- Travel in France
- Where to go
What to see and do
- the connoisseur's guide to France
Rhone Alpes is one of the most
prosperous areas of France, famous for its Alpine
ski areas. But the area, which stretches from Lake Geneva
to the Cevennes and Provence, is far more than just the French
Rhone-Alpes - the area
centered on France's second city, Lyon, was previously one of the
traditional regions in
France, encompassing eight departments. Since 2016, it has
been merged into a new larger region known as Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes.
With its three main cities,
Grenoble and St. Etienne, plus the area that includes the French
suburbs of the Swiss city of Geneva, Rhone-Alpes is one of the
more prosperous areas in France.
includes all or a large part of different historic provinces, including
Savoy and the Dauphiné, as well as a small northern part of
known as "Drome Provençal". It stretches from the plains of
in the north, to the lower reaches of the Rhone, in the south; and from
the highest peaks of the Alps, on the Italian border in the east, to
beyond the Loire in the west. It has international borders with
Switzerland and Italy, and lies astride the main lines of communication
from northern and central France to these two countries.
of the Rhone Alpes
The eight departments of the
Rhone-Alpes area are, from northwest to southeast: the
department (69), around and to the north of Lyon, the Ain (01) in the
northeast, including the Bresse plain and the southern part of the
Jura; the Haute Savoie (74) and Savoie (73), two Alpine departments;
the Loire (42) to the east of Lyon, the Isère (38)
stretching from the
Italian border almost to Lyon, the Ardèche, (07), the dry
of the Massif Central, and the Drôme (26), mostly made up of
southwestern foothills of the Alps.
The diversity of the Rhône-Alpes area
The area's identity is defined on
the one hand by the river Rhone and its tributaries, and by the other
hand by its Alpine uplands. The Rhône enters France at
a twisting course as far as Lyon
then heads due south towards the
Mediterranean. From Lyon to the Mediterranean, the Rhone valley is one
of Europe's major historic lines of communication, the shortest
historic route between north and south, avoiding a crossing of the Alps
or a large detour.
The area has a mixed economy:
Lyon is traditionally a centre for the petrochemical and pharmaceutical
industries, though also a major centre for service industries. Grenoble
is one of the most important high-tech cities in France, a city which
boomed in the high-tech revolution, when start-ups and international
firms such as Hewlett Packard were attracted by the city's attractive
location at the foot of the Alps. .
In the northeast of the region,
there lies a very prosperous area made up of the French suburbs of
Geneva and the resorts on the southern shores of Lake Geneva.
By contrast, St. Etienne is
one of France's great industrial cities, with an economy based on coal
and steel. The area around St. Etienne is an industrial heartland; and
although the mines have closed, some heavy industry still survives.
The northern departments of the Rhone
Alpes region are relatively prosperous agricultural areas; but in the
three main Alpine departments, the rural economy is heavily dependent
on tourism, both in summer and winter. These Alpine departments boast
many of the most popular, most accessible and most prestigious ski areas in France
The hilly country of the Drome and Ardèche departments does
not offer a
lot of good agricultural land, except in the valleys, where fruit and
vegetables are a major industry; but in recent years, both these
industries have suffered on account of cheaper imports from southern
Europe. The Ardèche is a particularly dry department,
northernmost expanses of classic Mediterranean hinterland, "garrigue"
or arid hills covered in scrub and coarse vegetation.
The Rhône-Alpes region also has some
reputed vineyard areas, in particular the Beaujolais area to the north
of Lyon, and the northern part of the Côtes du
Rhône area south of Lyon. Among the most attractive are the
terraced vineyards around the steep-sided Rhone valley between Vienne
and Valence, with appellations such as Crozes-Hermitage, Saint Joseph,
and Côte Rôtie. Rather less well-known
are the vineyards of the Savoy area, which produce some good fruity
white wines, and the vineyards of the Ardèche
which produce Mediterranean-style reds
to Rhone Alpes
(direct TGV) from Paris Gare de Lyon or from
Brussels, and other cities. Lyon is just 2hrs by TGV train from Paris.
Access by car
from the UK: the easiest way is to cross to Calais, then drive down the
motorway via Rheims and Dijon, avoiding Paris.
Access by plane
: Lyon St.
has good connections throughout Europe, and is a hub
for Easyjet. There are also airports with flights from the UK in
Grenoble and Chambéry. Just outside the region (just a
the French border), Geneva Cointrin airport has a wide range
of international and intercontinental flights.
of the main tourist sites
in the Rhône-Alpes
(73): classic elegant spa town on the eastern shore of
the Lac du Bourget.
- The Alps (74, 73,
38) the French part of Europe's most important mountain range, with
numerous attractions for summer and winter. Includes la
and Les Ecrins,
two high mountain national parks.
- Annecy (74) Attractive
old Alpine town, on the shores of Lake
en Bresse (01) : ornate late gothic "Eglise de Brou",
built as part of a royal monastery by Margaret of Austria. Centre for
the Bresse wetlands, an area of lakes and marshes famous for its
birdlife. Waterfowl and birdlife park at Villars les Dombes.
(74). the original French winter-sports resort, now just
one of many. It is the point of departure for hiking in and around Mont Blanc, Europe's
highest peak. ► Chamonix
Thonon (74) Chic resorts on the southern shores of Lake
the cablecar up to the Fort de la Bastille, for an impresssive view
down over the town. The National Centre for Contemporary Art
one of the best in France. The Grenoble Museum has a good collection of
19th - 20th century art, including Gaugin, Matisse, Bonnard and Picasso.
du Bourget (73) an Alpine lake, the largest freshwater
lake in France.
(69) The historic city is classed as a UNESCO world heritage site. It
lies between the rivers Rhone and Saône, and on the steep
of the Saône. The old city has an architectural and cultural
spanning over two thousand years. The Musée des Beaux Arts
Arts museum) has a large and varied collection, from Ancient Egyptian
artefacts to modern masterpieces, including works by Tintoretto,
Reubens, Gauguin, Monet, Picasso and Francis Bacon. ► Lyon
de glâce, near Chamonix. (Receding) glacier,
by rack and pinion train.
(42). Former industrial capital of southern France, the
city now boasts several museums including the Mining Museum,
the Museum of Art and Industry, and a Design centre. Nearby Firminy has
a number of groundbreaking buildings designed by Le Corbusier.
(38) Small town on the Rhone, with interesting Roman and
(38) Domaine de Vizille - Chateau, extensive
landscaped grounds and gardens, and a Museum of the French Revolution.
Rhône valley from Vienne to Tournon (38, 07) The Rhone
runs through a narrow valley, below some of the more famous of the "Côtes du Rhône"
(07). Le train du Vivarais, old narrow-gauge steam railway
winding up through the terraced valleys of the Ardèche
(07) top end of the Ardèche
of a famous
natural bridge across the river. The Caverne du Pont d'Arc is a
remarkable copy of the nearby Grotte Chauvet caves, with their unique
collection of prehistoric cave paintings.
Vercors (26) Attractive foothills of the Alps, a
good area for hiking, mountain biking and other outdoor pursuits.
(26). For many French people travelling south, Montelimar
is where you reach "Le Midi" (the South of France). The city is famous
as the home of nougat.
The Pont d'Arc, over the
Tain l'Hermitage and its Côtes du Rhône vineyards
The train du Vivarais at Tournon
Inside the Caverne de l'Ardèche prehistoric centre