Discover Le Vieux Lyon | France

Le Vieux Lyon

Updated On: February 27, 2024 by   Ahmed SamirAhmed Samir

In the heart of France’s gastronomic capital, Lyon, lies a district that seems to have defied time. Le Vieux Lyon, or Old Lyon, is a picturesque slice of history that enchants visitors with its medieval charm and Renaissance elegance. Nestled alongside the tranquil Saône River, this UNESCO World Heritage site is a testament to Lyon’s rich heritage and cultural significance. Join us as we journey through Le Vieux Lyon’s cobbled streets and historic alleys, immersing ourselves in its captivating history, vibrant culture, and culinary wonders that beckon from every corner.

The Historical Tapestry of Le Vieux Lyon

Le Vieux Lyon boasts a history that dates back to the Roman era when it was known as Lugdunum. However, during the Middle Ages, the district flourished, as Lyon became a hub for trade, banking, and silk production. The narrow alleyways, known as traboules, were constructed during this time to facilitate the movement of goods and people through the city.

Walking through these traboules today, you’ll feel like you’ve returned in time. The district’s medieval buildings, timbered facades and intricate stonework evoke a sense of wonder and nostalgia. It’s no wonder that Le Vieux Lyon has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, preserving its rich architectural heritage for generations to come.

The Renaissance Revival

As Lyon prospered in the 16th century, a wave of Renaissance architecture swept through the city, leaving its mark on Le Vieux Lyon. The most iconic feature of this era is the Cathedral Saint-Jean-Baptiste, an imposing masterpiece that dominates the district’s skyline. With its stunning stained glass windows and intricate Gothic and Renaissance details, the cathedral is a marvel of architecture and craftsmanship.

Another highlight of this period is the Hôtel de Ville, or City Hall, with its elegant façade and ornate interiors. Visitors can explore its beautiful courtyard and attend events held within its historic walls.

Cultural Treasures of Le Vieux Lyon

Le Vieux Lyon isn’t just about its architectural splendour; it’s also a hub of culture and creativity. The district has numerous art galleries, museums, and theatres that showcase Lyon‘s vibrant cultural scene. Here are a few notable cultural attractions to explore:

  1. Musée Gadagne: Housed in a magnificent Renaissance mansion, this museum offers insights into Lyon’s history, culture, and heritage. It features exhibitions on puppetry, silk production, and Lyon’s gastronomy, making it a delightful journey through the city’s past and present.
  2. Théâtre des Marronniers: This intimate theatre hosts a variety of performances, from contemporary plays to classical productions. It’s a great place to immerse yourself in Lyon’s theatrical arts scene.
  3. Les Subsistances: Located in a former military complex, this multidisciplinary cultural centre hosts various events, including art exhibitions, concerts, and dance performances. It’s a dynamic hub of creativity and innovation.

Culinary Delights

Every visit to Lyon, especially Le Vieux Lyon, is complete with indulging in the city’s renowned culinary offerings. Lyon is often referred to as the gastronomic capital of France, and its traditional bouchons (small, family-owned restaurants) are famous for serving hearty, classic Lyonnaise dishes. Some dishes to try while in Le Vieux Lyon include:

  1. Quenelles: Light and fluffy fish dumplings served in a rich, creamy sauce, often accompanied by rice.
  2. Coq au Vin: A classic French chicken dish slow-cooked in red wine with mushrooms, bacon, and onions.
  3. Andouillette: A sausage made from chitterlings (pork intestines) with a distinctive flavour. It’s an acquired taste but loved by many.
  4. Tarte à la Praline: A local speciality, a sweet pastry filled with pink pralines. It’s a delightful dessert for those with a sweet tooth.

While exploring Le Vieux Lyon, you’ll find numerous bouchons and restaurants where you can savour these dishes in an authentic setting. Don’t forget to pair your meal with a glass of local Beaujolais wine or Côtes du Rhône for the whole Lyon experience.

Attractions in Le Vieux Lyon

Le Vieux Lyon offers a wide range of attractions that cater to diverse interests. Here are some of the must-visit spots in the district:

  1. Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière: Perched atop a hill overlooking Le Vieux Lyon, this stunning basilica offers panoramic city views. Its ornate interiors and exquisite mosaics are a sight to behold.
  2. Maison des Canuts: Explore the history of silk production in Lyon and watch skilled artisans work in this silk-weaving museum.
  3. Saint-Jean Archaeological Garden: Beneath the cathedral, this hidden gem reveals ancient ruins and traces of Lyon’s Roman past.
  4. Place du Change: This picturesque square is surrounded by beautifully preserved Renaissance buildings and is an excellent place for a stroll.
  5. Saint-Paul Station: While not a traditional attraction, the Saint-Paul metro station is a work of art, with its stunning mosaics and vaulted ceilings. It’s worth a visit just to see its beauty.

Shopping in Le Vieux Lyon

Le Vieux Lyon is a shoppers’ paradise, offering a wide range of boutiques, speciality shops, and markets where you can find unique souvenirs, antiques, and local products. Here are a few shopping recommendations:

  1. Rue Saint-Jean: This pedestrian street has shops selling everything from gourmet chocolates and handmade jewellery to Lyon’s famous silk products.
  2. Les Halles de Lyon – Paul Bocuse: Named after the legendary chef Paul Bocuse, this indoor market is a food lover’s dream. It’s the perfect place to sample and purchase local cheeses, meats, and other culinary delights.
  3. Antiquaire de Saint-Paul: If you’re a fan of antiques and vintage items, take advantage of this antique market, where you can browse a wide selection of unique treasures.
  4. Quincaillerie du Vieux Lyon: Step into this charming hardware store, and you’ll be transported back in time. It’s not just a shop; it’s an experience.

Exploring Nearby Attractions

While Le Vieux Lyon offers an abundance of historical and cultural delights, several noteworthy attractions in the vicinity complement your visit and provide additional enriching experiences. Here are some nearby places of interest to consider exploring:

  1. Fourvière Hill and Basilica: Just a short climb from Le Vieux Lyon, Fourvière Hill offers breathtaking panoramic city views. At its summit, you’ll find the stunning Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, an architectural masterpiece with ornate interiors and magnificent mosaics. It’s an ideal spot to appreciate Lyon’s beauty from above.
  2. Traboules in Croix-Rousse: While Le Vieux Lyon has its fair share of traboules, the Croix-Rousse district boasts a unique network of these hidden passageways. Exploring these secret alleyways offers an insight into Lyon’s history and provides a fascinating adventure for curious travellers.
  3. Parc de la Tête d’Or: A short journey north of Le Vieux Lyon will lead you to Parc de la Tête d’Or, one of France’s largest urban parks. With its serene lake, lush gardens, and zoo, this park is a peaceful oasis where you can unwind and enjoy nature’s beauty.
  4. Institut Lumière: Film enthusiasts should not miss the chance to visit the Institut Lumière, dedicated to the Lumière brothers, pioneers of early cinema. Discover the birthplace of cinema and explore its exhibitions and screenings.
  5. Musée des Confluences: Located at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers, this contemporary museum is a striking architectural marvel. It houses various natural history, science, and anthropology exhibits, making it a thought-provoking destination for the intellectually curious.
  6. Les Halles Paul Bocuse: If you still need to have your fill of culinary adventures in Le Vieux Lyon, a visit to Les Halles Paul Bocuse is a must. This bustling food market is renowned for its gourmet offerings, allowing one to sample the finest local produce.
  7. Basilica of Saint-Martin d’Ainay: Located on the Presqu’île peninsula, this Romanesque church is a hidden gem. Its well-preserved architecture and serene atmosphere offer a peaceful retreat from the city’s hustle and bustle.
  8. Lyon’s Murals: Lyon boasts an impressive collection of murals, or “trompe-l’œil” paintings, that adorn the facades of buildings throughout the city. Stroll around various neighbourhoods, such as Croix-Rousse, to discover these captivating artworks that tell stories of Lyon’s history and culture.

These nearby attractions offer a diverse range of experiences, ensuring that your exploration of Lyon goes beyond the boundaries of Le Vieux Lyon, allowing you to uncover this captivating French city’s multifaceted beauty and heritage.


Le Vieux Lyon is a living testament to Lyon’s rich history and culture. Its medieval charm, Renaissance elegance, culinary delights, and vibrant cultural scene make it a destination that should be on every traveller’s list when exploring France. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a foodie, an art lover, or simply seeking a magical place to wander, Le Vieux Lyon has something unique to offer. As you explore its cobbled streets and hidden treasures, you’ll find yourself falling in love with the heart and soul of this captivating district.


Can I visit Le Vieux Lyon on a day trip from other cities in France?

Thanks to efficient train connections, Le Vieux Lyon can be explored as a day trip from cities like Paris or Marseille. However, spending a few days in Lyon allows for a more immersive experience.

Are there guided tours available for exploring Le Vieux Lyon?

Yes, guided tours of Le Vieux Lyon, both walking and segway tours, are available. These tours provide insightful commentary and help you discover hidden gems in the district.