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Vieux (Old) Lyon

  • Lyon, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

  • Bucket List Experience

Last updated: 18 March, 2024

Vieux (old) Lyon is the most beautiful (and touristy) quarter of the city. It’s tucked in between River Saone’s west bank and the steep Fourviere hillside – a narrow slice of land crammed with beautifully preserved mansions, many dating from the 16th-century French Renaissance. It’s especially famed for its traboules, which are secretive, narrow alleyways leading between the different mansions.

The quarter reveals how Lyon thrived in the Renaissance; many of its finest houses were built for Italian silk merchants. The area has been stunningly restored, but many of the mansions have very touristy establishments on the ground floor.

While you’re there

The area’s most significant building is Saint-Jean Cathedral, a sturdy Gothic structure on the Saone covered in intriguing carved panels. In the peaceful interior, the rose windows and astrological clock are highlights.

The quarter’s grandest mansion houses the Gadagne Museum. It includes two museums: the Museum of Lyon History tracing the city’s history since Medieval times, and the World Puppet Museum, with over 2,000 puppets.

Who to go with: tour operators

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Food Traboule

  • Lyon, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

Close up of a man holding a plate with 2 delicious looking filled tacos

Experience

Set in the Tour Rose, a stand-out Renaissance building, this trendy food court contains multiple spaces managed by twelve creative chefs. Look out for international dishes with innovative local twists.

Good for age: 18+

Gadagne Museum

  • Lyon, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

Close up of a ceramic puppet exhibit in the museum

Experience

Housed in Vieux Lyon’s grandest mansion, this small museum is actually two museums: the Museum of Lyon History, which traces the history of the city since medieval times, and the World Puppet Museum, with over 2,000 puppets collected over centuries.

 

Adult price: £5

Good for age: 4+

Miniatures & Cinema Museum

  • Lyon, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

Museum of miniatures in french city Lyon. Glass showcase of the museum with action figures in

Experience

A must for film buffs: Artist Dan Ohlmann showcases 120 miniature scenes and hundreds of film props to reveal the way special effects are made in the world’s leading film studios.

Adult price: £8

Good for age: 4+

Saint-Jean Cathedral

  • Lyon, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

Close up of the cathedral front facade

Experience

Henri IV married Marie de Medicis in this stunning medieval cathedral, famed for its 16th-century astronomical clock and one the world’s largest 17th-century bells, rung up to 15 times a year.

Good for age: 18+

Logistics

Price: Free
Minimum age: 0
Age suitable: 18+
When: All year around

Getting there & doing it

The streets of Vieux Lyon are best explored on foot. A whole series of delightful bridges, some pedestrian, cross the Saone from the Presqu’Ile into Vieux Lyon. You can pick up a map of the traboules (narrow alleyways) from the tourist office.

Walk down Rue St-Jean – it cuts right through Vieux Lyon, from north to south, but with many delightful squares punctuating the route. The way is packed with shops, eateries and architectural curiosities.

For eating and drinking after a wander, there are masses of restaurants in Vieux Lyon, but many are over-touristy. Les Loges in the Cour des Loges hotel hits the mark with stylish options, while Jeremy Galvan serves excellent creative tasting menus.

There are also one or two enchanting, authentic old-style patisseries in the quarter. A La Marquise on Rue St-Jean is a particular delight, with its own beautiful, secretive courtyard.

When to do it

The traboules are at their most atmospheric first thing in the morning. Otherwise, early evening is a good time to visit, when the streets bustle with locals winding down.

Who to go with: organised tours

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this attraction or activity

  • Lyon

10:00 am/English | On this guided walking tour of Vieux Lyon, you will discover this amazing neighborhood with Paul, your guide. We will explain the history and culture of Lyon, talking about a lot of things, like the Bouchon (local restaurants), the history of Silk production in Lyon, Klaus Barbie and the French resistance during the Second World War, Paul Bocuse and food culture and Renaissance in Lyon. We will visit many hidden passageways (the Traboules) and secret courtyards, that are sometimes hard to find on your own. For the last part of the tour we will cross over to the modern city center and visit some highlights like the Theatre des Celestins and the Hôtel Dieu. Tips are greatly appreciated. Our guides spend many hours of personal time increasing their knowledge to provide you with the best experience possible. Tips not only help financially but also let the guide know he or she is doing a great job. Typical tip range has been e5-10 per person.

Price €3

Min age 1

Rating 4.94 / 5 [640 ratings]

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  • Lyon

Lyon Food Tour offers a 4-hour unique gastronomy experience with lunch. Accompanied by a passionate local guide discover the capital of gastronomy during a rhythmic visit full of unusual anecdotes and exceptional culinary tastings. Explore must-see places, meet local artisans and taste products that identify with the reputation of Lyon’s heritage. Tour is limited to a maximum of 12 travelers.

Price €85

Min age 13

Rating 4.92 / 5 [229 ratings]

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  • Lyon

Go to discover the Old Town district between murals paintings, traboules, must-see places punctuated meetings passionate locals craftsmen who will share their expertise and their delicious products emblematics of Lyon. A 3,5 hours visit with 4 tasting breaks which will discover you Lyon to the plate. The perfect way to combine cultural discovery and greediness in order to launch your evening perfectly ON MENU : - Assortment of regional cold cuts with a glass of red wine - Selection of regional cheeses with a glass of white wine - Praline brioche with fresh or hot drinks - Artisanal ice creams (from 3rd April to 31th October) / Assortment of chocolates (from 1st November to 2nd April) Please note that this tour is not a full lunch (but a very good aperitif)

Price €70

Min age 13

Rating 4.81 / 5 [181 ratings]

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  • Lyon

Were there any lions in Lyon? Why did they build so many secret passages and what kind of troubles happened in the "traboules"? Where did the kings keep their mistresses? Why is the city center sliding down the hill throughout centuries? Join me to walk the streets that are as busy today as they were 500 years ago, see Lyon as it was at the era of Roman Empire, and hear more cool stories about this amazing city, its history, architecture and culture. The departure time and place is flexible depending on your preferences.

Price €39

Min age 6

Rating 4.94 / 5 [87 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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