Out and about A journey in the metropolitan area

Rochetaillée- sur-Saône, a green oasis

En bateau sur la Saône © Go Captain
Virginie Billy
By Virginie
Published on 24/10/2022

A characterful village located to the north of Lyon, on the banks of the Saône, Rochetaillée-sur-Saône is swathed in greenery and dotted with almost century-old guinguettes (small restaurants with music and dancing). It offers a cool oasis when the sun is at its hottest.

In the Saône Valley, ten kilometres to the north of Lyon, between the towns of Fontaines-sur-Saône and Fleurieu-sur-Saône, Rochetaillée-sur-Saône lies along the left bank, facing the Monts d’Or. Its name, which is often shortened to ‘Rochetaillée’ in everyday speech, is said  to come from the rocks that used to block the river.
A place of transit since the Middle Ages, Rochetaillée can pride itself on eight centuries of history, but it was not a popular destination for the people of Lyon until 1891, with the arrival of the steam-powered tram, followed by the Train Bleu (a tramway that ran through the Saône Valley from 1932 to 1957). In summer, people would come to escape the heat of the city and enjoy some ‘petite friture’ (small fried fish) on the banks of the Saône.

Nowadays, people come for much the same reasons. While bathing in the river is now forbidden, there is the ‘promenade des guinguettes’. This two-kilometre trail (about a 25-minute walk), running along the former towpath, is a delightful route that was once frequented by Sunday strollers. 

If you don’t fancy a picnic, the three long-established guinguettes – La Binbinette, Le Canotier and La Paillotte – serve up traditional frog’s legs with mixed herbs, and deep-fried smelt fish, for a taste of the “good old days”. 

After lunch, you can make your way to the pebbly river beach or the large meadow nearby for a rest in the shade of the trees. Alternatively, you can walk off your lunch as you explore the ‘River Movie’ art trail. Among the installations dotted along the route, you will find Le Génialithe by the artiste known as Le Gentil Garçon (see opposite) and La Cabane by Tadashi Kawamata, a structure that offers a superb vantage point to admire the view.
On your way back down, look out for the new ‘lône’ (a dead branch of the river), which is home to numerous species, including pike, pikeperch, carp, bream and black bass, as well as beavers and cormorants.

A fun cruise on the Saône

Would you like to try your hand at driving a boat, with no licence required? If so, then Go Captain rents boats that are accessible for all, allowing you to get a close-up look at the river islands ‘Île Roy’ and ‘Île Barbe’. It takes around 11⁄2 to 2 hours for a return trip from Rochetaillée to Île Barbe, and about twice as long to go all the way to the Confluence, offering a chance to admire the façades of Lyon’s historic centre from the water. 
From April to October.

Through the lock

Built in 1867 and constantly improved since, the lock of Rochetaillée was lengthened by nine metres in 2017. The aim was to reduce the transit time for long lines of boats, from 4 hours to just 20 minutes! If a ship approaches, make sure you stop to watch it pass through the lock.

729 quai Pierre-Dupont,

Interactive art

Local artist Julien Amouroux, better known as ‘Le Gentil Garçon’, has embellished the banks of the Saône with his poetic and fun works of art, such as ‘Souvenir du monde inversé’,‘La théorie des nœuds’, ‘Le cercle logique’ and ‘La Sucrerie’, where strollers can stop for a moment’s contemplation.
His most popular work – Le Génialithe – is formed of a false meteorite, which you can climb, and a play area for children.

Le Gentil Garçon - Souvenir du monde inversé © Virginie Billy

Mechanical marvels

From the popemobile to Hitler’s Mercedes, you will find more than a hundred vehicles in the collection at the Henri-Malartre automobile museum. Located in the Belle Époque château of Rochetaillée, the museum looks back at the history of manufacturers in Lyon, including Berliet, Audibert and La Buire, which were leaders of the global automotive industry in the early twentieth century.

Wednesday to Sunday, from 10:30 am to 6 pm.  
Musée de l'Automobile Henri Malartre © www.b-rob.com

Nature walk in Rochetaillée-sur-Saône

A peaceful round walk, beginning on the Place de la République (accessible by bus), and taking in the former towpath (formerly trodden by horses that would pull barges down the river), hundred-year-old oaks along the Chemin de la Marinade, and the automobile museum.
Distance: 5,2 km - Duration: 1 hr 35 min.
Difficulty level: medium.

Discover Rochetaillée while walking with the Jooks app (available on IOS and Android devices).
On Google Play and App Store.

Where to eat?

Open since 1930, the guinguette Le Canotier serves up the traditional frog’s legs and small fried fish, as well as Thai-style beef gravlax, burgers and vegetarian ravioli served in a cassolette. You will also find a private river beach with deck chairs.

Open every day from May to September, noon to 11 pm.
Le Canotier, guinguette en bord de Saône © Virginie Billy