I knew very little about Lyon before arriving, but the last thing I expected to discover was secret passageways hidden behind seemingly normal doors in Vieux Lyon (the old part of town). After arriving in Lyon, our (super helpful) Airbnb host filled us in on all the must-see aspects of France’s third-largest city. First, she told us all about the Rose Festival taking place in Lyon, then she moved on to the mysterious traboules hidden just below us on the streets of Vieux Lyon (we stayed in the heart of Vieux Lyon). You can’t hear “secret passageways” and not have your curiosity shift into overdrive.
Some of my favorite memories from trips are the unique experiences you can only find in a certain city and the Lyon traboules sounded just like that – unique and surely to be one of my favorite memories. Thanks to our awesome Airbnb host, we knew there was an agreement between the city council and the inhabitants in the buildings that allows the public to freely explore dozens of the city’s traboules.
I thought one of the most impressive aspects of the traboules was the fact that they are hidden behind seemingly normal front doors right on the streets of Vieux Lyon. Just when you think the door in front of you is a typical front door, you push it open and step into a long, narrow corridor. We had so much fun wandering through Vieux Lyon pushing on random doors on the street never knowing whether it would remain locked or open to reveal a long, mysterious passageway.
As soon as we passed through the door into our first traboule, I felt as if we had been transported to a different century. Standing in a narrow, dimly lit passage, we began moving down the hallway and soon emerged in a beautiful interior courtyard.
We learned that most of the city’s traboules open up to secret interior courtyards, many of them also home to stone spiral staircases, fountains, statues, and medieval architecture. The traboules were originally used by merchants to quickly transport their products between streets to the market. Unsurprisingly, the traboules were later used to move around the city without being seen by authorities (a much more interesting use for the traboules if you ask me).
We spent a few hours meandering through Vieux Lyon searching for open doors that hid another traboule waiting for us to explore. It seemed that each traboule we stumbled across had something special that the last one didn’t have. Make sure you check out the longest traboule in Lyon which runs between 54 Rue Saint-Jean and 27 Rue du Boeuf (this one is easy to spot because there’s a plaque outside the door). Spend some time relaxing in the interior courtyards soaking in the atmosphere of the city’s secret passageways.
I’m not going to lie, I was super excited to explore the traboules. I mean, come on, I don’t know anyone that wouldn’t be excited to explore secret passageways. Trust me, the Lyon traboules certainly won’t disappoint, they were mysterious, full of surprises and one of the most memorable parts of our trip.
- Traboules are open to the public from 8 am to 7 pm daily.
- Visitors are expected to be quiet and respect the fact that the apartments surrounding the mysterious old passageways are private homes (residents are voluntarily allowing the public onto their property – respect that).
- You can find a (rough) map of some of the traboules here.
- You can do a free self-guided tour of the traboules or join a tour and go with a guide (more on tours here).
What was your experience like exploring the traboules in Lyon? Would exploring the secret passageways in Lyon make your bucket list? Share your thoughts in the comments below!