Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Rhône Valley
Art, History & Archaeology Sites & Museums

The Rhône Valley is the second largest wine producing region in France. It is the majestic Rhône River that has placed Lyon, now France’s third biggest metropolitan area,  at the crossroads of Europe for millennia. Today the river transports holiday makers, in Roman times the river was a crucial waterway that led to the establishment of many Roman cites along its length. Including Lyon, Vienne and Saint-Romain-en-Gal. The departments in Rhône-Valley are: Ain, Ardèche, Drôme, Isère, Loire, Rhône.

Archaeology & History Sites in Rhône Valley

Château de Grignan

On a rocky outcrop overlooking the village of Grignan is the largest Renaissance castle in southeastern France. An 11th century fortress was transformed into a sumptuous Renaissance palace by the Adhémar family in the 7th century. The Marquise of Sévigné, whose letters to her daughter made her a historical writer of note, lived and died here. The castle was destroyed during the Revolution, but reconstructed in the 20th century. During the lavender season, there are spectacular views from the castle, and of the castle.

Grotte Chauvet 2

The discovery of Chauvet Cave in 1994 by three speleologists had a enormous impact on cave art research. Not only was the cave art as spectacular as many other decorated caves in France, but because the cave had been sealed since prehistory the archaeology of the cave’s inhabitants lay undisturbed on the floor. For conservation reasons the cave would never be open to the public, the cave has been faithfully reproduced – the art and the the archaeology – which opened to the public in April 2015. Besides the replica, an excellent state-of-the-art interpretation centre provides an excellent background to the art of this period of the Stone Age.

Lyon Roman Theatres

Built into the side of Fourvière Hill sometime around the beginning of the Empire is a Roman theatre with one of the most breath-taking settings in France. The theatre is thought to be the oldest in Gaul, and one of the largest. Next to the theatre is a smaller theatre, or odeon. Besides these two structures, ruins of a temple complex were discovered behind the theatre, and behind the odeon is a street lined with shops. Each year during July and August the theatres host the ‘Nuits de Fourvière’.

Temple of Augustus and Livia

Situated in a small square in the small town of Vienne, a different setting to the dominant position in the centre of a Roman Forum of Colonia Julia Viennensium. Like many such Roman temples in Europe, the reason this one has survived so remarkably well is because it was transformed into a church. From the imprint of the inscription it has been possible to work out that the temple was dedicated to the Imperial Cult in Rome, one of the first in Gaul. The temple sits on a typically Roman podium, over 2 m high. The temple is not open to the public, but can be seen at anytime.

Museums & Art Galleries in Rhône Valley

Resistance and Deportation History Centre

Opened in 1992, the Centre d’histoire de la résistance et de la déportation is a museum that chronicles the work of the French resistance and the deportation of Jews from France to the death camps in the east during the Second World War. The museum is housed in a former military health school. From the spring of 1943 the school was occupied by the German Gestapo. It was here that the notorious Gestapo chief for Lyon, Klaus Barbie, tortured members of the resistance. Including the first president of the National Council of the Resistance, Jean Moulin.