Whether it’s at the height of summer or in the middle of winter, a visit to Lyon is not complete without a walk through Parc de la Tête d’Or. This 120-hectare park is one of the largest city parks in France and offers a great number of activities and attractions. How many parks can boast antique merry-go-rounds, zebras and carnivorous plants?
As soon as you walk past the gold-plated entrance gate you realize that Tête d’Or, set on a former swamp along the bank of the Rhône, is hardly a prissy public garden but a sizeable park. Wide boulevards run along spacious lawns and the central rowing pond with islands is as large as a medium-sized lake. Joggers, cyclists, skaters and picnicking locals - this is the place where residents come to relax and therefore the perfect setting to mingle with the locals.
It hardly seems a coincidence that this city with such strong culinary traditions (and high-calorie cuisine) is home to a park that makes you want play outside. The large lawns evoke the same energy as Central Park which was also built in 1857. An excellent way to explore the park is by Vélo’V, the city bikes that are parked on almost every street corner of Lyon. Or enjoy a tour in a row boat, pedal boat or one of those fun family bikes with a parasol.
The best known attractions of Tête d´Or are the rose gardens, the zoo and the botanical garden – admission to these is free. The Jardin Botanique is especially lovely, with a beautiful orangery and monumental 19th-century greenhouses. The oldest greenhouse, the Serre Hollandaise, contains a large collection of carnivorous plants. The garden is also home to friendlier plants, such as water lilies.
Visitors who prefer fauna over flora may visit the historic zoo. Just like the rest of the park, the zoo was built more than 150 years ago and is home to elephants, zebras, tigers, leopards and anacondas. A few years ago, an African savannah was added where more than a hundred animals happily move around freely.
In addition to the zoo, Tête d’Or offers many other child-friendly attractions. Visit the 2 antique merry-go-rounds with hand-painted figures, the old fashioned go-karts and swings, and the electric boats that you can sail yourself. Another unique attraction is the park’s puppet theatre, Théâtre de Guignol. The character Guignol – still one of the main characters in French puppet shows – was created in Lyon around 1800.