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Lyon’s most beautiful squares

Urban Side

Last updated date : 28/07/2023

When you stroll through Lyon, sooner or later you’ll come across some of its most iconic squares. People like to meet up, hold events or simply relax on Lyon’s squares and they each have their own unique character. Here is an introduction to some of the city’s most distinctive squares.

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Place Bellecour

Ambiance place Bellecour © Franck Chapolard

This must be the most well-known of Lyon’s squares. Perhaps because it is Europe’s largest pedestrian square, covering 67,128 m2! Bellecour lies in the heart of the city, in the centre of the Presqu’île district and at the crossroads of several of Lyon’s main arteries:  Rue de la République, Rue Edouard Herriot and Rue Victor Hugo.

This square is symbolised by the bronze statue of Louis XIV standing in its centre, which has become the traditional meeting point for both tourists and local residents (the people of Lyon will often arrange to rendezvous ‘sous la queue du cheval’, literally ‘beneath the horse’s tail’). This square is a “must-visit” landmark, as well as a venue for Lyon’s biggest public events.

Place des Terreaux

In the 1st district, in the heart of the Presqu’île (the peninsula between the rivers Rhône and Saône), surrounded by historical monuments like the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) and the Musée des Beaux Arts (Museum of Fine Arts), Place des Terreaux is impossible to miss. People like to have a drink or meal in the many restaurants lining the square, as they soak up Lyon’s architectural beauty, including the façade of Palais Saint-Pierre and the famous Bartholdi fountain, the symbol of Place des Terreaux.

This historical square, which was created in the seventeenth century, lies at the foot of Croix-Rousse hill and is an excellent starting point to set off to explore its slopes, known as ‘Les Pentes’.

Place des Jacobins

Far smaller than the Place des Terreaux and Place Bellecour, Place des Jacobins is one of Lyon’s most charming squares. Having undergone works to make it brighter and greener, this square is a lovely spot to relax. It was named after the Jacobin monks who occupied the building standing on the square’s southern edge.

In its centre stands a white marble fountain made in 1885 by Gaspard André, named ‘Fontaine des Jacobins’, which adds to the square’s beauty. A dozen streets come together at the square and many people cross it on their way to one of the neighbourhood’s many luxury shops or to Rue Mercière, which is famous for its restaurants.

Place Saint-Jean

Place Saint-Jean lies in Lyon’s 5th district. This semi-pedestrian square, with its characteristic cobblestones, is Lyon’s oldest. Bordering the cathedral of Saint-Jean and its forecourt, on one side, and the foot of Fourvière hill, on the other, it is the ideal starting point to explore Vieux-Lyon (Old Lyon), the city’s medieval and Renaissance district.

Along Rue Saint-Jean, leading to the Saint-Paul district, you will find many restaurants, shops and cafés, as well as some traboules (hidden passageways linking streets) and characterful buildings. Along the less well-known Rue Saint-Georges, you will find pubs, the church of Saint-Georges and Montée du Gourguillon, one of Lyon’s oldest streets, which offers a stunning view over the city.

Place Sathonay

Despite its location in the heart of Lyon’s 1st district, with many shops and restaurants nearby, this small square has preserved its “village atmosphere”. On Place Sathonay, families and friends play pétanque while their children play on its gravelled surface. Lined with trees that offer pleasant shade in the summer, you can relax to the sounds of birds.

Standing in its centre is the statue of Sergent Blandan, mayor of Lyon in the early nineteenth century. This pretty square lies at the foot of Croix-Rousse hill, and a flight of stairs leads to the Jardin des Plantes and the Amphithéâtre des Trois-Gaules.

Place Ambroise Courtois

An emblem of Lyon’s 8th district and the Monplaisir neighbourhood, Place Ambroise Courtois, bordered by the Institut Lumière, the avenue of the same name, and Cours Albert Thomas, is a pleasant square where people like to meet.

Large, nicely spaced out and lively, it is well known for its frequent food markets, as well as the booksellers who set up stall there on Sundays. People like to stop here for a coffee or lunch after the market, a stroll or window shopping along Avenue des Frères Lumière. This square is an ideal place to have a break and enjoy the family-friendly neighbourhood with its many shops.