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.
Lyon is the capital of the France’s Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region and it is the third largest town in France. Whilst in modern times, it is known as Lyon, it’s ancient name is Lugdunum 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.
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
It’s about a five minute ride to the top, but first you’ll need to purchase a ticket.
It is a little tricky to find the funicular station. Initially there is no clear sign for the funicular railway.
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.
BOOK | Explore Lyon with ease and book your hop on hop off bus
The history of Lyons 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.
Notably, it was settled as early as 44BC and eventually became the administrative capital for Gaul (France) and Germany. Additionally Lyon housed the imperial mint. Many leaders also 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.
READ | Our guide on North Leigh Roman Villa Roman ruins in England
READ | Our guide on exploring Rome and it’s iconic Roman ruins
Exploring the Lyon Roman amphitheatre
The most impressive Roman ruin in Lyon would by far be the Fourvière amphitheatre more commonly known as the Lyon Roman amphitheatre.
The amphitheatre 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.
READ | About the beautiful Roman Frescoes at Villa Oplontis in Italy.
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 and immersive,
What to see at the Lyon Gallo Roman museum
Once you’ve taken in the wonder of the Lyon Roman amphitheatre, you’ll want to visit the neighbouring Lyon Gallo Roman museum. It’s located right next ruins.
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.
Spanning 5 floors, the Roman museum, Lyon 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.
Conversely its unassuming modern interior focuses your attention solely on the artefacts. If you’re in France, Roman ruins are really not better displayed than at this incredible museum.
BOOK | Prebook your museum tickets here and avoid the queues!
The artefacts at the Gallo Roman Museum
The 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.
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.
It’s quite incredible to see how Lyon has formed and changed over time in population, inhabitants and in construct.
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 museum is extremely interactive.
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.
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 and is of significance for its architecture alone. If you love roman ruins, France and particularly Lyon are great destinations to explore this history and architecture.
Allow 3-4 hours for your visit as whilst you’re on the top of the hill you’ll want to take some time to enjoy the view from the lookout and to visit the Lyon cathedral and enjoy its spectacular architecture.
BOOK | Accommodation in Lyon with Hotels Combined