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9 reasons to move to France's 'gastronomic capital' Lyon

The Local France
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9 reasons to move to France's 'gastronomic capital' Lyon
Should you move to Lyon? There are reasons to consider it. Photo: AFP

The French city of Lyon has come out on top of a new comparison for 'liveable' cities - here are some reasons you might consider moving there (apart from its reputation as the foodie capital of France).

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While the idea of the '15-minute city' has become the object of bizarre conspiracy theories in parts of the English-speaking world, it has been embraced by many French cities, who appreciate the simple idea that the daily necessities of life should be within a 15-minute walk or cycle for most city-dwellers.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo was an early-adopter of the concept back in 2020 - but many of France's cities adhere to the basic principles, whether or not their leaders chose to use the phrase ville du quart d'heure (quarter-of-an hour town).

The phrase '15-minute city' may be relatively new, but the concept is a very old one among city planners - making sure that daily essentials such as food shops, schools, health services and parks are within easy distance for city dwellers.

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Now the French newspaper Le Parisien has created its own ranking of how France's cities accord to the 15-minute principle. And although Paris may have been the most vocal about its 15-minute city ambitions, it was a city some way to the east that topped the poll; Lyon. 

Here's a look at some of the reasons that Lyon came out on top;

Green transport - Lyon is one of France's top performers when it comes to kilometres of cycle paths per person and it's also a good city for walking - 17 percent of people in Lyon walk to work, the second highest number in France (behind Nancy at 22 percent). 

As other French cities have found, a major driver to people choosing to commute by bike or on foot is the knowledge that there is a decent public transport network when they need it (for rainy days, for example) and here too Lyon scores highly.

"Lyon probably has the best public transport system in France: high service level buses, Metro, trams and cycle paths", Benjamin Pradel, researcher in urban sociology, told Le Parisien.

Plenty of doctors - around one-third of France is classed as a 'medical desert', meaning that there are not enough healthcare practitioners to serve the local population. The problem is most acute in rural areas, but it does affect cities too, including several areas of Paris.

This however, is not a problem in Lyon, which has significantly more doctors per inhabitant than the French average, and the highest score for number of doctors and health centres within a 15 minute walk for Lyon inhabitants.

Schools - Lyon also scored high for the number of primary schools and nurseries within a 15-minute walk, giving parents plenty of choice. The scoring from Le Parisien also gave the town a high ranking for the choice of grocery shops and restaurants within easy walking distance for most people.

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Cost - We're not going to pretend that Lyon is a cheap place, but at an average cost of €5,000 per square metre, property is half the price of that in Paris. Nevertheless, Lyon is still a relatively expensive place compared to many of its neighbours.

It lost points on the scale for affordability, with the report noting that 33 percent of people who live within the city itself are workers at management level while only 23 percent are staff members.

"That's one of the limits of this concept," Marie Huyghe, a mobility consultant with a doctorate in urban planning, told Le Parisien. "If local living only concerns the highest income groups, then we can consider that it is not a success."

Employment - the 15-minute city concept states that ideally all the things you need for daily life should be within a 15-minute walk or cycle ride, including work. But employment is the aspect that many cities struggle with and plenty of city dwellers still face long commutes to work - even if they can shop, socialise and exercise within 15 minutes of their home.

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Lyon doesn't come out markedly better on this scale than France's other big cities, but it does have overall good prospects for employment, even if you may have to commute a bit longer. As France's third largest city (after Paris and Marseille) Lyon has a varied employment offer from tech jobs to academic work, media jobs and retail or tourism opportunities. The city is a leader in medical research and medical tech, creating plenty of specialist jobs. 

It's also the location of the Interpol HQ, if you have a particular set of skills. 

Green space - having space for both exercise and leisure close to home is a key concept of the 15-minute city and Lyon scores particularly well when it comes to green space. 

The average surface area of green space per inhabitant has increased by three metres squared over the past three years and the city overall can offer over 430 hectares of gardens, green squares and parks.

The city also scores well on other green indicators such as air quality and has been ranked among the 'greenest' cities in France thanks to some innovative policies from city hall.

Other reasons

The 15-minute city ranking tends to focus on the practicalities of daily life - but what are some other reasons you might choose to move to Lyon?

Connections - Lyon is well connected to the rest of France and the world, with the high-speed TGV service offering rapid connections to other cities around France. It's also perfectly feasible to travel by train from Lyon to Switzerland, Italy or Germany.

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If you're looking to fly, Lyon has its own airport and is within a two-hour drive of Geneva airport, which offers a wide choice of global connections 

Gastronomy - we saved the best until (almost) last - yes food-loving France widely considers Lyon to be its 'gastronomic capital'. This means that the city boasts an impressive restaurant selection including - but very much not limited to - the traditional bouchon restaurants.

There are too many Lyonnaise specialities to get into here (although special mention to the pink pralines, and the praline brioches) but for foodies a visit to the city's giant food market Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse is a must.

Sport - if you need to do something to work off all that food, then there are lots of exercise options within Lyon and the city is also within easy distance of the Alps for some hiking, cycling or ski-ing.

If you prefer to watch rather than play, Lyon has a top-flight rugby team (Lyon Olympique Universitaire) and a Ligue 1 men's football team in Olympique Lyonnaise.

If you want more ground-breaking football though, Olympique Lyonnaise women's team is the most successful ever at club level and their players form the backbone of the French national women's team.

The success of the professionals is having a huge impact on grassroots football in the city too, which boasts an impressive network of junior teams and local clubs to introduce younger girls to the joys of the beautiful game.

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Comments (2)

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Kathy Gallagher 2024/02/20 16:40
No comment on the arts in Lyon?
Jim Lockard 2024/02/20 15:10
No, no, no, Lyon is full! And yes, all of this is true. A wonderful place to live.

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