Lyon‘s geography is dominated by the Rhône and Saône rivers that converge to the south of the historic city centre forming a peninsula or “Presqu’île“; two large hills, one to the west and one to the north of the historic city centre; and a large plain which sprawls eastward from the historic city centre.
The original medieval city (Vieux Lyon) was built on the west bank of the Saône river at the foot of the Fourvière hill, west of the Presqu’île. This area, along with portions of the Presqu’île and much of the Croix-Rousse is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
To the west is Fourvière, known as “the hill that prays“, the location for the highly decorated basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, several convents, the palace of the Archbishop, the Tour métallique (a highly visible TV tower, replicating the last stage of the Eiffel Tower) and a funicular (a railway on a steep hill).
To the north is the Croix-Rousse, “the hill that works“, traditionally home to many small silk workshops, an industry for which the city was once renowned.
Place Bellecour is located on the Presqu’île between the two rivers and is the third largest public square in France. The broad, pedestrian-only Rue de la République leads north from Place Bellecour.
The 2nd arrondissement of Lyon has many of the finest old residential buildings in Lyon and the area is known for its concentration of old Lyonnaise Catholic families, particularly in the Ainay part of the arrondissement.
East of the Rhône from the Presqu’île is a large area of flat ground upon which sits much of modern Lyon and most of the city’s population. Situated in this area is the urban centre of Part-Dieu which clusters the Tour Part-Dieu (affectionately nicknamed “The Pencil”), the Tour Oxygène, the Tour Swiss Life, a shopping centre, and one of Lyon’s two major rail terminals, Lyon Part-Dieu.
North of this district is the relatively wealthy 6th arrondissement, which is home to the Parc de la Tête d’Or, one of Europe’s largest urban parks, the prestigious Lycée du Parc to the south of the park, and Interpol‘s world headquarters on the park’s western edge. The park contains a free zoo that has recently been upgraded.