Le parc de la Tête d'or

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An enormous park: a symbol of the city of Lyon

Translated by Anthony Cullen — one year ago

Original text by Nuri Mercury

Lyon is a wonderful city with lots of parks and green spaces. The biggest park in the city is the Parque de la Tête d'Or (in English: the Golden Head Park).

At almost 120 hectares in size, it's one of the largest parks in France. There, you can take a walk through the many gardens and enjoy the famous man-made lake. The park is one of Lyon's most notable points of interest, and is absolutely not to be missed when you're there.

Located on the border between Lyon proper and the area of Villeurbanne, the park consists of a huge open green area, a rosarium (an enormous greenhouse dedicated exclusively to growing roses), a large man-made lake and even... a zoo!

And how much does it cost to visit such a wonderful place? NOTHING! ZERO! ZILCH! Yep, entry is 100% free. That means you can enjoy the park for a full day out (but please, not in February. A friend of mine had the bright idea of going for a picnic for her birthday at the park. It wasn't a bad idea in itself, but given how cold it was that month... :S ). On a day out at the park, you can enjoy sitting in the sun, going for a walk, or doing some exercise.

An enormous park: a symbol of the city of LyonMonument by the park entry at the Gate of the Children of the Rhône.

A little bit of history…

Built in the middle of the 19th century, this park is the work of landscape artist Denis Bühler. Many people say that the park is designed in traditional English style, and while that may be, it also has a lot of hallmarks of French architecture. For example, there are the gorgeous gates and fences. I particularly like the "Porte des Enfants du Rhône". The design of the gate is beautiful, it's painted in green with delightful golden details. It's very elegant, very français.

You might be asking yourself: why is the park called the "Golden Head"? Well according to legend, there's golden treasure buried in the area. Among the treasure, it's said that there's a bust of Christ made of... you guessed it: gold! So, voilà: that's why it's called the Parc de la Tête d'Or!

An enormous park: a symbol of the city of LyonOne of the paths in the park. Even in autumn, there's still a good bit of green in the area :)

Earlier on I mentioned the park's zoo. It was opened in 1858 and is not just one of the oldest zoos in France, but in all of Europe. The first time I came here, I didn't expect it to be so big. Or for there to be a park attached to the zoo.

An enormous park: a symbol of the city of Lyon

There are loads of animals at the zoo: giraffes, crocodiles, monkeys, prairie dogs, turtles, raccoons. There are even snakes! There's also a bird area, where there's a man who sells birdseed which you can feed the birds with (it costs a couple of euros). Just put out your arm with the seed in hand, and the birds will flock to you.

(Tip: Instead of buying the birdseed, you can just pick up some of the feed left on the floor so you don't have to pay. There's generally loads on the floor. )

Ah, and there's the deer area. The current herd of deer is actually directly descendant from the first herd that were at the zoo, all the way back in 1858. Let's just say they have some really old heredeeritary genes! :P

An enormous park: a symbol of the city of Lyon

The rosarium and botanical garden

As well as the cycle paths, the lake and the zoo, the park also has a 5 hectare-wide rose garden. There, you'll find over sixteen thousand rosebushes. And there are almost 500 different varieties.

This is one of the prettiest parts of the park, especially in summer and spring. The rosebushes are full of lovely flowers of all different colours. But be careful not to get too close, or you might get pricked! My mum loved this part of the park, and took loads of photos there. ^^

An enormous park: a symbol of the city of LyonA lovely rosebush. Ah, I remember it was perfect going for a walk here when it was warm out.

The lake

Another thing I love about the Parc de la Tête d'Or is its huge lake. Though it is man-made, that doesn't mean it's absolutely gorgeous. What's more, there are ducks, geese and swans swimming in and basking by the lake. I've seen lots of people there feeding bread to the birds.

An enormous park: a symbol of the city of LyonDucks! You can also rent little boats or pedalos if you fancy a little trip on the lake :) It's not too expensive I don't think ^^

The monument to the Children of the Rhône

Earlier on I mentioned the "Porte des Enfants du Rhône". The name translates as "The Gate of the Children of the Rhône". The Rhône, as well as being the river that runs through Lyon, is also the name of the French region (département) in which the city is located. This park gate is so called because of the monument located at the entry. It's dedicated to the soldiers who were born in Lyon and died in battle.

I hadn't noticed it at first, but on the monument you can see a lion. That's there because the lion is the symbol of the city of Lyon. But what really caught my eye is the fact that the lion has a weakened figure; it's all skin and bones. That represents the suffering of the soldiers that died far from their home.

Un enorme parque, emblemático de la ciudad de LyonSee the lion at the bottom of the statue? I was surprised to see it all skin and bones, rather than in a brave, valiant pose like all the other monuments I've seen in Lyon.

Then there's a little square not far from there with a carousel and a kiosk where you can buy crêpes or get a coffee or some hot chocolate. It's nice during the colder months or if you're a little hungry and want something light while you're out at the park.

At the edge of the square, there's also a building with wonderful architecture. The last time I was there I couldn't help but take a few photos. ^^ It's fair to say, then, that the 6th arrondissement, which is where the park is located, is a lovely area. So, once you've visited the park, I recommend you take a walk around the streets in the surrounding area too.

Un enorme parque, emblemático de la ciudad de LyonA photo of the building I was just talking about. I can't imagine how much it would cost to live there...

Out at the park

This is a wonderful park for a walk with the family, with friends, with your partner, or even on your own. No matter who you are, you'll find a corner of the park that's perfect for you. There are also lots of people who come here to exercise. If you live nearby or like going for a run, coming to this park is great for getting a bit of exercise.

If you come with kids (or adults with of a child-like persuasion ^^), you can take a ride on the little train which will take you on a ride around the Parc de la Tête d'Or.

Of course, I can't forget the many events and festivals that take place here. Also, I've seen that they do workshops on agriculture, gardening etc. at the Botanical Garden.

Ah, and this park is one of the central points of the city's Festival of Lights, which takes place in December. Last year I went and there were some incredible light shows that make it feel like you're in a fairytale: there were fish floating in the air, butterflies and dragonflies all around. There were also some girls actually dressed as fairies. And at the end of the night there was a fireworks show in town that you can see from the Parc de la Tête d'Or.

How to get there

As this is a massive park, there are various different entrances. Seven, to be precise. If you come on the subway (métro), take Line A and get off at either Masséna or Foch station. And remember: as such a huge place, if you want to meet up with your friends, be specific about exactly where you're going to meet. Once I went there and my friends told me that we'd "meet at the same gate as last time"… but it turned out that the "same gate as last time" wasn't the one I thought it was lol. So if that happens to you, you can find each other easily with a quick phone call, but it is a bit annoying having to walk allllll the way across the park. Especially if you're there late in the evening x)

I've found that people generally like to meet at the Porte des Enfants due Rhône, as it's very easy to find.

Meanwhile, don't worry if you're coming on the bus: various routes go right by the park. For example, there's routes C4, C5 and C6. But I say it again, make sure you know exactly which stop you're getting off at.

Un enorme parque, emblemático de la ciudad de LyonThe day I went to the wrong gate to meet my friends :p Well anyway, we found each other in the end :) (And David's hat was red, you see Cristina? :P)

Opening Hours

While it's open all year, the park isn't like others which are open all day long. The Tête d'Or park has different opening times depending on what time of year it is. It shuts earlier in winter, for example.

From October to April, the park is open from 6:30am to 8:30pm. But in summer (April-October), it's open from 6:30am until 10:30pm.

So, there's not much else I can say to encourage you to visit this amazing park. But I'm absolutely sure you'll fall in love with it and will want to to come back again and again while you're living in Lyon.

Un enorme parque, emblemático de la ciudad de LyonOne of the Parc de la Tête d'Or's many curious ducks. :p

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