What makes Lyon an exceptional place to live or visit, even when compared to Paris, the much-loved French capital and City of Light?
If you want to explore France and its culture, meet French people and learn their beautiful language, or have a cool city break with plenty of sightseeing, there is no better place to visit than Lyon. I would even choose Lyon over Paris and I am 100 percent sure you would not regret it if you did the same. Why am I so sure about this? There are plenty reasons but here are my top 15 reasons why I think Lyon is better than Paris.
1. Because Lyon is much cheaper than Paris… and that’s a fact!
It’s no secret that Paris has often been listed amongs the world’s most expensive cities. In the Economist Intelligence Unit’s report in 2015, Paris was listed as the world’s second most expensive city, meaning it’s pricer than even Oslo, Zurich and Sydney; only Singapore came out more expensive. Lyon won’t drain your wallet nearly as much as Paris.
2. Because Lyon has the ‘Pope of French Cuisine’ and Paris doesn’t
Yes, Lyon has Paul Bocus the Pope of French Cuisine, with his restaurants and top quality cuisine. Paul Bocus has become well-known around the world for his innovative creation of ‘cuisine nouvelle’. He introduced this type of lighter and healthier cooking which was in contrast to the traditional Lyonnais way, and over time succeeded in revolutionising French cuisine. He is also famous for his high-quality restaurant and brassieres. For more than 50 years, his restaurant has been receiving three stars in the Michelin Guide which is an exceptional achievement.
3. Paris is the capital of France but Lyon is the capital of more
Besides being known as the ‘capital of gastronomy’ for some 80 years, Lyon was also the ‘capital of resistance‘ which you can discover in the museum, and historically it was an important centre as the capital of Gaul. It could also be called the French capital of ‘trompe l’œil’ walls (check for more information here). Lyon also holds the title of the capital of lights – thanks to Fete de Lumiere and urban developments.
4. Paris offers good French food but Lyon has the best French cuisine
This is not only because of the rich gastronomic history that led Lyon to be crowned as France’s food capital but also because Lyon is the gatewary to the Beaujolais viticultural region, which provides top quality produce and wines. Lyonnaise restaurants use some of France’s best produce to prepare meals and you can experience either very traditional Lyonnaise cuisine – served at bouchons – or cuisine nouvelle. There are more than 2,000 restaurants featured in the Michelin Guide, plus 72 Michelin-starred chefs in the region. You can also buy top produce at one of Lyon’s many food markets to cook yourself. On top of that all, Lyonnaise people love their food, appreciate a good meal and will share this experience with you!
5. Lyon has mysteriously sounding ‘bouchons’, which you cannot find in Paris
Bouchons are small traditional bistros which serve traditional Lyonnaise meals such as the typical local sausages, roast pork or duck pâté, or the more unusual dishes of tripe, bone marrow, donkey snout, and pork offal sausage, to name just a few. There are only about 20 authentic and certified bouchons in France and all are in Lyon.
6. Paris has impressive lights and fireworks year-round but Lyon has created its own Festival of Lights
Once a year Lyon hosts the famous Fete de Lumiere. It became so popular that it was extended to four days to accommodate all the thousands of tourists who travel to Lyon in December to take part. Dubai fell in love with the festival and the Lyon Organisation hosted a Festival of Lights there as well. But what is the Fete de Lumiere exactly? It is an event in which Lyonnais expresses gratitude toward St Mary; originally each house was supposed to light a candle in their window. This tradition continues but the event has developed into much more nowadays, and is full of attractions. The whole city is lit and decorated, there are light and music shows, and many performances free of charge. Just have a look here to have a sneak preview.
7. Lyon has about 230 traboules and Paris doesn’t have a single one
Traboules are the unique passageways between buildings, linking them together. They were built to protect silk when being transported. They became useful during World War II, as they were ideal for escaping and hiding from the Gestapo. Nowadays they are a part of people’s flats, hidden behind closed doors, but you can visit them and admire freely. Check here and plan a walk to discover many hidden ones, especially in Vieux Lyon and Cross Roux.
8. Lyon has more than 60 CitéCréation frescos but Paris has none
CitéCréation frescos are amazing mural paintings on walls, which add charm to the city. My favourite is Le Mur des Canuts, located in the Croix Rousse, but there are many more famous ones. A newer one even incorporates lights into the design, and is a unique modern project.
9. Lyon was the first French city to launch a bike-sharing system
Vélo’v system has around 4,000 bikes and 340 stations from where you can easily pick up a bike. It’s cheaper, healthier and easier to commute in Lyon. Of course Paris has a similar system – Vélib’ – but Lyon was the first to implement such a system, in 2005. Plus, Paris has a lot of cars, so there’s more pollution and safety issues.
10. Lyon has two rivers and Paris doesn’t
Rhône and Saone are two impressive rivers of Lyon which interestingly merge at one point. You can see it at the Confluence district. Two rivers means four riversides and many ways of enjoying the water in the city – sunbathing, walking, fishing, jogging, riding a bike, walking the dog, eating lunch, or going out for a drink in the boat.
11. Paris has parks but Lyon has the amazing Tête d’Or Park
Tête d’Or Park is a huge, green beauty, covering 105 hectares including a 16-hectare lake. There is a free zoo and botanical garden. It is an ideal place for picnic, walk, date, boat ride and much more.
12. Lyon is a city of contrasts: old and new
Lyon’s beautiful historic area, called Vieux-Lyon district, was classified as a Unesco Site, while the modern area located in the Confluence district of Lyon has become one of the most sustainable and exemplary districts in Europe. The beauty of Lyonnaise architecture is that new developments do not destroy the historical parts of Lyon. Both parts are beautiful and unique in their own way, and deserve a visit.
13. Paris has the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame but Lyon has its own versions
Notre Dame De Fourvière has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, and Lyon also has the Tour Métallique de Fourvière. So why would they be better than Paris’s ones? Well, they are both located on the Fourvière hill, where the city was founded in 43 BC, and you can either climb the stairs with amazing views or take the funicular of Lyon, which is an old-style French train. It’s a great experience and can be found only in Lyon but not in Paris! One more interesting fact is that the Lyonnaise tower reaches higher in the sky than the Eiffel Tower. It’s true – it’s located on a high hill, right?
14. Lyon has friendly French people
Even if Parisians are nice, how many of them reflect authentic French society? Paris is full of international companies, English-speaking employees and expats and tourists, so English is widely spoken which is unusual for French cities. Usually French people love their French – and Lyonnaise love their language and their city the same! They care about the city, celebrate it and cherish it whenever they can. In the past they were not that focused on tourism so Lyon sat quietly like a hidden gem. But whoever visits is very welcomed by Lyonnaise, who are helpful and talkative… in French, of course, so you will be forced to learn the language. But isn’t that the best way to learn a new language?
15. Connections are no longer much worse than Paris
It was high time that Lyon was connected to other countries. In the past it was pretty difficult to get direct flights and trains to Lyon. Perhaps the clever Lyonnaise planned it that way to protect their beautiful city from huge wave of tourists. But now there are decent transport connections to and from Lyon, and relatively low budget. Lyon has the Eurostar train to London and there are direct and cheap flights to cities around Europe.
I could write and cherish my favourite city of Lyon endlessly but hopefully these 15 points give you an idea why Lyon is such an exceptional French city to visit.