Old Town (Vieux Lyon)
On the far bank of the Saône, the real attraction of Lyon awaits us: Vieux Lyon, the old town, with its huge cathedral at the summit. This district, with its medieval and Renaissance buildings, narrow streets, alleyways, and charming cobblestones, transports all its visiting tourists centuries into the past – it’s no wonder that this area has been designated a UNESCO world heritage site.
What really sets this medieval district apart is that locals still live in the houses, as though it’s quite natural, and between the ridiculously expensive restaurants there are also some very affordable little pubs. Directly next to the cathedral of Saint-Jean-Baptiste, for instance, we found a little café (actually more like a pub), which sold drinks for what by French standards were very reasonable prices (a glass of wine, for instance, cost €2.70).
Another thing which is both unusual and progressive in such a place is that when it comes to exploring the heritage, there is not merely a plain history museum, but also, for instance, a really imaginative Miniature Museum, right in the middle of the old town. (€9 for adults, €6.50 for children) which displays both historical and modern figures, occupations, and spaces. Everyone gapes at it with open mouths – even the adults.
And if you’re in the old town, note an important word: traboule. Traboules are the passageways which you can find throughout the city, and which make unpredictable links between different streets. Every traboule has its own story, and you can pay for a special traboule tour.
In this old district alone there are some 250 traboules, and twice as many in the city as a whole. Here’s the rule for finding traboules: everywhere is open if it isn’t physically barred. Most locals don’t mind if they find tourists taking selfies on a traboule which leads across the stairway of their apartment building – they’re used to it. (2016)