France Grenoble Lyon Paris Rhône-Alpes

8 Reasons Why Lyon Is Way Cooler Than Paris


Last Updated on March 28, 2018.

Hey guys! Headed to France on your next big Europe trip? Want to see some beautiful sights? Eat some amazing French food? Get lost down some romantic Medieval alleyways? Basically just “feel” France in a big way and not spend all of your money doing so? Then please, I beg of you, don’t go to Paris.

Just Say NO to Paris

I’ve already expressed my disdain for Paris, so no need to beat a dead horse. And please don’t think I am trying to sway anyone from going if they’ve never been – every Euro traveler has to see Paris! However, if you want to experience everything I mentioned in the first paragraph with less crowds and at a reasonable price, you really need to go to Lyon.

It is truly a lion in France’s hypothetical Serengeti – a real force to be reckoned with (for the record, Lyon does not mean “lion” in French, but it should). Paris may have more fame and glamour, but that doesn’t necessarily make any place cooler. Here are some things that do though.

Lyon France

 

1) Lyon is a small town trapped in the third largest city’s body

Sometimes I get the feeling that Paris is a planet trapped in a capital city’s body. It’s actually not that big of a city but everytime I am there I still feel like a tiny minnow swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. Not the case with Lyon.

Lyon France

Even though it is France’s third largest city, it feels much smaller, cozy even, and is much more manageable for those who enjoy being able to walk everywhere as I do. Public transportation was also easier to navigate on the odd occasion that I used it and not to mention smells way better than the metro in Paris.

Lyon France

 

2) Lyon doesn’t have an ego

I’ve already made it clear that one of the things I dislike most about Paris is its ginormous ego. Big egos are never cool. So of course it was like a breath of fresh air to arrive in the second largest metropolitan area behind it and experience the exact opposite. People seemed genuinely happy that I was visiting their city and were very proud of what they have to offer yet humble about it.

Lyon France

 

3) Lyon is cheaper

Prices in Paris are ridiculous. Prices in Lyon are reasonable. Cost of living is about 30-40% cheaper and though a lot of that has to do with prices of rent, things like entertainment, food, transportation and shopping are all still a bit cheaper.

sexy cappuccino

 

4) Lyon is the gastronomic capital of France

I don’t know why but I was shocked to learn that Lyon is the gastronomic capital of France and not Paris. Maybe because Paris tries to convince everyone that it is the capital of everything in France, but I digress…

Lyonnais salad

A foodie I am not, but I can tell you that you will find some of the the best food in France in Lyon. Its geographical location puts it in the most perfect spot to procure the finest of anything and everything to please your palate: local cheeses, a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables, quality meats (especially pork), fresh fish, great wine. Incredible wine considering it sits in between two of the largest wine producing regions in France – Beaujolais and Côtes du Rhône.

Lyon cuisine

With seventeen restaurants holding Michelin stars and bouchon after bouchon serving up the heartiest meals you can imagine  – prepare to put on some pounds while in Lyon. If you don’t then consider yourself as having done it all wrong.

bouchon Lyon

bouchon Lyon

Tarte à la praline

 

5) Lyon is closer to the Alps

Having mountains you can escape to is a very cool luxury for a city to have and here Lyon has Paris beat. More than beat, it has it dominated.

Bastille Grenoble

Lots of cities in the Rhône-Alpes region claim themselves to be the “gateway to the French Alps”, but Lyon is the official capital and the easiest/cheapest to access from the rest of the world. Quite a few airlines, especially low-cost, are flying into its airport which is one of the busiest in France. Once you arrive, you can be at the foot of the Alps within an hour. Getting away from the hustle and bustle of a city, even if just for a day in a place like Grenoble, is a very, VERY cool thing to be able to do.

 

6) Lyon’s Old City is one of Europe’s largest intact Renaissance districts

Vieux Lyon or Old Lyon is the historical part of town that is a UNESCO World Heritage site and second to Venice in terms of having the largest intact Renaissance neighborhood in Europe.

Lyon old city

Lyon France

Lyon renaissance

It’s a really cute/romantic area to wander around and where you can find tons of great Gothic and Renaissance architecture. You can also find traboules – the very unique and very Lyonnaise phenomena that are essentially hidden passageways connecting the old city to the river. Take your sweetheart there.

traboule Lyon

traboule Lyon

 

7) Lyon puts the “art” back into street art

There is some very cool street art in Paris, not going to deny that, but I have to say that the street art in Lyon is cooler. Why? Mostly because they are CitéCréation creations, of which Paris has none, and were in fact commissioned by the city to liven the place up. These spectacular murals put the “art” back into street art and if they look at all familiar to you, that’s because they were spawned by the same peeps who helped beautify/artify Angoulême –  another very cool French city that I had the pleasure of visiting back in September.

street mural lyon

 

8) Lyon is home of Fête des lumières

Fête des lumières is one of the coolest city celebrations I’ve ever been to, for sure, and Paris would never be able to pull off something similar. It’s too spread out and Parisians are not laid back enough to be cool with the city shutting down all the major streets in the center to allow 4 million visitors to take them over for four nights in a row. They do that 365 days a year (minus shutting down streets), so honestly can’t say I blame them.

Fete des lumieres Lyon France

Fete des lumieres Lyon France

Lyon has held this “festival of lights” every December since 1852 as a way to say thanks to the Virgin Mary for sparing the city from the plague. And they wouldn’t have it any other way. Like Mardi Gras in New Orleans or something, it’s a historical ritual engrained in the locals’ psyche which is always a major deciding factor in what makes a festival not just good, but great.

Fete des lumieres Lyon France

Fete des lumieres Lyon France

Merci beaucoup to Rhône-Alpes Tourisme, Magellan PR, and Only Lyon for showing me all the coolness Lyon has to offer. While this was part of a sponsored press trip to Rhône-Alpes, all opinions expressed here are my own.

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43 Comments

  • Reply
    Megan
    February 14, 2013 at 7:47 am

    obviously i agree with this and have not yet been to lyon. i feel like i need to get with it and realize that paris is not france. after all of my horrid experiences in paris, i have kind of neglected the rest of france. i think that is so wrong since the rest of the country has such diversity and a different reputation.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      February 14, 2013 at 5:40 pm

      It is so diverse and I’m really lucky I was invited to discover that because I honestly would not have gone out of my way. Now that I know though, I will go out of my way because there are a couple other places I found out about and also I’d love to see Lyon in the spring/summer. That’ll have to wait until I’m doing a bit better on the funds though ;)

  • Reply
    A Montrealer Abroad (@amontrealer)
    February 14, 2013 at 11:16 am

    Love love love this post. I’m not a huge fan of Paris either, and I really think Lyon is underrated by most travelers. Love the food :-)

    And as an expat in France, I can confirm – Paris and Parisians really do think they’re in the center of the planet. Most French people will tell you that Paris is actually a parallel universe.

    PS Coeur de Pirate is French Canadian. Montreal rocks ;-)

    • Reply
      Larissa
      February 14, 2013 at 5:53 pm

      Thanks, Marie – your approval means a lot. Obviously ;)

      Great that you also confirmed about Parisians believing they are the center of everything because IT IS true, I’ve heard it from a few of them myself. Of course you can always find exceptions but for the most part it’s definitely a parallel universe. This is why it’s so important to tell the world that they will be missing out on the real France if they don’t break away from its capital, ya know?! And Lyon is the perfect place to start.

      Didn’t know Coeur de Pirate was French Canadian but I have heard Montreal rocks. That’s why I went ahead and threw Quebec on My European To Do List. Someday!

  • Reply
    Bobbi Lee Hitchon
    February 14, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    I’m going to follow your advice while I’m around Europe. Lyon sounds lovely. I do like Paris, but I always prefer smaller towns to world cities. I just find they’re a bit more special. I’m going to be around Europe for the next few months. I covered a lot of ground here while studying and backpacking in college, but most of that ground included major cities, so now I want to tap into the countries here further, venture out more. Do you have any other recommendations in Europe not everyone thinks about?

    • Reply
      Larissa
      February 14, 2013 at 6:24 pm

      Yes, definitely go to Lyon if you are are going to be in and around France and looking to venture out. As I mentioned, Angoulême is another small town I really liked. I did some traveling through the Cognac region so you might want to check out my posts if that interests you.

      I am a HUGE fan of Portugal which may also be evident on the last few pages of my blog. Porto and Braga are both really nice non-capital cities that feel much smaller. Not sure how far east you are interested in going but Poland and Ukraine are a couple favorites of mine and at the moment obsessed with the Balkans (Bosnia & Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kosovo, etc). Have you been to the Baltics? Those are also pretty fun :)

  • Reply
    Laurel
    February 18, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    I haven’t been to Paris yet (how that’s possible I don’t know), but I love, love Lyon for all the reasons you’ve mentioned. It’s a very cool city. I would love to come every year just for the Festival of Lights alone.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      February 18, 2013 at 7:29 pm

      WHat?!! I know, I remember you telling me that and I still can’t believe it. As much as I am not a fan of Paris, I still think everyone should see it. I’m with you on the Festival of Lights. See you in December? :)

  • Reply
    Julien
    February 19, 2013 at 1:26 am

    Hi, I’m a Lyonnais living in Sweden, and I’m very happy to see that post! That makes me even more proud of my city :) Thanks for the few paragraphs and pictures of happiness and nostalgia!

    • Reply
      Larissa
      February 19, 2013 at 1:46 am

      My pleasure – it’s a wonderful city so you should be very, very proud! :) Sweden is great too – Malmö is one of my homes.

      • Reply
        Julien
        February 19, 2013 at 5:55 pm

        Never been to Malmö (have only heard about the crazy twisted tower and Zlatan ^^).. Stockholm and Linköping are more my swedish homes!

        • Reply
          Larissa
          February 19, 2013 at 7:41 pm

          Very nice places as well. Skål to Zlatan, the Turning Torso, and soon Eurovision for putting Malmö on the map!

  • Reply
    Kim
    February 19, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    I must admit that I haven’t heard much about Lyon but I am intrigued now after some of your photos, especially the food ones:)

    • Reply
      Larissa
      February 19, 2013 at 7:39 pm

      Lyon is the new black in France and if you love food you will love Lyon even more!

  • Reply
    Helen
    February 28, 2013 at 11:50 pm

    when I read the title of this article I was completely against the idea, but you have gone some way to convince me to try Lyon, its was the photos that sold it to me the most. I’m just not sure if its as easy to get to as Paris is but I will research it. Thanks

    • Reply
      Larissa
      March 1, 2013 at 2:09 am

      Definitely don’t want people to avoid Paris if they’ve never been, but Lyon is a great place to check out on a second visit to France or immediately proceeding Paris. Totally depends on where you would be coming from as far as how easy it is but I’d say Lyon is one of the best connected in the country behind the capital.

  • Reply
    Andrea
    March 9, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    Sounds amazing! We’re headed there at the end of the month and I cannot wait…got my Michelin star restaurants booked already ;)

    • Reply
      Larissa
      March 12, 2013 at 6:17 am

      Exciting! Have a wonderful time! Curious which restaurants you have booked. Sadly didn’t experience one of the Michelin Star ones but can recommend Do Mo in the Confluence and Baragones in the Old Town as delicious non-Michelin alternatives.

    • Reply
      kim scholten
      July 16, 2015 at 1:34 am

      Who cares about Michelin stars.. the best are found quietly tucked away without the ‘”stars”..trust me on this I grew up around the corner;)

  • Reply
    NewNomads
    July 15, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    I could not agree with you more. While I do enjoy Paris (in the off season)… I think Lyon has so much more of what I love about France! Your post captured it beautifully!

  • Reply
    Joe
    August 5, 2013 at 3:44 am

    I just got off the telephone with my wife, who visited Lyon with three of my daughters. They all unanimously agree that Lyon is the bees knees and that we should just get up and move there already. They spoke glowingly of the people, the history of resistance in the city and the art scene. She described it as San Francisco without the pretentiousness.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      August 5, 2013 at 7:21 am

      That’s a good comparison, definitely didn’t experience any pretentiousness – quite the opposite actually. Maybe you should move there already :)

  • Reply
    Linnea Barnes
    October 21, 2013 at 7:13 am

    I really enjoyed reading about Lyon.
    We just moved here on a long term visa and need to explore living there. We are living in Beaulieu sur Dordogne (beautiful but sleepy) and I am excited to visit Lyon and hopefully move in April.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      October 27, 2013 at 9:33 pm

      It’s a lovely town that definitely deserves much more than a few days or even a few weeks of exploring between all its back alleys and delicious restaurants. Enjoy – sounds like you are in for a nice adventure :)

  • Reply
    Ana
    January 29, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    I had to do a presentation on the region Rhône-Alpes in school and I immediately fell in love with the place. I really hope to visit it one day!

    I love your blog and I’m enjoying reading all you travelling experiences. :)

    • Reply
      Larissa
      January 30, 2014 at 3:02 am

      Hey Ana, thanks for the comment! I’m so glad to hear you like what you see and I welcome you back to this space anytime. Hope you make it to the Rhône-Alpes, too :)

  • Reply
    Lucas
    May 29, 2014 at 11:48 am

    I own an apartment in Vieux Lyon next to the lit up cathedral in the picture Saint Jean. Great place, nothing else like it.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      June 12, 2014 at 2:04 am

      Wow, what a spot! Love Lyon, I need to get back.

  • Reply
    Victoria
    April 11, 2015 at 11:29 pm

    Cool article ! I’m a French student from Lyon and what you said pleased a lot. LYON IS AWESOME

    • Reply
      Larissa
      April 12, 2015 at 4:38 pm

      Glad to hear. Say hello to Lyon for me, I miss it :)

  • Reply
    Nano
    June 8, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    How about finding Romance ?
    I never visited Lyon .. been to paris and noticed that there rn’t much locals around they were either tourists or migrants ! Don’t get me wrong , both r cool but as a “fan of blondes ” i was like Where r the french guy, gimmi some blondes
    Things r the same in Lyon too ?

  • Reply
    sumair
    November 17, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    hello, i have never been to france but i am planning my masters from france but i am not sure which amomgs the two should i select (paris or lyon) as both have the campus of the college (ESMOD) i am applying for. help me please.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      March 20, 2016 at 1:04 pm

      This is a question I definitely can’t answer for you, all I can say is Lyon seemed a much more pleasant place to live with perhaps a cozier student life. But I’m sure Paris has its many benefits as well. Good luck!

  • Reply
    Mengzhong
    December 8, 2015 at 11:03 pm

    I’m a foreign student in Lyon and I totally agree with you!
    One more magnificent point to make: the airport of Lyon is named after Saint-Exupéry, which I find so romantic as a name for airport, as Saint-Exupéry is the author (at the same time a pilot) of the world famous novel “The little prince”, and he is Lyonnais!

    • Reply
      Larissa
      March 20, 2016 at 12:45 pm

      Very cute. Enjoy your time there! :)

  • Reply
    Nick
    July 20, 2016 at 12:33 pm

    “(for the record, Lyon does not mean “lion” in French, but it should)”

    Lyon is old French and it does mean lion.There is enough symbolism in the city depicting lions. Olympique Lyonnais have a lion emblem badge and there are lion statues outside their stadium.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      October 4, 2016 at 5:42 pm

      Seems Google failed me. Thanks for the information.

  • Reply
    Jaimie
    September 30, 2016 at 12:37 am

    Hello! I just discovered your blog while attempting to plan four days in Lyon prior to 8 days in Paris. I love your guide to a day in Grenoble, do you have recommendations for the must see stuff in Lyon?
    I have the big stuff down, Amphitheater/museum, traboules, but any small things you would recommend? I saw your restaurant recommendations above for Do Mo and Bar Agnoes, I have them on my list now!
    Thank you!

    • Reply
      Larissa
      October 5, 2016 at 2:25 pm

      Thank you :) What you just read is the closest thing I have to a guide for Lyon but sounds like you’ve got the right idea!

  • Reply
    mmm
    March 21, 2017 at 1:36 am

    Sorry, I’m going to completely disagree with you here :)

    First for the food, “A foodie I am not, but I can tell you that you will find some of the the best food in France in Lyon”. Thank you for reckoning you’re not a foodie, that makes it more clear. Paris is far better than Lyon for food selection, food sophistication. Yes it’s more expensive on average, but international cuisine is very very weak in Lyon, and most of its reputation comes from French food. That one is good in Lyon, but that’s about it. Anything else (American, Japanese, Asian in general, African, etc.) is much better in Paris. The reason is very simple: more cosmopolitan city with very often people from those countries cooking. And more traveled people who are more demanding. And it shows.
    You just have to know how to search for good places :)
    Oh and coffee shops as well, Lyonnais are just discovering the Melbourne style coffee culture with a few addresses (while not really knowing the background of that culture, because coffees here never push the concept too far, probably because the population is very France-centered). Paris has plenty of those, and of much higher sophistication again: Wild and the moon comes to my mind. Never will you find such a deep concept in Lyon, sorry.

    Small town indeed. With small size come less alternatives, less things to do, a feeling of being cut from the world ( it is a very French city once again, and pure lyonnais are actually known to be very proud of their origins so much as to be a bit closed). After 4 years here, it is utterly boring as a college student.
    Paris is full of discoveries, and you can never master it completely. That’s part of the charm. You can’t get bored in Paris.

    Street art is much more developed in Paris, so really not a relevant point here. You didn’t mention art and culture in general, probably because Paris is way way ahead (only London is as good if not better in Europe) :)

    Fête des lumieres happens once a year, so not really a point to consider when deciding where to live….

    And finally, about the ego thing, yes many people seem to have that in Paris. But the thing is, Parisians are, in my experience, more sophisticated and cosmopolitan people than Lyonnais or provinciaux for that matter. There is a big difference between my Parisian friends and the others, you can feel it in their conversations, their style, their tastes etc.
    Such sophistication shouldn’t come with pride necessarily, but it does and I’m okay with that because they’re still very interesting people :)

    To sum up, Paris is much more sophisticated and bigger, which makes it harder to master/understand/appreciate for many people. Only people who haven’t really mastered the city well will prefer an alternative such as Lyon, which is easier. Comfort choice. Those are the same people who say “Lyon is like a little Paris!’, having missed true gems and a lifestyle only the capital can offer you nowadays in France. Once you know how to appreciate Paris, you can’t live in Province.

    But hey, to each their own and most people lead a very simple lifestyle for which Lyon is more than enough I guess!

  • Reply
    Rebecca
    July 6, 2018 at 9:29 am

    Hi Larissa!
    You hit the nail on the head, I completely agree! You could say I’m subjective because I live here but I truly think Lyon is the place to see in France. Paris, even though people should definitely visit as well, tends to get a little stressful, doesn’t it? We also have tons of festivals and other activities, especially during the summer: the possibilities are endless (for the most part!). We would love for you to stop by (see URL with name) and give us more of your feedback on your stay here. Merci!

    • Reply
      Larissa
      December 30, 2018 at 11:24 pm

      To this day I am still recommending Lyon as one of the top places people should visit in France. Great website you have – will definitely be using it as a resource if I am ever back in town :)

  • Reply
    Guignol
    March 26, 2020 at 4:17 pm

    I agree with your article, Lyon is a beautiful city and I have the chance to work there as a tour guide.

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