A Guided Tour of Ainay in Lyon

Guided tour in the 'Presqu'Ile' district, southern part of the Unesco sector of Lyon, France

Lyon Ainay, Plan de Visite by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


Ainay is the southern part of the Peninsula of Lyon. The Peninsula’s history began with the foundation of Lugdunumm in 43 BC: the Celtic village of ‘Condate' in the north and the 'Canabae', a crafts and trade district in the south. Navigation on the Saône and Rhône rivers allowed for numerous exchanges with other regions and countries.

Many transformations took place on the Peninsula during the XVIII and XIX centuries, the most important being the extension towards the south due to the construction of a large dyke by Michel PERRACHE in 1775. After that quays were built, which served as dykes between 1858 and 1865 to protect from flooding.

Lyon Ainay, Office de Tourisme by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


Welcome to the Ainay neighbourhood visit. Ainay is located south of the Peninsula within the Unesco sector. This is a quieter area with fewer shops than in the north of the Place Bellecour. Its current configuration dates back to the early nineteenth century. This is the traditional dwelling place of the great families of Lyon. From the Tourist Office, go past the pond and head south to rue Auguste Comte.


In replacement of Saint-Joseph, the name of the philosopher was given to this street in 1905 at the time of the separation of Church and the State. It is a busy shopping street, mainly dedicated to antique shops. Stop at the hotel Varey, at No. 2, built by the architect Toussaint Loyer in 1758 for the Dervieu family, the lords of Villard and Varey, advisers to the money court of Lyon. Now admire the building at No. 7: facade, balcony, ironwork. After that take Rue François Dauphin on your left.


This seventeenth-century street has carried the name of the son of Francis I since 1838. Legend says he was poisoned by a lord of his suite, Count Montecuccoli, who was stationed not far away. It has also been called Sphere Street (from the Roman spinning game). Observe the old houses of the street as you walk towards Rue de la Charité, especially No. 11, a seventeenth-century private hotel for the administrator with a beautiful double staircase in the courtyard garden.


Turn right on to the southern end of Rue de la Charité which leads to Rue Sala. Rue de la Charité took its name in the seventeenth century after the creation of the Charité hospital, located on the Place Antonin Poncet, of which only the tower remains today.

The road was extended in 1728 and 1772 and underwent very few changes, despite alignment projects, in the nineteenth century. Many houses of the old regime are indeed still present and only the part between the Sala Street and Place Bellecour is modern. Now turn right towards the west and Rue Sala.

Lyon Ainay, Immeuble du Nouvelliste by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


This building used to house the newspaper "Nouvelliste" which disappeared after the Liberation as it had continued under the German occupation. For over 80 years it was the voice of the bourgeois and Catholic right-wing, in opposition to the “Progress”, a secular and anticlerical newspaper.

The premises and printing were at Rue François Dauphin until 1890 but, due to lack of space, new premises were built by Malaval on Rue de la Charité. The decorated facade is interesting and there is a large statue of Joan of Arc.


This is one of the oldest roads of the district, probably built on a Gallo-Roman path. The street takes its name from Francis Sala Montjustin, husband of Claudine Laurencin, widow of Du Peyrat, who established a small residential area in the sixteenth century called Villeneuve le Plat in the area west of Place Bellecour. It was the start of the current Ainay neighbourhood. The street was opened in 1504. Continue your visit to Rue Auguste Comte.

Lyon Ainay, Immeuble 42 rue Sala by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


A nineteenth-century example in the north of Rue Sala. The building has a private courtyard called "the idlers’ court" which links to 29 Rue Sainte-Hélène.

The origin of this court is assigned to a certain Mr Nant who had it built in 1840 when he had engraved on a wall: "Industry and art have changed my fate: I was at the lazy court, I am now at the diligent court." His name became a reference for artists in the area.

Lyon Ainay, Maison Dittmar by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


Take Rue Auguste Comte at the right towards the north but stop before the Dittmar House at No. 20: a home built by V. Farges in 1831 for the widow Dittmar.

This is a fine example of lowrise buildings reserved for a bourgeois clientele where each tenant had a separate apartment on each floor. There is less decoration, although still repetitive, no penthouse floors, a Mezzanine and a French staircase.

Lyon Ainay, Église Saint-François de Sales by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


Started in 1803, this neoclassical church is on the site of the convent of the Penitent Daughters. In 1807, the church was enlarged by a nave in the place of the old Sainte-Madeleine chapel; the architect Claude-Anthelme Benoit finished the construction around 1835. We owe him the beautiful dome.

The interior of the church is fully illustrated and the dome paintings are by Denuelle Alexandre; the frescoes by Louis Janmot. The church houses the grand organ made by the organ builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll in 1880, played on by the great Lyon organist composer Charles Marie Widor (born 1844). Pick up Rue François Dauphin on the left going west.


Take a left towards the south of Rue Victor Hugo which was designed by Perrache at the end of the eighteenth century then developed in the nineteenth century, with the arrival of the railroad, to liaise between Place Bellecour and Perrache station. Formerly Bourbon Street, it has borne the name of the famous author since 1885. The buildings at the Place Bellecour end are the newest whereas those near Place Carnot date from the early nineteenth century, between 1817 and 1843.

This street was very fashionable in the nineteenth century thanks to its bourgeois luxurious buildings, its width and its proximity to squares and places for walks. By the way, notice the building at No.14, its bay frames and door.


Turn right on to Sala Street. This street was opened in the sixteenth century by Claudine Laurencin, wife of Francis Sala Montjustin and has kept the name Rue Sala since 1743. This is a beautiful street which housed, in the eighteenth century, a number of convents and monasteries.

For example Nos. 26 and 28 were part of the Monastery of the Visitation; Nos. 20 and 22 were part of the abbey of Saint-Claire.


Now go to Boissac Street on your right. This is the only seventeenth-century street in the district still largely intact: the alignment and extension projects of the nineteenth were never realised.

Go to No. 8: you are facing the hotel Fleurieu Claret de la Tourette. The facade has not changed since its inception. To continue the tour, return to Sala Street.


This seventeenth century street bears the name of St. Francis de Sales who was the founder of the Monastery of the Visitation at Place Bellecour in 1615. He died in 1622 but Lyon kept only his heart; his body was claimed by his native Savoie.


Take a left and go east towards Rue Ste. Helene, mother of the Emperor, Constantine the Great. As a Christian, it is said that she convinced her son to convert to Christianity.

The street leads to the Quai Gailleton and ends at Place Gailleton with its statue of Gailleton, mayor of Lyon (1881-1900). Stop especially at Nos. 34 and 35.


Created by the engineer Perrache, Place Gailleton is bordered on the north and south by neoclassical facades of the eighteenth century. The square celebrates the mayor Antoine Gailleton (1881-1900), for whom a monument was created in 1913.

The site was revamped in 2002 with the addition of flower beds, a fountain and lights in the water. Continue through the Fleurieu street to come to the Textile Museum.


This street is dedicated to the Fleurieu family and especially to the sailor, Charles Pierre Claret de Fleurieu. The wall on the east side of this pathway is a remnant of the ancient city wall from the Middle-Ages which overlooked an arm of the Rhone. Continue till you come face-to-face with the Textile Museum, Rue de la Charité.

Lyon Ainay, Musée des Tissus by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


You are at No. 34 Rue de la Charité, previous home of the Villeroy family, well-known in Lyon in the seventeenth century. François-Anne de Villeroy was governor of Lyonnais, Beaujolais and Forez up until the Revolution. The hotel was built in 1730 for Claude Bertaud, surveyor of the city, and leased to the governor from 1746.

Since 1946 it has been the property of the Chamber of Commerce of Lyon and hosts the Textile Museum with its collections of more than 3 million pieces representing the textile history from antiquity to the present day. It focuses mainly on woven silks and the Lyon silk industry from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries. Continue to the right, heading north.

Lyon Ainay, Musée des Arts Décoratifs by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


On your left at No. 32, you pass the former Hotel de Lacroix-Laval (Jean de Lacroix-Laval was mayor of Lyon from 1826 to 1830) which has belonged to the Chamber of Commerce of Lyon since 1925. It was built by Jacques Germain Soufflot in 1739 in a simple style with little decoration.

It houses the Museum of Decorative Arts (entrance 34 Rue de la Charité) which is mainly dedicated to aristocratic life in the eighteenth century: decoration, furniture, tapestries, ceramics, porcelain, art objects, weapons, ... Continue up Rue Sainte-Hélène and turn left.

Lyon Ainay, Hôtel de Cuzieu by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


On your left is the remarkable portal, facade and grand staircase of the Cuzieu hotel. It dates from the eighteenth century and was recorded on the list of historical monuments in 1982. Now go to Rue Victor Hugo and turn left.


Take Rue Victor Hugo towards the south, a pedestrian street lined with bourgeois and commercial buildings, to Place Ampère.


On your left is Rue des Remparts d'Ainay, early nineteenth-century, on the site of the city walls. Longitude/Latitude: 4.829413/45.753213 22 - Place Ampere - On your right is the Place Ampère with its fountain around a bronze statue of the Lyon physicist André-Marie Ampère (1775-1836) made by the sculptor Charles Textor.

The square is at the heart of the Ainay neighborhood, home to the great Lyon dynasties. On your walk, admire the facade of No. 8, the decorations and ironwork.


On your right is the Place Ampère with its fountain around a bronze statue of the Lyon physicist André-Marie Ampère (1775-1836) made by the sculptor Charles Textor. The square is at the heart of the Ainay neighborhood, home to the great Lyon dynasties. On your walk, admire the facade of No. 8, the decorations and ironwork.


Continue along Rue Victor Hugo and observe the building at No. 50 (facade, doorway, ... ), the Maurix house at No. 52, and on to Place Carnot in the south.


This rectangular square, whose design dates back to the Perrache project, is linked to the creation of the station. It bears the name of President Sadi Carnot. There is a public garden in the centre - revamped at the opening of the metro A line - and a statue of the Republic - erected for the centennial of the French Revolution - standing on a 11-meters high pedestal and holding an olive branch.

A set of stately buildings border the square with beautiful ornate facades. Unfortunately the square was amputated of its southern end during the extension of the Perrache station.

Lyon Ainay, Immeubles place Carnot Nord by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


In the north note the building at No. 4: ironwork on the white facade, bay decorations on the Place Carnot and Rue Victor Hugo facades. Observe also No. 6. Built by Gaspard George in 1857 for Baron Dubord, shareholder in quarries in the Midi, it is house built for leasing but has the prestige of a mansion with its large gateway leading to a courtyard with stables, secondary staircases and balconies of an axial span that reinforce the hierarchy of the facade and its design.

Lyon Ainay, Immeubles place Carnot Sud by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


South of the square, note the building at No. 15: facade design, balconies, central span development and hierarchy with smaller and smaller balconies. Note in detail No. 16. This building was erected by Bissuel in 1881 with the help of the sculptor J. Brunel. It has the usual forms for the base and the centre span but more original rhythmic bays for the time and Neo-Renaissance style caryatides.

Finish the visit of the west side of the square with the Catholic Faculty of Lyon at No. 19 which for a long time housed the Bissuel barracks, headquarters of the military authorities.


King Henry IV came to Lyon in 1564, with Charles IX in 1595 after the annexation of the city, and in 1600 for his marriage to Marie de Medici in the Cathedral of St. John: this nineteenth-century street pays tribute to him. Note the nineteenth-century buildings and in particular that of No. 14. Stop before the Adoration Chapel at No. 12.

Lyon Ainay, Chapelle de l'Adoration by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


This chapel with its majestic façade, a large rose and side entrances at 12 Rue Henri IV is dedicated to Paul Couturier. It was built for the Sisters of the Adoration in 1877. Prayers are now held in the crypt of the chapel. Continue up Rue Bourgelat on your left.


This street was also called Rue du Manege. Claude Bourgelat was born in Lyon in 1712. After a career as a lawyer, he dedicated his life to horses, first as director of the riding academy, then he founded the first veterinary school in the world in 1762 at Guillotière.

This school is now at Marcy l'Etoile but before then it occupied the magnificent buildings on Quai Chauveau that now house the National Conservatory of Music. Stop at No. 19 of the Bourgelat Street: the painted garage entrance evokes a map of Lyon in the eighteenth century. Note also the Meyrieux Hotel at No. 17: this beautiful mansion is the historical seat of the Marcel Meyrieux Foundation.

Lyon Ainay, Basilique d'Ainay by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


This Romanesque Benedictine abbey of Ainay appears in texts in the ninth century. The bell tower was built at the end of the eleventh century. The Gothic period is represented by the Saint-Michel chapel, constructed in the fifteenth century.

It was restored under the Empire by the architects J. Pollet, C.-A. Benoit and C.-A. Questel. On the main facade, the walls are decorated with red and white bricks and the third floor is decorated with a large Greek cross with inlays.


The three double colonnaded naves, the barrel vaulted transept arches, the powerful columns in Egyptian syenite and the large semi-circular apse were added in the early twelfth century. Now take Rue d'Enghien.
Out, take Rue d'Enghien.


This early nineteenth-century street was named after the Duke of Enghien, Louis-Antoine-Henri de Condé, born in Chantilly in 1772 and shot on the orders of Bonaparte in 1804. Admire the beautiful nineteenth- and early twentieth-century buildings and the Town Hall of the 2 nd district at No. 2.

Lyon Ainay, Mairie de Lyon 2e by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


This building is a former private hotel built by Clair Tisseur and transformed by Hirsch in 1893. It was home to the Company des forges de Bessèges and Terrenoire. Stop at Franklin Street on your right.


The street is named after Benjamin Franklin, statesman, physicist, philosopher and publicist born in Boston in 1706. This street also bore the name of Queen Street and Concord in the nineteenth century. Note the angle statue. Look at No. 10: on the door frame, you will see the faces of Louise Labe and Philibert de L'Orme. Pick up Rue d’Enghien and turn right at Rue de Castries.


This early nineteenth century street, overlooking the Saône, is dedicated to the Duke Augustin de Castries, lieutenant general of the King in the provinces of Lyonnais, Forez and Beaujolais in 1787. Nineteenth century houses with beautiful facades and remarkable doors. Stop at No. 10.

Lyon Ainay, Maison Gaillard by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


Gaillard House, where the poet Victor de Laprade lived (died 1883), is remarkable: a beautiful example of smooth frames that extend beneath the banner and are framed by two moulded consoles, a staircase tower in the courtyard to allow as much space as possible for the apartments, oval turret masonry, English-style steps to begin with then floating steps (a staircase is said to be English when you see the extremities of the steps as they can support themselves alone; in a French staircase the extremities are hidden and kept in a shaft). Now head to the dock and the Saône.


This wharf, relatively short and previously called West Pier, was constructed in 1820. Since 1931 it has been dedicated to Marshal Joseph Joffre, commander of the French army from 1914 to 1918 who won the Battle of the Marne. It is lined with beautiful buildings majestically overlooking the Saône. Carry on up the dock towards the north to continue the tour.

Lyon Ainay, Immeuble 5 quai Maréchal Joffre by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


Beautiful building built by Louis Rogniat in 1897. Admire the scenery, the door, consoles and balconies.

Lyon Ainay, Immeubles 2-3 quai Marèchal Joffre by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


Majestic nineteenth century buildings with large doors, windows with capitals, facades with bays and crownings.

Lyon Ainay, Immeuble 1 quai Maréchal Joffre by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


Building with beautiful facade and a remarkable door. On the 2nd floor note the Juliette balcony and the bays with triangular or semicircular caps.

Lyon Ainay, Voûte d'Ainay by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


Located between the Square Janmot and the Place d’Ainay, the Voute d’Ainay is the old abbey door that overlooked a Middle-Ages port. It was rebuilt in the mid-eighteenth century.


This square with old houses is actually a relatively short T extension of the Rue de l'Abbaye d'Ainay, just in front of the abbey. Until the late eighteenth century, this place was an island that was gradually attached to the Peninsula.


This street was created on land donated by Father Ainay in 1728 and communicated with the dock via the Voûte d’Ainay (XVIII century) itself on the site of an ancient abbey wall gate that overlooked the old Ainay bridge. The street takes its name from Haussonville de Vaubecour, abbot who in 1728 sold land to a promoter with the intention of property development and the opening of the street.

The street first bore the name of St. Martin. Go north and take the alley of nineteenth century houses up to Place Antoine Vollon.


Dating back to 1728 and formerly Place Saint-Michel, this square is dedicated to Lyon stilllife painter born in 1833 at No. 4 It is decorated with a pretty fountain with cherubs and a basin created by Lanfrey and Baud in 1857.

Admire the façade of the building at No. 2: majestic style, foundations, bays. Then take Rue Guynemer on the left back towards the Saone.


First called St. Clair (name of a convent), this old street was dedicated in 1917 to the famous aviator Georges Guynemer (1894-1917). Take Rue Joannes Drevet to reach the Tilsit dock.


This short seventh-century street was first called Sainte-Colombe then in 1942 it was dedicated to John-Baptiste Drevet, called Joannès, who was a painter and etcher (1854-1940). His studio was in this street. Turn right on the dock towards the north.


Formerly Quai de l'Arsenal and finished in 1828, this dock took its current name in 1868 in memory of the treaty concluded between Napoleon and Tsar Alexander I in 1807 in Tilsit, a small town in East Prussia. Going up the Saône you will discover beautiful buildings as you come to Rue Antoine de Saint Exupéry: Note at No. 21 the Louvier building on the northern corner of the wharf and Rue Clotilde Bizolon.

Lyon Ainay, Lotissement Dugas et Pitrat by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


After the creation of the Tilsit dock in 1828, property development begun and the area was divided into six lots. On 17 July, 1830, M. Pitrat and V. Robichon bought the block between the streets Sala, Plat, Bizolon and the dock. In exchange for the sale, M. Pitrat and V. Robichon had to construct an entire row of identical houses in continuation of the salt warehouses designed by L.-P. Baltard.

Lyon Ainay, Passerelle Abbé Couturier by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


Built in 1853, rebuilt in 1944 and finally renovated in 1996, this bridge connects the Ainay neighbourhood to the Saint-Georges district. Previously called St. George, since 2003 the bridge bears the name of the abbot Paul Couturier (1881-1953) who taught for 40 years at the Chartreux school and was a pioneer of ecumenism. On the other bank, you can see the St. George Church built by the architect Bossan in 1844.

Lyon Ainay, Hôtel de Virieux by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


Built by Claude-Anthelme Benoit between 1864 and 1866, the architect had proposed a balanced composition with well controlled stone work. Follow the contour of the bays and carved decorations.

Lyon Ainay, Grande Synagogue by Historical-Cities.orgHistorical Cities


Built by the architect Abraham Hirsch in 1863 in neo-Byzantine style, the synagogue is listed as a historical monument. It stands on the site of the former Lyon arsenal, built under François 1 st in 1536 and destroyed in 1793. The synagogue is divided into two buildings: the first (160 m2) overlooks the quay and has a beautiful façade; the second (550 m2) is set back from the street.


This nineteenth-century street was called St. Louis-Alphonse-Anne Fochier. Since 2000 it is dedicated to the famous author and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944) born in Lyon at No. 9 of this street. A statue of the Little Prince was installed in Place Bellecour to honour the writer. Walk along the street and see buildings like No. 7, listed as a historical monument. Continue on the same pavement.


On the south side of the square, before you find yourself back at the Office de Tourisme du Grand Lyon, look at the buildings No. 31, 30a, 30, 28, 27 and 26, all listed as historical monuments. The visit ends here and we thank you for your interest.

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