The white facade of the town hall is the mosts triking building in Rue du Grand-Pont, the main street of the old town. The building with the small tower dates from the 17th century.
The tower presents the blue and golden clock faces of the astronomical clock. They display, in addition to the time, the zodiac, the moon phases, and the planets.
The adjacent building on the right (photo 3) , which also hosts parts of the town's administration, shows a fine facade in the style of Italian palazzi. The cornice at the top bears the town crest.
The Majorie is the third castle in Sion. The original tower house was built for an official in the bishop's government in the 13th century. From the 14th to the 18th century the extended palace served as residence of the Bishops of Sion. The palace suffered severe damage in the fire of 1788 and was not to be repaired; the Bishop moved into a new palace opposite the cathedral. Later on the Majorie was turned into army barracks until 1947.
Nowadays the Majorie hosts the collections and exhibitions of the art museum.
The widest street of the old town is probably its finest address. On sunny days (sigh!) this street must have a real Southern flair with palm trees in pots and outdoor cafes, restaurants and pubs.
The big flags above the street were welcome spots of colour.
Sion has been the seat of a bishop since the 5th century. His cathedral was refurbished and enlarged several times. The oldest part of the present building is the Romanesque steeple, dating from the 12th century. The rest of the church was repeatedly damaged in wars during the middle ages. The gothic nave was added around 1500.
The main art work the church owns is the tryptich on the high altar, late 15th century, that depicts the Tree of Jesse. The piece that impressed me most, though, was the baptismal font with its huge Renaissance cover, ornated with elaborate woodcarvings (photo 3). The baptismal font ist located in a side chapel, make sure you don't miss it.
The stained glass windows look a lot like 20th century; their colours add a lot to the atmosphere. All in all the interior is rather dark, even more so in this lousy weather.
The cathedral is open in the daytime.
The church of St Théodul is located in the same square as the cathedral Nôtre-Dame. It is much smaller and does not have an impressive steeple like its neighbour, so it is probably often overlooked. It has more local references, though, so if you are interested in the church history of the Valais have a look at it.
The church is dedicated to a saint of regional importance, Theodul (also named Theodor) of Sitten, the patron saint of the Valais. Theodul was the first bishop of Sitten in the early middle ages.
Photo 1: The gothic church has a rather plain outward appearance.
Photo 2: The modern portal with an image of St Theodul
Photo 3: Modern stained glass window with St Moritz (Maurice) and St Theodul
Photo 4: Baroque statue of St Theodulo, holding a grape. Legends tell that when the wine harvest was bad, Theodul told the vintners to bring their empty barrels. He then placed a single wine berry in each barrel and the barrel would fill with wine.
Photo 5: The rose window is the only ornament in the Western facade.
Other local saints are also depicted inside the church. On the Northern wall there is a large painting that assembles all saints of Valais (surroundings were too dark for a photo, sorry).
While the Valère belonged to the cathdral chapter, Tourbillon was the castle and residence of the Bishop of Sion in the middle ages. A century after its completion, however, the Bishop moved down to the Majorie, closer to the town. One of his successors then refurbished the castle in the mid 15th century and it served as the bishops' summer residence until the 18th century. The devastating town fire of 1788 also destroyed Tourbillon palace. The times of historism deleopped an interest in the ruin, which has been secured and classified as a national monument.
Tourbillon must be accessed on foot. This rock is notably higher than the Valère. Prepare for a walk on a steep path, partly a stairway, partly a rocky trail. This is not for people with walking difficulties.
The main access is from the parking lot in the valley between the two castles. There seems to be another trail leading up to the Northeastern corner - I did not try that one, but it is not likely to be easier.
Access to the castle grounds is free.
11.03 - 30.04. and 01.10. - 13.11: daily 11.00 - 17.00 Uhr
01.05. - 30.09.: daily 10.00 - 18.00 Uhr
The castle is closed in winter from mid November to mid March.
The church in Valère castle was built in several stages from the 11th to the 13th century. It has a solemn and special atmosphere, especially if you are alone in there. A place to sing Latin hymns - try if you know one...
The church's treasure is the organ high up on a little balcony in the West. The instrument can be closed by two wooden wings. The paintings on these wings allow dating the organ to 1431-1437. They claim that this is the oldest fully functional pipe organ in the world. Well there are several others that compete about this title, but the instrument in Sion is surely to be counted among the very oldest.
The choir is closed off by a jube, this was the part reserved for the canons and priests. The part behind the jube can only be accessed with guided tours which take place on Sunday afternoons. Otherwise all you can do is peep through the little door.
On the right there is the grave of Bishop Valerius, ornated with a painted tapestry.
Valère is the smaller of the two castle rocks that overlook Sion's old town, but to me it is the more impressive. It was the castle of the cathedral chapter. Its centre is the church of St Valeria (see separate tip), the smaller buildings around it were the houses of the dean and the canons. There is little space inside the fortificatory belt on top of the steep rock, though.
A side building hosts the historical museum (Musée d'Histoire).
The terrace at the tip of the hill has a great view of the city and the Rhône valley.
The church has some scaffolding currently (June 2012) due to renovations on roof and facades, but it is nevertheless worth visiting. The climb must be done on foot. The visit is free, opening hours are June to September: daily 10.00-18.00, October to May: 10.00-17.00, closed on Mondays.
The Place de la Planta is the town square, and is the largest square in Sion. It is a big, paved area, only for pedestrian's and the Little Petit Train. It is here where you will find the Tourist Information Centre. If you wish to walk and see all the 14 listed sights, then pick up the map with the Town walk from the Info centre.
At the back of the centre is a small shop that sells some lollies and souvenirs. If you want a souvenir with a swiss cow, then this may be the shop for you.
Need a Toilet, they are located underground in this centre.
The website shows the map for the walk.
I really enjoyed looking around here, first, on the Petit tourist train, and then on foot.
When on the Petit train, it really brought home, how narrow the alleys were, we only just fit! All sorts are here, from shops, cafes, very old buildings, street arches, statues and fountains. An interesting building was the Witches tower, a part of the fortifications of the old Town.
On Fridays, a weekly market is held where crafts and local products are sold.
The Markets are held from 8am to 2pm, March to October, and from 9am to 2pm the rest of the year.
These are the two Castle's that we could see sitting on craggy knobs high above the town. Impressive sight, yes!
Tourbillon Castle was built on the highest hill in Sion. The Castle is just ruins now, but can be explored for free. The castle was built around 1294 as a defense for the town. It was damaged in the 14th and 15th centuries, and almost totally destroyed by a fire in 1788. A lot of the walls are intact, and the views from here are fantastic!
On the opposite side, high on another hill, is the Notre-Dame de Valere Church, also known as the Valere Castle, built during the 12th and 13th centuries. It was a minor basilica at the time of the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1984. Valere was a huge fortress, and dates back to 1049. It house house's and the Church within the walls.
The church "Notre Dame" is Romanesque-Gothic historic monument that dates back to the same period. I didn't get inside, but I believe there are mural's and an old organ.
It is now the Cantonal Museum for history and ethnography.
The Cantonal Museum is open from Tue. - Sun. 10:00 - 12:00 and 2 - 6pm
We came to both of these on our little Petit Train tour. A stop was made here for 15mins. Toilets are located here.
You can also walk to here from the town centre, about 20mins, uphill walk.
The website's have photo's and lots of information on both Castles
When in Sion at the Tourist Office, we noticed the empty Little Petit Train. We asked what time he was leaving and the price for a tour. It was only 3chf, so reasonable, so we bought tickets and went for the ride. The train took us to all the sights in the new and old town, plus up to the Castle. A commentary was given all the way.
What good value!
COST IN 2011.....Adults 3chf.....Children 1chf
Leaves from the Tourist Information Centre in the Square.
Located in one corner of the Town Square is a rather interesting fountain.
There is a statue standing on stilts, which to me, looks to be a pole-vaulter? I don't know who this person is, or why he is there, do you?
Sion is ringed by vineyards and they start just outside the city centre, close to houses. I was there at the beginning of the summer, so it was to early to see bunches of grapes, but the landscape was nice also without them.
Do you agree?
It was quite interesting to see that in front of the MUSEE DU VIN in Sierre, there were some vines of different species of grapefruit to show the different types of wine per district and variety .
This tip is about NAX a village around SION, so a perfect place
to spend some hours and easy to reach by bus or by car
The lovely village of NAX is located on the top of a plateau from where you can enjoy a WONDERFUL VIEW dominating the Rhone plain with Sion town and all the “Bas Valais”.
This is the highlight of Nax and from which derives the nickname “THE BALCONY OF THE SKY”.
A stroll in the hamlet allows you to appreciate some traditional wooden houses, an old oven, a nice church and some peaceful footpaths bordered of exceptional Alpine flora.