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Romans, Rhône river and wine

Cities in the region

Last updated date : 01/12/2023

Lying 30 minutes south of Lyon, the city of Vienne offers a fresh look at the region’s ancient history.

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Lugdunum (Lyon) wasn’t the only city around in ancient times! Occupied by the tribe of the Allobroges from the 5th century B.C., the city of Vienna was founded a few years before its powerful neighbour Lugdunum and became Vienna under the Roman occupation. Explore its 2000 years of history.

These Romans are crazy!

Andy Parant

The city features a fine range of ancient monuments.

The best known are its ancient hillside theatres, offering a superb panoramic view over the Rhône valley. Every summer, the Théâtre Antique hosts events as part of Jazz à Vienne (i.e. Vienne Jazz festival), and its current capacity is around 9,000 spectators, compared to 11,000 in Roman times, which made it one of the biggest in Gaul.

The small nearby odeon was dedicated to singing, music, and poetry competitions.

Lyon and Vienne are today the only two cities in France to still feature both a full-size theatre and an odeon.

Henry Landeau

The temple of Augustus and Livia is one of the best-conserved Roman temples in France, alongside the Maison Carrée in Nîmes. It was built at the start of the 1st century in tribute to the emperor and his wife Livia. It is well-preserved despite its turbulent history (having been converted into a church, law courts and even a museum and library), and is now open to visitors, transporting them back in time!

The Vienne pyramid (all that’s left of the Roman circus) and the ancient forum site make Vienne a real treat for lovers of ancient art!

Patrick Ageneau

And they won’t be disappointed if they cross over the Rhône to neighbouring Saint-Romain-en-Gal.Discovered in 1967, the 7-hectare Saint-Romain-en-Gal site is home to the remains of Vienna’s rich residential district. Houses, baths, shops, workshops, etc. The on-site Museum helps visitors to explore and understand their surroundings with its exhibitions featuring a wide range of items and superb mosaics.

Every year, Les Journées Gallo-Romaines (i.e. Gallo-Roman Days) recreate the teeming activity of the Roman quarter!

Medieval Vienne

The city is also home to one of the oldest churches in France. Built back in the 5th century, the Eglise Saint-Pierre (i.e. Saint Peter’s Church) now houses the city’s archaeological museum. Despite being remodelled over the centuries, it still shows signs of its Merovingian past.

Built back in the 12th century, the Cathédrale Saint-Maurice (i.e. Saint Maurice’s Cathedral) is a mixture of Roman and Gothic styles. It was converted into a hayloft during the French Revolution and has been remodelled several times. It was in this cathedral that the decision was taken to abolish the Knights Templar at the Council of Vienne in 1312.

A levely city

Sylvain Madelon

After Vienne jazz festival gets the city swinging in summer, the Fête Historique de Vienne (i.e. Vienne historical festival) takes over to transport visitors back in time for a weekend in September. Medieval market, parades, shows, etc. History is brought back to life before your very eyes!

Every Saturday morning, Vienne’s grand marché (the second biggest market in France!) attracts visitors from all over the region to explore more than 6km of stalls!

Wine lovers can also make the most of their trip to Vienna to taste the Rhône Valley’s excellent vintages and talk to passionate producers in one of the many local wine cellars.

Discover more on the official website of the region.