Lyon – city of secrets
Standing on Place Colbert, an inconspicuous passageway catches your eye. Intrigued, you follow this side street as it brings you out into a huge patio. Further on, a second courtyard stops abruptly against a building. Without warning, an enormous six-storey concrete staircase rises above you! An architectural masterpiece from the 19th century, the staircase in the Cour des Voraces nestles at the heart of the most famous traboule of the Croix-Rousse neighbourhood. Traboules allow you to move from one street to another, passing under the houses themselves. The city on the Rhône boasts over 400 of these covered passageways, half of which can be found in the Old Lyon area. Only about 40 of them are open to the public. Often hidden from view, some may very well go unnoticed. You will need a sharp eye to spot them! And unexpected architectural treasures lie within: Italian galleries, richly decorated facades, medieval wells… Set off in search of the unusual side of Lyon.
Cour des Voraces
9 Place Colbert
Built at the end of the 15th century and start of the 16th, almost all the traboules of Old Lyon and the Presqu'île run perpendicular to the River Saône. They were constructed to make it easier for inhabitants to get to the river and a fresh source of water. A peculiar feature of Lyon's heritage, these shortcuts can tell a tale or two about the city's history. Make your way to number 27 Quai Saint-Antoine and take another of these secret passageways. This typical traboule from the Renaissance period uncovers beautiful ribbed vaults and old buildings with stone galleries.
At 16 Rue du Bœuf, visit the Traboule de la Tour Rose which encapsulates the entire history of Old Lyon all by itself. You enter through a magnificent flower-filled courtyard and soon come to the building where King Henry IV of France spent a few days in 1600 when he married Maria de' Medici. Hidden from view, the so-called Long Traboule makes you feel like you are exploring a secret passageway. In this narrow thoroughfare imbued with hidden charm, saunter under 17th-century balconies, before coming out at 54 Rue Saint-Jean. A stone's throw from here, at the end of another traboule and dead-end, step back into the medieval world of the Mandragore boutique and discover imitation accessories and jewellery inspired by Renaissance art.
Traboule de la Tour Rose
22 Rue du Bœuf
52 Rue Saint-Jean
+33 (0)4 72 41 99 16
The enigmatic alleyways of the Canuts
The traboules on the hillside of the Croix-Rousse district are a lot more recent than those in Old Lyon. Built between 1820 and 1830 inside the Canut or silk workers' buildings, they allowed these workers to transport their bales of silk sheltered from the rain. They often hide fabulous courtyards within, such as the Cour des Voraces.
Take a walk to 14 Rue René Leynaud. Press the small button under the door keypad to unlock the secrets of a hidden passageway. At the end of a corridor, you come to an interior courtyard whose pink-hued walls are lifted straight out of Italy. Absolute silence reigns over this timeless place.
Continue your wanderings to the Passage Thiaffait. Two majestic stairways lead to this pedestrianised, open-air passageway. It was renovated in the 1990s and is now home to the Village des Créateurs. Organic cotton clothing, vintage collections and minimalist creations… fashion and design are the name of the game at this concept store; if you are looking for a quirky souvenir of your stay in Lyon, you are bound to find it here.
Village des Créateurs du Passage Thiaffait
19 Rue René Leynaud
+33 (0)4 78 27 37 21