A good place to start your exploration of Gallo-Roman Vienne is at the Musée Gallo-Roman Saint-Romain-en-Gal ([tel] 04-74-53-74-01). This 7-hectare (17-acre) archaeological site merely scratches the surface of the myriad Roman remains that still exist beneath the foundations of modern Vienne. As you take a tour around the remains of Roman houses and public baths, you’ll marvel at their sophistication. Inside the museum, you’ll see mosaic floors, frescos and household items. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 6pm.
Back in central Vienne, you can wonder around some Roman sites for free. In place Charles de Gaulle, you’ll find one of best preserved Roman remains in France: the Temple d’Auguste et de Livie, built on the orders of the Roman emperor Claudius and turned into a “temple of reason” during the French Revolution. Nearby, you’ll find the Jardin de Cybèle where summer concerts are held for free during the June Jazz Festival. Another outstanding monument is La Pyramide (rue Fernand Point next to the Michelin-starred restaurant) part of the Roman circus. Rising 16m (52 ft.) and resting on a portico with four arches, it is sometimes called the tomb of Pilate.
Further east than the Jardin de Cybèle at the foot of Mont Pipet lies one of the most impressive remains: the Roman Theater (Théâtre Romain) , 7 rue du Cirque ([tel] 04-74-85-39-23) where concerts are still held for up to 7,500 people. You can visit November to March Tuesday to Friday 9:30am to 12:30pm and 2 to 5pm, weekends 1:30 to 5:30pm; September and October Tuesday to Sunday 9:30am to 1pm and 2 to 6pm; and April to August daily 9:30am to 1pm and 2 to 6pm. Admission is 2.80€.
As well as Roman remains, you’ll find many religious buildings. If you have to choose just one during a busy itinerary, we’d recommend the Cloitre de Saint-André-Le-Bas ([tel] 04-74-78-71-06) in Cour Saint-André-Le-Bas near the river. With its Romanesque stone carvings, columns and ornately carved capital stones, this church and cloister are all that remains of the 12th-century abbey. You can visit November to March Tuesday to Friday 9:30am to 12:30pm and 2 to 5pm, weekends 1:30 to 5:30pm; April to October Tuesday to Sunday 9:30am to 1pm and 2 to 6pm. Admission is 2.80€.
If you have a couple of hours for a side trip, you’ll find one of the world’s strangest pieces of architecture in Hauterives (south of Vienne). The Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval, or Palace of the Mailman Cheval (www.facteurcheval.com; [tel] 04-75-68-81-19) is the lifelong work of French postman Ferdinand Cheval. Built of stone and concrete and elaborately decorated with clamshells, it’s a monumental tribute to one man’s whimsical imagination. The work was finished in 1912, when Cheval was 76. Admission is 5.80€ for adults, 4.10€ for children 6 to 16. The palace is open in April to September daily 9:30am to 12:30pm and 1:30 to 6:30pm (until 7pm in July and Aug); November to March daily 9:30am to 12:30pm and 1:30 to 4:30pm.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.