Through an all-encompassing approach, from the Capital of the Gauls to the 21st century, the museum is a resource centre for understanding the city in all its facets: urban planning, economic, social, religious, political and cultural.
The visitor travels back through Lyon's history: Antiquity, Middle Ages, Renaissance, 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. A presentation of the landmarks in Lyon's territorial and urban development enables an understanding of changes and specific features in the city's economic, social, religious and cultural landscape.


The city of Lyon

Lyon, also spelled Lyons, capital of both the Rhône département and the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes région, east-central France, is the third largest city in France, after Paris and Marseille. Located at the confluence of the Saône and the Rhône Rivers, the city is dominated by two hills: Fourvière to the west and Croix-Rousse to the east.

Humans have settled at this site destined for urbanization for more than two thousand years and built a city whose stages of development are still visible today: from the Roman vestiges of antique Lugdunum to the medieval streets on the slopes of Fourvière and the Renaissance dwellings of Vieux-Lyon, from the peninsula with a wealth of classical architecture to the slopes of Croix-Rousse with its very particular canut dwellings, which bear witness to an essential page in the history of the labouring classes of the 19th century.


The history of Lyon

Known formerly as Colonia Copia Claudia Augusta Lugdunum, Lyon was once part of an important Roman province. Founded by Lucius Muntius Plancus in the year 43 BC, Lyon served as the capital of Gaul, today’s modern France. Shortly after its founding, Lyon became one of the most important cities in Northwestern Europe. Due to its strategic position in relation to the northern Roman territories, Lyon quickly became the center of operations and communication. Its pre-existing network of roads leading in and out of the city’s center made it possible for Lyon to grow in wealth and power. With an increase of money and resources, urban development started and the Romans began to build. They constructed aqueducts, amphitheatres, forums, temples and the basilica, the site of which is located at the top of what is now Fourvière. Government was established which was divided between magistrates and the senate. The establishment of laws, taxes and their very own mint for currency enabled Lyon to officially integrate into the Roman Empire. As Lyon became an organized urban center, it quickly attracted communities of traders and craftsman. The population of Lyon soon reached about 70,000 people. This Roman capital had become a vibrant cosmopolitan city and one of the greatest cities in the entire region. It was known as the Imperial City. Its political influence was felt throughout the empire and was center stage for many major events in antiquity.


  • Romans to Renaissance

Following the collapse of the Roman Empire, Lyon saw the establishment of many communities and kingdoms. As land repeatedly changed hands and Lyon came under the control of various leaders, it continued to survive as an influential and politically strategic location. In 1312, Philip the Fair annexed the city of Lyon to the Kingdom of France. Between the years 1461 – 1483, during the reign of Louis XI, Lyon once again became an important economic center drawing merchants from across Europe. Trade expanded into spices and silk and with the influx of Florentine immigrants, Lyon soon became a dynamic financial center for banking. In 1472, the first printing and publishing center is established in Lyon becoming one of the best in Europe behind those in Paris and Venice. From Lyon amazing works are produced in many languages including Hebrew, Latin, Greek, Italian, Spanish and French. Years later, Lyon enjoys a boost in prosperity and becomes the source of many brilliant artists and architects. The plans for the expansion of Lyon are later drawn up by famous city planners such Soufflot, Perrache, Morand and DeCotte. Napoleon Bonaparte imposes upon the European courts the use of silk from Lyon, also known as Lyonnais Silk. This decision results in the creation of workshops, stores and a booming industry which brought the number of looms produced from 6,000 to 60,000 between the years 1800 and 1848. With the success of the worldwide silk trade, Lyon began establishing banking institutions and soon turned to investment in land in Southeast Asia, Algeria and Madagascar.


  • A Revolution into Modern Times

1789 saw the arrival of the French Revolution. Expansion slowed but under Napoleon’s Empire, development continued. Lyon was turned into an industrial city and urban development was re-vitalized. Silk production continued strong into the 20th century and played a central role in Lyon’s economy. By the end of the 19th century, Lyon had more than 300 silk factories, over 200,000 workers and over 300 traders. Lyon’s silk trade was flourishing, exporting to England, North America and as far as India and China. During World War II, Lyon became the center of the French Resistance. After the war modernity sparked the construction of Europe and due to the development of the transportation system, Lyon began to create hotels and tourist facilities as well as cultural and business establishments such as the Part-Dieu business quarter which was made in 1960. Beginning in the 1980’s, Lyon’s infrastructure began to improve. City plans and projects were starting everywhere while historic landmarks and centers remained preserved. As it was in Roman times, the city of Lyon is again a successful metropolis, home to financial, cultural and artistic institutions that celebrate history and pave the way for the future.


  • Contemporary Lyon

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the town became an important industrial centre. The silk trade took off in the first Empire and the Restoration. The Emperor praised the arrival of the weaving loom invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard in 1804. The silk workers began work with their new technique (one loom replaced six men) at the Croix-Rousse. There were no less than 400 companies, which exported as far as the US. However, this spectacular progress was not without repercussions and it led to the revolt of the silk workers in 1831 and again in 1834. At this time progress was fast being made in all areas - the Lumière brothers invented cinema and the Institut Lumière was established in 1895. The industrial era was well underway: in the chemical industry with Rhône Poulenc, in pharmaceuticals with Mérieux and with the construction of the automobile Berliet. Urbanisation was also fast developing: the Opéra, the Palais de Justice, the stock exchange, the university the Préfecture, the Basilique de Fourvière were all under construction. The Parc de La Tête d'Or was developed. The main arteries of the town centre were complemented with rich buildings with beautiful facades.

Edourad Herriot, mayor from 1905 to 1957, continued and developed industry (metal, chemical , pharmaceutical, textile, photo), finished work on the town's facilities and strengthened the university centre. He entrusted the architect Tony Garnier with the construction of the Halle an arcade of the same name, a hospital, a stadium and housing.

During the Second World War, Lyon became the capital of the Resistance with three big movements: combat, Liberation and Francs Tireurs. The chief of police Jean Moulin, gave his life to the cause. The Red Army freed Edouard Herriot, who was brought to Germany.

After the war, town improvements continued with the development of communications (metro, Satolas airport, motorways and the fast train service the TGV). The town also went through a modernisation program with housing restoration (in the colours of the Renaissance) and the building of a conference centre, Euroexpo, exhibition park, auditorium, dance centre and theatre. The Opéra was redone by Jean Nouvel, the Place des Terreaux was renovated by Drevet and Buren, and it was the age of the Murs Peints and Plan Lumières. Quays, ports as well as historical sites were expanded. New quarters emerged, la Part-Dieu business and trade centre and its important Bibliothèque Municipale, the International city with its Hôtel Hilton and its Casino.

Today Lyon is focused on progress and the future, while at the same time valuing its heritage as it should - for UNESCO has classified 500 hectares as sites of historical interest.


Legends of Lyon

The mystery of Rue Juiverie (Vieux Lyon)

It’s an enigma that has plagued Lyonnais for centuries. To dig deeper, one needs to tread with caution: it cost the Dauphin, son of François I, his life in 1536 as he was supposedly poisoned for getting too close to the solution…

It’s the Middle-Ages in the Juiverie street. The Jewish community has settled in this neighborhood, using the numerous traboules to protect themselves from persecution. What is the secret?

Lyon, France’s would-be capital

Some of Lyon’s most important families lived on Rue Juiverie, and rumors started to spread about a mysterious and priceless diamond acquired from the Middle East.

Jews could have hidden it somewhere to avoid being robbed of their fortune, so the court took an interest in the diamond and nobles such as Catherine de Médicis started to investigate.

That is, until the Dauphin’s mysterious and sudden death. The doctors of that time, unable to explain it, concluded that he was poisoned and taking with him his claim to the throne and Lyon’s chance to become the capital of France.

The “stone from the Middle East” quietly faded from memory… until a new legend arose.


In the lions’ den

Still on Rue Juiverie, but now in 1617. Outside number 23, Maison Lantillon, eleven scultped lion’s heads grace the facade, each one slightly different from the others.

According to a legend, a fabulous gemstone lies hidden behind one of those heads. The secret to finding it lies in one of those tiny differences between the heads.

Impossible to not think of the famous “diamond of the Jews” which was never found. But why Maison Lantillon when the Old Town has so many other hiding places?

Because of good old Nicolas Flamel, the famous alchemist who was said to have found the secret of the philosopher’s stone. Any Harry Potter fans? Welcome to Hogwarts. Your owl will be arriving shortly.

Rumor has is Flamel promised one of his two daughters to a young man from Lyon. His daughter, however, didn’t agree with the match and chose instead to become a nun.

Slightly embarrassed, Nicolas Flamel offered to console the young man by giving him an enigma to solve: a drawing of eleven lions’ heads, aligned on three rows, leading to his fabulous treasure.

When the young man and his friends found it, they used the money to buy a private mansions and decorated each of them with lions’ heads.

According to Flamel, many more treasures must have been hidden by the Jews in the Old Town (around twenty), before they were expelled from France by Philippe le Bel in 1306.

The owner of Hôtel Gadagne even told Louis XIII that he found one of them…A story so beautiful you wish it was true.

The search for eternal riches continues behind the lions’ heads…



Opening times

Wednesday to Sunday, from 10.30 a.m to 18.30 p.m.

>> The Café Gadagne is actually closed further to person receiving benefits change. Reopening in the middle of November

The Gadagne Museums are closed on the following dates: 1st January, Easter Sunday, 1st May, 14th July and 25th December.

Entry fees

Only ticket allowing to reach the museum of history of Lyon, the museum of the arts of the puppet and the temporary exhibitions.

From June 21st till November 22nd: 6 € / 4 €
From November 23rd till June 20th: 8 € / 6 €

Free entry : under 18 year-olds, job seekers, disabled people and their companion


1 place du petit Collège 69005 Lyon
Reception : (+ 33) 4 78 42 03 61
Fax : (+ 33) 4 37 23 60 17
E-mail :