Secret Passageways

Hundreds of covered alleyways called traboules burrow through Lyon’s older neighborhoods and harbor relics from across the centuries: among them, metalwork, fountains, and sculpture from the Roman Empire onward. Silk workers used them to transport silk in the 19th century, resistance fighters used them to evade Nazis during World War II, and tourists use them to annoy the Lyonnais.

You could wander the city with a list or map of the traboules, or take a guided tour of some of the most famous ones, but I think it’s much more fun to wander around discovering them yourself. Three of the best streets for this are the Rue du Boeuf, Rue Saint-Jean, and the Rue Juiverie in Vieux Lyon.

A code password or tapping sequence might heighten the thrill, but most of the public traboules are pretty obvious these days. Even so, making your way from one building or street to the next through dim stone tunnels and elegant courtyards feels a little like trespassing, in a good way. Sightseeing is more of an adventure when it gets you from one place to another via shortcuts like these.

Some of my favorites:

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This one used to be for sewage dumping… now it’s a ramp for tourists…

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