Travel Guide Rhône-Alpes Lyon



6-Vieux Lyon

6-Vieux Lyon

© Mistrale

Lyon is a city of 1.7 million residents in eastern France, famous for its food and film history. Lyon has its origins in the century before Christ's birth, when it was founded by the Romans and named Lugdunum. A rich history has seen Lyon develop into a vibrant, culturally significant metropolis at the convergence of the Rhône and Saône rivers. It was the centre for the French Resistance and Nazi stronghold during World War II.

It was the home to the Masons in Europe. Nostradamus and Albert Camus were residents. Lyon native and pilot for the Free French Air Force in 1944, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, wrote the Little Prince.




Lyon is shaped by its two rivers, the Rhône (to the East) and the Saône (to the West), which both run North-South. The main areas of interest are:

  • Fourvière hill - 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.
  • Presqu'île - Between the two rivers, the real heart of the city.
  • Croix-Rousse - 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.
  • Confluence - An emerging district with great contemporary architecture in a former industrial area.
  • Part-Dieu - The main business district and home to the main train station of Lyon.
  • Brotteaux - The wealthiest district, next to the beautiful Tête d'Or park.
  • Guillotière - A picturesque district with a large immigrant population.
  • Etats-Unis - An interesting 1920s housing project.
  • Vaise - Another developing district.



Sights and Activities

Place Bellecour

The Place Bellecour is the largest plaza in Lyon and is the largest clear square (ie. without any obstacles like trees) in Europe. In the centre of the square there is a large statue of King Louis XIV mounted on a horse, which was made in 1825. The square is the focal point of the city and has the largest metro station, Bellecour Station, beneath it that connects the A and D lines. The major shopping streets of Rue de la République and Rue Victor Hugo also intersect with the square.


Lyon's Notre Dame Basilica

Lyon's Notre Dame Basilica

© timnz

  • Notre-Dame de Fourvière is a large basilica that was built between 1872 and 1896. The church is a mixture of Romanesque and Byzantine designs and styles giving it a unique look. The interior of the church has great mosaics, stunning stained glass and the tomb of Saint Joseph. The church has four main towers and tall bell tower and is topped with a gilded statue of the Virgin Mary. The church has over 1.5 million visitors each year and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Lyon Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Lyon), construction of this cathedral began in the 12th century and was not completed until 1476. The main feature of the church is the two crosses to the right and left of the altar, which are preserved since the council 1274 as a symbol of the union of the churches. There is also a 14th century astronomical clock in the church.
  • Saint Martin d'Ainay Church is located in the historic centre of Lyon, this church was constructed in the late 10th century. It is one of the few Romanesque Basilica style churches left in Lyon. The church gives a powerful sense of what life was like on the French frontier during the dark ages. The church is built like a fortress with thick walls, heavy doors, narrow windows and large bell tower for sounding the alarm.


  • Museum of Contemporary Art is great contemporary art museum in Lyon.
  • Musee des Beaux-Arts is a great fine arts museum housed in a former Benedictine convent with a nice garden outside. This museum is considered the second best fine arts museum in France. Address 20, place des Terreaux.
  • Natural history Museum is a good museum, with some dinosaurs, located at 28 Boulevard des Belges. It has been closed for a while now.
  • Museum of Gall-Roman Civilization houses many of the artifacts discovered in the Lyon area. It is located underground at 17 rue Cleberg.
  • Institut Lumiere is a museum dedicated to the two brothers who invented the cinematograph in Lyon in 1895. The museum is located at 25 rue du Premier Film.
  • Museum of Printing is dedicated to the history of printing and graphic arts. The musuem is located at 13 rue de la Poulaillerie.
  • Musee des Sapeurs Pompiers du Grand Lyon is one of the biggest firefighter museums in all of Europe. The museum is located at 358 avenue de Champagne.
  • Textile Museum (Musee Des Tissus)) is located in a beautiful 18th century mansion this museum has exhibits on Lyon's 19th century textile industry. The museum is located at 34, rue de la Charité.
  • Centre for the History of the Resistance and Deportation is housed in the former Gestapo headquarters where Klaus Barbie was located. It is open on Sunday afternoon (with some air conditioning) and has exhibits on two floors. Student discounts are available for adults and children. There is a small book shop at the end of the exhibits.

Other Sights and Activities

  • Lyon Town Hall is a beautiful 18th century building that is worth seeing.
  • Tour Métallique de Fourvière is a large steel framework tower that is 85.9 metres high and weighs 210 tons. Construction on the tower was completed in 1894. It was built to be a secular landmark to contrast with the Notre-Dame de Fourvière. At present the tower is used as a TV broadcasting tower.
  • La Mouche is a large market that was created in 1914
  • Sainte Marie de La Tourette is a Dominican priory located in a valley near the city. The priory was built in the late 1950s and has a late modernist design. Built with reinforced concrete in a bare style the site has become a major visiting place for architecture buffs. Due to the number of monks dropping in the last few years, it is possible to arrange an overnight in the priory in one of the empty cells.
  • Opéra National de Lyon is the opera company performing in a modernized version of the original 1831 opera house.
  • The Medieval Quarter is a great place to explore the old buildings, and cobbled stone streets.
  • Roman Ruins are located on the hillside near the Fourviere Basilica is several nice Roman era ruins including a nice theatre. There is also a Gallo-Roman Museum near the ruins located underground. The ruins date back to 45 BC and the theatre is still in use today.
  • Ile Barbe Island is a nice island located along the Saone river.
  • Shopping can be found on the streets of Rue de la République and Rue Victor Hugo.



Events and Festivals

  • Fête des lumières is a popular festival which displays exciting light-based projects all over the city of Lyon. Usually covering four days leading up to the 8th December, the festival origins date back to the plague of 1643 and the celebration of the protection of the Virgin Mary. The modern festival is now more than just a religious celebration, and visitors from all over the world come to see the fanastical light installations that are are on offer.




Lyon lies on the border of a maritime and humid subtropical climate, with Mediterranean influences in summer and sometimes cold winds during winters. Average maximum temperatures in summers (June to September) are 24-27 °C with nights in the 13-16 °C range. Winters from December to February see highs of 6-8 °C with nights just above zero on average, though lows of almost -20 °C have been recorded under severe circumstances. In summer, temperatures can hit almost 40 °C sometimes. Precipitation is fairly even throughout the year with around 60 mm a month on about 10 to 12 days each month. Annual rainfall is around 850 mm and summers are just a bit wetter. Snow is possible in winter, but doesn't last very long in general.

Avg Max6.2 °C8.4 °C12.4 °C15.3 °C20 °C23.5 °C27 °C26.7 °C22.3 °C16.7 °C10.2 °C7.1 °C
Avg Min0.1 °C1.2 °C3.3 °C5.6 °C9.9 °C13.1 °C15.6 °C15.3 °C11.9 °C8.4 °C3.6 °C1.5 °C
Rainfall52.9 mm50.5 mm54.8 mm72.3 mm87.8 mm80.2 mm62 mm69 mm88.3 mm94.7 mm75.1 mm55.5 mm
Rain Days9.498.89.511.



Getting There

By Plane

Saint-Exupéry International Airport (LYS) is located 20 kilometres east of the city centre of Lyon. It services flights to and from other cities in France, Europe and Africa. Air France is the main airline providing domestic routes to Lyon. It is in Terminal 2, along with Royal Air Maroc while all other airlines are based in Terminal 1.
In 1994 the LGV Rhône-Alpes high-speed rail line brought TGV service to the airport, providing direct trains to Paris and Marseille.

By Train

The high speed train (TGV) runs from Paris (Gare de Lyon) to Lyon (Part Dieu) or Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) to Lyon (Perrache). Arrive at the station early to have your ticket validated at a yellow machine. Make sure that you read the signboards on the platform very carefully before entering the train. Lyon is also connected Lille, Brussels, and in the future Amsterdam to the north, and Marseille, Montpellier, and in the future Barcelona and Turin to the south by the TGV.

There could be two trains arriving as a single joined train. When the trains leave the station, they will separate into two trains heading in different directions. You want to compare the terminus of your train to the terminus listed for the trains marked on the sign to enter the correct train. Then compare your car number to the numbers on the sign. This will tell you where to stand on the platform under the area signs to enter the correct car.
Luggage is stored on a rack (pack light!). Bathrooms are gender-specific and one is on each level. The cars are two levels tall. There is a snack bar on the upper level.

By Car

Lyon lies at the crossroads of several highways: the A6 (to Paris), the A7 (to Marseille), the A42 (to Geneva), and the A43 (to Grenoble). The city is now bypassed by the A46 highway as well.

By Bus

Eurolines has buses to other cities in France, as well as to other countries throughout Europe.



Getting Around

By Car

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.

By Public Transport

TCL (Transports en Commun Lyonnais) provides the public transport system in Lyon. There is an extensive bus, tram and metro system. The subway network has 4 lines:

  • The Red A Line
  • The Blue B Line
  • The Yellow C Line
  • The Green D Line.

Togethere there are 39 stations and there are connections with a frequency up to 2 minutes during the busiest hours, less so during the evenings. Also check the lines at urbanrail.

You can purchase your ticket for the metro from vending machines but the credit cards must have a microchip. This is common in Europe but not the USA. Paper banknotes (cash) are not accepted so make sure you have plenty of coins. The same ticket works on the bus and metro for 1 hour from the time of purchase. A carnet (10 rides) of tickets can be purchased at a reduced rate at the vending machines. You can buy a daily ticket for €5.20 (July 2014) which lets you go on all the trains, buses and funiculaire as often as you like, but there doesn't seem to be a concession for children, and it specifies 4+ needs a ticket.

There are four tram lines: T1 from Montrochet in the south to IUT-Feyssine in the north, Tram T2 from Perrache railway station in the southwest to Saint-Priest in the southeast, Tram T3 from Part-Dieu to Meyzieu, and Tram T4 from Mendès-France to Feyzin. There are also two funicular lines from Vieux Lyon to Saint-Just and Fourvière.

The bus system runs in Lyon and the outer suburban areas. In the suburbs, each stop has a schedule posted. Larger stops have a map, schedule, bench and shelter. The ticket can be purchased from the driver. However, cash in small denominations is appreciated. After you purchase the ticket, stick it in the validation machine right next to the driver with the dark strip facing up and keep it after it is validated. If you are caught riding without a validated ticket, there is a large fine.

In Lyon, the busstops have automated signs showing you when the next several buses will arrive at your stop.

By Foot

Lyon is very manageable on foot. The area is small and the free maps, from the tourist bureau, list almost every street in the city.

By Bike

Vélo'v provides a bicycle network where you can hire bicycles at a low cost. The service includes the hiring of bicycles which can be picked up and dropped off at any of 340 stations throughout the city. Borrowing a bicycle for less than 30 minutes is free.




Lyon is the centre for traditional French cuisine. Some of the best chefs in the world have restaurants in Lyon. In Old Lyon, Bouchons serve traditional fare. For more information, check the Bouchons article. Bellecour Square (La Place Bellecour) has modern eats and chain restaurants.

Restaurants have their menus with prices displayed outside. As everywhere in France, the prices always include service, bread and tap water (ask for a carafe of water). Tipping is rare and only expected if you are particularly satisfied with the service. This is especially true in budget or mid-range restaurants, maybe less so in expensive places where it may be considered more appropriate; nothing is compulsory, though. Typical tips depend, of course, on the price of the menu and your level of satisfaction but they are generally not as high as in the US, for example. If you pay by credit card and wish to add a tip, you can tell the person in charge how much he/she should charge your card.




Lyon offers some nice nightlife. A good starting point is Place des Terreaux and then upwards towards the Croix Rousse. In the streets that climb the hill there are many nice places.

  • The Wallace Bar is a British pub in Old Lyon by the river. It has 2 levels and outdoor seating. There is a bus stop across the street.




It is generally not difficult to find a hotel room in Lyon, except for the Fête des Lumières and during some important professional trade shows like SIRHA (food, hotels and restaurants) and POLLUTEC (environment technology), when every last room in and around Lyon is booked. You can find hotels from the major chains, such as Sofitel, Hilton, Best Western, Accor, as well as many independent hotels.


You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)




Money can be made by giving private English lessons. Most French are keen to speak English. There are some schools which accept non-TEFL qualified teachers, but obviously a qualification helps. Try Berlitz or Demos. There are several anglophone pubs which employ young anglophone workers, occasionally with limited French. Speaking French to a reasonable level is often a must, even though bar vocabulary is limited. There is an ANPE next to the Opera on Rue de la Republique. Just go in, you don't have to book, and there are lots of job vacancies to be found. Also search for a shelf with black folders on it. They contain details of better paid jobs.






Keep Connected


France is one of the best connected countries in the world, with data speed for upload/download ranked among the top 5 in the world. Most hotels and hostels would have in-house facilities to provide free internet access. Many major cities also have initiatives put in place to provide free wi-fi connection in public spaces. Alternatively there are internet cafés available in most cities/towns at a reasonable rate. Some private businesses, such as local cafés (or even the Starbuck's chain), may also provide wi-fi connectivity - keep an eye out for the signs by the shop windows/doors. Also look for the @ symbol prominently displayed, which indicates internet availability. However, with most homes now wired for the internet, cyber cafés are increasingly hard to find, especially outside the major cities.


See also: International Telephone Calls

To dial an international number from France, the IDD is 00, followed by the country code that you wish to dial, the area code and the phone number.
To call France from abroad, start with the international direct dialing (IDD) code from the country you're in, followed by French country code 33, the area code (drop the first zero in front of the area code), and the phone number. French telephone numbers are rarely given without the area code. The telephone number, including the area code, is made up of 10 digits. They are written in a set of 5 pairs of digits (i.e. 01 xx xx xx xx xx).
In France, the area code designations are: 01 - Paris Area ("Région Ile-de-France"), 02 - northwest, 03 - northeast, 04 - southeast, 05 - southwest, 06 - mobile phone providers. From 2010 onwards, 07 will also be assigned to mobile phone providers in order to cater for the surging demands for mobile phones.

Emergency numbers are 15 (medical aid), 17 (police station) and 18 (fire/rescue). You can also use the European emergency number 112 (perhaps a better choice if you don't speak French). These calls are free and accessible from virtually any phone, including locked cellphones.

France uses the GSM standard of cellular phones (900 MHz and 1800 MHz bands) used in most of the world outside of the U.S. There are several companies (Orange, SFR, Free, Bouygues Télécom and some others MVNOs like Virgin Mobile) offering wireless service. The country is almost totally covered but you may have difficulties using your mobile phone in rural or mountainous areas. If you stay for some time, it may be advisable to buy a pre-paid cell phone card that you can use in any phone that supports the GSM standard on the 900/1800 MHz bands. Then incoming calls and SMSes are free.


La Poste in France is also referred to as the PTT (short for postes, télégraphes et téléphones). The mailboxes are painted bright yellow and often there is a slot for local city mail and another slot for "outside mail". Normally there is a queue in the post office, but most of the post offices have the self service machine installed which is quite easy to operate. Nowadays many of the tabac and even some of the souvenir shops also sell postage stamps. Normally an overseas postcard costs almost as much as sending a letter. Mails sent in France also have a zip code. The first two numbers represent the administrative department (e.g. in Paris' case that would be 75).

Post offices are generally open from 8:00am to 7:00pm Monday through Friday, and 8:00am to noon on Saturdays. Apart from the basic job of mailing letters, most of the post offices do some banking activities also and some even have photocopy machines and cyber cafes for internet access.

For international package services, you might also check options with companies like DHL, UPS or TNT, which have competitive services and prices and might be faster in most cases.


Quick Facts


  • Latitude: 45.767299
  • Longitude: 4.834329

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