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A Student’s Guide to Lyon

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Michelle Limbaugh, based at Louisiana State University, US, is currently an exchange student at France’s Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3. She explains why Lyon is the ‘perfect city’ for international students.

I'm very lucky to have ended up studying in Lyon. It’s the perfect university city for foreign students – smaller than Paris, yet still cosmopolitan, about two hours by train from many European hotspots, and affordable for students on a budget. The climate is also very comfortable, with four distinct seasons and no extreme weather.

When I first arrived, I was initially struck by how clean the city is. The metros are cleaned every night, the roads are frequently pressure washed, and there’s hardly any litter.

Easy to feel at home

I also immediately appreciated how accessible and accommodating Lyon is. The public transit system is incredibly reliable and efficient, the Lyonnais people are friendly, and everyone tries to help foreign students settle in. I’ve been here for three months now, and those first impressions haven't changed. 

The city’s atmosphere is surprisingly relaxed, and I enjoy just being out and about, exploring and people watching, or sitting sur les quais (on the waterfront) of one of the two rivers, with friends and a bottle of wine. 

Le Parc de la Tête d’Or (a large central park), and the attractive Croix Rousse and Fourvière districts – both on hills – are also lovely places to spend time outdoors. The old town, Vieux Lyon, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is always fun to explore, as are the various markets around the city.

Where to shop, eat and explore

For cheap and secondhand things, the bric-à-brac stores and ‘two-euro’ shops are great. Lyon has two major malls, Part Dieu and Confluence, both with tons of different stores.

For eating out, the Croix Rousse area is brimming with cute cafes. When I’m ‘on the go’, I love the student menu at Brioche Dorée, and Fish and Chips is amazing as well.

There are lots of student bars and restaurants by the Hôtel de Ville (my pick is l'Epicerie). And Vieux Lyon is also teeming with places to enjoy a sit-down meal. 

I come from a small suburb where everyone drives, and this has been my first long-term experience of using public transport. The system here is very straightforward. I use the metro and trams (or walk, if the weather is exceptionally nice), and have friends who also like using the bike rental system (VéloV).

Lyon has many wonderful museums that provide insights into the city, and often offer reduced (or even free) entry for students. I highly recommend the Lumière Museum and le Musée des Beaux Arts for starters.

Next, make sure to eat at a bouchon (traditional type of restaurant) for typical Lyonnais cuisine. Explore the traboules (passageways) in Vieux Lyon, and try to make the climb up Fourvière at least once (you can take the funiculaire after that).

And try to speak French as often as possible!

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