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Lyon's Architectural Landmarks (Self Guided), Lyon

Lyon is a beautiful city with gorgeous places to visit. From an architectural standpoint, Lyon is a treasure trove of beautiful buildings with a fascinating mixture of historic and modern structures. Take this tour to discover the variety of architectural styles found in Lyon.
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Lyon's Architectural Landmarks Map

Guide Name: Lyon's Architectural Landmarks
Guide Location: France » Lyon (See other walking tours in Lyon)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.3 Km or 2.1 Miles
Author: jenny
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Palais du Commerce
  • Chapelle de la Trinité
  • Église Saint-Nizier
  • Temple Lanterne
  • Auberge du Gouvernement
  • La Tour Rose
  • Place des Jacobins
  • Hôtel Dieu
  • Préfecture du Rhône
Palais du Commerce

1) Palais du Commerce

The Palais de Commerce is the headquarters of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and parts of it are open to the public for guided tours.

When the City Council decided to build the Palais in 1853 it was intended to house a museum of art and industry, shops and various offices for the silk trade, as well as the Chamber of Commerce and Tribunal.

It was finished in 1860, built by the architect René Dardel, consisting of four pavilions around a central glass-roofed main hall, called the “Salle de la Corbeille”. Both the north and south facade are richly decorated with ornate coping and columns supporting elegant balconies.

The statues reflect the purpose of the work carried out inside; they represent Agriculture, Industry, Justice, Temperance and Trade. At the foot of the steps giving onto the Place des Cordeliers are two allegorical statues depicting the Rivers Saône and Rhône, their arms entwined. On the north side of the building, the former Place de la Bourse has been turned into a small, rather charming public garden.

The ceiling paintings are by Lyonnais artists such as Ponthus-Cinier and Beuchot, and continue the themes of the statues.

In 1894 the President of the Third Republic Sadi Carnot was assassinated as he left the building. A plaque on the wall near the main entrance is dedicated to him.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Chapelle de la Trinité

2) Chapelle de la Trinité

A lot of buildings are often described as “a pearl” or “a gem”. In most cases this description is exaggerated but in the case of the Chapelle de la Trinité it is not. This chapel is quite simply beautiful.

It was built in the heart of the Grand Collège in 1622 by the architect Martellange in the Baroque style. The school belonged to the Jesuit priests since 1567 and the chapel was destined for the students.

With this in mind the decoration was dedicated to education, both academic and spiritual. Sheathed in Carrare marble, it is decorated with statues and trompe-l’oeil frescoes. Since the chapel’s founding, student have been engraving signatures and small designs on top of the balustrade and you will see the names of many of the illustrious sons of the city, including Leymarie and Flacheron.

The plan of the chapel is quite simple with a central nave without projecting transept and ten side chapels, which are linked together. A small entrance behind the main altar in the semi-circular apse opens onto a vaulted corridor that leads to the choir.

Although it was classified as a historical monument in 1939, it was nonetheless abandoned and stripped of its furniture. For many years it was used as a gym and for demonstrations. In the nineteen nineties a renovation plan was launched, led by Mortamet and Repellin. The chapel reopened to the public in 2008 and is now used for concerts of Baroque music and other events.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Église Saint-Nizier

3) Église Saint-Nizier

The Church of Saint-Nizier is a church in the Presqu'ile region of Lyon, in the 2nd arrondissement, between the Place des Terreaux and the Place des Jacobins. Its name refers to Nicetius of Lyon, a bishop of the city during the 6th century.

The first religious building on the site of the present church was a Roman monument, perhaps a temple of Attis, whose worship was probably the cause of the Christian persecution in Lyon from 177. 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 body of the latter attracted a crowd and his presumed great miracles led the church to take his name.

Saint Austregisilus was abbot here during the 7th century.

In the early 8th century, the church has been ravaged by the Saracens and by Charles Martel. It was rebuilt in the 9th century, at the behest of the bishop Leidrade. Peter Waldo, in the 13th century, was a parishioner. His disciples, shocked by the wealth of the church, even set fire in 1253.

From the 14th century to the late 16th century, the church was gradually rebuilt. In 1562, the notables gathered in the church, and in the 17th century, the aldermen were elected in the nave. 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 flour warehouse. In the late 18th century, the project to transform the church into a gallery was abandoned after a petition signed by 100 notables.

The sacristy was built in 1816, and the organ was installed in 1886.

The church was in the 1970s the center of a popular neighborhood. Its presence was highlighted during its occupation by some prostitutes of the neighborhood in 1975 to express their anger towards police and social harassment. This church has often been perceived as a place of refuge and hospitality in the city.

In the beginning in 1968, renovations undertaken by the management of the monument historique and the city of Lyon began, and they ended in 1998.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Temple Lanterne

4) Temple Lanterne

Temple Lanterne was built by architect Manlius Bailly in 1857. The temple's beautiful organ was designed by Joseph Merklin in 1891. A variety of cultural events and concerts by well-known artists are held here.
Auberge du Gouvernement

5) Auberge du Gouvernement

Vieux Lyon is fascinating with its traboules and historic buildings; while you are visiting this area don’t miss l’Auberge du Gouvernement.

The building had long been an inn called l’Auberge de St Christophe but when the governors of the city were housed in a town house on the same square in 1512, it changed its name. The town house was pulled down in 1730, but the inn continued to be frequented until the 19th century; the coaches bound for Auvergne and the south-west left from there.

The Gothic-style building has five floors and two bays. It has mullioned windows with small columns and the heads of mythological animals at their bases. Most of these heads are now missing, but a few have survived.

The entrance to the inner courtyard is fronted today by a railed gate which replaced the stout timber door, but parts of the framework remain embedded in the walls. The inner courtyard is reached by a short slope cut into the stone. The archway is in the shape of a basket handle with a double-cross ogival vaulted ceiling and has a mermaid and a griffon at its base

The courtyard is linked by galleries and two traboules. When you have passed under an ogival-vaulted loggia you will find yourself in the raised courtyard (the former stables were beneath it), where you will see more mullioned windows, a door bearing an ancient coat of arms, and in one corner a well in the form of an open scallop shell.
La Tour Rose

6) La Tour Rose

La Tour Rose dates back to the 16th century. The entrance of the tower was inspired by Serlio, a known architect from Bologna. It was built in the Renaissance style, although the courtyard of the tower was later restored in the 17th century. It retains some 15th-century architectural features, preserved with great care.
Place des Jacobins

7) Place des Jacobins

Place des Jacobins lies at the center where twelve streets meet, but in spite of the heaving traffic roaring by, you should go and see this historic square.

The Jacobins had their convent, church and monastery on this site in the late 13th century and the area, that is now the square, was a walled-off market. In 1556 the walls were removed and it became a triangular public square.

Some of the buildings were pulled down in 1562 when the rue St Dominique was created. A small fountain was installed in the square and locals used to meet there to idle their time away in gossip. The square was renamed Place du Comfort, but the fountain was too small to be of much use to the growing population and eventually had to be removed.

In 1609 a pyramidal obelisk was erected, topped by a cross and with the name of God engraved in 24 languages around the base. This was destroyed during the Revolution. The church was rebuilt in 1689 and the convent restored in 1714. In 1818 the church was destroyed and the convent housed the Préfecture until 1852.

The fountain that you see today was built in 1878 by André. The four statues, representing Audran, Coustou, de l’Orme and Flandrin, were sculpted by Degeorges and installed in 1885. A plaque near the fountain, retracing the square’s history, was placed there in 2004.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Hôtel Dieu

8) Hôtel Dieu

The Hôtel Dieu stands on the banks of the Rhône river and is one of the biggest buildings on the presqu’île. Unfortunately, it is now closed, but there’s nothing to stop you from taking photos of this impressive building.

At the beginning of the year 1000, the Ordre des Frères Pontifes (the Bridge-Building Brotherhood) put up bridges and installed buildings with minimal hospital facilities to receive pilgrims. In 1184 it became one hospital run by nuns, called the Hopîtal du Pont du Rhône.

In the beginning, it was very small with a priory and a chapel. Its first qualified doctor was hired in 1454. In 1478 it was bought by the municipality and enlarged to house 200 patients, along with a new chapel and a cemetery added. During the 15th century, it was enlarged again, with the chapel becoming wards. In 1622 the outbuildings were pulled down and replaced by a series of buildings in the shape of a cross around a central dome. A new church was built by Ducellet. In 1663 another building was added for convalescents.

The Grand Dome was built by Soufflot in 1761 for changing the air over the large wards below. The religious and unqualified workers were dismissed during the Revolution and qualified staff was hired.

The hospital was enlarged once more in the early 19th century. In 1896 X-rays were performed here and the first radiology department in France was installed. In 1923 an Oncology department set up in the Grand Dome.

The hospital was a CHU (teaching hospital) until its closure in 2010. It is now waiting reconversion into a luxury hotel and shopping mall.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Préfecture du Rhône

9) Préfecture du Rhône

Almost the entire building of the Préfecture du Rhône is open to the public on Heritage Day, but at any time of the year you can visit only parts of it.

It was built in 1890 by Antonin Louvier who decided on an eclectic style – a mixture of elements from former styles – to create something original, so the columns recall ancient Rome, while the roof follows the style used by the architect Mansart.

The sculptures on the façade are by Martin and Pagny; on each side of the clock is a statue, one depicting Day – a woman pulling a veil over her face with an owl at her feet; the other represents Night – a man uncovering his face with a crowing rooster at his side. The medallions are by Aubert; they represent a locomotive, a weaving loom, a ship and a palette, paintbrush and compass.

In the gardens you will see four monuments, erected to Duphot, Victor de Laprade, Felix Mangini and Pierre Dufour.

The atrium has a vaulted ceiling supported by marble columns. The statues of the Roman Emperor Claudius and his brother Germanicus are by Printemps. You can admire two magnificent vases of Sevres porcelain: one in celadon, the other in turquoise. At the foot of the main staircase are statues of Coustou and Meissonier, sculpted by Enderlin.

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