Saunders 1865 | Moving to Lyon

Moving to Lyon

Are you moving to Lyon? Ranked 7th in the best places to live in the world, Lyon was the silk capital in bygone days and is now the gastronomic capital of France.  Founded in 43 BC as a Roman colony, its original name was Lugdunum, which means hill of the light.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is famous for both architecture and its historic landmarks.  The second-most populous metropolitan area after Paris, Lyon’s average labour productivity level exceeded that of the rest of France by 21% in 2016, mainly due to the prevalence of R&D companies and high-value industries.

Our free, in-depth Moving to Lyon report includes info on:

• The best areas to live
• The good schools
• The average monthly rental prices
• The excellent public transport system in the city

Putting Lyon on the Map

Situated in east-central France in the Rhône-Alps, Lyon is positioned between Marseille and Paris.

Shaped by its two rivers, the Saône (to the West), and the Rhône (to the East), both of them running north to south, they converge south of the city centre, forming a peninsula.  Bounded by two large hills, one to the west, the other to the north, with a large plain sprawling eastward from the city centre, the original old city, or Vieux Lyon, was constructed on the west bank of the Saône.

The city is divided into nine arrondissements or administrative divisions, and it boasts an excellent public transport system.

  • Greater Lyon is facilitated by the TCL network, with 4 metro lines, 5 tram lines, more than 130 bus lines and 2 funicular lines. A single ticket, used within one hour, enables travel on any or all of these modes of transport.
  • Metro lines run every two to five minutes in peak times
  • Four of the bus lines run throughout the night, with security guards on board.
  • There are 21 Park and Ride facilities.
  • The Gare de Lyon-Perrache is the terminal for most of the regional trains.
  • The Gare de la Part-Dieu is the main station for the high-speed TVG trains running between Marseille and Paris.
  • Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport is 15½ miles from Lyon. A bus service operates to the city centre, and trains run to the Gare de la Part-Dieu station.
  • There are a number of bike pathways along the Rhône and throughout the city. Rental kiosks can be found throughout Lyon, and the first 30 minutes cycle travel is free, with a small fee thereafter.  Lyon is where bike rental services were invented, long before London’s Boris Bike!  For a nominal fee, you can buy an annual bike rental pass.
The Areas

This sprawling city is the second largest in France in terms of overall size, following closely behind Paris.  94% of housing in Lyon is in apartments.

Image result for map of lyon arrondissements



This elegant area, wedged between the two rivers – Presqu’île means “almost an island” – accommodates those looking for an urban existence, with large 18th and 19th century houses.  Within walking distance are markets and restaurants a-plenty, but the traffic is very congested and parking is extremely expensive.  A vibrant nightlife, top class restaurants and exclusive shopping suits young singles and couples.  Rue Mercière is the place to be for foreign and exotic eateries.


Vieux Lyon, or Old Town, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the largest renaissance neighbourhoods in the world.  It may be old, but it is not sleepy, despite the quaint buildings.  Pubs and bars line the streets, and to discover why Lyon is the gastro capital of France, visit the restaurants in the world-famous Bouchons Lyonnais.


This unique area is known as “the hill that works”.  It was once home to the silk trade, but has undergone gentrification and is similar, but smaller, than Montmartre, almost a village on its own.  Aloft on its own hill, Croix Rousse is a trendy and artistic suburb, with winding streets, markets and parks, good schools, and plenty of bars and restaurants.  A network of traboules, which are secret passages between buildings, can be found here and in Vieux Lyon.



This peaceful area is known as “the hill that prays” and is home to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, towering over the city.  The locals enjoy several parks, including Parc de la Visitation and Parc des Hauteurs, both enjoying breath-taking views of the city.  This tranquil and picturesque suburb is one of the premier family-centric areas in the city.


This is Lyon’s most expensive area offering a safe environment to bring up a family.  The magnificent Parc de la Tête d’Or, with a botanic garden, paddle boats on the lake and a free zoo offers good family fun.  This quiet, prestigious area also has its fair share of cafes, shops, restaurants and bars.



Highly underrated, this area suits those who have budget restrictions, students and people who want to live near the city centre.  There are 3 universities: Université Lyon 2 and 3 and the Sciences campus all located here.  A more culturally diverse population, with alternative restaurants catering to those with specialised diets, and more laid-back pubs and bars, appeals mainly to students and singles.


This is the 2nd largest city in the metropolitan district and was once elected the city with the best administration in the country, which attracts more and more people to the area.  Serviced by the Lyon TCL transit system it has a metro line and tramlines and is only 5 miles from Lyon.  The variety of colleges and universities are mainly located on the La Doua Campus, which is home to the Claude Bernard University, CPE Lyon and the Institut National des Sciences Appliquees de Lyon.

Who Lives and Works in Lyon

A major centre of business with an impressive reputation for excellent cuisine, the city has a population of around 1,636,000 while the wider metropolitan area is home to 2,2 million.  Around 13% of the population are foreign-born and are not French citizens.

Lyon has a major industrial area, with many chemical, biotech and pharmaceutical factories and facilities.  It is also home to a large software industry – mainly video games.  The Lumière Brothers created the first motion movie here in 1895, thus making Lyon the birthplace of cinema.

Lyon, due to its location and easy access to the rest of Europe, is economically the most dynamic city in the country.  A qualified workforce, cheaper real estate than Paris and the availability of the many research centres, all add to its attractions.

Lyon is a major commercial centre, hosting innumerable international conventions, and has given its name to one of France’s biggest banks, Crédit Lyonnais. All the major banks are represented here, along with large automotive plants, including Renault.  Both Interpol and Euronews have their head offices here.

The Best Bits

It’s not surprising that Lyon features in the top places worldwide to live.  With a low crime rate, great salaries and opportunities, and enough history to keep you amused for years, this ancient Roman town has mysteries and attractions for you to unfold.

  • The Ancient Theatre of Fourvière. This is probably the oldest Roman amphitheatre in France, and dates back to 15 BC.  The Nuits de Fourvière festival takes place here every summer, with headliners such as the Arctic Monkeys and Elton John.
  • The famous Fête des Luminères is an annual event taking place on the 8th of December. Thousands of lanterns illuminate the city, perching on all the window sills, and there are shows in all the arrondissements.
  • Lyon’s wall murals number over 100 and the number continually increases.
  • When it was part of the Roman empire, Lyon was the capital of France.
  • The 4th Century Traboules. These are secret, narrow, covered passages between the buildings in Croix Rousse and Vieux Lyon.  Initially, they were used by the residents to collect river water.  Then for transporting the silk through the city.  During WWII, the French Resistance used the tunnels to hide and escape from the Gestapo.  It is estimated that there are 400 of these tunnels.
  • The old quarter, with its winding street and picturesque squares, colourful architecture, boutiques and galleries, is festive and vibrant, with many bouchons. Bouchons are restaurants serving the local cuisine.
  • The funicular leaves from the Vieux Lyon station to Fourvière for a panoramic city view.
  • Classified as one of the “plus beaux villages de France”, or the most beautiful villages in the country, Sainte-Croix-en-Jarez is situated in the Du Pilat National Park, which measures 65,000 hectares. There are many mountain bike and hiking trails, with cross-country skiing and snowshoe trails in winter.
  • La Maison aux 365 Fenêtres has 365 windows, 4 main entrances, 2 x six floors, 52 apartments, and two staircases with 164 steps to signify the sun’s ascent to, and descent from, the zenith. Created in 1810 by M Brunet, the house is not open to the public.
  • There are a number of museums, theatres and galleries.
  • Lyon’s Part-Dieu is the largest inner-city shopping centre on the continent as we speak. Should suit any shop-a-holics.
  • There are 14 Michelin star restaurants in Lyon currently. It is also home to another 22 of the best places to eat in France.
  • There is supposedly a “dead mall” in Lyon with ornate architecture and a glass roof. Apparently, these are common features of late 19th and early 20th century shopping centres and arcades.  Unfortunately, no-one seems to know where this mall is.
Bringing the Kids
  • There are at least 15 schools in Lyon that are either bilingual or have an English section.
  • There are three international schools for older children, four primary and two nursery schools.
  • One of the bilingual nursery schools will admit babies.
  • There are hundreds of state schools in Lyon and the surrounding areas. But they are all French speaking.
  • The Université de Lyon forms the largest site of higher education outside of greater Paris. It incorporates the fields of engineering, biomedical technology and science, amongst others.  The site has 19 universities, engineering schools and other academic institutions, with 129,000 scholars enrolled.  Approximately 12,500 students come from outside of France.
Relocating to Lyon

With its mass of culture, entertainment, exquisite architecture, great quality of life, and an amazing history, Lyon is the perfect city for families and singles alike.  The Old and New Cities have distinct differences, with apartments homed in converted, nostalgic houses.  The green areas offer an escape from the city, and the close proximity to the mountains make getting away from it all very easy.  There is a good choice of accommodation in vastly different areas, with great shops and markets nearby.  The skilled workforce, low crime rate, efficient public transport system, and the strengths in finance, industry and software make this an excellent city for expats.  Moving your family can be quite traumatic, especially when it is to another country.  Employing the services of a relocation expert, with an in-depth knowledge of local conditions and the ever-prevalent red-tape, will ease you and your family into your new life with the minimum of fuss.


Good Schools
Great Transport
Museums & Galleries
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Average Monthly Rent - Lyon
Apartment (1 bedroom) in city centre €676.67
Apartment (1 bedroom) outside of centre €552.86
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in city centre €1,258.33
Apartment (3 bedrooms) outside of centre €935.71
Contact us for a free initial consultation about your specific situation.
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Saunders 1865