Explore Lyon’s Traboules

On the way to French class, at Lyon’s École interculturelle de français pour étrangers near Croix Pacquet, I like to leave the sidewalk and follow the sheltered passages, courtyards, and stairways of the area’s traboules. These varied, old pedestrian walkways make Lyon’s historic neighborhoods personal and a little mysterious while providing quirky shortcuts and surprising vistas.

On the hillside leading up to Lyon’s Croix-Rousse (des pentes de la Croix-Rousse), the traboules offer staircases and passageways between the area’s narrow streets, and insider views of the multi-storied courtyards in buildings where silk workers once lived and worked.

Today, in addition to long-time residents, this is a neighborhood of artists, designers, students and architects. New art galleries proliferate along rue Burdeau. A business incubator for fashion designers is sheltered on Place Therrioux, off rue René Leynaud. Original clothing and accessories are sold in the area’s designer shops and co-ops. St Polycarpe, the neighborhood church with its huge clock, is tucked into the narrow streetscape. There is an endless game of pétanque under the trees of Place Sathonay. The pedestrian-only rue des Pierres Plantées offers a steep walkway straight up to the plateau of Croix-Rousse. While exploring this area, don’t miss the Amphithéâtre des Trois Gaules, just above the Place Sathonay, a ruin from Lyon’s early days as the capital of Gaul.

The Tourist Information Center at Place Bellecour offers guided tours in French and English (limited English tours off season) that include traboules or incorporate them into general city tours, depending on the time of year. A self-guided tour and map are available online in English or explore the traboules on your own by looking for small markers–square, yellow and blue signs on doorways and passageways in both areas.

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