Lyon, France’s 3rd city, may not have the hype of Paris and other French destinations but it is catching on as a great destination for a city break.
Every year, nearly 5 million people visit Lyon, including domestic and international visitors. Lyon has a spectacular medieval city center, Vieux Lyon, and you can even see Roman ruins at the Ancient Theater of Fourvière.
The city used to be an industrial powerhouse, and now many industrial sites have been turned into cultural landmarks such as the Musée des Confluences and the arty hilltop quarter of Croix-Rousse.
A meal in a local bouchon, or traditional restaurant, is a must-have since Lyon is renowned as France’s gastronomic capital. There’s just so many amazing things to see, including a thriving modern arts, shopping, and café culture.
However, it is still a big city, and it has a reputation for being a bit of a gritty place in France.
It is possible to visit Lyon safely, but you should take the right precautions. Keep reading to learn more about how to visit Lyon safely and any preparation that you need to take.
Is Lyon Safe to Visit in 2023?
Yes. Like most places in France, Lyon is safe to visit! It is generally a safe and welcoming place for tourists, including solo travelers.
However, there are some challenges tourists may encounter while in town, especially petty crime.
Since Lyon is one of France’s biggest cities, you are likely to encounter the same problems you may encounter in Paris or any other French city. Read travel advisories for France to get an idea of what you may expect to find while in the country, including while visiting Lyon.
For example, the United States puts the entire country of France (which obviously includes the city of Lyon) under a Level Two travel advisory due to the risk of terrorism and civil unrest.
This warning is echoed by other countries, such as Australia, which advises citizens to exercise increased caution while in France.
Common problems that you may encounter in Lyon because they are listed in travel advisories for France include:
- Petty crime such as pickpocketing
- Civil unrest
Lyon is a big city with over one million residents, so it’s natural that some crime will occur. However, crime is generally less prevalent here than in Paris, and certain neighborhoods drive up the crime rate for the rest of the city.
France is notorious for its demonstrations, to the point that many countries mention it in their travel advisories. Parisian protests tend to grab headlines the most, but protests occur in all major cities, including Lyon.
Within France, Lyon has a reputation for being a fairly militant city, so protests happen often and can escalate.
Recent protests included the summer 2023 riots against the police killing of a teenager in a Parisian suburb, which many in France believed were racially motivated (the teenager was of Algerian descent).
The situation in Lyon descended into rioting and hundreds of people were arrested after cars were set on fire and stores were looted. While these protests were unusually heightened, it is common for protesters in Lyon to clash with police or for protests to escalate into violent incidents.
Follow the news during your time in Lyon to make sure there are no protests announced. If you run into a crowd protesting, try to get out of there as you don’t know what may happen.
Luckily, Lyon is big enough that it is easy to avoid protests and explore other parts of the city. Another common threat travel advisories mention in France is terrorism. Lyon has been the victim of some terrorist attacks before.
Terrorist attacks in Lyon are not that common, but they do happen. You shouldn’t be on high alert for terrorism but use basic alertness when in public places and leave an area if other people seem to be running away.
If you are in a crowd, make sure you have an exit plan in your mind. The good news is that Lyon authorities are taking the threat of terrorism seriously and are stepping up their law enforcement activities.
In fact, it’s common to see police officers and security officials patrolling the streets, especially around popular tourist destinations.
Crime in Lyon
Crime is often the primary concern for visitors to Lyon, and with good reason. Like most big cities around the world, Lyon experiences crime.
However, the good news is that the crime rate in Lyon is low to moderate, especially in areas around the city center where tourists tend to visit. Lyon has a moderate crime rate that is to be expected for a city of its size.
According to Numbeo, it scores a 57.19 out of 100 on the crime index, a moderate value. Respondents were most concerned with crimes such as verbal insults, drug abuse, vandalism, and theft.
Although the crime rate is fairly high, the most common crimes were minor. The violent crime rate in Lyon is low to moderate. Although violent incidents can happen, they are not very common.
The gun death rate in Lyon is 2.83 incidents per 100,000 people, which is a moderate rate. It is higher than in some places in France, but lower than in most cities in the United States.
The rate of other violent crimes is similar. In recent years, there has been an increase in crime in Lyon which worries many people. However, local news broke down the increase in crime.
Journalists found that crimes that increased the most were burglaries, which increased by a whopping 43.5%, and domestic violence, which increased by 35.7%. Keep in mind that these are the types of crimes that mostly affect locals, not tourists.
Like any city of its size in the world, Lyon has its fair share of crime. There are even some parts of the city that are gritty, with elevated crime rates. However, the crime rate is mostly moderate, and tourists are rarely affected by more severe incidents.
The most common crimes people may experience in Lyon are forms of petty theft. Petty theft, such as pickpocketing, bag snatching, and scamming, is common throughout France, and Lyon is no different.
In fact, many travel advisories for France warn travelers about the prevalence of petty theft. The Canadian government warns that thieves are active in France’s major cities.
They tend to operate in crowded places that attract tourists. Although Lyon has a lower rate of petty theft than Paris, it is still a danger in the city. Thieves operate around transportation hubs, such as the Lyon Part Dieu train station and Lyon Perrache bus station.
You’ll also encounter pickpockets on public transportation, especially the T2 tram line, and in popular tourist areas such as the narrow streets of Vieux Lyon.
Pickpocketing increases during popular times for visitors such as the Lyon Festival of Lights. The precautions you would take to protect yourself from theft in Lyon are the same as the ones you would take pretty much elsewhere, based on common sense.
Don’t leave your bags unattended or hold them in a way that they are easy to snatch. Don’t put valuables somewhere where they are easy to snatch unnoticed, such as a back pocket.
Avoid using your phone on public transportation or headphones that may impair your reflexes. Thieves often work in groups. Be careful if you see groups of people crowding near the doors on public transportation, as this is a common tactic pickpockets use.
You are forced to squeeze by them and then someone will pick your pocket.
Also be careful if someone is trying too hard to get your attention in public, such as alerting you to a stain and offering to clean it up, as they often work with an accomplice to rob you.
Violent crimes against tourists in Lyon are rare, but they do happen sometimes. The most common violent crime to affect tourists in Lyon is robbery and mugging.
Most mugging incidents in Lyon happen at night, so make sure that you adjust your movements after dark. You don’t have to be back in your accommodation safely tucked in every night, but you should also make sure that you aren’t walking alone down a poorly lit alleyway.
The Australian government also advises visitors to avoid risky behavior at night, such as withdrawing money from a street ATM. If you do get robbed, focus on getting away as quickly as possible and avoid resisting.
Robbers usually operate in groups, and they sometimes assault victims as well since they have the power of numbers on their side. Hand over what you can and focus on getting away safely as soon as possible and reporting the crime to the police.
Avoiding Bad Areas
Like any big city, Lyon has a few areas that are higher in crime than others. According to local news, the place with the highest crime rate is the central 2nd arrondissement, which is home to Presqu’ile and a lot of tourist attractions.
That is because this location is where a majority of pickpocketing incidents and other forms of petty theft occur, which drives up the overall crime rate.
The gentrifying neighborhood of Guillotiere has a few sketchy areas, such as the area around the Saxe-Gambetta metro station and La Place Gabriel Peri.
It is a popular hipster area, but if you are staying here, be careful of certain pockets of the neighborhood, especially after dark. Rue St. Catherine is a popular nightlife area that can get rowdy at night.
Like most French cities, Lyon’s poorest, most dangerous neighborhoods are crowded in the housing estates in the suburbs.
Some neighborhoods to avoid include:
- Les Minguettes
- La Saulaie
- Moulin a Vent
Things to Consider
Here are a few things to keep in mind when visiting Lyon:
- Avoid driving in Lyon. Cars driving in the center of the city need a special air pollution sticker. Plus, traffic and parking are usually a nightmare.
- Be careful when crossing the street. Drivers that do drive in Lyon often do so recklessly, especially taxi drivers. Always look both ways when crossing the street (even on streets that seem as if they are one-way streets).
- Watch out for common scams. One common scam is petitioners asking you to sign for a charitable cause, then pressuring you into a donation. Be skeptical if anyone approaches you on the street asking for money.
- Be open to the city. Lyon is a modern, multicultural city. Although you should be on your guard against potential dangers, you shouldn’t let your suspicions get in the way of enjoying yourself in the city.
Frequently Asked Questions
Still want to know more about Lyon? These questions can help:
What is the safest part of Lyon?
The central areas of Vieux Lyon and the Pentes de la Croix-Rousses are some of the safest in Lyon in terms of violent crime, but they also get a lot of pickpockets. More residential areas such as Brotteaux are also very safe.
Is it safe to travel to Lyon alone?
Yes, Lyon is safe to visit alone. However, you will need more situational awareness than if you were traveling with a group.
How many days in Lyon is enough?
Three days is a good amount of time to spend in Lyon. That gives you enough time to see the sights, check out some of the fabulous museums, and eat many delicious meals.
Are taxis safe in Lyon?
Taxi services in Lyon are heavily regulated, so they are usually safe. Just make sure that you take an official taxi, which has markings on its livery, instead of an unofficial one.
What should I avoid in Lyon?
Avoid anything that makes you vulnerable to pickpocketing and petty theft. That includes flashing valuables, using your phone on the metro or tram, and carrying your wallet in your back pocket.
So, Is Lyon Safe to Visit?
Lyon is safe to visit. Like any big city, it has some crime, but you can avoid being a victim with some basic precautions.
So, with so much to see and do and a very safe overall environment, what are you waiting for — book your trip today and experience for yourself all that Lyon has to offer. Happy travels!