It is sometimes easy to forget the sheer amount of territory that the Romans once occupied. Encompassing much of Europe and the UK, there are traces of their occupancy scattered throughout the continent.
Whilst some are more well known such as Hadrian's wall in the UK and The Colosseum in Rome, there are plenty of smaller, yet still significant sites that are worth visiting if you are interested in the Roman Empire and exploring its ruins.
Lyon, in France, is one of those places.
Lugdunum, the city that is now known as 'Lyon', was an important Roman town in the ancient Roman Gaul. Coming from the Gaulish word 'Lugudonon', which means fortress, or hill, the hilly landscapes was home to one of the larger cities in the western region of the empire.
It was settled as early as 44BC and soon became the administrative capital for Gaul (France) and Germany. It was home to the imperial mint and was visited by many leaders and officials during their reigns.
This rich history and sheer size of the city (historians estimate that there could have been up to 200,000 inhabitants at one time), along with its well preserved sites, make Lyon a great place to explore Gallo - Roman history.
Finding the sites
There are two key sites that you will want to visit, and luckily they are right next to each other. Located on the hill of Fourvière, the site is either a steep ascent by foot, or an easy 5 minute ride by funicular. Being the funicular fan that I am, this was a no brainer. At €2.80 return, it was also very reasonable.
Please note, it isn't that easy to tell where you need to go to catch the funicular. I personally couldn't see any signs. The funicular shares an entrance with the metro. In the foyer you can buy tickets using the machine (in a range of languages) and once you pass through the barriers the railway cars will become apparent. You want the line that runs on the right hand side.
The Ancient Theate of Fourvière
Located a short walk from the funicular station is the Fourvière amphitheatre. Imposing in size, the theatre is well maintained and much of it remains in tact. There is no entry fee and you can enjoy exploring the site for as long as you like.
The site remains generally untouched, other than some lighting stands that have been erected for modern day events and a decking area that has been installed at the base.
The Gallo Roman Museum
Located directly next to the amphitheater, lies the Gallo Roman Museum of Lyon. Home to 1000s of pieces, at €4 for an adult, it is exceptional value. Headsets are included in the price, however you will need to leave a piece of ID with you when you pick one up.
Spanning 5 floors, this modern museum has been designed to take you on a journey through time. Its exterior has been designed to blend into the hill in which it has been built into, whilst its unassuming modern interior focuses your attention solely on the artifacts.
The museum is a mixture of artifacts, interactive displays and hands on activities to help you explore and interpret the society and way of life in Roman time. My favourite was station 2 where you can watch a short video that uses a projector and 3D map to tell the story of the growth of Lugdunum as a city during the Roman inhabitation.
The museum has a gradual slope down between floors, with nooks and display areas where you can explore various parts of Roman life, such as building, society and leaders. There are many displays where you can touch and have a go as well as looking at stone statues and other relics found in the area.
There are so many lovely places to explore in Lyon and the museum is great value and a perfect way to spend 2 or so hours of your time.
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