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Lyon, also written Lyons in English, is the third largest city in France and centre of the second largest metropolitan area in the country. It is the capital of the Rhone-Alpes region and the Rhônedépartement. It is known as a gastronomic and historical city with a vibrant cultural scene. It is also the birthplace of cinema.
Founded by the Romans, with many preserved historical areas, Lyon is the archetype of the heritage city, as recognised by UNESCO. Lyon is a vibrant metropolis which makes the most out of its unique architectural, cultural and gastronomic heritage, its dynamic demographics and economy and its strategic location between Northern and Southern Europe. It is more and more open to the world, with an increasing number of students and international events.
The city itself has about 480,000 inhabitants. However, the direct influence of the city extends well over its administrative borders, with the population of Greater Lyon (which includes 57 towns or communes): at about 2.1 million. Lyon and its metropolitan area are rapidly growing and getting younger, because of their economic attractiveness.
Lyon is shaped by its two rivers, the Rhône River (to the East) and the Saône (to the West), which both run North-South. The main areas of interest are:
Also known as "the hill that prays" due to the numerous churches and religious institutions it hosts. The hill was also the place where the Romans settled.
|Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon)|
The Renaissance area, along the right bank of the Saône.
Between the two rivers, the real heart of the city.
North of Presqu'île between the two rivers, it is known as "the hill that works" because it was home to the silk workers (canuts) until the 19th century. This industry has shaped the unique architecture of the area.
An emerging district with great contemporary architecture in a former industrial area.
The main business district and home to the main train station of Lyon.
The wealthiest district, next to the beautiful Tête d'Or park.
A picturesque district with a large immigrant population.
An interesting 1920s housing project.
Another developing district.
Fourvière, Vieux Lyon, Croix-Rousse and a large part of Presqu'île are classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Lyon has nine administrative subdivisions called arrondissements, which are designated by numbers. They correspond approximately to the following neighbourhoods:
- 1st arrondissement (centre): North of Presqu'île and slopes of the Croix-Rousse hill; home of the canuts (silk workers), and still a 'rebel' neighbourhood.
- 2nd arrondissement (centre): Most of Presqu'île; basically, this is where the action is.
- 3rd arrondissement (East): Part-Dieu, North of Guillotière, Montchat, North of Monplaisir; the most populated arrondissement with wealthy and popular neighbourhoods, former industrial or military sites and a modern business district.
- 4th arrondissement (North): Plateau of the Croix-Rousse hill; historical area with a "village" mood.
- 5th arrondissement (West): Vieux Lyon, Fourvière, Saint-Just, Point du Jour; historical sites and quiet residential neighbourhoods.
- 6th arrondissement (Northeast): Brotteaux; the wealthiest part of the city.
- 7th arrondissement (South): South of Guillotière, Gerland; from popular neighbourhoods to high-tech industrial zones.
- 8th arrondissement (Southeast): South of Monplaisir, Etats-Unis, industrial and popular neighbourhoods built mainly in the 1920s-1930s.
- 9th arrondissement (Northwest): Vaise, La Duchère, St Rambert; some of the areas which have evolved the most in recent years.
- Don't forget to visit Sainte-Foy-lès-Lyon, a nice little town on the western hill of Lyon,across the river Saône, where you can enjoy a walk halfway between the city and the countryside, with marvellous perspectives on the city.
Zip codes for Lyon begin with 69 for the Rhône département and end with the number of the arrondissement: 69004 is therefore the zip code for the 4th arrondissement. Special zip codes may be used for businesses.
All periods of Lyon's 2000-year history have left visible traces in the city's architectural and cultural heritage, from Roman ruins to Renaissance palaces to contemporary skyscrapers. It never went through a major disaster (earthquake, fire, extensive bombing...) or a complete redesign by urban planners. Very few cities in the world boast such diversity in their urban structure and architecture.
Early traces of settlement date back to 12,000 BC but there is no evidence of continuous occupation prior to the Roman era. Lugdunum, the Roman name of the city, was officially founded in 43 BC by Lucius Munatius Plancus, then Governor of Gaul. The first Roman settlements were on Fourvière hill, and the first inhabitants were probably veterans of Caesar's war campaigns. The development of the city was boosted by its strategic location and it was promoted Capital of Gauls in 27 BC by General Agrippa, emperor Augustus's son-in-law and minister. Large carriageways were then built, providing easy access from all parts of Gaul. Lugdunum became one of the most prominent administrative, economic and financial centres in Gaul, along with Narbonne. The main period of peace and prosperity of the Roman city was between 69 and 192 AD. The population at that time is estimated between 50,000 and 80,000. Lugdunum consisted of four populated areas: the top of Fourvière hill, the slopes of Croix-Rousse around the Amphithéâtre des Trois Gaules, the Canabae (around where Place Bellecour is today) and the right bank of the Saône river, mainly in what is today St Georges neighbourhood.
Lugdunum was the place where the first Christian communities of Gaul appeared. It was also where the first martyrdoms took place, most notably in 177 AD when the young slave Blandine was killed in the Amphithéâtre des Trois Gaules, along with 47 other martyrs.
The city lost its status of Capital of Gauls in 297 AD. Then, in the early years of the 4th century, the aqueducts which brought water to the top of Fourvière suddenly stopped functioning. This was due to a lack of funds for their maintenance and security; the lead pipes which carried the water were stolen and could not be replaced. The city was completely deprived of water overnight. This triggered the end of the Roman Lugdunum, which lost a large part of its population and was reorganised around the Saône.
In the Middle Ages, the city developed on both banks of the Saône. The name "Lion" or "Lyon" appeared in the 13th century. The early Middle Ages were very troubled politically. Since the political geography of France kept changing, the city belonged successively to multiple provinces. It then belonged to the Holy Roman Empire from 1018 to 1312, when it was given to France at the Vienna Council. At that time, the city was still of limited size but had a large religious influence; in 1078, Pope Gregory VII made the Archbishop of Lyon the highest Catholic dignitary in the former Gaul (Primat des Gaules).
In the Renaissance, fiscal advantages and the organisation of numerous trade fairs attracted bankers from Florence and merchants from all over Europe; the city became more and more prosperous and experienced a second golden age. The main industries were silk weaving, introduced in 1536, and printing. Lyon became one of Europe's largest cities and its first financial place, helped by the advantages given by King François I who even considered, at one time, making Lyon the capital of France. Around 1530, the population of Lyon reached 50,000.
In the following centuries, Lyon was hurt by the religious wars but remained a major industrial and intellectual centre, while the financial activity moved to Geneva and Switzerland. In the 18th century, half of the inhabitants were silk workers (canuts).
The eastern bank of the Rhône was not urbanised before the 18th century, when the swamps (called Brotteaux) were dried out to allow construction. Those massive works were led by engineer Morand. In the meantime, works conducted by Perrache doubled the area of the Presqu'île. The extension works were halted by the French revolution but started again in the early 19th century.
During the Revolution, in 1793, Lyon took sides against the central power of the Convention (Parliament), which caused a severe repression from the army. Over 2,000 people were executed.
In the early 19th century, the silk industry was still developing, notably thanks to Jacquard's loom which made the weaving work more efficient. Social crises, however, occurred: in 1831, the first revolt of the canuts was harshly repressed. The workers were protesting against the introduction of new technology, which was likely to cause unemployment. Other riots took place in 1834, 1848 and 1849, especially in the Croix-Rousse neighbourhood. From 1848, the Presqu'île area was redesigned in a way similar to Haussmann's works in Paris. In 1852, the neighbouring towns of Vaise, Croix-Rousse and Guillotière were made districts of Lyon. The traditional silk industry disappeared at the end of the century because of diseases affecting the French silk worms and the opening of the Suez Canal which reduced the price of imported silk from Asia. Various other industries developed at that time; the most famous entrepreneurs of the late 19th century were the Lumière brothers, who invented cinema in Lyon in 1895.
Edouard Herriot was elected mayor in 1905 and governed the city until his death in 1957. He initiated a number of important urban projects, most notably in partnership with his favourite architect Tony Garnier: Grange Blanche hospital (today named after Herriot), Gerland slaughterhouses (now Halle Tony Garnier) and stadium, the Etats-Unis neighbourhood, etc.
During World War II, Lyon was close to the border between the "free zone" and the occupied zone and was therefore a key strategic place for the Germans and the French Resistance alike. Jean Moulin, head of the Resistance, was arrested in Caluire (North suburb of Lyon). On 26 May 1944, Lyon was bombed by the Allied aviation. The Liberation of Lyon occurred on 3 September.
In the 1960s, the construction of the business district of Part-Dieu began; its symbol is the "pencil" tower, the tallest building in Lyon. Meanwhile, the association "Renaissance du Vieux Lyon" (Rebirth of the Old Lyon) managed to have this Renaissance area classified by the government as the first preserved landmark in France, while it was threatened by a highway project defended by mayor Louis Pradel. Pradel was a convinced "modernist" and supporter of the automobile. He also backed the construction of the Fourvière tunnel, opened in 1971 and of the A6/A7 freeway through Presqu'île, near Perrache station, a decision later described as "the screw-up of the century" by mayor Michel Noir, in the 1990s. In 1974, the first line of the metro was opened. In 1981, Lyon was linked to Paris by the first TGV (high speed train) line. In the 1980s and 1990s, a huge number of buildings in Vieux Lyon and Croix-Rousse were renovated. The landscape of Lyon is still evolving, notably with the new Rhône banks promenade or the construction of new skyscrapers in Part-Dieu.
In the future, the banks of the Saône should also be given a second youth. The completion of the Lyon beltway on the western side should relieve the central areas from some of the traffic. A high-performance train network serving exurban areas (like the RER around Paris) is also planned.
A city of merchants and industry, Lyon has a long tradition of centre-right governments and mayors, even if some neighbourhoods, most notably Croix-Rousse, have a very strong left-wing inclination. In 2001, however, Gérard Collomb, a member of the moderate left-wing Socialist party, was elected mayor. Although many controversies surrounded Collomb, he adopted a strategy of creating public infrastructure projects to gain popularity.
The silk industry was the main activity for centuries. Since the end of the 19th century, it has been successfully replaced by a number of others. Feyzin, a southern suburb, is home to a major oil refinery and a large number of chemical plants are also located along the Rhône river south of Lyon. Pharmaceutics and biotechnology are also important; they were historically fueled by Lyon's prominence in medical research, and the local authorities are trying to maintain an international leadership in these industries. The southeastern suburbs of Vénissieux and St Priest host large automotive plants, such as Renault's truck and bus factories. But as in most Western metropolises, the service industry is now dominant. Many large banking and insurance companies have important offices in Lyon, and the IT services industry is also well developed. From an economic point of view, Lyon is the most attractive and dynamic city in France. This may be explained by the easy access from all over Europe (probably second only to Paris in the country), the availability of qualified workforce and research centres, and cheaper real estate prices compared to the capital.
Lyon has a "semi-continental" climate. Winters are cold but temperatures under -5°C (23°F) remain rare. You can, however, experience an awful freezing sensation when northerly winds blow. Snowfalls happen but snow-covered streets are generally not seen for more than a few days every winter. Summers can be hot; temperatures around 35°C (95°F) are not exceptional in July and August. Precipitations are moderate and happen throughout the year; the mountains to the west (Massif central) protect the area against perturbations from the Atlantic. During the summer, especially in August, precipitations often take the form of thunderstorms whereas in winter, lighter but more continuous rain is more common. Spring and early autumn are usually enjoyable.
- The Festival of Lights (Fête des Lumières)  is by far the most important event of the year. It lasts four days around the 8th of December. It was initially a traditional religious celebration: on December 8th, 1852, the people of Lyon spontaneously illuminated their windows with candles to celebrate the inauguration of the golden statue of the Virgin Mary (the Virgin had been the saint patron of Lyon since she allegedly saved the city from the plague in 1643). The same ritual was then repeated every year.
In the last decade or so, the celebration turned into an international event, with light shows by professional artists from all over the world. Those range from tiny installations in remote neighbourhoods to massive sound-and-light shows, the largest one traditionally taking place on Place des Terreaux. The traditional celebration lives on, though: during the weeks preceding December 8th, the traditional candles and glasses are sold by shops all over town. This festival attracts around 4 million visitors every year; it now compares, in terms of attendance, to the Oktoberfest in Munich for example. Needless to say, accommodation for this period should be booked months in advance. You will also need good shoes (to avoid the crowd in the metro) and very warm clothes (it can be very cold at this time of year).
When to visit
- The Nuits de Fourvière festival : From June to early August, the Roman theatres host various shows such as concerts (popular music, jazz, classical), dancing, theatre and cinema. International artists who usually fill up much larger venues are often seduced by the special atmosphere of the theatres.
- Nuits sonores: an increasingly popular festival dedicated to electronic music, every year in May.
- The Biennals: Lyon alternatively hosts a dancing (even years) and a contemporary art (odd years) biennals from September to December and January. The dancing biennal is traditionally opened by a street parade in which inhabitants of the Greater Lyon take part through neighbourhood associations. If you are in town at this moment, do not miss this colourful and funny event.
The language of the city is French. The local dialect (patois, basically French with a number of typical local words or expressions) has practically disappeared since one out of two inhabitants were born outside the Rhône département.
Hotels, tourist attractions and restaurants in popular areas generally have staff capable of working in English. You could, however, experience difficulties in more remote areas. The transportation system also has little information written in English. On the street, many people (especially young people) speak at least basic English, but they will appreciate a little effort in French. Using basic words like bonjour (hello), s'il vous plaît (please), merci (thank you) or excusez-moi (excuse me) will certainly make people even more friendly and willing to help you.
The only measurement system used is the metric system. Most French people have no idea what Imperial units mean.
As everywhere in France, smoking is prohibited in all closed public places, including bars, restaurants and night clubs.
- Tourist office, place Bellecour (M: Bellecour), ☎+33 4 72 77 69 69, . 9AM-6PM daily, 9AM-8PM during the Festival of Lights. The office is in the southeast corner of place Bellecour. edit
Lyon's Saint-Exupéry Airport (IATA: LYS)  (formerly known as Satolas), some 25 km east of Lyon, is a rapidly developing airport. It still hosts few intercontinental flights, the only regular flight from North-America is with Air Canada from Montréal, but can easily be reached via a European hub (Paris, London, Frankfurt etc). Air France serves most airports in France and major European airports. EasyJet serves a number of destinations in Europe (including London, Berlin, Brussels, Rome, Edinburgh and Madrid) along with a few domestic destinations which are not easily reached by train (Bordeaux, Toulouse, Nice). Most other major European airlines also operate flights between Lyon and their respective hubs.
The connection between Lyon city centre and the airport has been improved by the opening of a "tram-train" line called Rhônexpress. It is faster (30 min) and more reliable than the old buses (which no longer run), but it is definitely aimed at business travellers given the upscale onboard service for a tram (including free wifi and power sockets at each seat) and the high price: €15.90 (as of 2017) for a single journey, €27.50 for a return (add €1 to purchase on board). It is slightly cheaper if you purchase the ticket online (€14.70 one-way and €25.90 return). If you purchase a return ticket online at least 1 or 2 months in advance, a greater discount is available. Discounted tickets are available for young people up to the age of 25. The Rhônexpress connects in the city at the main Lyon Part-Dieu station, in addition to connecting with the metro (line A) at Vaulx-en-Velin La Soie (second stop), which is convenient if you are staying in Presqu'île or Villeurbanne. Trains depart every 15 (6AM-9PM) to 30 min. To find them, follow the red signs in the airport terminals. You have to walk through the TGV station, which can be as long as 10 minutes if you arrive at Terminal 3 (which is served low-cost airlines).
As of 1 January 2016, bus lines 28, 29 and 30 of the TCL network no longer serve Lyon airport. Previously, bus 30 operated between Terminal 1 and Meyzieu ZI in 20 minutes with one-way tickets priced at €2. As a result of the withdrawal of the TCL bus service at Lyon airport, the Rhônexpress is the only direct public transport link between Lyon city centre and Lyon airport.
A cheaper public transport alternative to the Rhônexpress between Lyon airport and Lyon city centre is to take bus number 1950 operated by Transisère  from Lyon airport to La Verpillière railway station (journey time around 25 mins; €4.70 as of 2017; no services on Sundays). From La Verpillière station, there are TER regional trains to 3 stations in Lyon: Part Dieu (journey time around 15 mins), Jean-Macé (journey time around 25 mins) and Perrache (journey time around 30 mins). A one-way train ticket between La Verpillière and Lyon costs €6.80 or €5.10 if you are aged 12-25 (as of 2017). On Saturdays, if travelling in a group of 2 to 5 people, with the Illico Promo Samedi discount  a one-way train ticket between La Verpillière and Lyon costs €4.10 per person (or free of charge if under the age of 12).
A taxi to Lyon costs around €40-50 depending on the exact destination, so if you are a group of four people this could be an option. Ask to be dropped at one of the metro stations located on the eastern side of town (Vaulx-en-Velin La Soie, Mermoz-Pinel) to save money. Taxis are available at the taxi rank outside Terminal 1 (follow the signs). See the 'By taxi' section below if you want to book a taxi in advance.
Grenoble-Isère Airport (IATA: GNB) is actually about midway between Lyon and Grenoble and is served by some low-cost airlines. There are bus services from Grenoble-Isère Airport to Lyon .
Another possibility is to fly to Geneva Airport (IATA: GVA), which can save money by using low-cost airlines. You can take the train from Geneva Airport to the main railway station in Geneva (Cornavin) free of charge by picking up a complimentary ticket in the baggage reclaim area, and then take a train from Cornavin to Lyon. The journey takes around 2.5 hours (€21.50 for under 26s).
For intercontinental flights to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (IATA: CDG), you can take a TGV (high-speed train) directly from the railway station which is adjacent to Terminal 2 (station name: Aéroport Charles de Gaulle 2 TGV or Paris Aéroport Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle when booking online) to Lyon Part Dieu station. In some cases, this makes the journey faster and more convenient (no need to go from Lyon Saint-Exupéry Airport to Lyon city centre). Trains run every hour or so; be sure to buy an exchangeable ticket to be able to catch the first available train after you land. The low-cost train company OUIGO  also operates train services between CDG railway station and Lyon Part Dieu station.
From Paris Orly Airport (IATA: ORY), take bus 91.10 from the airport to Massy TGV station. The bus departs from stop 5 at entrance C of the South Terminal and entrance H of the West Terminal; the journey time is around 30 minutes and a one-way ticket costs €2 . The platforms of Massy TGV and Massy - Palaiseau are adjacent to each other. From Massy TGV/Massy - Palaiseau, there is a direct TGV train to Lyon Part Dieu station (journey time: 2 hours). The low-cost train company OUIGO  also operates train services between Massy TGV station and Lyon Part Dieu station.
From the rest of France, train is generally the most convenient way to reach the city, except for some regions, the Southwest for example. Lyon has three main train stations serving national and regional destinations:
- Perrache (M/T: Perrache) is the historical station. It is just a short walk away from Place Bellecour and generally more handy if you are staying in the city centre.
- Part-Dieu station (M/T: Part-Dieu) was opened with the first TGV line in 1981. It is in the heart of Lyon's main business district.
- Saint-Exupéry (the station is outside the city and serves the airport).
There are also smaller stations serving suburban and regional destinations: St Paul (B: C3-Gare St Paul), Vaise (M: Gare de Vaise), Jean Macé (M: Jean Macé), Vénissieux (M: Gare de Vénissieux) and Gorge de Loup (M: Gorge de Loup).
Lyon is linked by TGV (fast trains) to Paris (two hours) and Marseille (1 hr 36 min). Many other domestic destinations are served directly, and there are several direct services to Brussels every day (4 hr). TGVs to and from Paris serve both Perrache and Part-Dieu stations; other TGVs generally serve only Part-Dieu.
Coming to Lyon from London by Eurostar  may be interesting. It is faster and easier to change trains in Lille rather than Paris. Hence, if you are traveling from London, England, the best way would be to take Eurostar from St Pancras Station to Gare de Lille Europe and take High Speed Train TGV. If you prefer Paris Gare de Nord, you would need to take RER D to Gare de Lyon Station. The total journey time from London to Lyon will be approx 5h30m. From Paris, you will find other local trains as well to reach Lyon.
A direct Eurostar service from London St Pancras International to Lyon opened in 2015.
For schedules, fares and bookings, see the SNCF website .
International bus services are operated by Eurolines to and from Perrache station .
Lyon is a major automotive hub for central and southern France:
- A6 to the north — Paris.
- A7 to the south — Marseille, Nice, Spain, Italy.
- A43 to the east — Grenoble, the Alps, Northern Italy.
- A47 to the west — Saint-Étienne, Clermont-Ferrand, Massif Central, west of France.
- A42 to the northeast — Bourg-en-Bresse, Geneva (Switzerland), Germany.
The city centre is not so big and most attractions can be reached from each other on foot. The walk from Place des Terreaux to Place Bellecour, for example, is about 20 min. The rule of thumb is that metro stations are generally about 10 min walk apart.
Be careful when crossing major axes: traffic is dense and running red lights is a very popular sport.
You can also tour Lyon while jogging. There are several sightjogging tours of Lyon.
By public transport
Lyon's public transportation system, known as TCL , is regarded as one of the most efficient in the country. Central areas are very well served; so are the campuses and eastern suburbs, where many jobs are concentrated. The western suburbs are more residential and can be difficult to reach. As everywhere in France, the network can be perturbed by strikes from time to time.
There are four metro (subway) lines (A to D). The first line of the network was line... C in 1974 (lines A and B were already planned but line C took less time to complete because it used an existing funicular tunnel). Line A opened in 1978. Trains generally run every 2 to 10 minutes, depending on the line and the time. Information screens above the platforms display the waiting times for the next two trains and useful information such as delays, upcoming closures, etc.
- Line A (red, Perrache - Vaulx-en-Velin La Soie) serves Presqu'île, the neighbourhoods around Parc de la Tête d'Or and then runs under Cours Emile Zola, Villeurbanne's main artery. The last two stops (Laurent Bonnevay and Vaulx La Soie) provide numerous connections with buses to the eastern suburbs. Line A connects with line D at Bellecour, line C at Hôtel de Ville, line B at Charpennes, tram lines T1 and T2 at Perrache and T3 at Vaulx La Soie. It is very busy during rush hours, especially between Bellecour and Hôtel de Ville.
- Line B (blue, Charpennes - Gare d'Oullins) serves most notably Part Dieu station and Gerland stadium. It connects with line A at Charpennes and line D at Saxe-Gambetta.
- Line C (yellow, Hôtel de Ville - Cuire) uses a short cog railway and serves the Croix-Rousse hill. Due to the configuration of the infrastructure, the frequencies are not very good.
- Line D (green, Gare de Vaise - Gare de Vénissieux), the busiest of the four lines, is entirely automated; this allows good frequency in off-peak hours, especially at night and on Sundays. There are many bus connections to the suburbs at Gare de Vaise, Gorge de Loup, Grange Blanche, Parilly and Gare de Vénissieux.
The metro is generally reliable, clean and comfortable. Besides the classical metro, two funiculars run from Vieux Lyon metro station to Saint-Just and Fourvière respectively.
There are also five tram lines (T1 to T5). They are not very interesting if you stay within the city centre; they are most useful to reach campuses and suburban areas.
With more than 100 bus lines, you should be able to go virtually anywhere reasonably far away from the centre. Some of them use trolley (electric) buses; Lyon is one of the few cities in France which still use this system. There are two special bus lines: C1 and C3, where you will find big articulated trolley buses which run very frequently. These are sometimes referred to as Cristalis (actually the brand name of the vehicles) but people do not really use, or even know about this name.
NOTE: On August 29, 2011, a completely redesigned bus network has been put in operation. Make sure you use an up-to-date map. The bus line numbers given in this article are still the old ones and will be updated progressively.
Metros and trams run approximately from 5AM to midnight. Some bus lines do not run after 9PM. Check the TCL website for details.
Maps can be found online:
- Detailed map: . You can ask for a copy of this one in the main metro stations.
The prices are: €1.80 for a single journey (valid for 1 hour after the first use on buses, trams, metro and funiculars, unlimited number of transfers), €5.50 for a daily pass. Tickets can be purchased from electronic kiosks located at the stations, but it is important to note that they do not accept paper money (only coins) and foreign credit cards are likely to be rejected. Tobacco shops and newsagents showing a "TCL" sign also sell tickets. Single tickets can be purchased from bus drivers but the price is €2 in that case. Group tickets are available from the tourist office.
In the directions given in this article, M stands for metro, F for funicular, T for tram and B for bus (line(s) and stop are indicated).
Lyon has an increasing number of safe cycling routes. Problematic points remain, especially when it comes to crossing major roads. Also keep in mind that there are two hills with steep slopes. A map of cycling routes is available online: .
Since May 2005, Lyon has also had a public bicycle service called Vélo'v  which allows travellers, after registering a credit card, to pick up, and drop cycles to and from over 300 points around the city. You need a credit card (Visa/MC/French CB) to make use of the service. It is very cheap:
- 1-day ticket: €1.5, then free for the first 30 min of each ride, €1 for 30 to 60 min, then €2 every 30 min.
- 7-day ticket: €5, then same fares as the 1-day ticket.
30 min is generally more than enough if you stay close to the city centre.
If you have taken a bike and realize that it has a problem (broken chains, warped wheels, flat tyres or even missing pedals are commonplace), just put it back into its place and repeat the procedure to take another one. Be sure to rotate the seat of the damaged bike 180 degrees to indicate to other would-be users that the bike contains problems and should not be taken.
Note that the system has been broadened to accept most worldwide credit/debit cards. If you do have trouble having your card accepted, the transaction is aborted, no explanations given on the terminal. Terminals are supposed to accept all cards with a chip, and most previous difficulties are solved. Also note that you must rent a bike immediately after purchasing a temporary pass or the ticket will become inactive (this is only true for the first rental). The terminals have only limited English translation making it a rough start, but once you get to know the system, it is a great way to move around the city. There are so many bikes that it can sometimes be a problem to return them.
There is an iPhone app called Vélo which can help you find a bike or a free parking slot.
More classical bike rental service is available from:
- Lyon Location, 16b rue d'Alsace, 69100 Villeurbanne (M: République), ☎+33 4 27 46 39 39 ([email protected]), . Mon-Sat 9AM-12PM/3PM-7PM, Sun by appointment. Also rents scooters and motorbikes.Adult bike €14/day, €65/week. edit
Traffic is dense, parking is either very difficult or quite expensive, and there are quite few directional signs. Avoid driving within the city if you can. For the city center, look for signs reading "Presqu'île". In the Presqu'île and other central neighbourhoods, it is strongly advised not to park in 'prohibited parking' areas; you could be towed. Tickets for unpaid parking are also commonplace; a specific brigade of the city police is in charge of checking parking payments in the city centre. The penalty for unpaid parking is €11 (you might get several tickets in the same day in central neighbourhoods); the penalty for parking in a prohibited area is €35. If you park in a dangerous place (e.g., you block an emergency exit), the fine can be up to €135.
The minimum age to rent a car is 21 and an additional charge may be required for drivers under 25 years old. Major rental companies have offices at Part-Dieu and Perrache railway stations, and at the airport. Best to hire from Part-Dieu, as the subsequent navigation is much easier.
Taxis are quite pricey. The maximum limit of fares is fixed by the authorities: €2 when you board, then per km: €1.34 (daytime, 7AM-7PM) or €2.02 (night, Sundays, holidays). The driver may charge a minimum fare of €7 for any trip. There are also a number of possible extra charges: €1.41 for the 4th passenger, €0.91 per animal or large piece of luggage, €1.41 for a pickup at a train station or airport.
You can call a taxi from the following operators:
- ABC Taxi, ☎+33 4 78 20 81 13 ([email protected]), . edit
- AVS Taxi, ☎+33 6 63 62 77 72 ([email protected]). edit
- Allo Taxi, ☎+33 4 78 28 23 23 ([email protected]), . edit
- Lyon Taxi Prestige (Personal Welcome Lyon Airport, City and Wine tours), ☎+33 687 974 790, . Lyon Taxi Prestige, for the regular cost of a taxi, provide high level taxi service in Lyon and everywhere in France. Executive and VIP Service with personal welcome at Lyon Airports and Train stations. City tours. Ski resort transfers, free Wifi on board. edit
- Taxi Connect Lyon, ☎+33 6 87 26 06 29, . edit
- Taxi Lyon, ☎+33 4 72 10 86 86, . edit
- Taxi Lyon Transport Rhône Alpes, ☎+33 4 37 25 29 29 ([email protected]), . edit
- Taxi-Radio, ☎+33 4 72 10 86 86. edit
- Taxi PVS (Pour Vous Servir), ☎+33 4 78 20 00 00, . edit
- Cabtaxi, ☎+33 4 78 750 750. edit
You can reserve a private-hire vehicle (with a driver) from the following operators:
For more information about taxis, see the main France article.
Lyon may not have world-famous monuments such as the Eiffel tower or the Statue of Liberty, but it offers very diverse neighbourhoods which are interesting to walk around and hide architectural marvels. As time goes by, the city also becomes more and more welcoming for pedestrians and cyclists. So a good way to explore it may be to get lost somewhere and enjoy what comes up, and not to always follow the guide...
Local specialities you cannot eat
Another local speciality is painted walls: about 100 trompe-l'oeils of all sizes can be seen around the city.
The Lyon III university building illuminated at night.
A good point for visitors is that most attractions will not cost you a cent: churches, traboules, parks, etc. For those intending to visit several museums (which are almost the only attractions you cannot see for free), the Lyon City Card may be of interest. Available from the Tourist office, it costs €21 for one day, €31 for 2 days and €41 for 3 days. It includes unlimited rides on the public transport network, free or reduced entry fee to major museums and exhibitions and one guided tour per day per person (Vieux Lyon, Croix-Rousse, etc.). The price is still a bit high, so count before you buy to see if this is a good deal considering your plans.
Do not hesitate to buy a detailed map with a street index from a book shop or a newsagent; many places of interest or good restaurants are located in small streets you will not find on simplified maps, such as the ones you can get from the Tourist office.
Whatever the time of year (except for the Fête des Lumières), tourists are not very numerous yet, but they concentrate in a few small areas, especially Fourvière and Vieux Lyon, where the pedestrian streets are just as crowded as the Champs-Elysees sidewalks on sunny weekends.
- The view from Fourvière basilica, and the basilica itself.
- Streets and traboules in Vieux Lyon, St Jean cathedral.
- Traboules in Croix-Rousse.
Off the beaten path:
- Musée urbain Tony Garnier and Etats-Unis neighbourhood.
- St Irénée church, Montée du Gourguillon, St Georges neighbourhood.
- A drink on Place Sathonay.
- Gratte-ciel neighbourhood in Villeurbanne.
After Venice, the Old Lyon, a narrow strip along the right bank of the Saône, is the largest Renaissance area in Europe (well, it's actually far behind Venice). Its current organization, with narrow streets mainly parallel to the river, dates back to the Middle Ages. The buildings were erected between the 15th and the 17th centuries, notably by wealthy Italian, Flemish and German merchants who settled in Lyon where four fairs were held each year. At that time, the buildings of Lyon were said to be the highest in Europe. The area was entirely refurbished in the 1980s and 1990s. It now offers the visitor colorful, narrow cobblestone streets; there are some interesting craftmen's shops but also many tourist traps.
It is divided into three parts which are named after their respective churches:
- St Paul, north of place du Change, was the commercial area during the Renaissance;
- St Jean, between place du Change and St Jean cathedral, was home to most wealthy families: aristocrats, public officers, etc;
- St Georges, south of St Jean, was a craftsmen's district.
The area is generally crowded in the afternoon, especially at weekends. To really enjoy its architectural beauties, the best time is therefore the morning. Around lunchtime, the streets somewhat disappear behind restaurant terraces, postcard racks and the crowd of tourists.
Guided tours in several languages, including English, are available from the tourist office (€9, ).
- St Jean Cathedral, place St Jean (M: Vieux Lyon). M-F 8:15AM-noon, 1:45PM-7:30PM, Sa Su 8:15AM-noon, 1:45PM-7PM; services (no visits) M-F 9AM and 7PM, Sa 9AM, Sun 8:30AM and 10:30AM (high mass). Officially, the cathedral is dedicated to both St John the Baptist (St Jean-Baptiste) and St Stephen (St Etienne) and has the title of primatiale because the Bishop of Lyon has the honorary title of Primat des Gaules. Built between 1180 and 1480, it is mostly of Gothic style with Romanesque elements; the oldest parts are the chancel and the lateral chapels, and as one goes towards the facade, the style becomes more and more Gothic. The cathedral hosts a spectacular astronomical clock originally built in the 14th century but modified later. It is especially worth seeing when the bells ring, daily on the hour from noon-4PM, however since renovations to the church commencing in 2011 the clock has been stopped. Over the main door, the rose window, known as the "Lamb rose window", is an admirable work of art depicting the life of St Stephen and St John the Baptist.Free, appropriate dress required. edit
- St Jean archaeological garden, rue de la Bombarde/rue Mandelot/rue des Estrées (M: Vieux Lyon). Next to St Jean cathedral (on the northern side), this small garden shows the remains of the religious buildings which occupied the site before the cathedral was erected. The oldest remains date back to the 4th century (baptistery of the former St Etienne church).Free. edit
- Traboules, (M: Vieux Lyon). Closed at night. The traboules are a typical architectural feature of Lyon's historical buildings. They are corridors which link two streets through a building, and usually a courtyard. Many traboules are unique architectural masterpieces, largely influenced by Italy and especially Florence.
Some of them are officially open to the public. They link the following addresses:
- 54 rue St Jean <> 27 rue du Boeuf (the longest in Lyon)
- 27 rue St Jean <> 6 rue des Trois Maries
- 2 place du Gouvernement <> quai Romain Rolland.
To open the doors, just press the service button next to the door code keyboard. If you are unable to enter from one side, try the opposite entrance. In the morning, many other doors are open for service (mail, garbage collecting), so more traboules are accessible. There are traboules in almost all buildings between Quai Romain Rolland and Rue St Jean/Rue des Trois Maries, and others between Rue St Jean and Rue du Boeuf.
The buildings are inhabited. As everybody, people who live there like to sleep on Sunday mornings, or may work at night, or simply prefer not being disturbed, so please be as quiet as possible, regardless of whether you are in an 'officially open' or in a 'normally closed' traboule. It is best to whisper when talking because the small courtyards amplify the sound of voices, and even normal conversation can be quite disturbing for the inhabitants.
A view of Part-Dieu business area; in the back, the Part-Dieu Tower, locally known as the "pencil".