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Living In Lyon – Expats Ultimate Guide

This ultimate expat's guide equips you with all the essentials for moving to Lyon, finding your perfect flat, and navigating everyday life. Get ready to explore the intricacies of public transportation, brush up on your French, and discover the hidden gems that make Lyon an unforgettable place to call home.

Introduction

Brief overview of Lyon’s reputation, lifestyle and its significance in France

1. Moving to Lyon

Finding a Place to Live

Cost of Living

2. Settling In

Getting Around Lyon

Guide to public transportation

Finding a doctor and medical help

Some challenges of residing in Lyon

3. Work and Education

4. Living like a Local

Lyon’s culinary scene and must-try dishes

Cultural Attractions and Activities

Best shopping areas in Lyon

5. Insider Tips and Resources

6. Recap

Introduction

Brief overview of Lyon’s reputation, lifestyle and its significance in France

Lyon is a city located in the Rhône-Alpes region of France. Populated by a half-million, Lyon has all the usual offerings of a large, sophisticated city. With its wide assortment of excellent museums, theaters, and festivals, you’ll never have a shortage of cultural events.

There are farmers’ markets and restaurants galore. You’ll choose doctors, pharmacies, bookstores, boutiques, galleries, and gyms… Lyon has it all.

There’s a reason why Lyon’s slogan is “Only Lyon.” Outwardly, it might seem like your typical big city, but upon closer look, you’ll see that it’s got dozens of fascinating elements that make it a truly unique and special place.

First, there’s its beauty. Lyon is not a city of grim skyscrapers, perpetually clogged with traffic and impatient city-dwellers. Instead, it’s a tranquil city. Few big, thriving cities offer the calm and loveliness of Lyon.

Then there’s the food. Paris may be the capital of France, but Lyon is the capital of French gastronomy.

The city has over 2,000 restaurants—22 of which have at least one prestigious Michelin star.

You’ll also find dozens of authentic Lyonnais bouchons (traditional Lyonnais bistros), a special kind of home-style, low-cost restaurant that stuffs you with traditional Lyonnais dishes until you’re ready to burst.

Geography

If you love mountains, the Alps are close. The Mediterranean Sea is 3 hours away by car, and Paris is 2 hours away by TGV.

You’ll find great people from anywhere in the world and any food you want. It’s between Paris and Switzerland, with fantastic snowy mountains to ski, just 1h30, far from downtown.

You have two big rivers where you can have beautiful walks, picnics, and floating restaurants downtown or just 30 minutes away in the stunning natural countryside, where you can canoe/kayak/swim/.

The Beaujolais and Ardeche areas are nearby if you ever want to get out into the countryside. Then there are beautiful lakes such as Annecy, Aix les Bains, and Aigebuelette to the East, volcanic scenery in the Puy de Dome area to the West, and Roman towns South of Lyon such as Vienne and Avignon.

Weather

The weather is excellent; it resembles the French South more than grey, rainy Paris. Colorful, middle-aged buildings make any walk around a dream full of people who enjoy life.

While other parts of France experience freezing temperatures, Lyon enjoys relatively mild weather throughout the winter months. If you don’t like living in cold climates but still want four seasons, Lyon is the perfect compromise.

History

Its history began under the reign of the Romain Empire in 43 BCE. Many of the structures built during its early years are still intact. The sites are open to the public without entrance fees, so you can visit them at your leisure.

City amenities

So, it’s no surprise Lyon is home to many expatriates who want all the city amenities and a French lifestyle without the Parisian price tag. 

There’s no danger coming back from a late party at night, no considerable pollution, no unavoidable traffic jams, no polluting corruption, no horrible skyscrapers, and you can find whatever you need without a lot of problems.

Lyon’s people are known for their friendliness, which enhances the city’s welcoming atmosphere and offers its residents a high quality of life.

Lastly, the city is known for its excellent public transportation system, which makes it easy to get around. These factors underscore why many believe Lyon is superior to Paris.

1. Moving to Lyon

When considering where to live, it’s essential to factor in Lyon’s commuting times, which can double during rush hour. However, Lyon’s excellent public transportation, including the famous Velo’v bicycle rental system, makes it easy to get around.

Lyon is just the right size: you can walk anywhere in the center within half an hour.

There are many unique festivals, such as the Fête des Lumières (a sound and light show that attracts 3 million people every year) and the Nuits de Fourvière (summer concerts in the Roman amphitheater). 

After all, the air quality in Lyon is one of the significant pros of living in this fantastic city. The Air Quality Index fluctuates between Good and Medium throughout the year and is rarely outside the range recommended by the World Health Organization.

Lyon offers a compelling mix of career prospects, cultural richness, and quality of life, making it a top contender for individuals considering a move to France. With its thriving job market, vibrant economy, and welcoming community, Lyon has much to offer those seeking new opportunities and experiences.

Finding a Place to Live

Facebook is one place to start, as there are many groups where people share information about spare rooms and housing:

A safer, more secure option is to use a renting agency such as Chez Nestor or Oqoro – for these, you’ll have to cash out a few hundred euros in administrative fees.

Several websites are also available, including Spacest, Lodgis, Rentola and La Carte des Colocs, France’s most popular website for finding flatmates (or colocataires, as they say in French).

You can also check out our guide for finding a place to live in France for more rental website options.

Useful tips:

Beware of scammers—many of them, especially on Facebook—so remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Scam example:

  • The price is way too good to be true
  • Contact via FB and Gmail only (no phone)
  • They shouldn’t be giving you personal information regarding the previous tenant
  • No phone number provided in the contract
  • Unprofessional messages via FB
  • Signing a lease directly with a landlord has obvious financial advantages – but be careful, as this is where most scammers emerge.
  • An agency can help you secure accommodation before you arrive—but make sure it’s reputable. Visit their website, speak to a customer advisor on the phone, find reviews online, and ask around!

What types of rental properties are available in Lyon?

As it’s a major city, it’s doubtful you’ll find a house to rent.

Flatshares are the most common.

A studio and apartment are other options for those who like their own space. Depending on the size and location, you can expect to pay between 500 and 1000 euros monthly for a studio and higher for an apartment.

If you decide to live with a host family in Lyon, homestays are a great alternative if you want home comforts and a guaranteed place to move into when you arrive. Homestay Lyon provides homestay accommodation.

Documents you will need to rent an apartment

Once you’ve found the perfect place to live, you’ll need to submit a ‘dossier de location,’ essentially a selection of documents proving you are who you say you are and have sufficient funds and income to pay your rent.

There are certain documents that you will need to rent an apartment in France:

  • A letter from a guarantor, written in French
  • Your guarantor’s information, including a copy of their ID
  • A copy of their employment contract
  • Your guarantor’s last three payslips
  • ID or passport
  • Bank reference from your French bank account

You can also use the DossierFacile website, which is an official government website, to have all the required documents on hand if you want to apply. 

Lyon neighborhoods

Lyon comprises nine arrondissements, each with its characteristics and residents. If you’re considering making Lyon your home, you must consider where you want to live. Lyon offers something for everyone.

Presqu’île
(1st and 2nd arrondissement)
The Presqu’île is a perfect fit for those who favor a dynamic, urban lifestyle and want to be in the city’s center. While rents are typically higher due to the central location, the Presqu’île is an ideal place to live and benefit from everything the city offers, all within walking distance! Plenty of museums and galleries, shopping, delicious restaurants, and a vibrant life exist. There is a bustling nightlife scene, upscale shopping, and trendy restaurants.   
Confluence
(2nd arrondissement)
Lyon’s newest neighbourhood. With its modern architecture and contemporary feel, the confluence district has a strikingly different feel compared to, for example, Vieux Lyon. Situated near the waterfront, the confluence district has a large gym, shopping center, and supermarkets, making it a convenient place to live. Moreover, the area is known for its eco-friendly initiatives, trendy boutiques, and the large ‘Parc de Gerland’ – a hot spot for picnics and sports activities in the City.    
Part-Dieu (3rd arrondissement)   While not Lyon’s most aesthetic neighborhood, Part-Dieu is Lyon’s primary business district, characterized by modern skyscrapers, shopping malls, and contemporary architecture. Part Dieu is also home to the giant Westfield shopping center and a famous, covered food market called ‘Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse.’  
Croix Rousse (4th arrondissement) It is a neighborhood defined by its artistic, bohemian, and residential characteristics and has become a popular location among the Expat community. The narrow winding streets are known for weekly produce markets, independent boutiques, vintage and vinyl shops, and cozy cafes.  
Brotteaux (6th arrondissement)   It is known for its elegant 19th-century architecture, wide boulevards, and residential atmosphere. It is typically a more luxurious neighborhood in Lyon, home to the famous Parc de la Tête d’Or. If you’re after tranquility, this is the right neighborhood for you.  
Vieux Lyon (5th arrondissement)   The city’s historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage site with its Renaissance-era buildings, cobblestone streets, and traboules (hidden passageways). It’s a lively area full of activity and character, with many traditional Lyonnaise restaurants (bouchons) to visit.  
Guillotière and the 7th arrondissement It is a prime location for students and young people looking to live in Lyon on a budget. The seventh arrondissement is bustling with cafes, bars, second-hand shops, international supermarkets, and nightclubs.  
Villeurbanne Offering a lively cultural scene and diverse population, Villeurbanne is home to green spaces, music venues, and Lyon 1 University and is often cheaper than rental properties directly in Lyon. Villeurbanne is well connected, and reaching the Presqu’ile in around 15 minutes is possible.  
Lyon arrondissements

 Tips for finding home in Lyon

  1. Be quick

Always visit immediately, as many homes are rented on a first-come, first-served basis. You can also try a trusted rental platform, where you can always search for your preferences and be alerted when a property matching them is listed.

  1. Remember paperwork

The French seem to be pretty big on stacks of paperwork, so don’t expect to visit many apartments without having the following:

  1. If you aren’t European, a copy of your passport and visa
  2. Your last three pay slips or a job contract that shows your salary
  3. A signed letter from a guarantor, plus one of their payslips

  • Guarantor

Speaking of guarantors, French landlords generally want you to have one who lives in France. This person will agree to pay your rent if you can’t.

  • Apps

You can use an app called Jinka, which searches all the rental/sales websites and notifies you whenever an apartment matching your criteria (price, location, size, etc.) comes on the market.

  • Outskirts

Many expats live outside Lyon’s city limits in small towns that border the city, especially to the north, west, and southwest.

To the north (west of the Saône River) are the towns of the Monts d’Or (Golden Mountains), primarily St. Cyr au Mont-d’Or, Collonges au Mont-d’Or, St. Didier au Mont-d’Or, and Champagne au Mont-d’Or.

Life in these communities offers all the benefits of French “country” living while still being close to the city, and expats often seek after them.  

To the west and southwest, the towns of Ecully, Tassin-la-Demi-Lune, Ste. Foy Lès-Lyon and St. Genis Laval are also popular among expats. The city is easily accessible, and the beautiful Monts du Lyonnais Mountains are nearby. The International School in Lyon and Cité Scolaire Internationale are also close to these communities.

Cost of living

Average monthly rent per square meter of furnished and unfurnished apartments for rent in Lyon, France, in December 2023, by size

Resource by Statista

Average cost of living current as of March 2024

Family of four estimated monthly costs   Around €3,835
Single-person estimated monthly costs.    Around €1,948
Monthly ticket public transport   €64
Taxi trip on a business day, basic tariff, 8 km. €17
A basic dinner out for two in a neighborhood pub €40
A subscription to a gym Between 30€ and 50€ a month
Dining at a fast-food Around 10€
A regular restaurant Around 20€ at noon; 35€ in the evening
An expensive restaurant Around 60€
A Michelin star Around 120€
Tickets to the movies Between 8-10€. Around 25€ per month for unlimited
Tickets to a concert Between 35€ and 60€ for the majority
Average cost of living in Lyon

2. Settling In

Getting Around Lyon

With its reliable metro, bus, and tramway, getting around town is a breeze. Lyon’s public transportation system is one of the most efficient in France.

It’s well-designed, and the layout is easy to use. So, there’s no need to worry about spending hours in traffic jams or paying a lot of money for parking.

Lyon’s public transport network, run by TCL, consists of 4 metro lines, six tram lines, two funicular railways, and over a hundred bus routes.

Guide to public transportation

Metro/bus/tram/ funicular

  • A single ticket costs €1.90 and can be used for any mode of public transport (bus, metro, or tram). The ticket lasts for one hour, and you can use it as many times as you want within this hour. However, you must validate your ticket every time you board a new bus or tram.
  • The ticket price for the funicular is €3.5. Funiculars are helpful but can only be used to reach Fourvière Hill.
  • Bus drivers also sell single-journey tickets, but they cost €2.30 
  • Remember also that public transport is free with the Lyon City Card.
  • You can purchase tickets from the machines found at all metro/tram stations and major bus stops. Tickets are valid for all forms of public transport (i.e., a metro ticket and a bus ticket are the same).
  • If you’re wondering, “Can I purchase a bus or metro ticket using my bank card? “the answer is yes.
  • TCL has a mobile app available for iPhone and Android phones.
  • Map of Lyon Metro, Tram & Bus (TCL): 

    stations & lines.

Make sure you can get to work on public transport and don’t rely on a car because driving around Lyon isn’t much fun. Ideally, you want to be within shouting distance of a metro line or tramway.

Velo’v bike rental

Lyon has over 540 km of cycling paths, making biking a great way to get around the city.

Users of this service can choose between a manual bike and an electrically assisted self-service bike using a portable, personal battery. You can pay a subscription to own one of these portable batteries for just €7 extra each month.

A single-ride ticket costs €1.80 (a €180 deposit is required), and the first 30 minutes of each journey are free. A Velo’v day pass costs €4. With this pass, you can take as many rides as you want in 24 hours.

For more information, visit the Velo’v website.

The Vaporetto

A fun alternative to the public transport system is the Vaporetto.

A single ticket costs €5 (tickets purchased on board).

The shuttle runs every day from 1:30 p.m. to 6:50 p.m. Each journey takes less than half an hour. There is a departure every 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Car Sharing in Lyon

Zity is a car-sharing service where you can rent a car from your phone and drive wherever you want.
The service is available in Lyon and Villeurbanne, but you can still drive outside the service area.
The cars are 100% electric and have no emissions.

Leo&Go is a car-sharing service where you can use a car whenever and wherever you want. Everything is done through a digital app, so you don’t need keys or badges.
The price is all-inclusive, including parking, insurance, and energy or fuel.

In addition to Lyon, you can visit many other French cities with our AVE (high-speed) France trains, AVE (high-speed) International traveling between Spain and France, thanks to the wide variety of combinations, always from the city center to the city center.

Lyon is considered a safe place, and expatriates living there are unlikely to encounter major safety or security issues. Petty crime and vandalism are the city’s main types of criminal activity.

Lyon’s public transportation system is safe, and passports and personal items are rarely stolen from foreigners.

Useful resources:

Finding a doctor and medical help

One of the most important factors when choosing a city to live in is access to quality health care. In Lyon, excellent health care is available and accessible for all residents. Out-of-pocket expenses on visits and prescriptions are never more than 25% of the total bill. So, the average cost of a primary care doctor’s visit is only €6.

If you need to go to A&E (in French, Les Urgences), there are three hospitals with Accident and Emergency services in Lyon:

  • Hôpital Edouard Herriot, Pavillon N (Grange Blanche metro station, line D)
  • Centre Hospitalier Lyon-Sud (bus C7 from Part-Dieu train station)
  • Hôpital de la Croix-Rousse (Hénon metro station, line C)

Pharmacies and Chemists

In Lyon you will find three 24-hour pharmacies (chemists):

  • Grande Pharmacie Lyonnaise, 22 rue de la République, 69002 Lyon
  • Pharmacie de l’Horloge, 14 place Vauboin, 69160 Tassin-la-Demi-Lune
  • Pharmacie des Gratte-Ciel, 28 avenue Henri Barbusse, 69100 Villeurbanne

Outside of working hours (before midnight), you can call +33 4 72 33 00 33, where a nurse or doctor will discuss your symptoms and direct you to a Maison médicale de garde (night-time medical clinic).

Some challenges of residing in Lyon

1. Driving a car

Driving in Lyon is one of the most demanding challenges. The roads are poorly maintained, and most are one-way, so traffic jams are frequent.

There’s almost no free parking, and spaces are hard to come by. You can easily spend an hour looking for a spot during rush hour.

Luckily, public transport in Lyon is good because driving is a challenge.

  1. Direct Flights

While Lyon does have an international airport, it’s not helpful. And the word international is a stretch.

Most flights are to other cities in France, with the occasional option to fly to another European city.

That means if you want to take a vacation outside of Europe, you’ll have to fly out of Paris or another nearby city.

3. High cost of living

Lyon is cheaper than Paris, but it’s still one of the most expensive cities in France.

Rent prices are high, and the food isn’t cheap. 

4. Language barrier

You’ll need to speak French for everyday tasks like grocery shopping or doctor visits. Few locals speak English or any other foreign language.

This 2000-year-old city has its own dialect-specific words. So, whether you’re planning a visit or already here, it’s best to brush up on a few terms before you take to the streets—just in case. 

Le Bouchon   A typical restaurant in Lyon. There are dozens of them around the city, offering all sorts of pig meat dishes, from pig’s innards ‘andouillette,’ pig’s trotters and pig’s cheeks, to frog’s legs and veal liver.
La traboule   Silk workers used a network of secret passageways to transport their goods down to the river Saône without getting them wet.
Un pélo       A word for a guy, ‘mate,’ or ‘bloke.’ Ça va, mon pélo? Alright, mate?
C’est quelle heure?   Ask a Lyonnais, and they’ll tell you the time.
 La ficelle   The funicular railway links Vieux Lyon to Fourvière and St Just, and the funicular links to the Croix-Rousse.
Un gône    You’ll hear this everywhere in Lyon, and all it means is a kid.
Une gâche   If you want to park in your car and wander, you need a suitable ‘gâche,’ or parking place.
Dialect-specific words

5. Hot weather

Lyon has a mild climate, but the summers can get hot. And most buildings, like restaurants, don’t have air conditioning. If you’re lucky, you might find an apartment with an air conditioner, but it’s uncommon.

6. Complex Bureaucracy

It’s a problem in almost every city in France, and Lyon is not an exception. Expect long wait times, confusing paperwork, and unforgiving government employees.

There’s a French saying – Jamais deux sans trois (never two without three).

Most of the time, you’ll need to do things at least thrice without a rational explanation. 

It might take even longer if you try to argue or disagree with the administrator handling your file.

3. Work and Education

Finding a Job

Recruitment agencies such as Reed are good places to search for positions in the city, while websites including GoAbroad.com and TheLocal.fr also carry jobs in the area.

Thanks to several specialized job websites and professional social networks, you can browse job ads online:           

Many of the city’s jobs are located in Lyon’s eastern suburbs, and positions may be advertised in publications such as 20 Minutes.

Tip:

You can start your job search by sending spontaneous job applications to large companies nationwide. This practice is common in France and is known as a candidature spontanée. Make sure to update your resume and cover letter according to French standards.

Insights into Lyon’s job market and key industries

Lyon was once a crucial silk-weaving center. Today, it is home to the Interpol HQ and boasts a thriving start-up scene. It has significant interests in the technology, banking, pharmaceutical, and biotech industries.

Lyon is France’s third city and a significant economic and trade exchange hub. As the list below shows, some of the largest companies in France are based here.

Top 10 Largest Companies in Lyon:

Company Industry
Sanofi Pharmaceuticals
Renault Trucks Automotive
Boiron Healthcare
Interpol Law Enforcement
GL Events Events Management
Arkema Chemicals
Biomerieux Medical Diagnostics
Alstom Rail Transport
Vallourec Steel Production
Solvay Chemicals
Top companies in Lyon

Education

Lyon boasts a solid educational infrastructure, with several prestigious universities and schools offering specialized training programs in various fields. This emphasis on education and skills development has created a highly qualified workforce.

International schools in the city offer a range of courses for various needs, from general language learning to specific purposes like business French or preparation for official exams.

International schools in Lyon offer places from kindergarten through high school:

1. New School Lyon

  • Type: Private French–English bilingual school
  •    Curriculum: International, French
  •    Languages of Instruction: English, French
  •    Ages: 2 to 11
  •    Yearly Fees (2024/2025): €5,800

2. International School of Lyon

  •    Type: Independent school offering a full English-medium curriculum
  •    Curriculum: IB, British
  •    Language of Instruction: English
  •    Ages: 3 to 18
  •    Yearly Fees (2024/2025): €7,555 to €17,240

3. Ombrosa International School

  •   Type: Private multilingual school
  • Curriculum: IB, British, French
  •    Languages of Instruction: English, French
  •    Ages: 3 to 18

4. West Point Bilingual School

  •    Type: International Bilingual Private School
  •    Curriculum: International, French
  •    Languages of Instruction: English, French
  •    Ages: 2 to 11

5. Cité Scolaire Internationale de Lyon

  • Type: Welcomes international students from CP to Terminale
  • Curriculum: International, French
  • Languages of Instruction:English, French
  • Ages: 6 to 18

6. École Greenfield

  • Type: French and English bilingual school
  • Curriculum: British, French
  • Languages of Instruction: English, French
  • Ages: 2 to 11

7. Alliance Française de Lyon

  • 11 Rue Pierre Bourdan, 69003 Lyon
  • 04 78 95 24 72

8. Lyon Bleu International

  • 82 Rue Duguesclin, 69006 Lyon
  • 04 37 48 00 26

9. EICLE (École Internationale de la Culture et des Langues Étrangères)

10. Tanit Forma 7

  • 22 Rue Victor Lagrange, 69007 Lyon
  • 04 72 80 93 95

11. Inflexyon

12. Inlingua

13. EIFE (École Interculturelle de français pour étrangers)

14. Institut Lyonnais

15. Safore

16. Alpadia

4. Living like a Local

Lyon’s culinary scene and must-try dishes

Food Markets in Lyon

The markets in Lyon are a part of daily life and are colorful and lively social places where you can find the finest local, regional, and imported produce.

The wide variety of fresh vegetables, meats, cheeses, spices, wines, bread, and fruit is a feast for the eyes. The large outdoor markets of La Croix Rousse and St Antoine offer a vast selection of traditional and gourmet food, including dishes ready to eat. Les Halles Paul Bocuse is a more modern indoor market where suppliers of many of Lyon’s finest restaurants sell various delicacies that make up essential French cuisine.

Tip:

In Lyon, most stores open between 9:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. and close at 7 p.m., but unlike Paris, many stores are closed between 12:30 p.m. and 2 or 3 p.m. 

La Mutinerie Address: 123 rue Bugeaud, 69006
Le Boeuf d’Argent Address: 29 Rue du Bœuf, 69005
Aromatic Address: 15 Rue du Chariot d’Or, 69004  
Bouchon Tupin Address: 30 Rue Tupin, 69002
La Table de Max Address: 46 avenue Jean Jaures, 69007
Frazarin Address: 23 Rue de Condé, 69002
La Table d’Ambre Address: 46 Rue Franklin, 69002
Court Bouillon Address: 4 rue Ferrachat, 69005
Le Book-Lard Address: 144 Rue Duguesclin, 69006
Le Comptoir des Cousins Address: 31 Rue Ney, 69006
La Gargotte Address: 15 Rue Royale, 69001
Flair Address: 84 rue de la Charite Lyon 69002, 69002
Au 14 Fevrier Vieux Lyon Address: 36 Rue du Bœuf, 69005
La Mere Brazier Address: 12 Rue Royale, 69001
Restaurant Paul Bocuse Address: 40 Quai de la Plage, 69660 Collonges-au-Mont-d’Or
Les Loges Address: 6 rue du Boeuf, 69005
Restaurants in Lyon

Must-try Lyonnais culinary specialties

You have surely heard about the culinary expression “à la Lyonnaise,” one of the most popular dishes in French cuisine and now a mainstay in kitchens worldwide. 

“À la Lyonnaise” is used in many dishes, such as the famous Lyonnaise potatoes, cardoon Lyonnaise, or some meat and fish dishes. It is based on something as simple as accompanying the dish with onions prepared in a specific way. 

Here are some of Lyon’s most traditional dishes, each offering a unique taste of the city’s rich culinary tradition. These dishes represent Lyon’s rich gastronomic tradition and reflect the city’s historical significance as a culinary hub.

1. Grattons Lyonnais

This traditional dish from Lyon is made with salted pieces of meat and animal fat (pork, goose, or turkey), which are fried and then cooled down. They can be enjoyed as an appetizer or main course with salad, a side dish, or cake.

2. Cardón à la Moelle

A traditional Lyon dish created by local bourgeois restaurants featuring cardoons and marrow. Marrow, a star ingredient in Lyonnaise cuisine, is celebrated for its unique and intense flavor, used in various recipes like soups, stews, and salads.

3. Tablier de Sapeur

A specialty of Lyon, this dish focuses on battered tripe as its main ingredient. It’s a testament to the city’s culinary tradition of dishes related to sausages and offal, often served with potatoes and a special sauce.

4. Petit Salé

One of Lyon’s traditional dishes is lentils cooked with vegetables and sausages. The lentils are served dry, without broth, and combined with large pieces of bacon and sausages, showcasing the simplicity and richness of Lyon’s culinary heritage.

5. Bugnes Lyonnaises

Bugnes are a treat for those with a sweet tooth. They are akin to traditional Spanish sweet fritters, perfect for dessert or as a complement to a nice cup of coffee.

6. Le Poulet Célestine

A chicken dish sautéed with mushrooms and tomatoes flambéed with cognac and white wine and sprinkled with garlic and parsley, Chef Rousselot named it in honor of Célestine Blanchard. It showcases a blend of love and culinary excellence.

7. Quenelle

A dish made with wheat semolina or flour mixed with eggs, butter, and milk, it can also include pike and is often served with Nantua sauce (a crawfish sauce) or a white sauce. This dish showcases Lyon’s love for rich, comforting flavors.

8. Cervelle de Canut

A semi-cured cheese delicacy seasoned with aromatic herbs, shallots, salt, pepper, olive oil, and vinegar. This dish is a perfect appetizer for the summer, offering a refreshing yet flavorful start to a meal.

9. Gâteau de Foies de Volaille

A savory cake made from chicken livers and tomato sauce. It can be served as an appetizer or a main course, providing a rich and hearty option for poultry lovers.

10. Saucisson de Lyon à Cuire

A traditional sausage dish accompanied by potatoes au gratin. This slightly sweet and salty recipe is a classic Lyonnaise dish, showcasing the region’s expertise in charcuterie.

11. Tablier de Sapeur

Also known as “sapper’s apron,” this dish consists of meat cooked in broth and marinated in white wine. Its name and preparation method pay homage to the protective leather aprons worn by sappers during dangerous tasks.

12. Tarte aux Pralines

A delightful almond cake sprinkled with red sugar, offering a sweet and visually appealing dessert option. This dish is perfect for ending a meal on a high note or enjoying as a snack with coffee.

Cultural Attractions and Activities

For anyone seeking all the advantages of a prominent French city, Lyon is the place to be. For a large city, it has incredible generosity and calm. Its abundance of large parks (especially the sprawling Parc de la Tête d’Or) and river-side paths practically beg you to jog, cycle, or stroll, and many people do.

Lyon is a beautiful, prosperous city with a relaxed atmosphere, nice weather, and fantastic cultural events (check “8 Décembre Lyon” or “nuits de Fourvière”).

The beauty of Lyonnais architecture is that new developments do not destroy the historical parts of Lyon. Both parts are beautiful and unique in their own way and deserve a visit.

Here’s our list of the most attractive places and recommended activities in Lyon:

1. Explore Vieux Lyon (Old Town): Wander through the oldest district in Lyon, featuring stunning architecture, charming alleys, and Renaissance mansions in a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

2. Take a Cruise around Lyon: Enjoy a riverboat cruise along the Saône and Rhône rivers with a gourmet lunch and historical insights.

3. Check out Musée des Beaux-Arts: Visit one of France’s largest and most renowned museums, which houses art ranging from ancient Egyptian artifacts to modern sculptures.

4. Visit the Parc de la Tête d’Or: Relax in this large urban park with gardens, a zoo, and a lake, offering a peaceful escape from the city.

5. Wander around Place Bellecour: See the largest pedestrian square in Europe, known for its statue of King Louis XIV and lively atmosphere.

6. Eat at a Bouchon: Experience Lyon’s culinary heritage at these traditional bistro-like restaurants serving hearty local dishes.

7. Marvel at the Fourvière Basilica: Admire the mosaic-lined ceiling and pristine white exterior of one of Lyon’s most iconic churches.

8. Journey through Lyon’s Traboules: Explore secret passageways connecting streets and buildings, significant for their role during World War II.

9. Go on a Wine Tasting Tour: Sample French wines in the renowned Rhône Valley and learn about the production process from local winemakers.

10. Hang Out in Place des Terreaux: Relax at this lively square, home to the Bartholdi Fountain, Hôtel de Ville de Lyon, and the Musée des Beaux-Arts.

11. Explore Lyon’s Roman Ruins: Discover the ancient Roman theaters, forums, and aqueducts on Fourvière Hill, with many intact structures.

12. Head to Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste: Visit this stunning Gothic-style church, famous for its astronomical clock and impressive nave.

13. Tour Fourvière Hill: Besides the basilica and Roman ruins, enjoy the views from the Tour Métallique de Fourvière and relax in the Parc des Hauteurs.

14. Go on a Silk Tour: Learn about Lyon’s historical role in the silk industry with tours featuring live weaving demonstrations and visits to traboules used by silk workers.

15. Walk along the Saône River: Enjoy tranquil footpaths and magnificent views of Vieux Lyon and Presqu’Île from the riverbanks.

16. Visit the Musée des Arts de la Marionnette: Explore the history and art of puppetry with an impressive collection of marionettes worldwide.

17. Experience Fêtes des Lumières: Once a year, Lyon hosts the famous Fête des Lumières. It became so popular that it was extended to four days to accommodate all the thousands of tourists who travel to Lyon in December to take part. The whole city is lit and decorated; there are light and music shows and many performances free of charge.

18. Climb Montée du Gourguillon: Discover vibrant buildings and stunning doors along this gently inclining street leading to Fourvière Hill.

19. Wonder at Lyon’s Frescoes: Appreciate Lyon’s cultural heritage through its extensive and lifelike frescoes, part of the city’s Open-Air Gallery.

20. Peruse Les Halles de Lyon—Paul Bocuse: Visit this vibrant market hall to taste local delicacies and enjoy culinary experiences.

21. Visit the Cinema and Miniature Museum: Learn about the history of cinema and see detailed miniatures and movie props.

22. Discover La Croix-Rousse: Explore this charming neighborhood known for its artisan shops, historic buildings, and vibrant culture.

23. Take Part in Les Nuits de Fourvière: Enjoy this unique arts festival held every summer, featuring theater, music, and dance performances.

24. Explore Confluence: Visit Lyon’s modern district, known for its contemporary architecture, dining, and green spaces.

25. Catch a Show at Opéra National de Lyon: Experience opera and ballet performances at this stunning opera house.

26. Shop in Place de la République: This lively area offers a variety of boutiques and big retail stores.

27. Party at Nuits Sonores: Attend this eclectic electronic music festival featuring performances by world-renowned DJs.

28. Shop at a Market: Enjoy local culture and cuisine by visiting Lyon’s markets, such as the Marché Saint Antoine.

Other great experiences and Tours in Lyon:

  • Vieux Lyon 4-Hour Food Tasting Tour 
  • Musée de l’illusion
  • Dinner cruise in Lyon 
  • Beaujolais wine tour 

Best shopping areas in Lyon

Lyon’s shopping areas offer a variety of shopping experiences, from high-street brands to haute couture and independent boutiques. These areas provide a comprehensive shopping experience, catering to various tastes and needs, from fashion and homeware to gourmet foods and leisure activities.

1. Presqu’ile & Place Bellecour

The heart of Lyon 2 offers a mix of big brands for bargain lovers and haute couture enthusiasts. High street brands like FNAC, H&M, and Brandy Melville are found on Rue de la République, while upscale shops are scattered around Place Bellecour.

2. Grand Hôtel Dieu

A newly established shopping center near Bellecour Square houses upmarket brands, a smaller version of Les Halles de Part-Dieu, and the Hotel Intercontinental. Shops include Marie Sixtine, Aroma-Zone, and OBBO Design.

3. République Grolée-Carnot

Spanning across République, Grolée, and Carnot streets, this area features over 250 boutiques ranging from homeware and fashion to electronics. Notable for sports shops and brands like Hema, Uniqlo, and H&M.

4. Part-Dieu Area

A paradise for high-street brand lovers, the Part-Dieu is one of France’s largest shopping centers. It is entirely indoors and perfect for all seasons. It features shops like Primark, Zara, FNAC, Galeries Lafayette, and Hema.

5. Les Halles de Lyon

A large indoor food market renowned for offering the best regional produce. It is a perfect spot for food lovers, offering souvenirs and gifts like Lyon’s red pralines, chocolates, cheese, and truffles.

6. Confluences Shopping Centre

This modern shopping center houses familiar shops and a notable restaurant terrace near the Confluences Museum. It also has a Carrefour and a large toy shop, Jouet Club.

7. Slopes of the Croix-Rousse

Known for its independent boutiques, it is perfect for picking up unique items and vintage shopping. Highlights include Fripes Ketchup, Leonard, and Carrie Bradshop.

8. Vieux Lyon

The historic part of Lyon is filled with little boutiques ranging from ancient bookshops to silk shops. It is notable for its silk shops in the Saint-Georges area.

9. Porte des Alpes

Situated in Saint-Priest, this shopping center offers a variety of high-street brands. It is notable for housing an IKEA, perfect for those needing furniture and household essentials.

10. Carré de Soie

Located closer to Vaulx-en-Velin, Carré de Soie offers similar shops to Part-Dieu or Confluences Mall, leisure activities, a cinema, and many restaurants—a great place for family shopping.

5. Insider Tips and Resources

Socializing and finding expat communities in Lyon

Lyon is known for being a culturally entertaining, young, upbeat city. It’s home to multiple reputable universities, which means the city is always full of young people, keeping it busy all year round.

Unlike other areas of France, where expats can form tight groups and never fully integrate with the French, Lyon is a real mix. Interestingly, expats in Lyon tend to cross cultures and borders.

Most expat groups include Brits, Spanish, Americans, Australians, Finns, and more. Many expats love meeting friends from around the world in Lyon, so the population is growing hugely. Let’s just say you’ll never be lonely in Lyon. 

Several Anglophone expat groups exist, from Meetup groups Lyon to specific organizations, such as the Women’s Professional Networking Group and the American Club of Lyon.

Personal Stories from expats living in Lyon

“Being friends with a French person comes with great responsibility, which isn’t for everyone. You are united for life, and they expect to count on you when they need you, just as you can count on them when you are in need.
My husband says the French are like coconuts; they are tough to crack, but once you’re in, you’re in. On the other hand, Anglo-Saxons are like peaches: very open and soft initially, but it is hard to create long and meaningful friendships in the long run.
Both have their pluses and minuses. However, I wasn’t ready for this challenge and found myself only being able to meet and connect with other expatriates in the beginning,” says Nora.
“All shops are shut on Sundays – and many in August. You can’t go to the grocery store or pharmacy, nothing! In some touristy areas, you may find some open stores in Lyon, but the majority will still be closed.
August was the most tremendous shock for me. When I lived in Paris, I couldn’t believe how many people had closed their businesses and gone on summer vacation for the whole month!
It is the same in Lyon and most of the country. Many restaurants and shops close, and cities are deserted”, says Tom.
“If you have anything negative to say about France or French products, keep it to yourself. Don’t even joke about it. The French are very proud of their culture, particularly wine,” advises Steven.

Resources for a better understanding of French life

  • “My Good Life in France: In Pursuit of the Rural Dream”, by Janine Marsh 
  • “My Four Seasons in France: A Year of the Good Life”, by Janine Marsh 
  • “My French Platter: A Journey to a Dream Life in France”, by Annemarie Rawson 

6. Recap

One of the most significant advantages of living in Lyon, a city full of flavor and history, is the quality of life. It has a cosmopolitan atmosphere with plenty of options for people of all ages. After all, Lyon is:

  • 19th best city in the world (Time Out 2022),
  • 1st destination in the world to discover in 2022 (World Travel Awards 2021),
  • Lyon was one of the top 5 French destinations to discover in 2022 and the most sought-after abroad,
  • 1st French city and 7th in the world in the GDS index 2021 (World reference ranking for sustainable tourism),
  • 1st most attractive French city in France (Arthur Lloyd Barometer 2021),
  • In 2021, the city won 1st place among French cities in the World’s Leading Emerging Tourism Destination for the year 2022,
  • In 2022, Lyon was in the top 5 of the ranking of the best student cities in France (according to the magazine L’Etudiant),
  • The city is in second place in the QS Best Student Cities 2023 ranking (ranking of the world’s best student cities).

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