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Best Historic Locations in Lyon

By: Cityseeker
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Palais du Commerce

Palais du Commerce is a stock exchange built by R. Dardel between 1855 and 1862. The main room is a glass-roofed, atrium-style hall with ancient galleries facing the exterior and the sculpted decor is sumptuous. Place de la Bourse on the northern side of the building was recently converted into a pretty little garden by A. Chemetoff. Try to see the sculptures by G. Bonnet on this façade or if you prefer neoclassical architecture, go to the south façade.

Lyon, France
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Hôtel Dieu

According to legend, King Childebert and his wife Ultrogothe founded this hospital in 542. Their statues were erected on the first floor of the façade as a reminder of their good work with the sick and needy. When Jacques Blanc rebuilt the hospital between 1622 and 1627, the King still wanted it to serve the poor but the number of patients had risen considerably. The building, located today between the quai du Rhône and the grande rue de l'Hôpital, isn't big enough to cover the needs of a growing population. The ingenious cross-shaped layout and the little dome with cut-off sections (the first in France) bear witness to his talent. In 1732, the hospital governors sent the King a plan to enlarge the buildings and make it a showpiece for the town. At that time, the left bank was relatively undeveloped and the futuristic building must have impressed people coming in from the Dauphiné countryside. A young architect named Jacques-Germain Soufflot won the competition to redesign the hospital with his ambitious project to incorporate the existing buildings. Work on this neo-classical building with Ionic colonnades on the front and Doric pillars inside was started in 1741 and finished in 1837.

Lyon, France
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Ancien Palais de Justice

The old Palais de Justice (the new one is located in the Part Dieu district) was built on the banks of the Saône by L.P. Baltard between 1835 and 1845, at a time when classical antiquity was in vogue for art and architecture. The facade that overlooks the Saone river is neo-classical and resembles a Greco-Roman temple with 24 fluted columns and Corinthian capitals, Attic entablature and a monumental staircase. The effect is striking. The palace is organized around la salle des pas perdus where the accused, lawyers and private parties would wait their turn to appear before the judge. This extraordinary room covered by three cupolas illustrates themes close to the heart of the court of law.

Lyon, France
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Hotel Bullioud

Built in 1536 by renowned Renaissance architect Philibert Delorme, this mansion is a fine example of the Renaissance style and one of the best known sites of early classic architecture in France. The courtyard is a must-see for romantics and history buffs and is an absolute pleasure to stroll through while site-seeing in Lyon. Admission is free.

Lyon, France
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Paterin Hotel

Nicknamed "Henry 4th's house" for the bust of him that can be seen in an alcove, this private mansion was built in the second half of the 16th century which makes it part of Lyon's Rennaissance heritage. Unfortunately, part of the building was destroyed in the 19th century. This mansion is not in quite the same area as the other Rennaissance houses in the old part of Lyon (vieux Lyon) but it is worth the detour (direction montée des carmes-déchaussées), just to see the astonishing staircase in the cour d'honneur and the monumental entrance with a series of arches on top of each other supported by columns. A little bit of renovation wouldn't do any harm.

Lyon, France
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Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière

Built between 1872 and 1884 by the architect Pierre Bossan, the Basilique de Fourvière, that has been nicknamed the "upside-down elephant" is representative of the eclecticism of the end of the 19th Century. The oriental, symbolic and neo-classical influences (twisted columns and columned porticoes) are mixed with architecture inspired by the medieval style towers, which creates a shocking fortress church. An observatory offers spectacular views, and under the basilica is a crypt, accessible from the esplanade. Guided tours are available.

Lyon, France
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Gallo-Romain Amphitheater

An inscription that was discovered in 1958 and is now on display in the Museum of Gallo-Roman civilization helped date the construction of the Amphithéâtre Gallo-Romain to 19 AD, under Tiberius. This amphitheater was used for entertainment and showcasing of tragicomedies, but it was also the federal sanctuary of the Three Gauls in which each tribe was represented, thus ensuring loyalty of the Gallic people to the Emperor. The highest social standing a Gaul could reach was to become a federal priest of Rome and Augustus. The amphitheater is nestled atop a hill and measures. Coins displayed in the Museum of Gallo-Roman civilization reproduce the holiness of the altar of Rome and Augustus which is overlooked by two statues of Victory perched on columns. Call the museum for more details.

Lyon, France
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Roman Theaters of Fourviere

Located close to the Fourvière Hill of Lyon is the Roman Theaters of Fourviere; a theater that is believed to have existed at this location since the 17th Century. Albeit an ancient sight, Roman Theaters of Fourviere is still used for many concerts and the science behind its seating arrangement and acoustics always makes visitors fall in awe of this beauty. Even when there aren't events lined up, when in Lyon, a visit to this place comes highly recommended. One can stroll up and down the complex while soaking in the serene atmosphere that surrounds these ruins.

Lyon, France
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Fourvière Archeological Park

Sheltering some of the most ancient Roman relics like thermal baths and tombs, the archaeological park on the Fourviere Hill is a treasure trove of Roman history. The Fourvière Archaeological Park boasts two remarkable archaeological finds: a Roman theater that happens to be the oldest of its extant in Gaul, and an Odeon dating back to early 2nd Century. These two theaters are believed to have been the heart of community life in the area and were large enough to accommodate over 13,000 people. The ruins were discovered in the early 20th Century, and have since been restored to full working order. Theater-lovers can take in a show in this unique venue, while visitors to the park can walk around these monuments of the past while enjoying views of the sparkling Rhône and Saône rivers.

Lyon, France
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Château de Septème

Built next to the ancient medieval city for protection, Château de Septème was restored in the 15th and 16th Centuries and parts of the ramparts remain today. Most of the buildings from the end of the Middle Ages (14th-15th Century) remain and bear witness to the changing lifestyles compared to earlier buildings (towers, chimneys and the like). The inner courtyard was reworked during the Renaissance when a loggia and gallery were added. Call for more details.

Septème, France
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