If you’ve ever wandered the narrow streets of Vieux Lyon or meandered up the Pentes de la Croix-Rousse, chances are you’ll have seen the odd person peel away from the crowds and disappear behind a heavy, oak door. Some of these people will have been doing just what you assumed: entering their home. Others, usually with a map in hand, will have been touring Lyon’s vast network of traboules.
A traboule – derived from the Latin verb transambulare, meaning to cross – is a small, narrow passageway, historically associated with the city of Lyon. Traboules run perpendicular to the streets that they cross, and were once used by the canuts (silk workers) to transport their wares down the hillside to the textile merchants. (The Cour des Voraces is a particularly famous traboule, whose history is entrenched in the Canuts Revolts.) During WW2, they served an entirely different purpose: helping Lyonnais citizens and members of the Resistance escape from the Gestapo. Nowadays, they’re open to tourists and a self-guided tour of them is a great way to explore another side of the city. (Check this website out for free, downloadable maps of the traboules.) While you’re trabouling, keep noise to a minimum, as many of the traboules pass through private properties. There are no hard and fast opening hours, but as a rule of thumb traboules are generally open between 10am and 6pm.
I’ve explored a number of traboules across Vieux-Lyon, Presqu’île and the Croix-Rousse, and these are some of my favourites . . .