If you love Roman ruins, like – you’re in luck! Some of the best (and lesser known) Roman ruins can be found in Lyon.
The Lyon roman ruins are impressive. They’re lesser known than their Roman and English counterparts, so you won’t be fighting the crowds either.
STEP BACK IN TIME AND EXPLORE
THE LYON ROMAN RUINS
The Lyon Roman ruins
When you think of Lyon, Roman ruins may not immediately come to mind. Renown for its culinary prowess, this picturesque French town, located in Central Eastern France is actually one of the best places to see Roman ruins in France. It is also a UNESCO heritage site.
Modern day Lyon, was known as Lugdunum. Its central location has meant that it has played a pivotal role in Gaul, now France.
Lyon is a city where old meets knew. As you walk through the tree lined streets, you’ll certainly feel the history that resonates through this beautiful city. If you’re visiting Lyon France, Roman ruins should be on your mind.
Where is Lyon?
Lyon is the third largest city and second largest urban area in France. It has its own international airport which is served by the major European airlines.
Lyon is the capital of the France’s Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region which is around 5 hours south of France. The journey can be made by road or rail.
Lyon’s train station – Lyon Part Dieu – is connected to the city by light rail. Tickets can be purchased at the station and leave regularly.
How to get to the Lyon Roman ruins
The Gallo Roman museum, Lyon and the famous Lyon Roman amphitheatre are located on Fouviére hill to the west of the main city of Lyon.
It is around a 25 minute walk from the heart of town or 10 minutes by car. The route is signposted once you get closer to the hill, however you may like to use Google Maps to navigate your route (I got lost trying to walk using intuition!!)
The walk is quite scenic and takes in the Rhône and Saône Rivers, both which have very pretty foot bridges.
Once you’re at the foot of Fouviére Hill, the quickest way to the top is the funicular railway. Alternatively you can walk the steep ascent to the top.
How to take the funicular railway to the Roman ruins
The Lyon funicular railway takes around 5 minutes.
It is a little tricky to find the funicular station. There is no clear sign for the funicular railway outside of the station.
First look for the Metro sign instead. In the foyer of the Metro station you can buy tickets for the funicular using a ticket machine. It’s in a variety of languages and quite easy to operate.
The history of Lyon’s ancient Roman ruins
Now known as Lyon, ‘Lugdunum’, 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.
Lyon’s hilly landscape is one of the features that Lyon is famed for today. Additionally, it is a source of much of its beauty.
It was settled as early as 44BC and eventually became the administrative capital for Gaul (France) and Germany. Lyon also housed the imperial mint. Many leaders have visited the city 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. Furthermore the Roman ruins in Lyon are well preserved making it one of the best things to do in Lyon.
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What to see at the Lyon Roman ruins
The two main areas of the Lyon Roman ruins to explore are the amphitheater and the Gallo Roman Museum.
The amphitheater is an outdoors and free to explore. The museum is next door and there is a small cost.
Explore the ancient theatre of Fouvière
The most impressive Roman ruin in Lyon would by far be the Fourvière amphitheatre more commonly known as the Lyon Roman amphitheatre.
The amphitheater one of the best Roman ruins as it is the most preserved Roman ruin in France. It’s short walk from the funicular station. It’s free to visit too. Best of all you can also walk all over these Roman ruins.
The view from the top of the amphitheatre is spectacular. If you look closely at the photo above, you’ll see a person on the middle stair case. That should give you some perspective of just how small when walking through the Lyon Roman amphitheatre.
This is one of Lyon’s attractions that is popular with both visitors and locals. The Roman ruins are partially restored. They are maintained for modern day events. These nice Roman ruins are a popular spot to stop and eat your lunch.
Sections of the Roman ruins in Lyon have been left to age naturally, so there’s plenty of opportunity to search for ancient markings and insignia in the rock face.
Stand on the stage at the Lyon Roman amphitheatre
Once you’ve explored the stone seating area, take a walk down onto the stage. There’s two great views to enjoy from this vantage point. Look down the hill towards the twinkling river and city below, or look back up the hill towards the seating and imagine yourself centre stage.
It’s hard not to imagine yourself back in the Roman times. The ability to immerse yourself in the past and explore without restriction makes the Lyon ruins some of the best Roman ruins in the world.
The sheer size of the amphitheatre and its fantastic state of preservation makes it the most impressive of the French Roman ruins. This, coupled with its easy access and free admission, mean it is one of the best things to do in Lyon.
The Lyon Romain ruins may not be the most famous Roman ruins in the world, but they are some of the most impressive.
How long does it take to explore Lyon’s amphitheatre?
Allow around 1 hour to explore the amphitheatre. There is no need to rush. Entry isn’t timed and you can even sit and eat lunch on the steps should you wish.
Visit the Lugdunum Museum
Once you’ve taken in the wonder of the Lyon Roman amphitheatre, you’ll want to visit the neighbouring Lugdunum Museum. It’s located right next ruins. Originally named Gallo-Roman Museum of Lyon-Fourvière, it has now been renamed to represent Lyon’s historical name.
The museum was built in 1975 and houses an impressive collection of artefacts from the region.
How much is entry to the Lugdunum Museum?
The Gallo Roman Museum of Lyon is home to 1000s of pieces and, at €4 for an adult, it is exceptional value. Leave a piece of ID at the counter to get your free headset.
How long does it take to explore the Lugdunum Museum?
Lugdunum museum has been designed to blend into the hill, so you might be suprised to learn that it span 5 levels.
Allow around 1 – 2 hours to explore the Roman museum, Lyon.
Before you visit
ADDRESS: 17 Rue Cleberg, 69005 Lyon, France
- Monday – Closed
- Tuesday – Friday: 11am – 6pm
- Saturday & Sunday: 10am – 6pm
- ENTRY: Prebook your museum tickets here
What to see at the Lyon Roman Museum
The Lyon Roman museum is a mixture of artefacts, interactive displays and hands on activities. It provides shelter for Roman ruins and the ability to interact at various stations.
Discover the story of ancient Lyon
Station 2 retells the history of Lyon with a projector and 3D map. It shows the growth of Lugdunum as a city during the Roman inhabitation.
Lights and sound cleverly show the changing borders and settlements over time.
It’s quite incredible to see how Lyon has formed and changed over time in population and inhabitants.
Participate in one of the hands on exhibits
Whilst its best to keep your hands off the ancient Roman ruins, there are plenty of displays that you can touch and play with to help you feel immersed in Roman life.
You can stand on a chariot and pretend to ride or build like a Roman. Designed with children in mind, however adults can join in too!
See ancient artefacts from Gaul
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.
The Roman ruins in Lyon, France are one of the best things to explore in Lyon.
The Roman museum, Lyon in particular houses artefacts that are unique to the area. The museum houses coins, busts, household items and even several tiled mosaic floors – one that you can even walk on.
The museum explores life in Gaul from Roman times up until the emergence of Christianity. With over 4000 pieces, it holds the most significant collection in all of France.
The Lyon Tablet is of special note. Discovered in 1528, this bronze tablet reproduces the speech that Emperor Claudius, who was born in Lyon, gave to support the Gallic participation in the Senate in Rome in the year 48.
If you love roman ruins, France and particularly Lyon are great destinations to explore this history and architecture.
Plan your trip to Lyon
BOOK | A hop on hop off bus and see Lyon with ease
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