- Sightseeing, Neighborhood/Area Type
- 2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
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Vieux Lyon, or Old Lyon, is the city's renaissance district located in the 5th arrondissement. Here, visitors will find many attractions, such as the Place du Change, the former business square of the city, and Rue St-Jean, a popular place to walk – partly for its traboules (secret pathways and staircases that pass through buildings). It's believed that these passageways date back to the fourth century, when residents needed a way to get from their homes to the river (their source of fresh water) without having to weave through the town's winding streets. They were later used by the silk trade and then by the resistance during World War II.
The fact that this history remains intact is thanks to Andre Malraux, the French Minister of Culture in 1962, who saved the district from demolition plans by designating it a protected area. This jumpstarted a revitalization of the area. Just decades later, the refurbished renaissance district was named a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Some say that Vieux Lyon can feel touristy in certain parts, but they say it's nonetheless charming. In fact, most visitors to Lyon say a few hours meandering through Vieux Lyon is a must-do, citing the interesting traboules, the plethora of restaurants and cafes, and the gorgeous architecture. The area is free to visit and accessible 24/7. Note that not all traboules are open to the public. Passageways in Vieux Lyon are marked with a bronze shield; those that are open to the public are identified with a small seal, while those that are private are behind locked gates or doors. You can hunt for the traboules on your own, but past visitors highly recommended taking a tour with a guide as the passageways can be difficult to find and a guide will also supply a great amount of historical background. If you purchased a Lyon City Card, a guided tour is included in your pass.
- Thing to Do