A Virtual Holiday to Lyon

Opinion piece

Neil McKenna, Planner at Tibbalds, gives us a virtual holiday with sounds from our 2018 annual study tour to Lyon.

Back in September 2018, Tibbalds annual study tour was of Lyon and we wrote a blog piece as an initial reflection. Given the current lockdown due to Coronavirus, we thought it was a good opportunity to follow up and provide you with a moment of respite by taking you on a virtual holiday – we will do this through the medium of sound!

With the current lockdown, it is quite timely to explore the nature of sound in our cities. Have you stopped and noticed that the ever present sound of flights above our heads isn’t there? Or, taken a walk down the street and noticed the reduction in the noise from road traffic?


The soundscape of Lyon in particular is quite helpful as it prompted me to think about the sounds we value in our urban environments. What was evident from the process of engaging with Lyon primarily through my ears was that the city is (normally) a very socially active place, with its public spaces and streets full of people. It is quite easy to get away from cars, there are a lot of people playing and I have never seen so many skateboards and scooters being used. What struck me was the use of public spaces – often hard surface and urban ones – as places to play. The outcome is a very pleasing city to walk through.

I feel this doesn’t happen quite as much back in Britain. Part of this might be down to climate but I think there is a bit more to it than that. Part of it is also the presence of two very beautiful rivers – the Rhône and the Saone, which are important elements of the city for leisure and enjoying the outdoors, complementing the usual outdoor café, bar and market culture.

The soundscape below will take you to different places in Lyon.

Lyon Soundscape

Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design · Soundscape Tibbalds Summer Trip - Lyon
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The first part starts with a walk along the Saone during the day and ends at night with thousands of people hanging out and relaxing on a Friday night.

The second part moves south down to ‘La Confluence’ – the meeting point of the Rhône and Saone. This island between the two rivers is a focus for a lot of new development and construction with new cafes, restaurants, offices and a museum.

The third part then goes on a tour of different public spaces on a Saturday – public squares, places of worship, the Roman amphitheatre and a walk along the Rhone.

It finishes on the Saone at St Antoine Market on a Sunday morning, taking a walk through the extensive market place and over to the river where the bells of Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste were ringing out. Despite the noise, people (including us) were sitting by the water eating food and passing the hours with friends and family.