Though Lyon is one of France's biggest and most important cities, it's still relatively easy to navigate. Most places of interest to tourists are located in or nearby the city center, and the Lyon public transportation system is efficient and straightforward. Before you arrive, familiarize yourself with the city's public transit options, and do your research on ticketing and transport passes; depending on how long you stay, how much you're able to explore on foot, and the attractions you plan to visit, certain options will make more sense than others. Plan ahead so you can get around like a pro.
How to Ride the Metro
The Lyon Metro system is probably the best option for getting from one point to the next as a visitor. Consisting of four lines that connect the city center and nearby suburbs, the Metro serves popular sites and areas including Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon), Place Bellecour square and the Presqu'île district, Hôtel de Ville (City Hall), and the Croix-Rousse neighborhood. It also links to the city's two rail and TGV (high-speed train) stations, Lyon-Part Dieu and Perrache. There are two funicular lines that depart from Vieux Lyon, too.
- Hours of Operation: The Metro operates daily between 5 a.m. and 12 a.m.
- Routes: Metro Lines C and D are the most useful for tourists, as they stop at the sights mentioned above in addition to numerous other points of interest. In addition, the two funicular lines (F1 and F2) offer a great (and charmingly old-fashioned) way to climb the steep hillside from Old Lyon to reach either the old Roman arenas and Gallo-Roman Museum, or Fourvière, with its basilica and panoramic viewpoints.
- Tickets and Fares: Tickets for the Metro can also be used on buses, tramways, and the two funicular lines. A single ticket purchased from a station or authorized vendor currently costs 1.90 euros. (The ticket costs 2.20 euros if purchased directly on the bus.) One ticket is valid for a free transfer (and round trip) within an hour, but the ticket must be validated with each transfer. Booklets of 10 tickets currently cost 17.60 euros, and an unlimited day pass (for 24 hours) costs 3.20 euros. Finally, individual funicular tickets (valid for a round trip on either funicular line) currently cost 3 euros.
Riding the Tram
Lyon's tramway network offers another convenient way to get around, but since it mostly serves the edges of the city and nearby suburbs, it's not especially useful for exploring the city's most popular tourist attractions. However, if you choose to save money by staying in a quieter, more residential area or need to quickly travel between the local airport and train stations, the tram can be a good option. The ticketing system is the same as for metro trains and buses, and trams are covered by the Lyon City Card.
There are a total of seven tram lines (T1, T2, T3, T4, T5, T6, and T7), plus the Rhône Express, which connects the Lyon Part-Dieu station to the Saint-Exupéry Airport. These operate daily from 5 a.m. (some from as early as 4:30 a.m.) to around 12:30 a.m. The most convenient line for visitors is probably T1, which runs north to south and stops at sites such as the Parc de la Tête d'Or park, the Musée des Confluences, the Lyon-Perrache train station (served by TGV trains) and the University of Lyon.
Note that tramway tracks can be dangerous areas for pedestrians. Be vigilant about any oncoming trams when on or near tracks: Look both ways and watch carefully for any warnings of an impending tram crossing.
Riding the Bus
While it may be unnecessary to ride buses during your trip to Lyon, they can be useful in certain cases. For some travelers, including visitors with limited mobility, they are a comfortable, accessible mode of transport, and the wide coverage means you can take them almost anywhere. There are more than 100 bus and trolleybus lines operating throughout the city, suburbs, and surrounding towns. Night bus services are also available.
If you think you may want or need to travel by bus in Lyon, check the TCL network's schedules and routes, or use the handy journey planner in English (probably the best option for visitors). If in doubt, use Google Maps or another navigation app to plot your trip.
How to Buy and Use Tickets
You can purchase tickets for metro, bus, tram, and funicular lines in Lyon at most metro, tram, and train (rail) stations, including Lyon-Part Dieu and Perrache stations. Tickets are also sold at tourist information offices, TCL agencies around the city, and tabacs (tobacco dispensers/convenience stores). Bus tickets can be purchased onboard with cash or card, but be aware that they cost slightly more than when bought in advance from machines or authorized points of sale.
Make sure to validate your metro, tram, funicular, or bus tickets/passes before each ride by placing them on the digital readers. You can use them for up to one hour after validation, and you are allowed to transfer between buses, trams, funicular, and metro lines as many times as you need to during that period. Note that you can be fined if you fail to follow these rules, or attempt to use a ticket past its expiration point.
For more information on different types of tickets available for visitors and current fares, visit TCL's website.
When visiting Lyon, it isn't usually necessary to rent a car if you plan to focus mostly on exploring the city itself. We recommend considering a car rental only if you plan to take several day trips, such as to nearby winemaking areas and villages (including Beaujolais), or to destinations in the French Alps (Annecy, Grenoble). If you opt to rent a car, avoid driving in the city center itself—instead, use the Park and Ride to minimize stress and avoid traffic. Also make sure you familiarize yourself with French driving laws before getting behind the wheel.
Taking Public Transportation to and From the Airport
From Lyon Airport, getting to the city center using public transport is relatively easy and quick. The easiest option is to take the Rhône Express tram line from the airport to the Lyon-Part Dieu station (or the inverse). From Part Dieu, you can catch a metro train or bus to the city center. The tram leaves the airport from the SNCF rail station and can be reached by shuttle bus from any terminal. The trip takes just under 30 minutes each way. You can book tickets in advance on the Rhône Express website, or purchase them directly at the airport or in most stations.
You can also take a taxi to and from the airport, but be aware that this is a much more expensive option, with one-way fares between the city center and the airport currently ranging from between around 45 euros to 55 euros.
Tips for Getting Around Lyon
- Consider buying the Lyon City Card, which offers unlimited trips on all metro, bus, tram, and funicular lines; discounted entry to several popular Lyon attractions; a sightseeing cruise; tour with a guide from the tourist office; and other perks. You can choose between cards that are valid for 24, 48, or 72 hours, and there are special rates for students and kids under 14.
- If you're interested in staying out past midnight and enjoying some nightlife, keep in mind that the Lyon Metro runs until 1 a.m. Night buses are available, but tourists may find them a bit tricky to navigate. If you're out late and your hotel is too far away on foot, consider taking a taxi to avoid a headache or potential safety concerns.
- It's generally best to avoid using taxis in Lyon outside of late-night rides and/or transportation to or from the airport. Fares are generally quite high, especially during the day due to traffic.
- If you want to take a day trip but aren't able to rent a car, consider booking a shuttle or van tour that will take you to nearby vineyards and villages.
- Children under the age of 4 ride for free on all public transportation in Lyon; there are also tickets sold at discounted fares for groups of 10 people or more.
- During the warmer months, we recommend getting around mostly on foot if you're able to, especially if you opt to stay in the city center. But do make sure to pack a good pair of walking shoes, and to stay well hydrated on hot days.
- Some areas of Lyon, including along the riverbanks, can be ideal for a bike ride, and the city's bike rental scheme is both affordable and easy to use. The tourist office also recommends several electric bike tours, which can be a great way to see the city in the fresh air.
- Lyon's public transport system is, on the whole, quite accessible to visitors with limited mobility, vision, and/or hearing disabilities. All trams and buses are accessible to passengers with wheelchairs or with limited mobility, and are either fitted with ramps or level access points. Meanwhile, all metro stations except Croix-Paquet are equipped with escalators, elevators with ramps, braille panels and audio messages, and accessible points of entry to train platforms. For more info, visit the Facilities Information Service.