Moving to Lyon
Lyon may come second to Paris in terms of population and wealth, but it certainly doesn’t live in the shadow of the French capital when it comes to culture, beauty, and personality. The city where the Lumière brothers played midwife to early cinema, where gastronomes delight in the restaurants of master chefs, where wine connoisseurs are spoilt with the riches of Beaujolais and Côtes du Rhône, and where historical and architecturally stunning sites abound has much to offer the new arrival.
Historically a hub for the silk trade, Lyon is still a fashionable and practical city. Its cityscape is dominated by picturesque red-roofed buildings, and its streets are filled with antique boutiques as well as modern shops. The lion is the symbol of this growing city that tempts newcomers to become the king of the Lyon jungle.
The Job Market
As the second richest city in France after Paris (with a GDP of 62 billion euro), Lyon is an economic centre for the chemical, pharmaceutical, and biotech industries. The city is also home to several banking firms as well as a sizeable software industry with, interestingly enough, a focus on video gaming. Ranked 8th in the world for innovation, there is currently a thriving start-up scene in Lyon. In addition, Lyon currently holds 9th place on the list of the top entrepreneurial European cities according to the European Cities Entrepreneurship Ranking.
As in the rest of France, a high unemployment rate has cast a shadow on job prospects, but Lyon’s rate is 0.7% lower than in the rest of the country. As one of the city’s goals is “to make the urban area the number one business start-up zone in Europe,” there is potential for continued growth.
Although Lyon is the gastronomic capital of France, prices to dine out fall on the low end of the city scale. An inexpensive meal will cost around €10 (£7), and a 3-course meal will cost around €45 (£32). That’s about 40% less than what you’d pay in London and 17% less than in Paris. The cost of groceries is more on par with the rest of France, with a kilo of cheese costing around €12 (£8), a dozen eggs costing around €3.15 (£2.30), a baguette costing around €1.50 (£1), and a kilo of apples costing around €3.15 (£2.30).
Most of Lyon is walkable, but if you choose to use public transportation, a metro/bus pass costs around €56 (£40) for the month, or €1.80 (£1.30) for one ticket. Shopping is on the expensive side compared to a city like New York, with a pair of Levi jeans costing around €77.50 (£55) and dress at a store like Zara or H&M costing approximately €54 (£38).
Healthcare in France is provided by the state; as such, insurance is relatively affordable and is available to expats with full-time jobs or those who have been in the country for over five years. Even without insurance, healthcare costs are low. An average doctor’s visit will cost around €7–20 (£5–14). A root canal, for reference, will cost €30–94 (£21–67).
After all those expenses, the average monthly disposable salary of a Lyonnais is €1,850 (£1,320).
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Renting housing in Lyon is far cheaper than in major cities like New York and London, hitting around €592 (£422) for a one-bedroom apartment downtown or €433 (£310) on the outskirts and €1300 (£927) for a three-bedroom apartment in the city center or €940 (£670) on the edges. To buy those same apartments, prices range from €3,000–4,000 (£2,000–3,000) per m2.
House prices have been falling in France for the past decade, and Lyon is no exception. Although small apartments are not particularly well-priced, high-end property is currently at a good value. As Lyon’s population has been steadily growing (7.1% in the past century) and since new developments are being constructed, now is a good time to invest in a home.
Lyon’s unique neighborhoods are distinguished by the city’s geography. The Rhône and the Saône rivers converge to the south of Lyon’s historic city centre and form a peninsula, or a "presqu'île," in the middle. Lyon is also flanked by hills, which present a challenge to those who prefer walking to taking public transportation. In the western part of Lyon is the area of Fourvière, which is known as “the hill that prays,” largely because it’s home to the elaborate Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, which overlooks the city. At the foot of the Fourvière hill is Vieux Lyon, the original medieval city. Here cafés and shops are tucked along stone streets dating back to the Renaissance era. These twisting paths were constructed for the convenience and the protection of the canuts, the Lyonnais silk workers, and they offer access to many private courtyards and hidden passageways called traboules. Although the 5th and 9th arrondissements present public transportation issues, they make up for it with historical charm.
In the northern part of the city is the region of Croix-Rousse, which is known as "the hill that works.” While Fourvière houses the churches and businesses, Croix-Rousse was traditionally home to the many small silk workshops that formed the economic backbone of the city. In the middle of the city is the presqu’'île, which is where much of the commercial and tourism action happens.
- Family-Friendly: Croix-Rousse, the area in the 4th that originally housed hardworking silk workers, is being gradually renovated, but it still maintains the feeling of a small village within a metropolitan area. Although there are tourists during the day, this area is relatively quiet at night. One of the highest-rated secondary schools in Lyon, the Lycée Saint-Exupery, is in the 4th. It’s also home to a great marché, or open market, which is an ideal place to grab your daily baguette and fresh oysters.
- Upmarket: The 3rd, 6th, 7th, and 8th arrondissements to the east of the Rhône house the Parc de la Tête d'Or, one of Europe's largest urban parks, the prestigious Lycée du Parc (public secondary school), and Interpol's world headquarters. The 6th is specifically the most chic and houses trendy boutiques and posh apartment complexes. If you’re willing to live a little outside the city centre in exchange for more luxe housing, the 6th is the district for you.
- Hip & Trendy: If you want to see and be seen, you have to live in the 1st or 2nd arrondissement, which are located on the presqu’'île. This is where Place Bellecour, the third largest public square in France and the hub for tourism activity, is located. International brands inspire shopping along the pedestrian-only Rue de la République that leads north from Place Bellecour. The Perrache area south of Place Bellecour houses the second railway station Lyon as well as an up-and-coming commercial and business district. The 2nd arrondissement has many of the finest old residential buildings in Lyon, and even more importantly, it’s always surrounded by action.
- Up & Coming: East of the Rhône is a large, urban area where most of Lyon’s modern population lives. This area is home to La Part-Dieu, France’s second biggest business district after La Défense in Paris, and it contains a library, a concert hall, a large shopping centre (Lyon Part-Dieu), a food market (Les Halles de Lyon), and Lyon’s main TGV station (The Lyon Part-Dieu). Also in this area is the ornate, former train station of Les Brotteaux and its surrounding streets, which are one of Lyon’s foremost restaurant and bar areas. Full of life and options, this is an area many college students are now living. Although it doesn’t have the charm of Vieux Lyon, it is a convenient and competitively priced area to live.
Cost of moving
Decided to pack up and move? Here’s a chart depicting the prices for a move of an average-sized family from several top cities to Lyon.
|From San Francisco||£3,083–£3,295|
|From New York City||£2,412–£2,578|
Schools and Education
France’s free, public schools are mandatory for children beginning at age six. Primary education can begin as early as age three. Secondary education, which is split into four years of collège and three years of lycée, prepares students for their college entrance exam.
In addition to general, public schools, several international schools are also available for enrollment. International schools offering placement from kindergarten through high school (lycée) include: Ombrosa, an international, bilingual private school; The International School (CISL) a competitive public school with almost two thousand students from forty different nationalities; and The International School of Lyon, which offers instruction in and international curriculum (IB and IGCSE) from kindergarten through the international baccalaureate.
Although it does not feature the academic variety of Paris, Lyon is home to over 130,000 students enrolled at four major universities: Université Claude Bernard Lyon; Université Lumière Lyon; Université Jean Moulin Lyon; and the École Normale Supérieure de Lyon, which is currently ranked number 158 in the world.
Ranking against the world: Lyon is no stranger to welcoming foreigners: 14% of the population were born outside metropolitan France. In 2015, Lyon was ranked 2nd in France and 39th out of 221 top cities in the world for its livability, ranked on thirty-nine factors including political, economic, environmental, personal safety, health, education, transportation, and other public service factors. Since Lyon has a growing economy and excellent health, transport, and education facilities, it’s no wonder so many are moving there to begin their French adventure.
A day in the life
Mornings in Lyon are meant to be spent enjoying an espresso and a tartine with jam, perhaps at Pain et Cie, a microchain with a location at 5 Rue des Quatre Chapeaux (Yes, that translates as “The Street of 4 Hats.”) Then take a walk along one of the rivers to get some inspiration for your next novel, to learn some skateboarding tricks, or simply to people watch.
For lunch, duck down one of Lyon’s side streets for a feast at a local bouchon. Warm up with traditional local dishes such as andouillette (a sausage of coarsely cut tripe), quenelles de brochet (a dumpling made with pike in a creamy sauce), gras double (tripe cooked with onions), salade lyonnaise (lettuce with bacon, croutons, and a poached egg), and marrons glacés (candied chestnuts).
Then take a stroll down the Rue de la République, perhaps taking in a current movie at Pathé or an age-old opera at the Opéra Nouvel. After your show, it’s time for a long dinner with friends. Enjoy a glass or bottle of fresh Beaujolais Nouveau—just make sure you can still navigate the twisting streets to find your way back home!
While the city comes to life every night, it bears mentioning that on December 8, you’ll have a front-row seat to the Festival of Lights (la Fête des lumières). During the festival, locals places candles in their windows, and the city of Lyon illuminates the façades of its key monuments, such as the medieval Cathédrale St-Jean and the Place des Terreaux. These impressive, large-scale light shows draw three to four million visitors to the city, so it can also be a great time to rent out extra space in your home to festival participants or to join the crowd and be awed by the spectacle.