the result. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the patron saint of Lyon, it is fortress on the outside and palatial place of worship on the inside. The hill became known as the “Hill of Prayer” because of the number of churches.
The Basilica is built on a plateau at the top of the hill and sits beside the a chapel dedicated to The Virgin. On the other side of the Basilica is a great place to look out over the city of Lyon with the Saone in the foreground and the Rhone beyond
This is the seat of the Archbishop of Lyon and Primate of Gaul. The cathedral is a fine example of Gothic architecture although there are some Romanesque elements. The biggest draw is the magnificent astronomical clock dating from the 14th century. The clock is one of the oldest of its kind in the world. The Gothic facade with its decorated arches dominates the square from which leads the rue St Jean.
The building was originally a hotel built in the 16th century around a delightful Renaissance courtyard and now houses two museums. The Historical Museum of Lyon traces the cultural history of Lyon from medieval times to the 19th century. It is a great place to go to understand the expansion of the city westwards across the rivers Saone and Rhone.
Also in the same building is the Musee des Marionettes. This collection of 2000 puppets is organised around the puppet character Guignol, a Lyonnais Punch. Indeed there is a connection between the two characters. Children will love this section of the Gadagne Museum.
Lyon as a whole is known for its gastronomic delights – more on that in a future post or two – and less well known for its wall murals. You can get a sample of both of these in…
In this quaint little square separated from the Saone by a road is one of two artisan ice-cream parlours in Lyon – the other is also in the Fifth. Rene Nardone Glacier serve an incredible 63 flavours; some you would never have imagined. It’s a family business started in 1899 and has since been passed down from father to son and father to daughter. Sitting in the square under the shade of the with a boule or two of ice-cream is the perfect antidote to walking around the cobbled streets of Vieux Lyon.
On the wall above and around the little glacier is one of the many murals that adorn the walls of Lyon’s buildings. This one depicts the Cour des Loges, a luxury hotel in Vieux Lyon that surrounds one of the city’s many courtyards. The mural was painted using the tromp-l”oeil technique which gives the impression that it is three-dimensional and that the the glacier is part of it. It is difficult to see where reality begins and ends.
These five choices are a personal choice. Have you visited the Fifth Arrondissement of Lyon? Would you choose a different five? Let us know your recommendations in the comments below.
The five I have chosen in Lyon’s Fifth Arrondissement are marked on the map. Visiting them in the order I have written about them is perhaps the easiest. You can take a funicular railway to either the Gallo-Roman Archaeological Park or the Basilica and walk down through Vieux Lyon finishing with that ice-cream at Nadone’s.
Declaration: I visited Lyon as guest of the Lyon Tourist Office and Convention Bureau. However, as always I maintain full editorial control over the content and my opinions, positive or negative are my own.
Heading to Lyon and need a guidebook? You will find a selection of books in the Lyon section of the Travel Unpacked Shop (£)