Spain Guide

France Guide

 

Vienne France

Just 32km south of Lyon, along the A7 motorway that is lined with off putting oil refineries and all manner of factories, is the attractive Roman town of Vienne. Vienne was one of Gaul's largest settlements and was also the capital of Burgundy until the 9th century. It continued to be a powerful town until it became part of France in 1450.

There are a number of Roman monuments that bare testimony to Vienne's Roman heritage, and some of the churches recall the town's Medieval glory. The semi pedestrianized old quarter is a pleasant place to stroll in search, perhaps, of a good menu for the evening meal. All in all, Vienne is the best place to stop off on the way to Orange and Provence in spite of the busy industrial zone near the motorway.

 

In the centre of Vienne you cannot help but stumble across a Roman monument or two, such as the columns of the Temple d'Auguste et de Livie on place du Palais. The temple was built in about 10BC in honour of Emperor Augustus and his wife, Livia. Near place de Miremont are the remains of the Théatre de Cybèle. The more impressive Théatre Antique (€2) is further away from the centre, off rue du Cirque to the north of town, but there are great views back towards the town and river from the top seats. The international jazz festival is held here for the first two weeks of July and attracts some top names.

Back in town there are several notable churches, for example the Cathédrale St Maurice with a strange combination of Romanesque and Gothic architecture on the façade, and a 90m long vaulted nave. The Église Musée St Pierre has been restructured and misused throughout its history, since it was built on the site of one of France's oldest cathedrals in the 5th century. Then the Église et Cloitre de St André le Bas is a pretty mixture of Romanesque cloisters and 9th to 12th century church. Other museums include the Musée des Beaux Arts et d'Archéologie on place de Miremont and the Musée de la Draperie in the Espace St Germain (€2).

For those with a car the Chateau des Septs Fontaines (04 74 85 25 70) at Seyssuel, 5km north of Vienne on the N7, has a sauna and good accommodation from €55 70. If not, there is a decent selection in Vienne as well, including the Poste, 47 cours Romestang (04 74 85 02 04) with a good restaurant and rooms from €40 55.

Rue de la Table Ronde in the old town has decent, cheap eateries such as Au Petit Chez Soi (number 6) with mussels and chips at €10.50, or Le Bec Fin, 7 place St Maurice (04 74 85 76 72) has regional dishes from €17. The posh La Pyramide, 14 bd Fernand Point (04 74 53 01 96) has exquisite menus from €47.50 to €110, or à la carte food for about €85.