The third largest square in France

Classified as the third largest square in France, Bellecour square is a popular and lively part of daily life for the Lyonnais. Alexis Jenni a local writer recounts some secrets of the city while sitting on a bench seat at Café Bellecour facing the square.  

Last updated date : 12/03/2018

Why are you so attached to Place Bellecour?

I have a strong bond with the square and with the Café Bellecour in particular, as this is my workplace. I come here to write several times a week, sitting in a corner of the café. I love Place Bellecour as it is very large. It almost feels like you're outdoors in the natural elements. People hang around here, they cross the square from one end to the next, they sit down and simply lose themselves in this marvellous setting. People can breathe easy without the stress in this vast open area in what is otherwise a very dense city.

Why is the sculpture of Louis XIV such an emblematic feature of this square?

Firstly, the people of Lyon often meet up here, under the horse's tail as they say! This statue is anecdotal, the sculptor François Lemot found that his statue was incomplete because he had forgotten to add the king's stirrups. To his disappointment and much chagrin it had led to his demise as he took his own life. This is actually a legend as Louis XIV was in fact represented in Roman equestrian style, without stirrups; in other words as "imperator".

Is Lyon a source of inspiration for you? 

In my first novel, I talked a great deal about the imaginary aspect of Lyon, a historical, misty and murky Lyon. An ancient and classical Lyon which for reasons related to its numerous renovations and climate change, no longer exists. I have also talked about the modern aspect of Lyon, a major city bordered by its agitating and disturbing suburbs.

This is a real source of inspiration as Lyon has all the ingredients of a large city but in a relatively small surface area. You can discover some excellent historical districts on foot, within a radius of around 10 km. There are very modern areas and working class neighbourhoods. It's a genuine urban theatre which I find extremely inspiring!

In your point of view, which is Lyon’s most romantic district? 

I love Old Lyon, with its strange, winding, maze-like architecture, and its passageways through buildings called Traboules. It really is a fairy-tale environment. Generally speaking, Lyon is a romantic city for everything it hides behind its facades and the countless surprises it reserves for us.

Some of his favourite places in Lyon…

Where's the best place to enjoy an andouillette and a quenelle? At The Jura in rue Tupin! I went there 20 years ago and then again more recently; you'll still find tradition at its best. The same andouillette and the same quenelle. That's exactly what people are looking for!

Where's the best place for a romantic stroll? In the park at the top (Parc des Hauteurs) of Fourviere hill! When you walk there, you get the impression that you're somewhere completely different, even though you’re just uphill from the city.

Where's the best place to meet the "real" people of Lyon? In Ainay for the old Catholic bourgeoisie, for families with a swarm of children, or on the hillsides with the lively and creative young people, two groups which present two very different facets of Lyon and its people!

Where's the best place to have fun and party? In summertime along the banks of the Rhône, going from barge to barge and enjoying a beer in each.

Where's the best place to buy a souvenir of Lyon? In one of the silk workshops for an ultra-chic scarf or in Fourvière for a snow globe with a model of the virgin in the snow!

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