Out and about A journey in the metropolitan area

La Mulatière, a part of Lyon like no other

Isabelle Fournet
By Isabelle
Published on 22/03/2023

Many people pass through La Mulatière on their way to the south of Lyon without paying it much attention. They don’t know what they’re missing! It’s well worth a stop to explore the many surprises it has to offer.

Quiet and unassuming, La Mulatière is the smallest of the 59 communes that make up the Lyon metropolitan area. However, what it lacks in size it makes up for in character! Running alongside the Saône, and then the Rhône, La Mulatière lies between Lyon and Oullins, and climbs up the hill of Sainte-Foy-lèsLyon, which it separated from in 1885. From the end of the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century, the banks of the Saône and Rhône were occupied by the properties of Lyon’s wealthiest residents.
Many of them can still be seen from the riverbanks, which are the starting point of this tour of La Mulatière.

In 1732, after falling under the charm of the landscape, none other than Jean-Jacques Rousseau spent a night in a grotto on one of these properties! Another property, known as ‘La Bonne Maison’, offers visitors a chance to discover one of the most beautiful gardens in the metropolitan area.

Down by the river, the memory of the boatmen and bargemen who used to work along the banks has been preserved thanks to the famous ‘joutes lyonnaises’ (a local form of water jousting). This old tradition, which is still very much alive, is an impressive sight to behold. The jousters adopt one of two positions: ‘jambe cassée’ (the oldest, where one leg is bent) and ‘jambe tendue’ (where the jouster practically does the splits). 

A little further down the river, you can stop at the Aquarium de Lyon. Opened in 2002, the aquarium conserves aquatic environments and raises public awareness of the fragile beauty of marine ecosystems. It also has a mission to protect and reproduce species which it pursues in conjunction with other aquariums. 

Before leaving, if you decide to find the town centre to stop for a break, you’ll spend a long time looking. That’s because La Mulatière doesn’t have one, or not yet at least... While the industrial and demographic growth that came with the arrival of the railway in 1832 led to the town’s separation with SainteFoy, its development has been dispersed around its various neighbourhoods. This curious feature may not last long, however, as there are currently plans to create a town centre. In the meantime, you can take a packed lunch or picnic to one of the many green spaces available, such as the adventure playground on Chemin de la Cadière, where you will find play areas and a climbing wall.

Discover La Mulatière while running, walking or on a bike with Runnin’City: an innovative and free smartphone app (available on iOS and Android devices). Runnin’City
on GooglePlay or on App Store

To your lances! 

While the ‘joutes lyonnaises’ (Lyonnais water jousting) almost disappeared, in La Mulatière, the tradition is alive and taken very seriously!
Since 1891, the Union des Jouteurs et Sauveteurs de la Mulatière (UJSM) has been training jousters, lifeguards and divers to take part in the practice.
The association also organises tournaments, which are always spectacular, from May to September River at Écluse César-Varnet, just after the confluence. 

River at Ecluse César-Varnet, just after the confluence.
Facebook : UJSMjoutes

Look at the rosy side

La Bonne Maison, has been awarded the remarkable garden quality label and two stars in Michelin’s Green Guide. English rose grower Peter Beales includes it on his list of the 25 most beautiful gardens in the world. Covering 9500 m², it is home to some 850 species of antique roses, irises and various other flowers and shrubs, which are grown without the use of chemical products. 

Odile Masquelier, the owner and a passionate gardener, has tended La Bonne Maison for more than 50 years. She is an internationally renowned antique rose specialist who has encyclopaedic knowledge of the various species. Not to be missed! 

Open (€10, free for students and under 18 s) until 30 June, from 9:30 am to 1 pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. 

A walk in the woods

Created in order to protect local natural heritage, the ‘Parcours des Arbres admirables’ runs from the corner of Chemin de la Cadière and Chemin du Buisset, and ends on Quai Jean-Jacques Rousseau, via a footpath or cycling path (more challenging). 

Along the route, you will meet 26 tree species, each with an information panel. 

Accessible for all.
Distance: 2 km
Duration: around 11/4 hrs.
Difficulty: easy.
A map can be downloaded on the website lamulatiere.fr

Ocean view

In addition to the main attraction – a shark and ray pool –, you will find 300 species of fish, mammals, frogs and toads, corals and other creatures at the Aquarium de Lyon. 
The aquarium is hosting an exhibition of photographs by the association Coral Guardian, until 31 March 2023.

On the right track 

Founded in the 1980s by four model railway enthusiasts, the association Les Chemins de fer privés de la Mulatière (CFPM) welcomes curious visitors to see the 300-metre railway network where their electric trains run. It is complete with miniature scenery, replicas of iconic buildings in the Perrache district, and reproductions of the region’s landscapes and villages. 

Open on the third Saturday of each month from 2:30 to 5:30 pm. 

Where to eat? 

A restaurant, bar and concert venue, with a pretty riverside terrace, this address has been a favourite among Lyon’s residents on this side of the river for many years now.
What’s more, the flavoursome and healthy cuisine features, organic, local food and natural wines. 

Open for lunch from Monday to Friday and dinner on Thursday and Friday.