|Sion : the town|
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Sion’s Old Town is interesting, and embarking on a slow wander through the cobbled alleys, with their old inns and sixteenth-century shuttered townhouses, can fill an atmospheric afternoon. Just northeast of Place de la Planta is the small Église St-Théodule, dating from the sixteenth century and with some fine vaulting in the choir. Just beside it is the atmospheric Cathédrale Notre-Dame du Glarier (Our Lady of the Gravel – referring to the ground on which the cathedral was built). The main building is fifteenth century, with elements of earlier Romanesque and Gothic structures incorporated within it, including a fine belfry. Its most noticeable feature, though, is the bells, which strike every quarter-hour in a near-exact copy of the sound of Big Ben in London, although the bass bell’s slightly higher pitch gives the ensemble an inescapably mournful tone. A hundred metres to the south is Rue Supersaxo, with the Maison Supersaxo tucked into an alley off the street. This lavish residence (Mon–Fri 8am–noon & 2–6pm; free) was built in 1505 by the local governor, Georges Supersaxo, to show the town’s bishop, Matthias Schinner, who was boss: climb the Gothic staircase inside to a hall on the upper floor with a magnificent carved and painted ceiling. Two minutes north on Rue de la Tour brings you to the witch’s-hat Tour des Sorciers, part of the town’s medieval fortifications and now used for housing various temporary exhibitions.
Beside the imposing Hôtel de Ville on Rue du Grand-Pont (visitable only on the tourist office’s walking tour), lanes and back alleys cut east to Rue des Châteaux, which climbs steeply up towards the twin hills of Tourbillon and Valère looming over the town. Before you get there, though, after 150m you’ll pass on the left the modest Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Place de la Majorie (Tues–Sun 10am–noon & 2–6pm; Fr.5; SMP), in an attractive fifteenth-century house. There are few outstanding works, although the section on Valaisian identity holds some interesting pieces. Opposite is the Musée Cantonal d’Archéologie (Tues–Sun 10am–noon & 2–6pm; Fr.4; SMP), with an impressive collection of mainly Roman bits and pieces gathered from digs around the canton, as well as massive steles, carved 2800–2300 BC, and a display of prehistoric dolmens.
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