Fresh from celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Musée Gallo-Romain, Route Départementale 386, Saint-Romain-en-Gal (www.musee-site.rhone.fr; tel. 04-74-53-74-01), is a must for visitors to Vienne. 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 5:45pm (Nov–Mar closes at 5pm). Tickets are 6€ for adults; free for kids under 18.
Back in central Vienne, you can wonder around some Roman sites for free. In place du Palais Charles de Gaulle, you’ll find one of the 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. 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. Nicknamed the “tomb of Pilate”, the pyramid was allegedly built over the grave of Pontius Pilate, who was exiled to Gaul after the death of Jesus.
At the foot of Mont Pipet lies one of the most impressive remains: the Théâtre Antique (Roman Theater), 7 rue du Cirque (tel. 04-74-85-39-23) where well-known bands play summertime concerts for up to 7,500 people (for concert information, visit www.theatreantiquevienne.com). 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 August daily 9:30am to 12:30pm and 1:30 to 6pm; September to October Tuesday to Sunday 9:30am to 12:30pm and 1:30pm to 6pm. Admission is 3€.
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 2pm to 6pm. Admission is 3€.
The Mailman’s Palace
Fit in a side trip to one of the world’s strangest pieces of architecture in Hauterives (south of Vienne). Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval, 8 rue du Palais, Hauterives (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. You can visit December to January 9:30am to 4:30pm; February, March, October, and November until 5:30pm; April to June and September until 6:30pm; July and August until 7pm. Admission is 7.50€ adults; 5€ kids ages 3 to 16; free for kids 2 years and under.
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.