Second city of the Rhone, it has its own identity from its Gratte-Ciel installed in the 30s, as its labor history and its cultural mix.
The Metropole de Lyon
This common dynamic of the agglomeration is illustrated in many disciplines: nature discovery with the Feyssine Park and the banks of the Rhone, cultural discovery around the Institute of Contemporary Art, the TNP, the cultural center Le Rize , movie studios ... Not to mention all the offer of shows of the theaters and concert halls of the town.
“Working-class” is a hackneyed term, but in Villeurbanne it takes on its full meaning again. And not only at the Théâtre National Populaire (TNP, i.e., working-class national theatre). In this town with its working-class tradition, all culture is working-class. Firstly its industrial and working-class heritage, which definitely deserves a visit! The impressive hydroelectric power plant in Cusset on the Jonage canal has been active since 1899. In the Parc du Centre, a stunning 40-metre chimney reimagined by artist FV bears witness to its early 20th century industrial past. In Flachet, the Gillet workers’ housing estate gives visitors the chance to see 20th-century houses with gardens. In Ferrandière, the Jardin des Tout-Petits Adolphe-Lafont has been entertaining children with the same set-up since the 1930s.
The must-see Gratte-Ciel (i.e., skyscraper) neighbourhood, a listed 20th-century heritage site, is well worth a guided tour to check out the revolutionary aspect of its social housing built back in the 1930s. Fancy finding out more about Villeurbanne’s heritage? Le Rize is an ultra-dynamic museum complete with a media library and concert hall, which teaches visitors about every aspect of the town’s history and organises urban walks around its neighbourhoods.
TNP, IAC, ENM: a culture of diversity
Villeurbanne’s cultural venues are also marked by their multiculturalism. Because hospitality is etched deep into the DNA of Villeurbanne residents! From protestants enjoying freedom of religion in Charpennes in the 19th century to Canut silk workers seeking refuge outside Lyon in the 19th century, plus immigrant populations moving to work in the textile factories in the 20th century, Villeurbanne has developed a real tradition of hospitality. This has created a fascinating multicultural melting pot that has shaped all the town’s institutions, from programmes to audiences.
For the prestigious TNP, whose founding was driven by a desire to make theatre accessible to as wide an audience as possible, outreach to the general public is a priority. It puts on shows by both national and local theatre companies.
The main mission of the Institut d’Art Contemporain (IAC, i.e., institute of contemporary art) is also to raise awareness of contemporary art by putting on an extensive programme of events.
The URDLA, which exhibits lithographic works, hosts events for all audiences.
And the École Nationale de Musique (ENM, i.e., national school of music) is open to all aesthetics, particularly world music, songwriting, rap, and amplified music.
Finally, Le Zola, France’s biggest single-screen cinema, sets itself apart based on its non-profit status and the unusual events it puts on: short-film night, an Iberian and Latin-American film festival, and a British and Irish cinema weekend.
Varied festivals in Villeurbanne
On top of the events at Le Zola, a large number of cultural events are organised throughout the year. These include: Les Invites at Les Ateliers Frappaz, the biennial summer street art festival, and the Vivez l’Été festival held all across town over the summer.
Music lovers will appreciate the programme put on at the CCO, the social and cultural innovation laboratory, concerts at the unmissable Transbordeur, the cosy Toï-Toï-le-Zinc concert hall, or the Double-Mixte festivals.
Going out in Villeurbanne
Sports fans don’t miss big matches involving ASVEL, Villeurbanne’s famous basketball team.
Finally, every Sunday, flea market fans meet up at Les Puces du Canal. It’s France’s second biggest flea market and also a festive and cultural get-together featuring a programme of events and open-air cafés with an inimitable atmosphere.
In need of a little peace and quiet after this hectic schedule? Head on down to the Feyssine urban nature reserve. You’ll enjoy an unusual atmosphere here, too! This 45-hectare nature reserve - managed on a minimum-intervention basis to promote biodiversity - has been successfully rewilded. This natural oasis between the River Rhône and Boulevard Laurent-Bonnevay is home to a range of species including wild orchids and beavers…
Villeurbanne really is a surprising place!
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