(part II - The Presqu’île)
The Presqu’île is the heart of Lyon.
Extending from the foot of the Croix Rousse hill to the confluence of the Rhône and the Saône rivers, it has a preponderance of cafés, restaurants, luxury shops, department stores, banks, government buildings, and cultural institutions.
In Presqu’île (in Vieux Lyon, as well) is where most tourists decide to stay. The part of Presqu’île which is of any interest to the visitor is the upper part, between Perrache train station (Gare de Lyon-Perrache) and the foothills of Croix Rousse hill.
This part of the city can be walked in a single day.
Till the end of the 18th century, the confluence of the two rivers was not well defined as it is today. The area south of this point (where Perrache train station is) was a regularly flooded marshland. In 1766, Antoine Michel Perrache presented a plan to dry these marshes, move the confluence to the south, and gain fertile farmland and extend the city. He created an independent company and began the work in 1772. When he died in 1779, the work had not advanced much. His sister Marie-Anne continued to work on his project, and the whole plan was completed in 1839.
The new district emerged from the waters named "Perrache", the same as the train station built some years later.
The station was built in 1855 by Alexis Cendrier. The building was built in classical style and is composed of a double rooftop and a large passenger building. It opened in 1857 and served as Lyon’s primary station till the 70s when the Gare de Lyon-Part-Dieu was constructed. The station lost its view of the city when an intermodal terminal (combining local public transit and intercity buses) and a highway were built in front of it in the 1970s.
Although much modern building has somewhat tarnished the area's look, the station retains many of its original features, like the station facade, which features the names of towns served by trains departing Lyon-Perrache and the two twin iron rooftops which cover the platforms.
Place Carnot was named (1889) in honor of Lazare Carnot, a hero of the French Revolution. There is a playground for children at this big square, a carousel, and a small sports ground. The square also hosts the Christmas market and a weekly farmers' market on the north side. A big Statue of the Republic (Statue de la République) stands on the eastern side of the square since 1889. Nevertheless, what dominates the square is the intermodal terminal building and its huge ramp leading from the middle of the square to the building's upper level.
Rue Victor Hugo
During his visit to Lyon in 1805, Napoleon I, seduced by the beauty of the area, planned to build an imperial residence at the site of what is today Place Carnot. Works started in 1813, but in 1815 the “Empire” fell, and the project was canceled to be replaced by the development of a large square.
According to Napoleon's project, the central axis of the square is part of a long route that would connect his Palace with Place Bellecour. Today this axis is visualized via Rue Victor Hugo, which is a pedestrian commercial road.
Start walking northward in Rue Victor Hugo till you reach the small Place Ampère with André Marie Ampère monument, which celebrates this famous Lyonnais physicist and mathematician.
Rue Victor Hugo has no interest, so leave it behind by following Rue Bourgelat, which starts at the back of the Ampère monument.
Basilique Saint-Martin d'Ainay
In less than 100m, you will see the Town Hall of the 2nd arrondissement of Lyon on your left hand. At the entrance of this beautiful mansion built in 1875 stands the bust of Antoine Marie Perrache.
Nevertheless, the real attraction of this area, called Ainay, is the Basilica of Saint-Martin d'Ainay (Basilique Saint-Martin d'Ainay), a beautiful Romanesque church, and what has been left of the Ainay Abbey (l'Abbaye d'Ainay).
A Benedictine priory was founded on the Lyon peninsula in 859. When later it was raised to the rank of an abbey, major building works began: the abbey church was built at the end of the 11th century under Abbot Gaucerand, consecrated on 29 January 1107 and dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours by Pope Pascal II. This church is today one of the Romanesque churches still extant in Lyon.
With its massive walls, watchtower, narrow window openings, and spaces for heavy doors, the building was apparently built with defense in mind. It reflected the many dangers of warfare and violent incursions of the period of its construction.
Over the centuries that followed its establishment, Abbey’s importance and wealth increased. During the Renaissance, the monastery owned a port, the abbot lived in a palace, and the monks had substantial buildings, cloisters, a garden, and a vineyard.
Little by little, the community's life ceased to be a monastic one, particularly once the abbots became commendatory and were nominated by the king. The abbey's temporal power continued, but its spiritual life evaporated. The decline started in 1562, during the French Wars of Religion, when the troops of the Baron des Adrets destroyed part of the buildings, including the cloister, and damaged the church heavily.
Today only the church (basilica) survives, which during the course of the 19th century was restored in a Romanesque Revival style by the architects Pollet and Benoôt in a "pure Romanesque" spirit, destroying the last remains of the cloister and enlarging it by the addition of side chapels.
The basilica at Ainay contains several architectural styles: the chapel of Saint Blandina is pre-Romanesque; the principal structure is Romanesque; the chapel of Saint Michael is Gothic, and the overall restoration and enlargement of the 19th century is Romanesque Revival. Nevertheless, despite its eventful history, the church retains a genuine unity of style. The nave measures 17 meters in width, and the whole structure is 37 meters in length. The entrance to the church is by a small red door at a building located opposite the City Hall at number 11 of Rue Bourgelat. Stand at Place d’Ainay in front of the church to admire this fascinating building.
Continue walking on Place d’Ainay towards the opposite direction of the basilica, and after passing under an arch, you have reached the left bank of Saône River. The views from the bank over Vieux Lyon and the Fourvière Hill are gratifying.
Walk by the river (on Quai Tilsitt). Pass by the red pedestrian bridge Passerelle de l'Abbé Couturier (known as Passerelle St Georges until 2003), which built in 1853 and connects Ainay to Église Saint Georges in Vieux Lyon.
Opposite the Passerelle St Georges stands the Grande Synagogue de Lyon. This neo-Byzantine Jewish place of worship was built between 1863 and 1864 and renovated for the first time in 2014. The façade we see overlooking the Quai Tilsitt is not the façade of the main prayer building. Behind the relatively narrow building on the quayside, there is a courtyard through which there is access to the main building. A small vestibule, open to the courtyard by three arches, provides access to the prayer room with three wooden doors.
This large rectangular room is divided into three parts: the central nave of the building height, and on each side, the lower aisles, separated from the nave by twelve columns recalling the twelve tribes of Israel. Each column is topped by various Corinthian or composite-styled capital. On each side, above the aisles as well as above the entrance hall, there is the gallery reserved for women with balustrades of stone columns.
Théâtre des Célestins
Continue walking and after about 100m, turn right at Rue Gaspard André and Place des Célestins. On the western side of the square stands the Théâtre des Célestins (Célestins, Theater of Lyon).
The theater was designed by Gaspard André and inaugurated in 1877. Alongside the Comédie-Française and the théâtre de l'Odéon, it is one of few theatres with over 200 years' continual operation in France.
Several notable actors such as Sarah Bernhardt, Jean Marais, and Fernandel have acted at the theatre and music-hall stars such as Joséphine Baker, Mistinguett, and Maurice Chevalier. It is now a municipal theatre directly run by the City of Lyon. It has a contemporary and classical repertoire as well as producing new work.
On the square, a kind of refracting telescope provides a kaleidoscope view of the car park underneath the square.
The theatre and the square on which it stands are named after a convent and church of the Celestine order (Le Couvent des Célestins), which occupied the site between 1407 and 1789. It was founded on the banks of the Saône on land seized from the Templars by Amedee VIII of Savoy and given to the order.
Passage des Imprimeurs.
Further north, walking on Quai Saint-Antoine, just before Pont Alfonse Juin stands the beautiful Passage des Imprimeurs (Printers Passage). This passage, narrow and original, leads between 26, Quai Saint-Antoine and 56, Rue Mercière. Half of this “traboule” is covered; the other is open. It is dedicated to the printers who came to Lyon in the 15th century from Germany and Italy and opened their shops here. Now, the passage hosts mostly antique shops and coin collecting shops.
Just opposite the book fair site (at the corner of Rue de la Platière and Quai de la Pécherie) stands one of the many and famous murals of Lyon: "The library of the city" fresco (Fresque «La bibliothèque de la cité»).
The full side on Rue de la Platière of the corner building is painted, which means a surface of about 400 m2. The mural represents a huge library listing several hundred writers of different genres (novel, poetry, theater, science fiction, crime fiction, comics ...) from Lyon and Rhône-Alpes. Excerpts from writings by Louise Labe, Frederic Dard, Jean Reverzy, Louis Calaferte, the poet Roger Kowalski, etc., can be read here.
The mural created by the “Cité de la Création” in 1998. “Cité de la Création” is a group of artists who create huge murals worldwide for over 40 years. These murals, today, have not only artistic but also a huge touristic value.
Église Notre Dame Saint-Vincent
Walking further north on Quai de la Pécherie/Quai de la Saint-Vincent. Between Pont de la Feuillee and Passerelle Saint-Vincent, is situated Église Notre Dame Saint-Vincent. Buildings surround the church, and of its front façade, only the entrance part (decorated with a statue of the Virgin Mary and a frieze, it has a round arch and two Ionic columns) can be seen from the quayside.
The church was built by Augustinian monks in 1789 when they were present in the area from the 14th century. It was called Église Saint-Louis, a tribute to Louis Le Dauphin, who had contributed financially to its construction. A book called "Book of Accounts" was written to trace the entire history of the church's construction. It took its current name in 1863. In 1793, the church served as a hospital, then a warehouse and gendarmerie. In 1933, Mortamet restored the church. In 1941, several Lyon Catholics, Protestants, and agnostics met fortnightly in the church's crypt to discuss in-depth Hitler's 'Mein Kampf'. On 12 December 1987, the church was destroyed by fire but was reopened in 1992 after a major renovation.
The “Fresque des Lyonnais”
Walking for another 300m on Quai de la Pécherie/Quai de la Saint-Vincent. Just opposite Passerelle Saint-Vincent stands another “Cité de la Création” masterpiece. The “Fresque des Lyonnais” is probably the most famous of all the murals in Lyon.
Since 1995 the “Lyonnais fresco” has attracted more than a million tourists a year and became one of the most visited places in Lyon. Much admired, it offers visitors an identity card of the city.
The Lyonnais Fresco project came to life on a blind wall and covers a surface area of 800 m² on what was formerly a real urban eyesore: three out of the four sides of the building bounded by Quai de la Saint-Vincent, Rue de la Martinière, and Place Saint-Vincent are painted.
The fresco depicts 30 of the famous men and women who have forged the history of Lyon, from the Roman emperor Claudi, born in Lyon, to Father Pierre and Paul Bocuse, the Pope of French cuisine, all placed at the windows, doorways, and balconies of this monumental trompe-l’oeil. They meet each other through the centuries. Also evoked are the techniques of Jacquard and the Lumière brothers, adventure with Claude Martin and Verrazane, the sciences with Claude Bernard, literature with Louise Labé, Maurice Scève, Saint-Exupéry, and Frédéric Dard, research with Marcel Mérieux and Ampère, and humanism with Pauline Jaricot. The work can be savored like a good book. Tourists take selfies of themselves in the good company of the characters in the fresco. I did the same, of course!
Place des Terreaux
From here head east by walking on Rue de la Martinière for 4-5 blocks. Turn right on Rue Sainte Marie des Terreaux till Place des Terreaux. This impressive square at the beginning of the slopes of La Croix-Rousse is marked by two of the most important buildings of Presqu'île: the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon and the Hôtel de Ville de Lyon.
On this site used to stand the fortification walls built in the early 13th century between the Saône and Rhône rivers. The walls over the next three and a half centuries were enforced and elaborated, till eventually to be demolished and to give rise to the development of the area and the city's expansion towards the north.
The first thing the visitor notices when he/she arrives at the square is the Fontaine Bartholdi, a fountain sculpted by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi. On 20 April 1857, the Bordeaux city council decided to hold a competition to create a fountain for Place Quinconces. Bartholdi, then aged 23, won the contest. However, the city hall of Bordeaux decided not to carry out his project. After Bartholdi had made the Statue of Liberty in New York (1886), the mayor of Bordeaux contacted him, but his new project was canceled after much hesitation.
It was finally achieved in 1888, but it was deemed too expensive and therefore sold to Lyon. The fountain was eventually put at Place des Terreaux in September 1892 and is currently still there.
The fountain depicts France as a female seated on a chariot controlling the four great rivers of France, represented by wildly rearing and plunging horses, highly individualized but symmetrically arranged, with bridles and reins of water weeds. The fountain weighs 21 tons and is made of lead supported by a frame of iron and was presented at the Exposition Universelle of 1889.
In 2016-2018 the sculpture and the rest of the fountain went through a major restoration.
The restoration remained faithful to the plans of the statue’s creator, all while using cutting-edge techniques. For example, a misting and fiber optics device was developed to recreate the horses’ “smoking nostrils”. An effect that Bartholdi himself never managed to achieve perfectly! The restoration gives visitors a chance to admire the realism and dynamism of this masterful work fully.
Musée des beaux-arts de Lyon
The Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon (Musée des beaux-arts de Lyon) -Le Palais Saint-Pierre- stands on the southern side of Place des Terreaux. It is housed in a former Benedictine convent of the 17th and 18th centuries.
Until 1792, the buildings belonged to the royal Abbaye des Dames de Saint-Pierre, built in the 17th century. The abbess always came from the high French nobility and here received the personalities of the kingdom.
The institution had a particularly aristocratic slant, as is shown by its renovation by Louis XIV of France in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The present state of the Palais Saint-Pierre is largely down to these renovations, which included the construction of the baroque refectory and monumental honor-staircase, said to be by Thomas Blanchet.
The refectory has been renovated since then and now serves as the reception for group visits and housing two monumental paintings on the subject of dining, The Multiplication of the Loaves and The Last Supper, both by Pierre-Louis Cretey. The rest of its current scheme was designed by Nicolas Bidaut and Simon Guillaume and is made up of sculptures.
The expulsion of the nuns and the destruction of the église Saint-Saturnin date to the French Revolution, though the abbey's other church (the église Saint-Pierre) still exists and now houses 19th and 20th-century sculptures.
After the Revolution, the remaining buildings housed the Palais du Commerce et des Arts, which was first made up of works confiscated from the clergy and nobility but later became more multi-disciplinary. For example, it gained archaeology and natural history collections and those of the Académie des Sciences et des Lettres.
The imperial drawing school was created in 1805 in the Palais du Commerce et des Arts to provide Lyon's silk factories with designers. It gave birth to the famous Lyon School. In 1860, the Chambre de Commerce left the Palais Saint-Pierre, and the establishment became the Palais des Arts. From 1875, the museum's collections underwent a major expansion and had to be expanded - the staircase by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes dates to this era.
The entrance to the museum is from the square, and through a covered passageway, the visitor enters the Jardin du Palais St Pierre (the former cloister of the convent), which is scattered with sculptures and fountains. Entry tickets cost 8-12 € (4-7 € reduced) depending on which parts you are interested in visiting (permanent Collections, temporary exhibitions, or both). The access to the bookstore and the café is free…and this is a good trick to visit the whole museum for free!
Hôtel de Ville de Lyon
At Place des Terreaux (at the eastern side) is also located the Hôtel de Ville de Lyon. The City Hall is one of the largest historic buildings in the city, and it occupies the whole space between the Place des Terreaux and the Place de la Comédie, in front of the Opera Nouvel.
Lyon City Hall was built between 1645 and 1651 by Simon Maupin. Following a fire in 1674, the building was restored and modified, including its facade (at Place des Terreaux), designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart and his pupil Robert de Cotte. In 1792 during the French Revolution, the relief of Louis XIV on horseback, in the middle of the facade above the entrance, was removed and replaced only during the Restoration by Henry IV of France, in the same posture.
The Opéra Nouvel.
The Opéra Nouvel (Nouvel Opera House) is the home of the Opéra National de Lyon. The existing opera house is a result of re-design by the distinguished French architect, Jean Nouvel.
In 1756, one of the first opera houses, created inside an existing freestanding building, opened in Lyon. It was designed by Jacques-Germain Soufflot, the architect of the Panthéon in Paris.
By the early 19th century, the building was too small, and Antoine-Marie Chenavard and Jean-Marie Pollet erected the new Lyon theatre, which opened on July 1, 1831. The new house was considered rather undistinguished but served its purpose.
It was not until 1985 that the City decided to rebuild the opera house again, but this time it was to be within the shell of the existing 1831 building. Jean Nouvel was commissioned to do the job.
The style of the house is essentially Italian with a horseshoe-shaped auditorium and tiers of boxes. Leaving only the existing foyer and the exterior façade, Nouvel tripled the space within the house by excavating below ground to create rehearsal space and, most strikingly, by doubling the height of the building by creating a steel and glass barrel vault which hid the fly tower as well as providing space for the ballet company.
It has been noted that this achievement was "an architectural tour de force, in which the past has been successfully wedded to the future...", albeit with the limited backstage space of the 19th-century theatre remaining.
From Place de la Comédie, the square in front of the Opera House, take a southbound direction and walk in one of the most important and beautiful avenues of Presqu’île, Rue de la République. The boulevard crosses from north to south the upper part of Presqu’île and is home to big department stores, banks, and palaces and one of the very few central streets lined with trees. After six blocks, turn right on Rue Gentil. There is no way to miss the impressive Saint-Nizier Church (Église Saint-Nizier). The present Flamboyant Gothic building (with a Renaissance portal) was built between the 14th and the 19th centuries.
The first religious building on the present church site was a Roman monument, perhaps a temple of Attis, whose worship was probably the cause of the Christian persecution in Lyon from 177 AD. In the 5th century, according to tradition, Eucherius of Lyon, 19th bishop of Lyon, built on the ruins of the building a basilica to contain the relics of the martyrs in Lyon, tortured in 177. The church received the name "Church of Holy Apostles".
In the 6th century, the bishops were buried in the church, particularly Nicetius of Lyon, the 28th bishop. The latter's body attracted a crowd, and his presumed great miracles led the church to take his name. In the early 8th century, the church has been ravaged by the Saracens and by Charles Martel. It was rebuilt in the 9th century but destroyed by fire in the 13th century.
From the 14th century to the late 16th century, the church was gradually rebuilt. It suffered the damage caused by several bands of Huguenot, which plundered the bishops of Lyon's tombs, then those of the French Revolution. After the French Revolution, the church served as a flour warehouse. In the late 18th century, the project to transform the church into a gallery was abandoned. The sacristy was built in 1816, and the organ was installed in 1886.
The west (main) façade of the church (on Rue de Brest) is presented with an imposing central Renaissance style portal (a rare style in Lyon) supporting a pediment and flanked by two spiers. Unlike the rest of the building, this part does not present a unity of style. Composed of three successive styles, the architects nevertheless managed to give it a beautiful overall harmony.
The North Tower was completed already at the end of the 15th century and is fashioned in Flamboyant Gothic style. Divided into three levels, its low part contains the portal; its central part is occupied by the clock, and the upper houses the bells and a pink brick spier.
The South Tower was built in the middle of the 19th century. Imagined in Gothic Revival by the architect Benoit (the father). The tower's body is symmetrical to the north tower, but the bell tower and the spier are in flamboyant style made of Tournus stone.
The asymmetrical but harmonious tours of Église Saint-Nizier can be seen from Vieux Lyon across the Saone River.
The "Guignol clock".
Continue southbound in Rue de Brest for one block and turn left on Rue de la Poulaillerie. Here, on number 8 of this street stands, since the end of the 19th century, the Charvet clock, also known as the "Guignol clock". The clock is a work of the watchmaker Charvet, and the automata are of the Fortune jeweler. The heart of the mechanism is made in the Haut-Jura by Bailly-Comte Morez.
Le Grand Café des Négociants.
Turn right on Rue du Président Édouard Herriot and after two blocks turn left On Rue Grenette. On Rue Grenette are located two of the most famous (and expensive) cafés of the city.
Le Grand Café des Négociants stands here (1, Place Francisque Régaud & Rue Grenette) since 1864. The café keeps its Second Empire decor throughout time characterized by its molded and painted ceilings, its splendid opulent curtains, and its numerous mirrors, all in burgundy and mahogany monochrome that give it a warm ambiance. Formerly a place of negotiation for diamond merchants, silk merchants, and wholesale butchers that used numerous mirrors to communicate discretely through signs, the brasserie has remained the meeting place for politicians, artists, business travelers…and posh people. If you are lucky, try to grab one of the very few tables reserved for coffee or tea, otherwise be prepared to buy an expensive snack or a glass of wine, if not an overpriced lunch.
L' Institution restaurant and café, is located at the corner of Rue de la République and Rue Grenette. It has a cozy baroque setting with velvet bench seats and carpeted floors. It is the first establishment in Lyon by Jacques Garcia, the French architect, interior designer and garden designer, best known for his contemporary interiors of Paris hotels and restaurants.
I had my coffee and dessert at the heated terrace on Rue de la République. My marron tiramisu was super expensive and bland in taste. Just imagine that I left half of it untouched…who? Me…the dessert addicted aficionado.
Rue de la République is closed to traffic from this point onwards, and it forms a half-kilometer-long open space.
Palais de la Bourse.
Diagonally from L' Institution, on Place des Cordeliers stands the enormous and over-decorated Palais de la Bourse or Palais du Commerce. The building was inaugurated by Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie in 1860. Initially devoted to hosting many institutions, the Palais de la Bourse, now Chamber of Commerce and Industry, hosted: the Commercial Court, the Company of brokers in silk and goods, until 1867, and the Crédit Lyonnais, until 1934. The Employment Tribunal held its meetings here until 1927.
Continue south on Rue de la République, till you reach Place de la République with its big pond/fountain and the huge Printemps Department Store.
From here, you either continue further south till you reach Place Bellecour or, before that, take a short detour by turning right on Rue Childebert to visit Place des Jacobins at the very heart of the commercial Presqu’île.
Place des Jacobins was created in 1556, and a fountain in the center was added in 1856. The current name of the square comes from the Jacobins, also named "religious Preachers of the Order of St. Dominic," who occupied the building on the southern side of the square from 1296. These Dominicans were called Jacobins when Philippe Auguste gave them a building in Paris, and the brothers went on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela (Jacobus in Latin).
La Place Bellecour.
La Place Bellecour is a large square in the heart of Presqu’île. This huge (312m by 200m) open space is certainly the most important feature of Lyon and the “kilometer 0” of the city: all distances are counted from this point.
Place Bellecour, which during the Gallo-Roman era was an alluvial island, has a long history.
It was a swamp and pasture until the beginning of the18th century when Louis XIV obtained ownership of the square and created the "Place Royale". Named Place Louis-le-Grand, it was adorned with a bronze statue of the king made by Martin Desjardins. During the French Revolution, an altar dedicated to Liberty was erected on 14 July 1790. The square changed its name and became the Place de la Fédération, and in 1972 a guillotine was installed here.
The royal statue was destroyed in 1793, and the square was then named Place de l' Égalité. On 21 June 1800, Napoleon I, after his victory at Marengo, laid the foundation stone for new buildings around the square, which was renamed again to Place Bonaparte and later to Place Napoléon. During the Bourbon Restoration, in 1825, a new Statue of Louis XIV was erected. Finally, under the French Third Republic, the square took its current name: Place Bellecour.
Today, in the center of the square still stands the equestrian statue of Louis XIV by François-Frédéric Lemot. It is accompanied, at his feet, by two allegorical statues of the Saône and the Rhône rivers, created by the brothers Costou in 1720.
The square also hosts the Lyon tourist office, while, in winters, a 60-meter ferris wheel is installed here.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
At the south-western tip of the square stands the statue of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry sitting in front of the Little Prince. It was erected in 2000 for the centenary of the aviator's birth. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was a French writer, poet, aristocrat, journalist, and pioneering aviator. He is best remembered for his novella The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince) and his lyrical aviation writings, including Wind, Sand and Stars, and Night Flight.
Behind the statue stands Café Bellecour, a famous restaurant to have your meal or coffee.
L'Hôpital de la Charité.
Opposite the bottom western tip of Place Bellecour is Place Antonin Poncet. Its monument is dedicated to the Armenian Genocide (comprised of 36 pillars) and the impressive tower Clocher de la Charité.
This bell tower is the only remaining part of the L'Hôpital de la Charité, a hospital established in 1617 and expanded in the eighteenth century to help the poorest population in the region.
The current bell tower replaced the original bell tower in 1666. The plans of the bell tower are attributed to the architect Bernini.
To meet the growing number of abandoned children, a "tower" has been built in the hospital wall along the rue de la Charité. A wooden cylinder at the bottom of the tower would open so that the anonymous mother could place her baby in it and pull a bell to warn the sisters of the abandonment. This system was abolished in 1843.
The hospital was decommissioned in the early 1900s and demolished in 1934, except for the bell tower. The Place Antonin Poncet, created by Michel Bourne, dates from that day. The Main Post Office building, built in 1938, covers today most of the area once occupied by L'Hôpital de la Charité. Get inside and admire the frescos made by Louis Bouquet.
Opposite the tower, on Rue de la Charité, stands the famous Café de la Cloche.
"Le Café de la Cloche est un véritable témoin de l'histoire de Lyon, lieu de culture, d'échanges et de rencontres."
Rue des Marronniers is a narrow, cobbled street for pedestrians only that starts from Place Antonin Poncet and finishes at Rue de la Barre. The street is full of restaurants, bouchons, cafés, bars, and bistro, and it is full of visitors during both the day and the night. When the rest of the city looks empty, head to Rue des Marronniers for a vibrant night out and a tasty meal.
While in Rue des Marronniers you can visit Grand Hôtel-Dieu by exiting on Rue de la Barre and continue to the Rhone right bank.
First erected in medieval times, the building originally served as the "Confrérie des frères pontifes" (est. 1184), a pontifical meeting place and refuge for both traveling and local members of the clergy.
However, when the first doctor Maître Martin Conras was hired in 1454, 'Hôtel-Dieu' became a fully functional hospital, one of the most important in France. As Lyon was a city known for its trade and seasonal fairs, many early patients were weary travelers of foreign descent.
In 1532, 'Hôtel-Dieu' appointed former Franciscan/Benedictine monk-turned-doctor and great Humanist François Rabelais, who would write his Gargantua and Pantagruel during his tenure here. Renaissance poet Louise Labé lived just beyond the western limits of the building. Massive expansion projects in the 17th century by Ducellet (under Louis XIII and Richelieu) and in the 18th century by Soufflot (under Louis XIV and Colbert) replaced the original building with the grandiose wings and courts we know today.
Today, 'Hôtel-Dieu' houses the "Musée des Hospices Civils" a permanent exhibit tracing the history and practice of medicine from the Middle Ages to modern time and includes a fine collection of apothecary vases amongst other objects. The building ceased to function as a hospital in 2010, and 2015 started a big renovation-conversion to a luxury shopping mall and hotel, which will open in 2019.
Rue Auguste Comte.
Your tour in Presqu’île will be incomplete if you do not wander around the shops of Rue de la Charité or even worse if you do not stroll in the small boutique, antiques and alimentation shops of Rue Auguste Comte. This very posh street is parallel to Rue de la Charité and extends from Place Bellecour to Place Carnot and Gare de Lyon-Perrache.
Spend some time here window-shopping and mixing with very well-dressed French people.
At No 34 of Rue de la Charité stands the Musée des Tissus et des Arts Décoratifs. Located in two 18th century hôtels particuliers (townhouses of a grand sort), the institution consists of two distinct museums; however, they are administered as one: the Musée des Tissus (Museum of Textiles) and the Musée des arts décoratifs (Decorative Arts Museum). Founded in 1864, the Musée des Tissus houses one of the largest international collection of textiles, amounting to 2,500,000 units.
The collection spans a 4,000-year period, from Antiquity to the present, and covers a wide range of techniques and all the geographical areas of the world. The history of Lyon's silk industry is particularly well represented in the collection. The Musée des Arts Décoratifs holds works in many different fields: furniture, majolica, drawings, jewelry, painting, sculpture, etc.
The part of the Presqu’île, south of Gare de Lyon-Perrache, has no much interest to the tourist, except a modern Shopping Mall (Pôle de Commerces et de Loisirs de Confluence) and the Confluence Museum (Musée des Confluences) located at the very tip where the two rivers meet, known as La confluence.
If the weather is good, take a long walk on the left bank of Saone River: start from the shopping mall and walk all the way to the confluence point. This walk offers beautiful views of the hills across the river and beautiful examples of modern architecture (for example, the Euronews building with its external metal grid in vivid green color).
Musée des Confluences
Situated on the confluence of the Rhone and the Saône, the Musée des Confluences is a monumental structure of metal and glass. I am an aficionado of modern architecture, but I believe this building is an ugly structure. Nevertheless, it offers great views all around and is a must-see if you have kids: the museum narrates the story of humankind and the history of life in a very spectacular and playful way.
What really pissed me off when we visited is that this huge building has only one entrance available to the public. So, if you happen to find yourself at the southern end of it, you need to walk and climb stairs to discover after half an hour that you have to go around the building at the front entrance to enter the building…and this is not all…after that, you have to face the security people, who may not understand why you need to use the elevator (and not climb the big staircase again at the front), even though you are not carried around in a stretcher!
Pont Raymond Barre is a beautiful bridge over the Rhone River and offers wonderful views of the museum and the city towards the north. The bridge has been developed as an observation deck with benches here and there for you to rest and enjoy the views.
La Halle Tony Garnier
If you do not feel tired, walk over the bridge, and in some meters, you will encounter the "La Halle Tony Garnier". This market building, designed by Tony Garnier, was built at the beginning of the 20th century to function as the livestock market. It was inaugurated in 1928, and today this huge building is used for exhibitions and concerts.