Though my favourite district of Lyon is and has always been the Vieux Lyon, i.e. Lyon old town, I’ve taken advantage of my very short visit to my sister last week to take pictures of another iconic district of Lyon, Croix-Rousse.
As written in a previous article, there are two hills in Lyon. One is Fourvière, where you can find the famous Basilique de Fourvière, some parts of the Vieux Lyon district, and, of course, roman ruins, such as the roman amphitheatre of Fourvière where musicians perform at the Nuits de Fourvière in summer. The other is Croix-Rousse, which is famous for being the hill of the Canuts, who were the silk workers of Lyon, when Lyon used to be the capital of silk in France.
Though it may not be as touristic a place as Vieux Lyon, Croix-Rousse definitely is a place you should give some time if you ever visit Lyon. With its tall buildings with high ceilings that were made to fit the Jacquard looms with which the Canuts wove silk, its numerous traboules which were used as short-cuts to carry the silk up and down the hill, and its many stairways which will force you to enjoy the view while you catch your breath, I’m almost a 100% sure that you won’t regret it.
One of the most beautiful streets of Croix-Rousse is Montée de la Grande-Côte. It is one of the oldest streets of the district, with beautiful Renaissance buildings along the street. These colourful buildings – that make this street so charming – were saved from destruction when in 1998, the UNESCO classed the street as World Heritage, though unfortunately, some destructions had occurred previously, especially in the higher section of the street. Indeed, before 1998, Lyon was not the touristic city it has become nowadays, and most of the old districts of Lyon were squalid slums, with the walls of the buildings all dark with soot and dirt. The socialist mayor of Lyon, Louis Pradel, didn’t see the huge touristic opportunity these Renaissance buildings were for the city. He wanted to make Lyon a modern and clean city, and take it out of the dirt, poverty and the dust of its old age. Therefore, he undertook the destruction of the old districts of Lyon, in order to replace the Renaissance buildings with modern ones, and even a highway in Vieux Lyon, which he thought would make Lyon benefit from the traffic between Marseille, in the South of France, and Paris. Unfortunately, such a mad vision led to the destruction of the upper part of Montée de la Grande-Côte in Croix-Rousse, and a part of Rue Mercière in Presqu’Île. Fortunately, though, thanks to the Minister of Culture André Malraux in 1964, and the classification of Lyon as World Heritage in 1998, most of the destructions have stopped, and we can now enjoy the precious architectural heritage of Lyon which is slowly being restored, for the pleasure of the eyes of the visitors and the Lyonnais who learn to love their city again.
If you ever visit Croix-Rousse, make sure you take this street at least once, and don’t stop until the top of the hill, where you will be rewarded with a beautiful view on Fourvière and Lyon.
If you want to see pictures of other districts of Lyon, don’t hesitate to visit the following articles :