Look for the places in Lyon only locals know by slipping into the shoes of a local and setting off on a search for unknown, surprising or even secret places to give your trip that authentic note which you'll remember for a long time to come. Alone, or with a guide, on foot or by bike, explore the traboules (small passageways through and between buildings), walkways, courtyards and gardens scattered around the city; spend many an hour indulging in the pleasures of the south, on an island only accessible by boat; admire unique works of art in the heart of the city.

    Passing visitors to Lyon agree on one thing: the "Capital of Gaul" is a good place to live. Once you've finished the tour of the medieval and Renaissance districts of Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon), and you've wandered around the Presqu'île and climbed the slopes of the Croix-Rousse, you will want to find some of the hidden gems listed below.  

    1

    Rosa Mir Garden

    Lyon's version of Park Güell

    Listed by the French Historic Monument Society, Rosa Mir Garden is made entirely from rocks is the work of Spanish mason and tiler, Jules Senis. Well hidden in the interior courtyard of a building on Grande Rue de la Croix-Rousse, it's a little gem of irresistible elegance. The artist, who spent the last 20 years of his life working on this project, designed it in honour of his mother, Rosa Mir Mercader, and also dedicated it to the Virgin Mary. Here, coloured flowers and plants are mixed among a multitude of stones, pebbles and shells to form aisles, geometric shapes and columns and weave the basis of a life-sized daydream. 

    This profoundly Mediterranean masterpiece is a great excuse for a pleasant walk and a wonderful example of art brut (raw art), that is, the work of someone outside the academic tradition of fine art. Enjoy free access and paid guided tours for visitors aged 12 and above.

    Location: 87 Grande rue de la Croix-Rousse, 69004 Lyon, France

    Open: April–October: Saturday from 2 pm to 5.30 pm (closed Sunday–Friday)

    Map
    2

    Lyon Bike Tour

    Discover the city with the wind in your hair

    • Adventure
    • Unusual

    Jump on one of the Lyon Bike Tour electric bikes and follow your guide through the streets of Lyon to discover the city's iconic monuments and neighbourhoods, its secret alleyways and its little known nooks and crannies. Listen to a passionate local tell you fascinating stories about the places you are visiting and enjoy a real moment of escape in complete safety because the available routes consist entirely of cycle paths. 

    Choose a 2, 3 or 4-hour loop and your preferred theme: Lyon essentials, the unusual hill of Croix-Rousse, the neighbourhood of Confluence between the Saône and the Rhône rivers or a complete city tour. Peppered with stops for food and drinks at partner establishments, the small group circuits are a friendly place to share happiness

    Location: 23 Quai Romain Rolland, 69005 Lyon, France

    Open: Daily from 9.30 am to 8 pm   

    Map
    3

    Perrache hanging gardens

    Enjoy a timeless spot on the roof of a train station

    • Unusual

    Located on the roof of the exchange centre at the Lyon-Perrache train station, these hanging gardens bring nature into the city. Thanks to the initiative of a team of gardeners, this cultivable green area is a haven of peace in the middle of urban chaos. Daisies and courgette flowers, ivy and tomatoes and roses and bamboo intertwine against stark concrete decoration to give a delightful contrast. 

    Come and enjoy a moment of calm and soak up the charm of these seemingly abandoned gardens where you can see from the hint of a freshly turned plot of land or harvested vegetables that they are cherished. Apart from the shared garden, individual plots have been created thanks to the project's success and gardening classes are also available. Bring your camera with you because there's an unobstructed view over Lyon.

    Location: Cours de Verdun Perrache, 69002 Lyon, France

    Open: Daily from 6.30 am to 9 pm   

    Map

    photo by Xavier Caré (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    4

    Voraces square

    Dive into the city's industrial past

    • History
    • Photo
    • Unusual

    If you aren't in the know, Voraces square is a block of buildings with a characteristic courtyard that won't particularly attract your attention. Nevertheless, a whole chunk of Lyon's working history is hidden here, and it proves to be fascinating once the veil's been lifted. It's also listed by the French Historic Monument Society. Les Voraces refers to a group of canuts (silk workers in the neighbourhood) at the beginning of the rise of the industry in 1848. 

    Their workshops and silk looms were set up in this group of 8-floor buildings. Arranged around a courtyard with a very recognisable staircase thanks to its concrete diagonals, they're emblematic of the architecture of the Croix-Rousse neighbourhood, whose homogeneity is due to the speed of its construction to meet economic needs. Alleyways, cul-de-sacs and passageways cross the complex, creating a traboule, which is a type of passageway typical of Lyon.

    Location: 9 Place Colbert, 69001 Lyon, France

    Open: Daily from 7 am to 7 pm (8 pm during summer)

    Map
    5

    Mount Cindre Hermitage rock garden

    Admire a unique masterpiece deep in the Monts d'Or mountains to the north-west of Lyon

    • History
    • Photo
    • Unusual

    The jardin de rocailles de l’Ermitage du mont Cindre (Mount Cindre Hermitage rock garden), located 5 km outside of Lyon, is the fruit of a monk's imagination and is made of stones and pebbles collected in the surrounding areas and assembled over the course of 30 years. The final result of this magical and unique creation, begun in 1878, is now 5 small chapels organised around a pre-existing church from the Middle Ages, ponds, caves, underground passages, sculptures and statues, all swallowed up by abundant vegetation and edged by a vegetable garden. 

    When you look at this innocent and natural work of art brut (raw art) by Émile Damidot, you can't help but think of the Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval (Postman Cheval's Ideal Palace) in Drôme. This visit is both captivating and spellbinding. What's more, the views over the tops of the Alps and Fourvière are definitely worth the detour.

    Location: Mont Cindre, 69 450 Saint-Cyr-au-Mont-d’Or, France

    Open: First Sunday of May and June, every Sunday from July to mid-September and 15 August from 3 pm to 6 pm

    Map

    photo by Sebleouf (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    6

    Narrated walks through unusual parts of Lyon

    Get involved in Lyon's mysteries

    • Photo
    • Unusual

    Narrated walks lead you around alleyways, passages and underground cul-de-sacs for an interactive exploration into the history, legends and secrets of the capital of the Gauls. By the time you finish this original tour, led masterfully by 2 partners who live in and for the city, you will have walked around Lyon and seen places unknown to typical tour guides. You'll also have heard a thousand and one stories and experienced a moment of imagination crossed between walking and theatrical performance. 

    You can form a group of up to 30 people or join an existing group. Choose your preferred neighbourhood (eg. Fourvières, Vieux Lyon or Croix-Rousse) and the topic that speaks to you the most (e.g.. hill-hopping, painted murals, the kingdom of the silk merchants) and let the contagious enthusiasm of your guides take you there.

    Location: 20 Avenue Jean Jaurès, 69600 Oullins, France

    Open: Two monthly visits are open to all on the second Friday of the month from 2 pm to 4 pm and the last Sunday of the month from 2.30 pm to 4.30 pm. Group visits by reservation

    Map
    7

    Canut's Fresco

    Relive the story of La Croix-Rousse

    • History
    • Photo
    • Unusual

    The Fresque des Lyonnais is the city's most famous painted wall, but have you heard of the Mur des Canuts (Canut's Fresco)? This enormous trompe-l'oeil stretched over a 1,200-square-metre blind frontage draws its originality from its changing nature: the transformations of the neighbourhood are integrated over time and the characters get older with a view to depicting La Croix-Rousse as realistically as possible. 

    The buildings shown have high windows and ceilings, just like the ones in the neighbourhood, because they had to home the silk weavers' looms in the 19th century giving a name to this fresco today. There are also self-service Lyon bikes for a more modern touch and a small Guignol puppet theatre reflecting the culture of the city.

    Location: 36 Boulevard des Canuts, 69004 Lyon, France

    Map

    photo by µµ (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    8

    The Quatre Vents gateway

    Climb a little and take a walk in the calm

    • Couples
    • Unusual

    At 600 metres long, The Quatre Vents gateway connects the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière to Loyasse Cemetery in the heart of Parc des Hauteurs. In the past, coffins to be taken to the cemetery via a railway opened in 1900, the shortest in France. Far from being sinister, it's the astonishing panorama and green surroundings that attract walkers nowadays. 

    The view over the Saône, Croix-Rousse and Fourvière is amazing and the basilica makes for a magnificent backdrop for photos that are slightly more out of the ordinary. To stay off the beaten track, follow the path to Montée de Sarra, an old ski slope. And, while you're there, why not stop off at Jardin des Pivoines or the Parc de la Visitation?

    Location: Chemin du Viaduc, 69005 Lyon, France

    Map

    photo by Lyokoï (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    9

    Roy Island

    Relax in a bubble of freshness and enjoy the traditional open-air café

    • Couples
    • Families
    • Unusual

    Roy Island is an unexpected place, 3 minutes by boat from the jetty on the right bank of the Saône, between Fontaines and Collonges. It's a haven of freshness, of peace and of greenery known by the name of Île Roy. It houses Le Crusoé, a delightfully vintage open-air café that has been there since the 50s. Deckchairs, a bowling green, a badminton net and a table tennis table will help you spend sweet hours of idleness here below the rustle of the trees, far from the noise of the city that's still so close. And, if you get a little hungry, you could try the fried fish, buttered frogs' legs, beef tartare and other French specialities. 

    The island is often deserted at lunchtime, but the entertainment is in full swing on karaoke evenings and when the dance floor beneath the Chinese lanterns is open. 

    Location: Île Roy, 69660 Collonges-au-Mont-d’Or, France

    Open: Daily during summer from 12 pm to 2.30 pm and 7 pm to 10 pm. Closed from mid-October

    Map

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