Here at This is Lyon we appreciate our city for its extraordinary heritage, its gentle way of life, its large number of quality restaurants, its dynamic culture and economy, festivals, the illuminated quays, its affordable (almost) rents, its mysteries and its locals who are so proud of their city. We have selected 47 reasons to love Lyon.
There are obviously a lot more and so its over to you to tell us why you love Lyon?
1. Its proximity to the sea and mountains
Ask a local why he/she loves the city and its geographic location will certainly be one of the first things to spring to mind. It caters for everyone with the sea just a short trip away and the Alps even closer.
Getting to Marseille takes 1 hour 40 minutes by train and is perfect for those who want to feel the sand between their toes. Day skiing trips are also easily done. The nearest resort, les Plans d’Hotonnes (1,350 metres), is only a 80-minute car ride away.
Spend an extra 10 minutes on the road and you will reach the Chartreuse and Bauges mountain ranges.
2. Its stunning panoramas
Lyon has some fantastic viewing spots. The Alps, from Mont Blanc to the Vercors Massif, can be admired from the Gros Caillou in the Croix-Rousse district, the Basilica of Fourvière’s esplanade or the bar of the Radisson hotel. The latter is perched atop the Tour Part Dieu (known locally as The Pencil), making it one of Europe’s highest hotels.
Alternatively, hike to the top of Mont Cindre in Saint-Cyr and be rewarded by fabulous views over the entire city as well as the Alps, the Pilat mountains and the Monts du Lyonnais foothills. Truly impressive! Unfortunately, the sea is still a bit too far. But in 1928, building entrepreneur Horace Pitratbegan the construction of a 100-metre tower in Croix-Rousse. His aim? To be able to see the Mediterranean Sea. The tower collapsed before it was completed, and then rebuilt at half the original height. It was eventually demolished in 1874. For a breath-taking view, we recommend having breakfast or a coffee at the Celest Bar in the Tour Part-Dieu. Part of the hotel on the 32nd floor, it offers 360° views of the city.
3. Its rivers and confluence
Lyon is rare kind of city with over 100,000 inhabitants that has two large rivers that meet in the city. The Rhône and the Saône (France’s 3rd and 9th largest rivers) bring a breath of fresh air to the city before meeting to the south in a magnificent clash of colours.
4. Its green space
In 2014, Lyon was classified as France’s 4th greenest city, taking into account the density of green space per resident, financial investments and efforts made to preserve biodiversity. It boasts 18 metres of green space per inhabitant, higher than national average, but still half as much as Nantes.
5. Its unique city park
Covering almost 300 acres — including a 40-acre lake — the Parc de la Tête d’Or is France’s largest city park. The lungs of the city are a paradise for joggers on their daily run, families looking for some greenery, and couples looking for a romantic picnic spot. It is also home to a free zoo, botanic garden, velodrome and deer (if you wake up early enough). Locals have flocked to the park for generations since it was opened in 1857, although no one is yet to find the famous ‘Tête d’Or’ (golden head) of Jesus, which is rumoured to have been buried there in the 16th Century.
6. Its illuminated façades
Often a pleasant surprise for visitors. Once known for being dark and foggy, the last 25 years have seen Lyon emerge out of the darkness and into the light. Mayor Michel Noir (1989-1995) was the first to create the master lighting plan to showcase public monuments with large sodium lamps. A second plan was later introduced with softer lighting better adapted to each area. And every December, during the Fête des Lumières (Festival of Lights), a new building is gifted a long-lasting and tailor-made lighting, much to the delight of photographers.
7. Its mild climate
The sweet life. Lyon has mild temperatures that are always above the national average and rainfall that is generally below. With around 2,000 hours of sunshine each year over the last decade, it is comparable to cities such as Bordeaux and Toulouse. Although there was a glitch in the system last year with only 1,500 hours, less than Paris (1,700), Saint Etienne (1,500) and, of course, Marseille (2,800).
And for You ? What’s the reason why you love Lyon ?
8. Its awesome architecture
From Soufflot to Renzo Piano, many legendary builders and architects have used Lyon to show off their talents, leaving in their wake such marvels as the Town Hall, Opera house, airport and other establishments and offices. The Musée des Confluences, designed by Coop Himmelblau, has surely become the most contentious, while the orange cube of Jakob+MacFarlane is now one of the city’s most emblematic landmarks. Both are found in the new Confluence district, where the latest and most symbolic creations are popping up, soon to be joined by the Ycone project by Jean Nouvel.
9. Its mysterious traboules
The traboules, ‘secret’ passages which cut through buildings, were supposedly built by silk workers to protect their cloth from the elements. Two of the most famous are the Cour des Voraces, located at 9 place Colbert, and the one running between 54 rue Saint-Jean and 27 rue du Boeuf in the Vieux-Lyon. The latter is the longest in the entire city.
10. Its flea market
If you want to hunt down a bargain, unearth that rare find or enjoy a cheeky breakfast next to the traders then the Puces du Canal is perfect for you. Every Sunday morning, 10,000 devotees, families and inquisitive strollers browse the 400 stalls of France’s second largest market of its kind.
11. Its water activities
Lyon makes up for what it lacks in sea with two rivers and a multitude of lakes, including Miribel-Jonage. More than enough to satisfy fans of swimming, sailing, tour cruises, boat rides (check out the vaporetto), rowing, stand-up paddleboarding and even fishing (in the Saône).
12. Daybreak on the Saône quays
As dawn starts to break, head down to the water’s edge to watch the sun’s rays glint off the coloured façades of the buildings and reflect off the water…a spectacle of unimaginable beauty that is a common sight for party-goers, early-morning runners and sleepless walkers.
13. Its new skyline
The second largest business district after La Défense (Paris), the Part-Dieu (10.5 million sq. ft. of office space) has just welcomed two new skyscrapers (Oxygène & Incity), radically transforming the landscape around the famous Pencil. Other projects in the pipeline include Two Lyon, an office-cum-hotel-cum-shopping centre; and Sky56, 14 floors for offices, terraces, a gym and a crèche.
14. Its Roman ruins
Nestled at the heart of the city, in the open air, the Roman ruins offer a present reminder of Lyon’s past. One example is the Amphithéâtre des Trois-Gaules, where Saint Blandina was killed, which lies halfway up the Pentes de la Croix-Rousse hill. Another is the Ancient Theatre of Fourvière, built in 15 BC and neighboured by the Gallo-Roman museum, which still comes to life every year for the Nuits de Fourvière festival.
15. Its renaissance quarter
Saved from demolition in 1964 by the writer and then Minister of Culture André Malraux, the Vieux-Lyon (Old Lyon) was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1998. Covering 75 acres, it is one of the largest surviving areas of Renaissance (16th Century) beauty, featuring exquisite religious monuments, paved streets, traboules, sculpted façades and magnificent courtyards. A must-see!
16. Its football club
French football was once dominated by Olympique Lyonnais (OL), with the club winning 7 consecutive championship titles between 2002 and 2008. But while this may now seem like a distant memory, Lyon regularly finishes near the top of the national table and remains a formidable force on the European stage. OL’s success has helped put Lyon on the map, especially thanks to former players such as Karim Benzema. The club hopes its new 60,000-capacity stadium in Décines, opened in December 2015, will help revive its previous glory.
17. Its wonderful running route
The tree-lined, 2-mile route around the Tête d’Or park serves as the benchmark for all Lyon’s runners. While usually run anti-clockwise, this can sometimes prove difficult during rush hour or sunny weekends. Another popular route is the 5km along the Rhône riverbank, renovated in 2007. The perfect way to end the day as the sun sets behind Lyon’s best-known landmarks.
18. Its age-old funfair
Until 11 November, the Croix-Rousse boulevard hosts the traditional Vogue aux marrons (chestnut fairground), bringing together almost 80 stallholders. Founded in 1851, it is Lyon’s longest-running funfair.
19. Its outdoor pool open all year
A huge leap forward for urban athletes. The newly christened Tony Bertrand Aquatic Centre is open almost all year round and not just for summer. The uncovered, Olympic-size pool, opened in 1968 and recently renovated, is heated to 27 degrees in the winter (except from mid-December to late January, when it’s too cold). A lap pool leads outside from the changing rooms.
20. Its illustrious basketball team
17-time national champions, ASVEL has more titles than any other French club. Even if its last title was back in 2002, the legendary club from the Villeurbane suburb hopes to start a new chapter in its history with new president and NBA champion Tony Parker. The club will soon have a new 12,000-seat stadium, and Parker has announced the opening of a new basketball academy in 2018.
21. Its unexplained mysteries
Many of Lyon’s mysteries still have historians and archaeologists scratching their heads. One such example is that of the ‘fish bones’ underground network, a series of aligned tunnels underneath the Pentes de la Croix-Rousse hill, between Gros Caillou and the Rhône. Discovered in the 20th Century, they are still a riddle. Were they dug in the 16th Century to supply the short-lived citadel on the hilltop? Or perhaps it was the Templars who wanted to stow their treasures?
22. Its new Carte Culture
Launched by the City of Lyon in September, the Carte culture gives year-round access to the 6 city museums and all the libraries’ loan services. For €38 per year (€15 for 18-25 year olds), the card also gives reduced entry to theatres, the opera, the Lumière Institute and the Comœdia cinema. Definitely worth it!
23. Its numerous headliners
Yoko Ono’s first retrospective in France was held at Lyon’s contemporary art museum from March to July 2016. Once often overlooked, the city has now become a major stop on the tour of the biggest exhibitions and artists. Big names are drawn in by events such as the dance and contemporary art biennials, and festivals like Nuits de Fourvière, Nuits sonores, Quais du Polar, the Assises internationales du roman and the Festival Lumière. Quentin Tarantino has become a common figure at the cinema festival, which takes places every October.
24. Its mythical cinemas
The birthplace of cinema is still home to a few mythical picture houses which have stood the test of time and takeovers. Created in 1914, the Comœdia (7th arrondissement) was taken over by producer Marc Bonny and is due to expand with three new screens. Another, La Fourmi was created in 1914 and recently reopened after renovations. The cinema is now in the hands of Thierry Frémeaux, general delegate of the Festival de Cannes and president of the Institute Lumière, as are the CNP at Terreaux (1976) and Bellecour (1983), which were also threatened with closure.
25. This record-breaking museum
Last summer saw Lyon’s newest and most spectacular museum surpass the 600,000-visitor mark since opening in December 2014. It was also the most visited monument during September’s Heritage Days, with 17,000 people coming to discover the riches of the natural history museum. These records help somewhat forget the other figures for which it is infamous, including the €330 million bill that was a little over the original €60 million estimate when the project began in 1999.
26. Its Festival of Lights
Lyon’s residents love criticising the city’s largest event, which pulls in 3 million visitors around 8th December. They say that the festival, which has religious origins, has lost its soul. They complain that the tradition of putting tealights in windows is dying out, and that it’s impossible to get around Place des Terreaux where the crowd unfailingly gathers. But the locals always come back, quick to marvel in awe at the illuminated façades and decorated streets.
27. Its two renowned orchestras
Lyon and Paris are the only cities to have two international symphony orchestras: the Opéra (110 musicians, chorists and singers) and the National Orchestra of Lyon (94 musicians). Both are led by foreign conductors, the Japanese Kazushi Ōno and the American Leonard Slatkin respectively.
28. Its abundance of restaurants
Lyon’s locals are a lucky lot. With a little over 1,500 eating establishments, from Michelin-starred restaurants to kebab shops, the city has one of the highest ratios of restaurants to residents in France. The capital of gastronomy is home to some venerable restaurants that are still at the top of their game, like Chez Abel (1723), the Brasserie Georges (1836) and the Brasserie des Brotteaux (1913). And the tradition continues, with world-class eateries being opened every week as a new generation of talented chefs is enticed by these celebrated institutions.
29. Its breakfast tradition
Despite the never-ending debate over what constitutes an authentic bouchon, Lyon’s traditional restaurants are the city’s most sacred symbol. Recognisable by their chequered tablecloths, they serve regional delicacies such as andouillette, tripes and sabodets. A few dozen still serve the traditional mâchon breakfast, a hot sausage washed down with alcohol which was once the staple of silk workers.
30. Its food markets
Around 50 food markets are held in Lyon, including 5 organic markets and 6 which are now held at the end of the day to fit in with modern timetables. The oldest and most famous are held on the Saint-Antoine quay (1910) and along the Croix-Rousse boulevard (1860). Find everything you could need, from regional fruit and veg to Bresse chickens and tripes. Do not be surprised if you come across a local chef searching for fresh produce and bargaining with market sellers whose families have been working there for generations.
31. Its gourmet food hall
Admittedly, the building that opened in 1971 does not possess the same charm as the former hall at Cordeliers. But this concrete structure in the Part-Dieu district, now bearing the name Paul-Bocuse, houses 50 traders who supply only the very best of local — and not-so-local — produce. The hall is teeming with life on weekend mornings when most of Lyon comes to stock up on cold meats from Gast or Colette Sibilia, get their week’s supply of cheese from Mère Richard and taste the oysters from Antonin, Merle and Rousseau. They then reward their hard work with a meal at the Chez les Gones restaurant. A mainstay of city life.
32. Its proximity to grand cru vineyards
Lyon’ residents are truly spoiled. They live just a few dozen miles from some of the best wine appelations in France: Beaujolais to the north, Côtes du Rhône to the south, Coteau du Lyonnais to the west and the wines of Savoie and Isère to the east. There are even a few vines on the Croix-Rousse hill, whose wine is exclusively reserved for members of the République des canuts.
33. Its creative chocolatiers
The most famous of all Lyon’s chocolatiers is no doubt Bernachon. A product of the Bocuse empire, it makes its own chocolate from scratch and is best known for its palets and ‘Le Président’ cake. But it is not the only one. Other talented masters of the cocoa bean include Sébastien Bouillet (Chokolat in Croix-Rousse), Sève, Dufoux, Richart, Pralus, Voisin and Philippe Bel, winner of the prestigious Meilleur Ouvrier de France (Best Craftsman in France) award.
34. Its thriving cocktail bars
The uninhibited and unpretentious vision of mixology presented by Soda Bar, opened in 2006 by Marc Bonneton and Arnaud Grosset, has led a revolution of young entrepreneurs and bartenders. The concept has since proliferated (l’Antiquaire, Monkey Club, Black forest society, Fantôme de l’Opéra, Pick Me Up, Redwood, Café Juliette, to name but a few), to the point that Lyon has become the capital of classics like mojitos, daiquiris and also some more fancy cocktails.
35. Its city-centre houses with gardens
Lyon still has some hidden real-estate gems, featuring beautiful gardens at affordable prices. In Croix-Rousse, close to the Saône, a young CEO recently found a 1,000-sq ft. 16th Century house, completely renovated with open beams, a terrace, garden, a view over west Lyon and a small plot of forest for only €500,000. All that just a few steps from the neighbourhood centre and river quays, 15 minutes from the bustling heart of the centre!
36. A low unemployment rate
There are jobs in Lyon. At least a few more than in other French cities. At the end of 2014, the city had 44,000 jobseekers, equalling 9.2% of the population. This is lower than the national average (9.9%) and other cities such as Bordeaux, Toulouse, Strasbourg and Lille.
37. Its attractiveness
Regularly topping lists of Europe’s most business-friendly cities, Lyon attracts increasingly more companies every year. No less than 80 business chose to set up shop in the city in 2014, creating almost 2,000 jobs in the space of three years.
38. Its entrepreneurial zeal
Over 10,000 businesses are created in Lyon every year, a figure only beaten by Paris. Project backers receive support to develop their ideas from a wide array of business incubators that are part of universities or funded by economic institutions.
39. Its investment potential
According to Explorimmo.com, Lyon is France’s second best city for real-estate investment, just behind Toulouse. It offers “solid foundations for those looking to invest in real estate” taking into account demography, job opportunities, student life, house prices (both new and old) and rent prices. This is even more the case since Lyon was classified as a Zone A, meaning rent caps have been increased.
40. Its relatively cheap taxes
No one likes paying taxes. But Lyon’s residents have got it rather good. The taxe d’habitation (occupier property tax) is one of the lowest in the country, averaging €909 compared to €1,200 in Nîmes and Montpellier at the top of the table. The suburb of Villeurbanne is even better off at only €685, just above Paris (€464). The average taxe foncière (proprietor property tax) is only €732, in comparison with €1,315 in Montpellier (Lille wins with €599). However, these rates are set to increase in 2017.
41. Its intelligence!
A study in 2014 by m2ocity, a subsidiary of Orange, found that Lyon was “France’s smartest city” thanks to its smart electricity grid, services and buildings. The latest to see the light of day, the Hikari project in Confluence, is the first multi-purpose building (offices, housing and shops) to generate more energy that it consumes. Locals can help shape the future of their city by testing the latest urban innovations at Tubà, in the Part-Dieu district.
42. Its public transport
Ask a local what makes their city different to any other and they will often answer that here “we go everywhere on foot”. And it’s true. The city lends itself rather well to leisurely strolls, while also having an award-winning subway, tram, funicular and bus network. The extensive TCL system (serving 64 communes) focuses on intermodal transportation and is supported by several car-sharing initiatives and a growing number of cycle paths.
43. Its bike-friendliness
Its 4,000 bikes and 60,000 subscribers perhaps make Velo’v one of the greatest successes of the last few years. The arrival of this self-service bike system in 2005 drastically changed how people got around the city, speeding up the transition to soft mobility. The proof is in the figures. Bike travel has tripled since 1995 and the number of bike shops has skyrocketed. Bike-taxis (e.g. cyclopolitain, cycloville & cyclopousse) have also become increasingly popular, as have cycling tours. The next goal? 570 miles of cycle paths by 2020.
44. Its simplicity
Lyon’s new residents say that you quickly learn your way around. All you have to do is work out where the Rhône and Saône are, and then look for the Pencil, the hills of Fourvière or Croix-Rousse to get your bearings with practically no effort. The streets are also set out in a quasi-regular grid structure.
45. Its shopping
Lyon has something for all tastes; just simply choose the neighbourhood that suits your style and budget. Head to the golden triangle of the Presqu’île for luxury boutiques, or if you want high-street brands then Rue de la République and the Part-Dieu and Confluence shopping centres should be your first port of call. And if you’d prefer something more trendy, then check out the young designers and outfitters on the Croix-Rousse hill. Another up-and-coming area is South Bellecour. Focused around Rue August-Comte, this part of the city is home to several independent boutiques (vintage/modern fashion, home decor, perfume, eyewear, etc.) with distinctive identities.
46. Its famous faces
Lyon’s list of celebrity residents is as long as its two rivers, from Emperor Claude and director Bertrand Tavernier to chef Paul Bocuse and Jean-Claude Trichet, former president of the European Central Bank. Those who truly changed the world include physicist Ampère, the Lumière brothers who invented cinema and author/aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (The Little Prince).
47. Its student life
Voted overall 9th in the last awards from student magazine l’Etudiant, Lyon was first when it came to studies and culture. The second-largest university city after the Paris region, its few dozen universities cater for over 140,000 students, with an increasing number coming from abroad. Two of the main draws are the cheap rent and the maison des étudiants, a central reference point for student unions that helps new arrivals settle in.