Lyon Museums

Lyon has several excellent and very different museums. The best Lyon Museums include the new Musee des Confluences, the Musee des Beaux-Arts (the main fine arts museum), the Silk Museum (or Musee des Tissus), the Resistance and Deportation Museum, and the Lumiere Museum, where the Lumiere Brothers invented the movies. Here in no particular order is our selection of the best museums in Lyon.

All Photos (c) Donna Dailey


Musée Gadagne
The Musée International de la Marionette collects examples of these and puppets from around the world. There are some 2,000 puppets on display, along with sets, programmes, archive film, and contributions from contemporary puppeteers. There are of course many displays on Lyon's very own puppet character Guignol, and his booze-loving friend Gnafron (right).

It's a fascinating and fun place, housed inside the Musée Historique de Lyon. The two museums together are known as the Musée Gadagne, after the 16th-century Hôtel Gadagne which houses them. The Musée Historique tells the story of the city through its collection of over 80,000 items. These include furniture, paintings, photographs, household items, tools and many other objects. You can visit the two museums separately or buy a combined ticket.

Musée Gadagne
1 place du Petit-Collège
Tel: 04 78 42 03 61

Gallo-Roman Museum
The Musée de la Civilisation Gallo-Romaine (Gallo-Roman Museum) is well worth seeing. There are dramatically side-lit statues, models of what the Roman town used to look like and some superb mosaics as good as any to be seen in Italy or North Africa.

Gallo-Roman Museum
17 rue Cléberg, 69005 Lyon
tel: 04 72 38 49 30

Musée des Beaux-Arts

Musée des Beaux-Arts
Lyon's main museum (above) has a superb collection of antiquities, mainly from Egypt, Italy and Greece. The Egyptian collection is outstanding, from the vast temple walls and the mummies to the fine detail on jewelry and vases of vivid colours. They look as if they could have been made yesterday. The antiquities take up most of the first floor, with the art collection on the second floor. Here in Room 9 is Rembrandt's The Stoning of St Stephen, while in stark contract in Room 19 you can see some amusing satirical busts of local politicians and celebrities, made by Honoré Daumier (1808-79). Daumier was an artist and caricaturist, born in Marseille, and these tiny busts of characters such as The Timid, The Stupid and The Gourmet are all still hilariously funny.

More famous names include Camille Pissaro, Alfred Sisley, Paul Gaugin, Claude Monet, Eduoard Manet, Edgar Dégas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall and works by Georges Braque and Francis Bacon. Once you've enjoyed the collection, which could take a few hours, there's a pleasant courtyard outside where you can sit and relax among the statues and greenery.

Musée des Beaux-Arts
Palais Saint-Pierre, 20 place des Terreaux, 69001 Lyon
Tel: 04 72 10 17 40

Musée des Confluences
A 30-minute walk south of the Musée des Tissue (but also accessible by public transport) at the very end of the Presqu'île, where the city's two rivers merge, is Lyon's newest and most ambitious museum: the Musée des Confluences. This opened in December 2014 at a cost estimated to be about €300 million, and from the outside looks like a spaceship from a Star Wars movie. It aims to do nothing less than try to tell the story of the world. That might sound overly-ambitious, but spend a few hours there and you might just feel that it succeeds.

One section deals with Origins, and covers not only things like dinosaurs and man's evolvement but also the myths about the origins of the world told by different peoples, and by religions. Another collection deals with Species - mankind and all the other species we share the planet with. Yet another part of the museum deals with the subject of Death. It's an all-encompassing museum that should now be top of everyone's list when visiting Lyon.
86 Quai Perrache, 69002 Lyon
04 28 38 11 90

Silks Made in Lyon

Musée des Tissus
There are several small museums in the Presq'île area but the outstanding collection is at the Musée des Tissus (the Fabric Museum). Naturally Lyon's own silk-weaving industry features prominently, but this is just a part of a large collection of fabrics from all ages and from all over the world. They go back to ancient Greece and Rome, across to Persia where the colours and workmanship are superb. The light is low to protect the colouring, and the overall effect is breathtaking.

Musée des Tissus
34 rue de la Charité, 69002 Lyon
Tel: 04 78 38 42 00

Centre d’Histoire de la Résistance et de la Déportation
Lyon was the centre for the French Resistance during World War II, and that dreadful period in the city and the country's history is remembered here, in the former Gestapo headquarters. There are reminders that some of Lyon's most beautiful places have ugly stories, such as the time when five resistance workers, members of the Secret Army, were executed in Place Bellecour.

The effect of the holocaust on Lyon's Jewish population is also graphically described in videos, photos and newspaper cuttings. A visit here is certainly powerful and sombre, but it is also full of uplifting stories of the bravery of the mostly French men and women who fought and often gave up their lives in the name of freedom. 

Centre d’Histoire de la Résistance et de la Déportation
14 Avenue Berthelot, 69007 Lyon
Tel: 04 72 73 99 06

The Lumière Brothers

Musée Lumière
East of the city centre but easily reached on the métro is the home of the Lumière brothers, now a museum with a cinema in the grounds. The entrance to the museum shows the significance of this place. It is the gate through which some factory workers walked in 1895 and were filmed by Auguste and Louis Lumière in what is generally accepted as the first motion picture. Others were working on turning still cameras into movie cameras, and the story is told here in what was the home of the brothers, and their father Antoine.

There are primitive cameras and a vast archive of early films, constantly showing. They include the earliest travel films, as cinematographers were sent to places such as the Pyramids, Venice, Tunis, New York and Shanghai, to bring the first moving images of foreign countries back to France. The house itself is also worth seeing, and was nicknamed Château Lumière by local people. 

Musée Lumière
25 rue du Premier Film, 69008 Lyon
Tel: 04 78 78 18 95

Buy Our Lyon and Beyond Travel Guide

Lyon Travel Guide
Naturally we recommend our own Lyon and Beyond travel guide (left) for your visit to Lyon. It is available for the Kindle and contains practical information, guides to the top sights in Lyon, maps, lots of colour photos, our picks for eating, hotels, shopping and sport. It also has a detailed section on what to do outside Lyon, including a full guide-within-a-guide to the lovely and lively nearby town of Saint-Étienne. You can buy it at Amazon UK, Amazon USA, and other Amazon stores worldwide. For more information see our Beyond Travel Guides page. 

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