Living in Lyon (The Complete Guide)

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Living in Lyon

For most people outside the country, Paris is the first place that comes to mind when they hear France. As such, some overlook living in Lyon when they think of moving to France. Big mistake. Parisians themselves, it turns out, are moving to Lyon in record numbers.

Lyon is a rich and beautiful city that has become the heart of several sectors of the industry in France. Old and young people alike are developing an appetite for the city (quite literally for some).

What’s drawing all of them to the city? And what might convince you to make the move? We’ll look at a couple of those reasons in this article. Most of the residents struggle to mention any downsides to living in Lyon, but we’ll cover a couple of them as well to make sure you know what to expect.

But before we get to that, why is the city also known as “The belly of France”?

Les Mères Lyonnaises

French for “Mothers of Lyon”, Mères Lyonnaises is a phrase that describes the women that gave birth to the culinary culture that Lyon is so popular for today. You can almost imagine what they looked like; plump female chefs cooking hearty (probably cholesterol-raising) meals.

They combined traditional French techniques with local ingredients to create their meals. It must have worked because, for people who love food, Lyon might as well be the capital of France.

This has drawn many tourists to the city to try the many edible delights the city has to offer (after all that is what most people first learn about Lyon). Some choose to stay, however, and there are many good reasons to (besides the food, that is).

PROS of living in Lyon

· Quality of Life

Many of the people who move into the city from the nation’s capital list the better living conditions as one of the major factors that influenced their choice to move. Some of those living in Lyon rate the city as having less traffic than Paris and shorter commuting times. Walking to your destination is common in the city.

And you would want to walk. There’s a lot of beauty in the cityscape. And as you can imagine there’s a restaurant to fit almost every taste. There are several leisure activities as well, so spending your free time never becomes tedious.

A lot of them revolve around theatre and cinema, but there’s also a significant sporting presence and culture in the city, so be sure to check out the several attractions of the sort if you’re interested. A great mix of work and play if you ask me.

Lyon allows you to be invigorated by that big city, metropolitan feel, without the resulting burnout that you’d get from some of the more high-energy cities. Lyon can be fast or slow when you want it.

· Comparatively affordable housing

France’s capital city is beautiful; a tourist destination on everyone’s list. Many people also want to live there. So it isn’t surprising that Paris is one of the most expensive places in the world when it comes to housing costs. Paris Property Group ranks the city as the 4th most expensive real estate city in the world.

And that’s where Lyon comes in. On average, the same size apartment in Lyon costs less than half what it does in Paris, and this applies to apartments both within and outside the city centers. In fact, for apartments outside the heart of both cities, spaces in Lyon cost less than a third of what they do in Paris.

This is also the case when you’re considering renting a space instead of buying. We’ll take a closer look at this later in this guide.

For many people, savings like these are all they need to choose living in Lyon over moving to Paris. But wait, there’s more.

· Value for money

Compared to Paris, living in Lyon is cheaper, and not only when it comes to housing. This means your salary will most likely go a longer way in Lyon than in France’s capital city. What are some of the other things you can hope to save on?

For starters almost all foodstuff and groceries are cheaper in Lyon than in Paris; whether you’re buying bananas or beef rounds. Most transportation-related costs are either the same in both cities or more expensive in Paris. Even private preschool and primary school fees are significantly higher in Paris. 

And the salary in Paris, although higher, isn’t enough to account for all the associated costs. It doesn’t take an accountant to figure out which city is better for you.

· Business freedom/Job opportunities

Lyon has always been one of the best places in France for those hoping to solve a problem and create value. Many business-minded Frenchmen (and women) would have settled within the city during the Renaissance when it became known as the silk-manufacturing capital of Europe.

It’s been a bumpy road since then; French Revolution, a couple of world wars, however, Lyon retains much of that heritage. The city is still a business powerhouse of Europe but is now more diversified.

Textiles (mostly rayon and silk), construction, food, and printing are some of the notable industries in the city. However, the production of chemicals has become the key industry in Lyon. The metallurgical industry is also very important, providing equipment for many other sectors of the economy.

The city also has a more recent but notable tech industry (mostly focused on software) that has drawn many young minds to the city.

Lyon is a Global city; if you search long enough you’ll find a place for almost any skill.

CONS of living in Lyon

· Cheaper than Paris, but not cheap

Lyon gives you greater value for your money compared to the French capital city, but by global standards, it is still an expensive city. Depending on where you’re moving from, you can expect to spend quite a bit more if you’re living in Lyon.

Mercer places Lyon among the 30 most expensive cities in Europe (29th to be precise). We’ll cover what some of those expenses might look like in a bit, so you can have an idea of what a move to Lyon would mean for your pocket.

· Traffic

Most residents find it difficult to point out major downsides to living in Lyon, but quite a few feel that the traffic could be an issue. The holidays are the most notorious times with regards to congested roads when you have a lot of people leaving or entering the city.

The last weekends of July and the first of August are times to watch out for. At the daily level, rush-hour times (8-10 a.m. and 4-6 p.m.) see the most traffic.

It’s a great city, all in all, and most of the other issues you may find with Lyon might either be personal or simply mild disturbances.

Cost of living in Lyon

All figures below are according to the averages of over a thousand entries by multiple contributors on Numbeo (Click to view a more detailed cost analysis).

Rent

For a one-bedroom apartment, the price of an accommodation per month goes from about $650 if you choose to live outside the city center, to over $850 for a place within the city’s central area.

However, if you need more space, for example, a 3-bedroom apartment that could fit a typical four-person family, you could find one in the city center for between $1700 and $1800 a month, while one on the outskirts of the city would go for about $1300.

Transportation

Lyon has a very effective and affordable public transportation system, comprising of trains, trams, and buses that can get you within walking distance of any place within this small city.

A one-way ticket costs about $2.21 while a monthly pass (which will most likely be more convenient) costs just under $75. Taxi rates are more varied and subjective. Like many Lyonnais, you might intend to drive yourself, in which case it would be helpful to note that a liter of fuel costs $1.74.

Lyon is a compact city, and if you fancy walking, you might also want to take advantage of that.

Food

For a Western-style diet, your average grocery shopping list would amount to about $375, while an Asian-style diet would cost about $275 for 31 days. Numbeo has a more detailed list of each food item and their corresponding price in Lyon.

This is Lyon, and you will be eating out, at least once in a while even if it’s just to treat yourself. A meal at a small, inexpensive restaurant would cost about $15 while a three-course meal for two at a nice mid-range restaurant would set you back about $60.

Utilities

The usual expenses (electricity, heating, water, etc.) cost about $180 a month in total, while an internet connection costs about $40.

Total cost of living in Lyon

Monthly living costs for a single person max out at about $2000. For a family of four, the expenses could go as high as almost $5500.

Places to visit in Lyon

This is a tough one because it means choosing just a few out of so many great destinations.

The Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière is probably the most notable building in Lyon, often used as a way to orient oneself in the city because as it stands on the highest hill in the city, it’s visible from almost anywhere in Lyon.

Its beauty and complexity are a great representation of what Lyon is like to new residents; stunning enough for any travel poster, and interesting enough to continue learning about.

There are museums, theatres, art galleries, and more restaurants than you can hope to visit in a year (maybe even two). It’s no wonder that Lyon is home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Conclusion

There’s not much else to say; Lyon is in France after all, one of the most sought-after places to live in. The city delivers a great French experience and is welcoming many people hoping to start a new life in a beautiful and fascinating place. Now you know what to expect from living in Lyon, the next question is “will you?”