Once used by silk merchants to reach the bustling markets of Lyon without damaging their wares, the city's traboules, or passageways, hark back to a bygone era. Here's how to escape the city streets and explore these hidden, secret alleyways.
Lyon Traboules History
The traboules of Lyon date back to the fourth century, when residents of what's now known as Vieux Lyon needed swift and simple access from their homes to the banks of the Saône River for water. Come the 18th century, Lyon's silk-weaving industry boomed and the traboules also became the perfect way for silk workers—known as canuts—to transport their products from their homes on the outskirts of town to the markets in the new city center on the Presqu'ile, between the Rhône and Saône rivers. Still in place today, the passageways offer access to many of Lyon's residential apartment buildings, with some 40 of them open to the public.
Ways to Experience Lyon's Traboules
- Follow a tour guide on a walking tour of Lyon's historic Old Town, and hear colorful stories dating back to Renaissance France.
- Take a theatrical walking tour in Lyon to learn of city life in the 16th century, and listen as an actor-guide sheds light on the best spots to buy silks.
- Stroll through the UNESCO World Heritage–listed streets—from Bellecour Square to Terreaux Square and Fourvière Hill—and explore the historic courtyards and traboules of Saint-Jean Square.
- Sample some of the praline sweet treats for which Lyon is famous at a local patisserie, then head to the Museum of Fine Arts and discover Lyon's silk-printing history.
- Wander through the Croix-Rousse district to the ancient traboules and feel like a true Lyonnais.
- Explore streets such as Rue du Boeuf and Rue Saint-Jean, where daily life ticks by at a relaxed pace.