Over the past decade, Lyon has become more accessible thanks to the increase in budget airlines flying to Lyon airport, and more recently, the Eurostar from London direct to Lyon Part-Dieu. We usually travel from London to Lyon either by Eurostar, or fly with either EasyJet or British Airways, depending on the best prices we can find.
The official name for Lyon's airport is “Lyon Saint-Exupéry” (LYS) and is located around 20 miles (32km) southeast from Lyon city centre. The only official way to get from Lyon airport to the city centre by public transport is with the Rhonexpress tram, otherwise it's by private transfer.
We've put together this detailed guide which sets out the various options to reach Lyon city centre from the airport.
Pre-order your transport card now…
…and avoid queues at the airport with the Lyon City Card. You will get unlimited travel on all Lyon public transport and a return journey from the airport on the Rhonexpress. The Lyon transport card also includes free entry to 23 museums and discounts for tours, opera and theatre.
What we cover in this guide
Lyon transport city card
On our recent trip to Lyon, we discovered the Lyon City card, which we totally rave about. We paid just €42 ($50) for it, which not only included our Rhonexpress return tickets, but also unlimited travel on all Lyon public transport (metro, tramway, buses), as well as free entry to 23 museums and discounts for tours, opera and theatre. If you think about it, the Rhonexpress journey between the airport to Lyon city centre costs €16.30 ($18), or €28.30 ($31.22) for a return ticket. With the Lyon transport city card, you definitely get value for money.
One of the things we've found tedious in Lyon is how long the queues for metro tickets can get during rush hour, so you end up waiting for ages. With the Lyon City Card, you save time by avoiding queues at the Rhonexpress ticket machines, as well as at the Lyon metro stations.
And for those who don't speak much French, the transport card will save you a lot of time and effort with things like asking the nice ticket man something like “please can I buy a metro ticket to the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière”.
(In case you're wondering, it's: “je voudrais un ticket de metro pour aller voir la Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvières s'il vous plait”).
Advice for LGBTQ travellers to Lyon
The information we present in this guide is from our experience and perspective as a gay couple travelling in Lyon. This is also the city where our Seby is from! Lyon is France's 3rd city (after Paris and Marseille) with a thriving and vibrant LGBTQ community. Find out more about the gay scene in our comprehensive gay travel guide to Lyon.
The Rhonexpress is the main way to get from Lyon airport to the city centre (and vice versa). It's a tram shuttle service that goes between Lyon–Saint-Exupéry Airport and Lyon's main train station called Part-Dieu. The express train runs every 15 minutes and the journey takes precisely 29 minutes each way.
Rhonexpress operating hours
The Rhonexpress operating hours are between 4:25am and midnight every day. We strongly advise checking the news or the Rhonexpress website beforehand because strikes are a common occurrence in France and can severely disrupt your journey.
The first Rhonexpress departing from Lyon-Saint-Exupéry Airport to the city centre leaves at 5am. In the opposite direction, the first Rhonexpress from Lyon Part-Dieu to the airport starts at 4:25am. The last train is at midnight in both directions.
Here are the links for the full timetables.
Rhonexpress ticket prices
- Single journey: €16.30. Or if you buy it online it costs: €15.20. For those aged 12-25, a single journey costs €13.60.
- Return ticket: €28.30. Or if you buy it online it costs: €26.70. For those aged 12-25, a return ticket costs €24.
- Free travel: for children aged 11 or under.
As we highlighted above, the Lyon city card includes the return journey from the airport on the Rhonexpress as well as unlimited travel in Lyon's public transport, museum entries and discounts on tours. However, if you wish to buy your Rhonexpress tickets separately, you can do so here.
TIP: try to get your ticket before you board, either at the machines or online. If you wait till you board the Rhonexpress and buy it onboard, they will charge you an additional €4 for each transaction.
Journey map of the Rhonexpress
There are two stops between Lyon airport and the city centre (and vice versa): “Vaulx-en-Velin La Soie” and “Meyzieu”. But you shouldn't worry: your stop is the last stop. So no stress, set your alarm for 29 minutes, shut your eyes and treat yourself to a well deserved rest.
If at any point, you're unsure of where you are, don't worry, everything on the Rhonexpress is displayed in English and the train managers speak English. So you shouldn't have any problems finding your way.
A taxi or private transfer is ideal if you are travelling with a lot of luggage, or if you land outside the hours of operation of the Rhonexpress. It's also a useful alternative in the event of any strike action taking place that may affect the service of the Rhonexpress.
A taxi from Lyon airport to the city centre (and vice versa) can cost anything between €50-100 ($60-120). You can find licensed taxi drivers at the airport, but the queues for them can be quite long during rush hour, or if there is a strike affecting the service on the Rhonexpress.
Private transfer or Uber
Booking a private transfer is not the cheapest way to reach Lyon from the airport but certainly a convenient one, especially if you have a lot of luggage or just don't feel confident with tackling the public transport system just yet.
A popular alternative is to use Uber to get to Lyon city centre. We love using Uber during our travels because you avoid getting ripped off by disingenuous taxi drivers. In addition, payments and directions are all managed within the app, making it a worry-free experience.
You can download the Uber app here, and don't forget to use our invitation code to get a free ride: sebastienc221ue.
Discover the Old Town of Lyon
You can visit the main sights of Lyon's Old Town by yourself but if you really want to learn about the history of this UNESCO World Heritage city then you need a local guide. This walking tour will show you all the most beautiful parts of the city.
Car rental at Lyon airport
If you're planning to travel in the region and the rest of France, then it's probably best to arrange a car rental at Lyon airport. Make sure you research and compare prices for car rentals before you decide to rent it.
Obviously if you're planning on just staying in Lyon, then we don't advise hiring a car because the public transport system in Lyon is extensive, and the city is a nightmare to navigate by car. On top of this, parking fees can be quite pricey.
Arriving late at night at Lyon airport
If your flight arrives late, after midnight (which is a common occurrence with the last EasyJet flights of the day), then you will have missed the last Rhonexpress, which departs at 00:00. In this case, you can either book a private transfer, or get one of the public taxis. Just keep in mind that public taxis are less frequent at night and you might wait a bit before finding one. We usually prefer to book a private transfer because then you know you will have someone waiting to whisk you out of the airport and straight to your accommodation with no fuss or stress.
Getting around Lyon
There are lots of transport options for getting around within the city of Lyon. Buses, trams, the metro and two funiculars are all operated by the one company which makes it easy to purchase tickets. You can purchase tickets from machines at the metro entrances or directly from bus and tram drivers for use on all forms of public transport. An all-day ticket costs €5.80 or if you have purchased the Lyon city card then you will be able to use that instead. Lyon also has an extensive self-service bicycle rental system, with bikes available at 340 stations throughout the city. Check the Vél'ov website for all the locations, information and maps for cycling in Lyon.
Save time and money on Lyon transport
The most hassle-free and best value way to organise your transport within Lyon is with the Lyon City Card. You'll have unlimited travel on all public transport including your return trip to the airport!
Where to stay in Lyon
Lyon is a beautiful and popular tourist destination with a wide variety of accommodation options available. For more information about travelling to the French city, check out our gay travel guide to Lyon. These are our favourite parts of the city:
- Vieux Lyon: We think the most charming area to stay in Lyon is the medieval quarter of Vieux Lyon. It's on a bit of a hill so the views over the city are stunning and the neighbourhood is filled with cute little shops, restaurants and boutique hotels. Find the best hotels in Vieux Lyon here.
- La Presqu'ile: La Presqu'ile is one of the most well-connected parts of the city; the commercial district filled with excellent shopping, restaurants, hotels and many of Lyon's most important monuments. This is where to stay if you want to be surrounded by bustling activity 24/7. Check prices for hotels in La Presqu'ile now.
- 3rd Arrondissement: This is the area considered to be Lyon's business district, so if you are travelling on business then booking a hotel here will probably be very convenient. The 3rd Arrondissement is also where most of the chain hotels are located, has a modern atmosphere and is well connected to the rest of the city by metro. Find the best hotels in the 3rd Arrondissement here.
- 6th Arrondissement: This is the most elegant and chic part of Lyon, with wide avenues and old mansions. If you've got the cash to splurge you'll find plenty of luxury hotels, boutiques and restaurants in the 6th Arrondissement which is located northeast of the city centre. Find the best hotels in the 6th arrondissement now.
- 7th Arrondissement: The 7th Arrondissement of Lyon is transforming from what used to be the working class neighbourhood into a very trendy, hip and alternative area. This is the creative hub of the city, with lots of vintage shops, ethnic cuisine and more alternative accommodation options. The 7th arrondissement is also probably the cheapest part of Lyon to stay in, check out the best places to stay in this area.
Things to do in Lyon
Once you've made your way from the airport into Lyon it's time to have some fun and explore the city! These are some of our favourite things to do while in Lyon:
See the best views in the city by bike
One of the best and most fun ways to explore Lyon is via a bike tour! Don't worry about your fitness level either, as this tour takes place on e-bikes, which is good since you'll be heading up two of the most famous hills in Lyon (Fourvière and Croix-Rousse) to see stunning views over the city. You'll also get to see and learn about Lyon's silk industry, as well as visiting a Roman theatre. This is also the perfect activity to do when you first arrive in Lyon so that you can orient yourself and figure out which spots you want to come back to later when you have a bit more time.
Explore the Old Town of Lyon
The Old Town area of Lyon, also known as Vieux-Lyon, was the main part of the town in the 16th century and still very well-preserved today. The neighbourhood was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1998, is home to two different churches and a beautiful cathedral. A guided tour of Lyon's Old Town is a lovely way to spend some time, learning about the history and enjoying the rustic architecture. You'll also get to see some of Lyon's famous ‘traboules', secret passageways that were originally used by silk merchants to move their goods through the town.
Go on a romantic dinner cruise
This one is especially good for the couples travelling to Lyon; is there anything more romantic than cruising down a river at night with a delicious dinner to accompany the views? We think not! The Hermés Restaurant boat serves a variety of decadent three-course set menus to enjoy during the cruise, including a fully vegan one! We loved the salmon gravlax with passion fruit and mango dressing, as well as the creamy ginger Crème Brûlée. You'll get to relax onboard the cosy boat while the wonderful staff take excellent care of you, and watch the sunset slowly sink below the horizon.
Visit the fascinating Musée Miniature et Cinéma
Not many people know about this truly incredible museum, but it's an absolute must-see for any movie-buffs out there, especially fans of 90s films! Located in a UNESCO World Heritage building, the museum houses over a thousand miniature sets as well as over 300 props and costumes from all sorts of classic movies. Visiting the Musee Miniature et Cinema means you will get to learn how many film special effects are created, as well as seeing items like film sets, costumes, models, masks, prosthetic make-up, fake animals, robots, monsters and aliens from movies like Mrs. Doubtfire, Gremlins, Batman, Jurassic Park and so many more!
Taste some Lyonnais cuisine
Lyon is known as the French capital of gastronomy so you absolutely have to spend some time tasting the mouth-watering treats on offer. Have a meal at a bouchon, a traditional Lyonnais restaurant that serves local favourites like sausages, duck pate and roast pork. A Lyon walking food tour with a local is also a perfect way to combine tasting local delicacies and learning about the city's history. We really enjoyed wandering through the traboules with stops to stuff our faces with pralines, brioche, charcuterie, cheese and even a sit-down meal with free-flowing wine!
Visit some local wineries
Just outside Lyon is the Beaujolais wine region, which is famous for fruity red wines made from the Gamay grape variety. The countryside surrounding Lyon is beautiful, so it's the perfect choice for a relaxing day trip visiting wineries to sample the different vintages. You can even explore the wineries on fun and eco-friendly segways for something completely different. Make sure you also spend some time visiting the pretty medieval villages in the area like Villefranche-sur-Saone or Oingt, which has the best name ever and is on the official list of the most beautiful villages in France!
Discover the region's beers and pear brandy
You might be surprised to know that apart from wine, the region around Lyon also produces some excellent organic beer AND delicious French pear brandy. The easiest way to try both of these specialities is on a beer and pear brandy tour that will transport you in comfort so you can indulge in a little tipple! French pear brandy actually originated in this area in the 1930s due to the favourable soil and climate. You'll even get to see how distillers get a whole pear into the brandy bottle; by putting the bottle over the growing fruit on the tree.
Learn to make authentic French crepes
Not everyone is lucky enough to be married to a Frenchman who can make you crepes whenever you want (thanks Seby!), but for everyone else, you could always join a crepe cooking class while you're in Lyon. We always love learning how to make local delicacies when we're travelling and what could be more French than crepes? Apart from snails or frog's legs of course… The best part about this cooking class is that your local guide takes you to the nearby market to purchase the ingredients to make your own ideal crepe, then you head back to his kitchen to make your crepes, have some wine and hang out.
Take a spooky night-time tour of Lyon
It might be another tour, but this has got to be one of the most unique tours of Lyon you can do. Taking place at night, this dark Lyon tour takes you through the winding alleyways to find symbols and hear stories that are sure to thrill you! Lyon is apparently very haunted and the local guide on this tour regales you with all sorts of spooky stories about everything from murderers to werewolves. It's a fantastic way to see the city from a different angle and hear local stories that you're definitely not going to find online.
Walk in the footsteps of Paul Bocuse
One of the reasons that Lyon is known as the gastronomy capital of France is because of renowned French chef Paul Bocuse, who was based in Lyon for most of his life. Today you can visit his main establishment, L'Auberge du Pont de Collonges, a luxury restaurant on the outskirts of Lyon and one of only 27 restaurants in France to receive 3 Michelin stars. Les Halles Paul Bocuse is also a covered food market in Lyon named after the chef, which is one of the best places to shop and taste French dishes in the city. If you join a tour of the market you will also get to discover which are the best stalls and dishes available.
For more inspiration:
- While you're in the country, consider attending Nice's Lou Queernaval: France's first gay carnival
- And check out these fabulous gay hotels in Nice for your accommodation there as well
- For more budget options, these are our favourite gay hostels in Europe
- As well as the gayest cities in Europe you'll definitely want to visit
- You might even be surprised by these gay friendly cities in East Europe
- If you like some sun and sand, check out the best gay beaches in Europe
- As well as these gay nude beaches in Italy if you like to bare it all!
- Perhaps you'd prefer to bare it all on one of these gay nude cruises
- Or just join one of these fabulous gay cruises around the world
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Happy travels are safe travels
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