France’s third largest city and the capital of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, Lyon is home to half a million people. It lies at the heart of metropolitan area of over 2 million people.
Founded by order of the senate for Roman refugees, Lyon has been on the cross-roads of European history for many centuries. In 1572 the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of protestants by catholics took place and many historic buildings were razed during the French Revolution. The Lumière brothers invented the cinematograph here.
Nowadays, Lyon is known for its cuisine, having been referred to as the gastronomic capital of the world. It is the headquarters of INTERPOL and is centre for banking, software and pharmaceuticals. Tourists are attracted by amazing architecture, impressive street art, great shopping opportunities, many museums and its vibrant gay scene.
For gay rights in France, please see our Gay Paris City Guide page.
Although small in comparison to Paris, Lyon’s gay scene is one of the most vibrant in France. Most venues are concentrated in Vieux Lyon. In Lyon you will find Gay Bars, Dance Clubs, Cruise Clubs, Gay Saunas and massage service catering for gay clientele.
Lyon is an incredibly diverse city and every June the city opens its arms and celebrates the immensely popular pride festival. There is also a Queer Film Festival held in March and a gay-themed film festival in nearby Saint-Etienne every November.
Saint-Exupéry Airport (LYS) is located 25km east of the city centre. It is France’s 4th busiest airport and is well connected to destinations in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, North America and France’s Overseas Departments.
The Rhônexpress tram service takes you to directly to the city centre in half an hour. It is an expensive service (€15.90) one way and is fit with wifi and plug sockets. Services run from 5am until midnight. Tickets can be bought in advance online, at ticket machines on the station or from the steward (an extra €4 charge applies).
A cheaper public transport option is to take bus 1950 to La Verpillière railway station (note there are no bus services on Sunday). This bus service costs €4.70 and from here you can take a train into the city centre for €6.80. With waiting times and transfers this journey should take around an hour.
There is a taxi rank outside Terminal 1 although it could be easier and more cost-effective to pre-order one. A journey into the city can cost anything in the region of €45 to €70 depending on time of day and final destination. Journey times are around half an hour.
Lyon has two main train stations in the city centre. Part-Dieu station is located in the financial district and Perrache is the historical station. Both offer good connections throughout France. Direct international services from Part-Dieu include destinations in Spain, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and the UK via Eurostar.
Although Lyon is a big city, its city centre is easily navigable by foot. It would take about 20 minutes to get from Place des Terreaux to Place Bellecour and metro stops are usually around 10 minutes away from each other. Traffic can dense at major intersections and drivers frequently flout red lights.
By public transport
Lyon has an efficient and integrated public transport network run by TCL. Tickets cost €1.80 for an hour’s travel across the network of metro trains, buses, trolley busses, trams and funicular lines. Daily passes start at €5.50 and can be purchased from machines at the station (they only accept coins) and shops displaying a TCL sign.
Metros, trams and the funiculars run from around 5am up until midnight with waiting times in the regions of 2 minutes to 10 minutes depending on the time of day and the line. Some bus lines do not run after 9pm however there is an hourly night bus service on some lines called “Pleine Lune” (full moon).
Taxis are quite expensive in Lyon and a driver can choose to charge €7 for any journey. Extra charges can apply for luggage, pick ups from the train station or airport and 4th passengers. There are taxi ranks but it may be more time efficient and cost effective to book in advance.
For some of the best hotel choices for gay travellers in Lyon, please visit our Gay Lyon Hotels page.
Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière – built in the 19th century and a fusion of Byzantine and Romanesque architecture, this church is one of the iconic images of Lyon. Locals joke that the building looks like an upside down elephant.
Musée Gadagne – located in the centre of Lyon, this museum is actually comprised of two museums. The Lyon history museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the varied past of this intriguing city. The museum of world puppets is slightly creepy.
Passage Thiaffait – one of Lyon’s famous covered walkways in the old silk merchant’s quarter. This area is filled with artists’ workshops and is a great spot to buy a gift for someone.
Parc de la Tête d’Or – large urban park opened in 1857. This is a perfect place to while away sunny afternoon. There is a boating lake, huge greenhouses and a zoo here, which is famous for its “African Plains” collection.
Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse – a fantastic spot to see why Lyon has the reputation of being a gourmet capital. This indoor market has spots where you can sit in for a spot of lunch and wine. You can also take away gastronomical delights to sample at a later date or take on a picnic.
Institut & Musee Lumière – fascinating museum dedicated to the fathers of cinema housed in a gorgeous art nouveau building. Some of the exhibition is in English but it is recommended to pay €3 for a guide.
Despite its proximity to the Alps, snow is actually uncommon here. Although the summer months are the driest, rain is quite unpredictable here and can appear at anytime. June and September are probably the best months to visit as the weather is usually pleasant and there are less tourists. Winter winds from the Alps can be biting.
In honour of Lyon’s film heritage, the city hosts the Festival Lumière which attracts stars of French and international cinema. There is also the biennial festivals of dance and modern art and December’s iconic Festival of Lights. May sees the Nuits Sonores electroinc music festival descend on the city. Pride is held June.
France is a Euro area country. Cash dispensers are widely available. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted. Hotels, banks and some local businesses also operate foreign exchange desks.
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