A cultural tour of this historical city
Known for its culture, food and history, Lyon is bustling with hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Here, with the help of Street View, we take you on a virtual tour of Lyon, stopping off at various cultural highlights that showcase the art, design and architecture on offer.
1. The Flower Tree
Created in 2003 as part of the 7th biennial Festival of Contemporary Art in Lyon, this huge bouquet is known as the Flower Tree. The technicolor piece was created by Korean artist Jeong-Hwa Choi.
The work consists of 85 individual plastic flowers arranged in a tree-like formation and is a visual contrast to the more traditional architecture in the area. The clash has been a welcome one though as it’s remained a permanent fixture, and can be seen on the west side of Place Bellecour.
2. The Orange Cube building
The Orange Cube was created by Paris-based architects Jakob + Macfarlane Architects. Designed as part of an urban planning project to revitalize the docks of Lyon, it was completed in 2011.
The 5-story cube supposedly plays off the fluid movement of the river Saône it sits next to by exploring the the effects of voids and light. As a result parts of the building are seemingly carved out, appearing like a huge wedge of orange Swiss cheese. The bright orange color is a reference to lead paint, an industrial color often used in harbor zones.
3. Tour métallique de Fourvière
The Tour Métallique de Fourvière’s appearance is often compared to the Eiffel Tower, which predates it by 3 years and the middle section of this steel framework tower is actually an exact copy of the middle part of the Paris-based equivalent.
Built between 1892 and 1894, the metallic structure has a height of 85.9 meters and weighs around 210 tons. At one time it had a restaurant and an elevator capable of taking 22 people up to the summit, yet nowadays it serves as a television tower and unfortunately it isn’t accessible to the public.
4. The Weight Of Oneself
This sculptural piece by artist duo Elmgreen and Dragset sees a marble figure carry another in his arms. On first glance it looks like an intimate, almost romantic scene, but on closer inspection it's clear the faces of these protagonists are identical, and the piece is actually a man carrying a drowned version of himself. Erected in 2013 outside the Palais de Justice in Lyon, the artists say The Weight of Oneself is a nod to society’s inability to help those in need.
5. The Citroën Garage
Located on the Rue de l'Université, the Citroën Garage is a perfect example of functionalist architecture of the inter-war period. Built between 1930 and 1932, it was designed by Maurice-Jacques Ravaze, who was the head of Citroen’s architectural department at the time.
Ravaze created around 20 other buildings in a similar style for the car company, but this garage is the only one remaining today. Over the years the building has been maintained and renovated and it currently has 200 parking space across its 5 floors with an art deco hall that has a ceiling height of 15m.
6. Lyon Mur Des Canuts painted mural
Le Mur Des Canuts is mural created by art collective CitéCréation in 1987 and is located on the Boulevard des Canuts. It remains one of CitéCréation's major works and the huge fresco depicts a neighbourhood of silk workers who rebelled against working conditions in the 1800s. Playing with perspective and creating various optical illusions, at 1200m² the piece is one the largest trompe-l'oeil murals in Europe. Find out more about the Le Mur des Canuts and other Lyon murals here.
7. La Maison aux 365 Fenêtres
The Brunet house is known by the Lyonnais as La Maison aux 365 Fenêtres (The House with 365 Windows). Built around 1810, the building does indeed have 365 windows and they represent each day of the year, there are also 4 main entrances to represent the seasons and 52 apartments with chimneys for the number of weeks in the year.
The house was built by a Mr Brunet from Savoie. During the Canut uprising in the Croix-Rousse in November 1831, which saw Lyonnaise silk workers revolt after a minimum price for silk was not agreed to by manufacturers, the house was nicknamed the “Fortresses du Peuple” (Fortress of the People), as workers occupied the building.
8. La Cité des Étoiles
Part of a series of Avant Garde housing complexes, La Cité des Étoiles (City of Stars) is in the town of Givors. Built from 1976 to 1982, it was created as a protest against the anonymity of high-rise public housing that was common in France at the time. Rather than an imposing tower block, the 207 apartments descend in a series of triangles from a crown of five and six-pointed stars, allowing each unit to be unique.
The full star formation can only really fully be appreciated from a bird’s-eye-view, although there are various viewing points near the complex. Built by architect and town planner Jean Renaudie, the complex and many others in Lyon have become a piece of 20th century architectural heritage.
9. Place Bellecour
La Place Bellecour is a large square in the centre of Lyon and is one of the largest open squares in Europe. As part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it plays a big part in the city’s annual 4-day Fête des Lumières (Festival of Light) celebrations, an event that takes place in December each year which expresses gratitude to Mary, mother of Jesus.
Traditionally, every Lyonnaise house places candles along the outside of their windows and the festival plays host to other activities based on light, which involves the creative community coming together to create light installations and sculptures. Below is a taster of 2017’s showcase, which provided visitors with an illuminated walk through nature.
10. Traboule de la Tour Rose
A traboule is another word for a covered passageway that normally cuts through houses or streets, and Lyon is filled with them. Fortunately for visitors, Lyon’s traboules are open to the public, meaning the city’s hidden and colorful history can be discovered if you know where to look.
Each traboule is different in both color and architectural styles and La Tour Rose, is one of Lyon’s most remarkable. Located in Vieux Lyon, the entire courtyard is painted in pastel pinks and ochre tones and is dominated by an elegant rose-colored Renaissance watchtower that houses a spiral staircase. This particular traboule is also known for housing King Henry IV for a few days in 1600 after he married Marie de' Medici and celebrated in the Cathedral of Place Saint-Jean nearby.