Lyon On a Budget
Today the economy in Lyon is centered around an oil refinery that is located in Feyzin, as well as the chemical plants that are along the Rhone River. Other important industries include pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. The economy is diverse with medical research, automotive plants, banking, insurance, and IT services also contributing.
The climate in Lyon is "semi-continental" meaning its winters are cold and snow occasionally falls. Summers can be hot and temperatures may reach 35 degrees Celsius. Rain is moderate year around and thunderstorms are common during the summer months. A great time to visit is during the spring or fall.
SightsThe city itself has many sights including Fourviere basilica, Saint Jean cathedral, Musees Gadagne, Parc de la Tete d'Or, Saint Bruno church, and Parc de Gerland. Many of the sights are concentrated in Old Lyon, and the area is generally quite compact and walkable. A popular activity in Lyon is to explore the many interesting and diverse neighborhoods. There is impressive architecture throughout and many areas are pedestrian friendly. A great time to explore is at night when many of the most famous buildings and landmarks light up.
NeighborhoodsThe geography of the city is affected by the two rivers that run through it, both of which flow north to south. These rivers, the Rhone to the east, and the Saone to the west, divide the city into several neighborhoods, each worth exploring for their own reasons.
Fourviere hill is known as the "hill that prays" because it has a large number of churches throughout it. Old Lyon is the sight of much historic architecture, and Presqu'ile makes up the true heart of the city. Croix-Rousse has unique architecture and historically was home to many of the silk workers. Confluence is an evolving neighborhood that is transitioning into a very contemporary area. Part-Dieu is the main business district, and Brotteaux is the wealthiest area.
ActivitiesThe city also plays host to several great festivals including, most famously, the Festival of Lights in December. There is also the Nuits de Fourviere festival between June and August and Nuits sonores is centered around electronic music and takes place in May.
Other interesting activities in the city include going to the opera, taking in a show, taking in a movie, or enjoying a sporting event such as rugby or football (soccer).
Food and DiningThere are plenty of excellent restaurants in Lyon. Most display their menus outside and the prices include service and tap water. You aren't expected to tip unless the service is particularly phenomenal. This is particularly true in the budget restaurants. Like elsewhere in France, you'll typically find the best deal at lunchtime in most restaurants, when there are often "specials" available. Dinner is generally more expensive.
Traditional restaurants in Lyon are called bouchons and arose during the late 19th century and grew during the economic crisis. These restaurants were opened by cooks who had previously worked for wealthy families who could no longer afford to employ them. They serve traditional local dishes such as salade lyonnaise, saucisson chaud, quenelle de brochet, and andouillette.
Because Lyon is considered a food destination, restaurants can get quite crowded and they are usually very small, so reservations are recommended. Ask around for restaurant recommendations, as the locals know the best options.
TransportationMost of the city's attractions are concentrated in the city center, which can be explored on foot. You can walk between Place des Terreaux and Place Bellecour in about 20 minutes. The city's public transit system is very good and most parts of the city can be accessed by metro, at least in the city center, eastern suburbs and university campuses. Stations are usually about a ten minute walk apart. There are four metro lines and trains run every 2 to 10 minutes depending on the line and the time of the day.
Taxis are available but tend to be expensive. They have a good number of extra charges including fees for luggage, more than three passengers, animals, and transport to or from the train station or airport.