From the belvedere at the top of the Fourvière Hill above Vieux Lyon you can see Old Lyon, the River Saône, Rennaisance Lyon, the River Rhône and more of the city stretching off into the distance. A tall, circular, brick red building juts up from a cityscape that is basically flat with buildings no more than four or five storeys high. It’s circular design and the pointed top have earned it the nickname “The Pencil”. Apart from this most visible structure, now a Radisson Blu hotel, there is an interesting collection of sights and places to visit to get feel for Lyon of the 20th and 21st centuries.
The first thing you notice along the Rhine is the elegance of the houses along the banks. Mostly white rather than the pastel shades of those along Lyon’s other river, the Saone, they have a uniformity of architectural style. The city expanded eastwards so it is possible to see the developing architectural styles as if they are on a gigantic timeline.
Parc de la Tête d’Or
Taking a tram north along the east bank brings you to the grand entrance of the Parc de la Tête d’Or. At 117 hectares this is the largest urban park in France and is very popular with the Lyonnais. The park has a large lake used for boating in the summer months as well as miles (or if you prefer, kilometres) of pathways through parkland and woodlands.
In addition it is home to the Botanical Gardens of Lyon with its large greenhouses and four rose gardens. The botanical gardens are one of the largest in France and entry is free on weekdays.
The park also houses a zoo which in 2006 created an extensive Plaine Africaine where 130 species of native African animals roam free and together. There is also a rare Barbary lion at the zoo; an animal extinct in the wild.
Lumière Cinema Museum
The two brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière were the fathers of modern day cinema. They lived in Lyon and the place where they lived is now the Institut Lumière and houses the Lumière Cinema Museum. The museum chronicles the history of early cinema and the brothers contribution to it. Apart from numerous artefacts there are many film clips of their work.
Tony Garnier Urban Museum
Tony Garnier was Lyon’s best known urban architect and created a housing project in the city for industrial workers in the 1920s. The museum that bears his name is in the district he helped create either side of the Boulevard des États-Unis. Garnier had a dream of an urban landscape that was well ahead of his time – a kind of Urban Utopia. The museum is fairly small and shows much of his ideas in the exhibits including a reconstruction of a 1930s room.
However, his work is best seen in the urban landscape he created. Wander round or take a tour and you will see the murals on the ends of the apartment blocks of his ideas for an urban landscape. See the post Murals of Lyon (2) for more details.
Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse
If you love your food you will love Lyon. If you love Lyon you will love Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse. This is Lyon’s gourmet covered market where all the Michelin chefs do their shopping; it is even named after the most influential of them all Paul Bocuse. The market has just shy of 60 stalls selling the best food and ingredients in Lyon. It comes at a price but you can visit free.
The market moved to its present site in 1970 and houses stalls owned by small local businesses. Not only can you buy local ingredients but also products made locally such as cheeses, macaroons, quinelles and desserts that are works of art. I’ll let the following photographs speak for themselves.
Arriving early in the day is the best time to visit. Perhaps timing it so that you take a mid morning break at either one of the cafes as you will undoubtedly feel hungry after wandering the stalls.
Lyon beyond the Rhône is not as walkable as the areas closer to, and between, the two rivers. However, there is an excellent tram system connecting the city centre and all the sites mentioned. A Lyon Card is worth buying as it gives free travel on the trams and entrance into museums. Visit www.lyoncitycard.com for more details
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.