Wondering about the pros and cons of living in Lyon?
With its temperate climate, delicious food, and excellent location, it’s no wonder so many people consider making Lyon their home. In fact, it’s one of the best cities for expats in France!
But don’t start packing yet. There are a lot of things you’ll want to consider before making the move.
I’ve been living in France for more than six years and I know all that Lyon has to offer. I also have more than 10 years as an expat under my belt, so I know what to look for in a new place.
In this post, I’ll share with you the pros and cons of living in Lyon so that you can decide if it’s the right place for you.
Table of Contents
Pros of Living in Lyon
Located in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of France, Lyon has so much to offer its residents. From cultural activities to modern public transport, there are tons of reasons why people choose to call this beautiful city home!
Let’s dive into the pros of living in Lyon.
1. Tons of Things to Do
With its vibrant nightlife, delicious food, and stunning architecture, there’s no shortage of things to do in Lyon.
Marvel at the ever-magnificent Fourvière Basilica, stroll through the lush gardens of Parc de la Tête d’Or, or attend the infamous Nuits Sonores. There are countless activities available throughout the year that make living here enjoyable.
My favorite was getting lost in the hidden alleyways or traboules. And just when I thought I’d seen them all, I discovered another one!
2. Strong Expat Community
One of the best things about living here is that it’s easy to meet other people who have similar interests and experiences. Not only that but Lyon has a solid expat community that actively provides resources for anyone who wants to settle down in the area.
There are different groups depending on your nationality or native language. And they often organize activities, such as networking events and cultural outings.
It’s a great way to stay connected with your own background while adjusting to life in France.
Useful Tip: A popular group for American expats is the American Club of Lyon.
3. Beautiful Architecture
When it comes to architecture, Lyon is one of the most beautiful cities in France. From iconic Renaissance buildings to modern skyscrapers, there’s no shortage of instagrammable sights to admire.
Of course, you can find magnificent buildings all over Lyon, but Vieux Lyon and La Croix-Rousse have the most colorful structures. And if you prefer something more modern, Confluence and La Part-Dieu are spectacular.
Such variety contributes to the excellent quality of life you’ll have here. And you can be sure that the city will continue to invest in and maintain the beauty of Lyon.
4. Cheaper than Paris
Living in Paris is often seen as an aspirational move, but with its high cost of living, it can be a tough place to settle down. If you’re looking for a more affordable option with a similar lifestyle, Lyon is the next best choice.
On average prices for groceries and transportation are about 18% cheaper in Lyon than in Paris. But the biggest difference is the cost of accommodation.
As an example, a one-bedroom apartment in the center of Lyon goes for €756. The same apartment in Paris would be €1,320.
5. Incredible Food
If you’re looking to live in a city with incredible food, then Lyon is the place to be. As the Gastronomic Capital of France, it has long been renowned for its culinary delights. From traditional bouchons to modern bistros, there are endless options.
You can even eat at Michelin-starred restaurants, after all, there are a whopping 19 of them!
My favorite places to eat were the boulangeries. It might sound basic, but the sandwiches were not. Every bite was full of flavor and the ingredients were always fresh.
6. Great Public Transportation
With its reliable metro, bus, and tramway, getting around town is a breeze. In fact, the public transportation in Lyon is some of the most efficient in France.
It’s well-designed and the layout is easy to use. So, there’s no need to worry about spending hours in traffic jams or paying lots of money for parking.
Not only that but it’s cheap. A single ticket is only €1.70!
7. Good Air Quality
The air quality in Lyon is one of the major pros of living in this amazing city. In fact, the Air Quality Index fluctuates between Good and Medium throughout the year. And is rarely outside the air quality range recommended by the World Health Organization.
The major contributing factor to the air quality in Lyon is its location. It sits at the junction of the Rhône and Saône rivers and is close to the mountains, which means that it’s well-ventilated.
But that’s not all.
Lyon has also implemented various eco-friendly policies. The municipal government promotes cycling and has installed modern metros and zero-emission buses.
They continue to make vast strides, which will only improve the air quality.
8. Centrally Located
As the capital of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, Lyon is perfectly situated between Paris and Marseille. High-speed TGV trains run to and from Lyon throughout the day making it easy to get just about anywhere.
For example, from Lyon, direct trains run to Paris, Strasbourg, Marseille, and Montpellier. There are also connections to Switzerland, Italy, and Luxembourg.
It makes expat life much easier knowing that a city is well-connected. In fact, this is one of the most important things to consider before relocating.
9. Good Quality of Life
One of the biggest advantages of living in Lyon is the quality of life. It has a cosmopolitan atmosphere with plenty of options for people of all ages. The city also boasts fantastic restaurants, shops, and parks, so you’re never bored here.
And when compared to other major European cities, the cost of living is relatively low. This combined with its thriving economy makes Lyon a very desirable place to live.
10. Big but Not Too Big
As the third largest city in France, you might think Lyon is only for people who want a big city lifestyle.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
While it offers the amenities of a big city, you still feel connected to your neighbors.
The pace of life is also pleasant. It’s not as slow as a southern city like Nice, but not as fast as Paris. I never had people pushing me to get on the metro in Lyon like I did when I lived in Paris, for example.
It’s the perfect compromise between a small town and a metropolis.
11. Rich Cultural Heritage
Lyon is a culturally rich city, boasting centuries-old monuments and museums.
In fact, its history began under the reign of the Romain Empire in 43 BCE. And many of the structures that were built during its early years are still intact. They are open to the public without any entrance fees, so you can visit them at your leisure.
Imagine waking up early and watching the sunrise from the Roman amphitheater. It’s an incredible sight that you can only experience in Lyon.
Then, if you want a more in-depth take on its history, there are museums like Lugdunum – Musée & Théâtres Romains.
Needless to say, history buffs and cultural fiends will love living here.
12. Excellent Health Care
When it comes to choosing a city to live in, one of the most important factors is access to quality health care. In Lyon, excellent health care is available and accessible for all residents.
Out-of-pocket expenses on visits and prescriptions are never more than 25% of the total bill. So, the average cost of a primary care doctor’s visit is only €6.
While this isn’t as good as the healthcare that’s in Strasbourg, it’s still cheaper than in the United States.
13. Mild Winters
While other parts of France experience freezing temperatures, Lyon enjoys relatively mild weather throughout the winter months.
January is the coldest month of the year, but it rarely dips below zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit). Every now and then, it does snow, but it’s not that common.
If you don’t like living in cold climates but still want four seasons, Lyon is the perfect compromise.
Cons of Living in Lyon
Living in Lyon is a dream for many people. It has beautiful architecture, delicious food, and lots of things to explore. But it’s not all sunshine and roses. There are some definite drawbacks to living in this city that you should be aware of before making the move.
Let’s look at some of the cons of living in Lyon.
14. Driving is a Nightmare
Driving in Lyon is an absolute nightmare. Roads are not maintained and most of them are one-way, so traffic jams are frequent.
Street signs are few and far between and, when there is one, it’s impossible to read. You might think that you can use your GPS to solve this issue but think again. Detours are everywhere!
There’s almost no free parking, and spaces are hard to come by. During rush hour, you can easily spend an hour looking for a spot.
Luckily, public transport in Lyon is good because driving is a challenge.
15. Direct Flights are Non-Existent
While Lyon does have an international airport, it’s not useful. And the word international is a stretch.
Most flights are to other cities in France, with the occasional option to fly to another European city.
That means if you want to take a vacation outside of Europe, you’ll have to fly out of Paris or another nearby city.
While direct trains from Lyon to Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport do exist, it still is an inconvenience. It’s definitely something to keep in mind when making your decision.
16. Limited Job Opportunities
Lyon is a major financial and business center in France, but the economic climate has slowed down over the past few years.
While unemployment is lower than the national average (6.9% in Lyon vs 7.3% in France), jobs are still limited. And you might have to broaden your search beyond the city itself if you want something stable.
17. High Cost of Living
One of the biggest cons of living in Lyon is its high cost of living.
Yes, it’s cheaper than Paris, but it’s still one of the most expensive cities in France.
Rent prices are high and the food isn’t cheap. And you can expect to pay a premium for luxury items or name brands.
Of course, there are ways to save money, but all these high prices are a hefty monthly expense that could easily break your budget if you aren’t careful.
Useful Tip: If you’re looking for a cheaper city, consider living in Strasbourg!
18. Language Barrier
Even though Lyon is a cosmopolitan city, there is a significant language barrier.
As a tourist, you might not notice it because most attractions have descriptions in both English and French. But for everyday tasks like grocery shopping or doctor’s visits, you’ll need to speak French. There are not many locals who speak English or any other foreign language for that matter.
I recommend learning some basic French before you arrive (at least the most common French greetings). Your life will be much easier!
19. Might Be Too Lively for Some
There’s no denying that Lyon is a bustling city, but it might not fit with everyone’s lifestyle.
During the high tourist season, the streets are full of people. Restaurants and museums often require reservations. And the quiet spot you had in Parc de la Tête d’Or is no more. It’s so overcrowded that it’s unbearable.
Granted, it’s not as bad as Paris, but it’s still a lot.
If you don’t think you can handle it then, Lyon might not be the right city for you.
Useful Tip: I recommend spending a couple of days in Lyon during the summer. That way you can get a feel for how the city is at this time of the year.
20. Hot Summers
Lyon has a mild climate, but the summers can get hot. July is often the warmest with temperatures soaring to 27 degrees Celsius (81 degrees Fahrenheit).
But that’s not the worst part.
The heat tends to linger in the small, congested streets. And most establishments like restaurants don’t have air conditioning. If you’re lucky you might find an apartment that has an air conditioner, but it’s not common.
In fact, in all my years in France, I’ve never met anyone that had air conditioning. Summers are hot and sweaty and that’s just the way it is.
21. Limited Housing
Finding an apartment in Lyon can be a daunting task. The city has limited housing and competition for available apartments is high.
As a result, prices are steep, and landlords often ask for large deposits to secure the property.
I recommend finding temporary accommodation before you arrive. That way you can take your time finding an apartment that fits your needs.
22. Lots of Taxes
One of the biggest cons of living in Lyon, or any other city in France, is the high taxes. From income tax to social security contributions, it’s hard to believe you’ll have any money at the end.
And while your take-home pay is lower, all these taxes are put back into the country.
This means you don’t have to worry about health insurance or retirement. And, if you need to go on sick leave for an extended period, as permitted by the law, you’ll continue to receive part of your salary.
So, in a way, it’s a con to living in Lyon, but it’s a far bigger pro, once you know what you’re paying for.
23. Complex Bureaucracy
If there’s one thing I hate about France, it’s the bureaucracy. It’s a problem in every single city and Lyon is not an exception.
Expect long wait times, confusing paperwork, and unforgiving government employees.
You’ll go to your visa appointment with all the required documents, and they will find a reason to delay your application.
There’s a French saying – jamais deux sans trois (never two without three).
Most of the time you’ll need to do things at least three times without any rational explanation. It’s something I’ve learned to accept and deal with as an expat. If you try to argue or disagree with the administrator who is handling your file, it will take even longer.
Conclusion: Living in Lyon
Living in Lyon has its pros and cons. While it’s difficult to find affordable housing and navigate the bureaucracy, it’s a beautiful vibrant city with tons of things to do. Not only that but the public transport is phenomenal, and the food is divine! In fact, there are so many advantages, it makes the disadvantages seem minute. So, if you’re looking for a city that’s full of flavor and history, then Lyon is definitely worth considering.
Read More Articles About France
I hope you enjoyed my post about living in Lyon and found it useful. Here are some other articles about France that I think you might find interesting.
- Language in Paris: A Practical Guide with Tips and Phrases
- Is France Worth Visiting? 13 Reasons Why You Should!
- I Love France – Why Do You Love France or French?