Located in the middle of the Saône river in Lyon’s 9th arrondissement, Île Barbe is an island situated in the middle of the Saône. An abbey has existed on the island since the 5th century AD. Today, only the église romane Notre-Dame remains. 

The northern side of the island is open to the public, some privately owned homes being located on the other side.

Île Barbe features terrains for playing pétanque, a lawn area, a children’s playpark, and a private section that can be reached via two roads, l’impasse Saint-Loup which provides access to the Auberge de l’Île (an excellent gastronomic restaurant, of the Relais & Châteaux chain) and the chemin du Bas-Port which leads to the Saône). The two paths do not meet, the impasse Saint-Loup reaches a dead end at the gateway to a private courtyard. The remains of the château de Saint-Rambert-l’Ile-Barbe and the château du Chastelard dating from the 15th century can also be viewed. 


  • The island’s abbey was the first monastic establishment in the region of Lyon and in fact is recognised as being one of the oldest in all of Gaul. Charles the Great (Charlemagne) provided the monks with a beautiful library.
  • The monastery was pillaged at least three times; in 676AD and 725AD by the Saracens, and in 937AD by the Huns. In the 9th century the monastery adopted the Rule of Saint Benedict and gradually was enriched from that period onwards.
  • In 816AD, Louis the Pious (Louis le Pieux) awarded the monastery the right to maintain at all times three boats, exempt from passage taxes upon the rivers Saône the Rhône and the Doubs.
  • Charles the Bald Charles provided the monastery with a decree of immunity and protection in 861AD.
  • In the early 16th century, the abbey passed into the ownership of the Albon family.
  • On the 12th April 1549, Pope Paul III secularised the abbey, which became a college of canons.
  • In 1562, Protestant troops led by the Baron des Adrets looted and burned the abbey.
  • The chapter of canons was finally suppressed in 1741, and a home for elderly or infirm priests was established. This home itself came to an end in 1783. During the French Revolution, the remaining items on Ile Barbe were sold and dispersed.

The bridge

In 1734, the noted architect Cotton began constructing a wooden bridge to provide access to Île Barbe. This bridge was replaced in 1827 with a suspension bridge that still serves the island today. 


Île Barbe can be reached from either riverbank of the Saône by the Pont de l’Île Barbe, which is in fact the oldest bridge in Lyon still in use. The île includes a free (rather small) car park for those travelling by car. If travelling on foot or by bicycle, the walk along either side of the river from the Vaise neighbourhood (Gare de Vaise is the closest metro station, line D) is very pleasant. Buses u 31 and 43 leave from Gare de Vaise, and bus 40 leaves from Place Bellecour. All stop at Saint Rambert – l’Île Barbe.

The ‘île is located only 5 minutes walk from musée Jean Couty, meaning that a picnic on Ile Barbe following a visit to the museum is a popular option for many.

Address: L’Île Barbe  69009 Lyon