Picture this: It’s an early Sunday morning, armed with a vintage map of Lyon and fueled by a sense of adventure, you stroll through the cobblestone streets of Lyon Old Town. As you observe groups of tourists led by their guides, you can’t help but eavesdrop on their conversations. And amidst their conversations, you hear one guide explain: “Traboules are hidden passages,” “and not all of them are open to the public. They are like the city’s best-kept secrets.” In this post I will share my favorite traboules addresses as well as a list of all of Lyon traboules open to the public.
What I love about traboules is that finding them is like a treasure hunt. You have to cut through the tourists and try different doors (without being a rando). Then after many failed entries, a door finally opens. You walk along the labyrinth courtyard and looking up you are mesmerized by the architecture. Exiting out you have to put on your best poker face on so other tourists don’t catch onto what you just stumbled upon.
Traboules in Lyon
What Is the Meaning of Traboules?
Traboules, pronounced as “trah bools,” are hidden covered pathways that connect buildings, courtyards and streets in Lyon. They are LEGIT architectural marvels, characterized by their narrow alleys, spiral staircases, and unique doorways.
Not all passages are traboules. Here’s the criteria to identify traboules in Lyon:
• Historical Significance: Traboules should have a rich history dating back centuries, closely tied to Lyon’s heritage.
• Covered Passageway: They are sheltered passages linking streets, buildings, and courtyards.
• Interconnected Buildings: These passageways create a network connecting multiple buildings and streets.
• Distinctive Architecture: Traboules feature unique architectural elements like spiral staircases and ornate doorways.
Brief History of Traboules
What is the History of Traboules?
Traboules date back to the 4th century and play an important role in Lyon’s history. They were initially used by silk workers to transport their products while safeguarding them from harsh weather conditions.
Remember: Lyon was a major silk producing city in France.
The Traboules were like protected routes for silk transportation. These passages shielded the precious fabric from rain, wind and other weather conditions.
During World War II, these secret passageways became crucial hideouts for resistance fighters who fought against the Nazi occupation forces.
Traboules: My Top picks & “Coup de Coeur”
Throughout my visits to Lyon, I discovered that Traboules can take the form of large passages with shops, small residential buildings, hotels restaurants and even cafes. In my opinion, you’ll find the nicest traboules in Vieux Lyon and Croix Rousse.
Here are my top picks:
❤ The most urban: Cour des Voraces (9 place Colbert)
This is probably the most iconic and popular one in Croix Rousse. Looking up the view is so urban cool. There’s always incredible street art, including down the steps and on the walls.
My experience: I always love coming here every time I visit to see how the street art has changed and if there’s anything new.
❤ The most secret: 118 Montée Grande
This is a secret traboule in Croix Rousse that not many know about. You’ve probably gone up and down this street without realizing there’s a traboule here. You will identify it by it’s heart door.
❤ The best ambience: Food Traboule (22 rue du Boeuf)
At Food Traboule you can dine and get drinks in a beautiful pink tower “tour rose” inside of a restaurant. It also houses the tour rose hotel.
My experience: The restaurant was hit and miss for me as a vegan, but I def. recommend grabbing drinks it’s such a beautiful atmosphere.
❤ The most romantic: 8 rue Juiverie
I find this traboule in Vieux Lyon the most elegant and romantic. I mean its Renaissance architecture and arched windows are something from a fairytale. A must see. Ugh gorgeous.
❤ The most practical: Passage de Imprimeurs (56 rue merciere)
I love this traboule as a shortcut to cut through the busy street. (Rue merciere is always hustly bustly during lunch and dinner times). As you go through, it’s pretty amusing to squeeze by this skinny passage with tables of people dining. After all that, your reward is the quai saint- antoine with the beautiful Soane and view of the Fourvievre on the other side.
Top tip: Don’t miss the morning food market right across for a true French marche experience.
❤ The most walked: Passage de l’Argue (69 Passage de L’argue)
This is a major passage and common one starting from the main shopping street rue de la Republique. As you continue till the end of the passage, there is a street to across and then you find yourself in another passage.
❤ TEST: is this a Traboule or Not? The most charming:
So is it a traboule or not?
Although, it may look like a traboule (I was fooled) it’s not. It lacks distinct covered passageways linking two locations to each other.
This building is very charming at the Musée Gadagne courtyard. L’Hôtel Gadagne in Lyon was built in the 16th century. Don’t miss its stunning Renaissance courtyard.
Top tip: It’s definitely worth a detour. Enter at the Musée Gadagne in Vieux Lyon before the ticket entrance. You don’t need to pay to visit.
• Respect Privacy: Many traboules are still part of residential buildings, so it’s essential to be quiet and respectful to the residents. Don’t be that loud tourist.
Top tip: Some traboule have a metal plaque that says: “merci de respecter” this also a tell-tale sign that this is a traboule. (although, not necessarily all traboules have them).
• Avoid Graffiti or Vandalism: Traboules are historical treasures. Do not deface with graffiti or vandalism. Even for the ones with street art (like the cour des voraces) do not draw on the art.
• Some traboules have specific opening hours. Go early in the morning or late in the afternoon (within the designated times) for a more peaceful visit with fewer tourists around.
List of Traboule Open to the Public in Lyon:
Note: Some of these may be rendered inaccessible in the future.
Traboules Vieux Lyon
- 14 rue du Bœuf
- 16 rue du Bœuf
- 22 rue du Boeuf (Tour Rose- Food Traboule restaurant+ MiHotel)
- 27 rue Saint-Jean (la longue traboule)
- 37 rue Saint-Jean
- 54 rue St Jean (la longue traboule)
- 60 rue Saint-Jean
- 2 Place du Gouvernement
- 8 rue Juiverie
- 47 rue St Georges
Croix Rousse Traboules
- 9 place Colbert (Cour des Voraces)
- 118 Montée Grande
- 20 rue Imbert Colomès
- 30 rue Burdeau (Passage Thiaffait)
- 6 rue des Capucines
- Passage de l’Argue (69 Passage de L’argue)
- 56 rue merciere (Passage de Imprimeurs)
- 5 Rue Royale
- 2 place des Terreaux (Brasserie)
- 4 rue Désirée
- 13 rue de la Poulaillerie
- 22 Rue des Capucins
1. What is the origin of the word ‘traboules’?
Traboules is believed to be derived from the Latin term “trans ambulare,” which means “to pass through.”
2. Are all traboules open to the public?
No, some traboules remain private, but many are accessible to the public. It’s recommended to join a guided tour to explore them safely.
3. What is the best time to explore traboules in Lyon?
Early morning or late afternoon is ideal for a peaceful exploration, as there are fewer tourists around.
4. How old are the traboules?
Traboules date back to the 4th century, making them well over a thousand years old.
5. How many traboules are there in Lyon?
The exact number of traboules is difficult to pin down precisely, however, it is estimated that there are over 500 traboules in Lyon.
6. What is the architectural style of the Traboules in Lyon?
Traboules in Lyon can display a range of architectural styles, with many incorporating Renaissance elements, such as ornate doorways and decorative stonework. However, styles can vary with different architectural influences.
I would LOVE to know what your favorite traboule is? Let me know in the comments.
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Latifah is a vegan foodie who loves travelling and cooking plant-based recipes. She loves sharing her favorite travel spots and adding a sprinkle of confetti to your day.