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Rhône-Alpes ( ; Arpitan: Rôno-Arpes; ) is one of the 26 regions of Francemarker, located on the eastern border of the country, towards the south. The region was named after the Rhône River and the Alps mountain range. Its capital, Lyonmarker, is the second-largest metropolitan area in France after Parismarker. Rhône-Alpes is also the 6th European economic region.


A map of the région
Rhône-Alpes is located in the east of France. To the north are the French regions of Bourgognemarker (Burgundy) and Franche-Comtémarker, to the west it borders the region Auvergnemarker, to the south it borders Languedoc-Roussillonmarker and Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azurmarker. The east of the region contains the western part of the Alps and borders Switzerlandmarker and Italymarker. The highest peak is Mont Blancmarker. The central part of the region is taken up with the valley of the Rhône and the Saône. The confluence of these two rivers is at Lyon. The western part of the region contains the start of the Massif Centralmarker mountain range. The region also borders or contains major lakes such as Lake Genevamarker (Lac Léman) and Lake Annecymarker. The Ardèchemarker is home to the deepest gorge in Europe.

As with the rest of Francemarker, French is the only official language of the region. 50 years ago, Franco-Provençal was widely spoken in the whole region. Many of the inhabitants of the south spoke varieties of Occitan although it is in steep decline in this region. There were relatively large immigrant populations from Polandmarker, Italymarker, Portugalmarker and North Africa, amongst other places.

Rhône-Alpes is made up of the following départements:


Rhône-Alpes contains 3 major cities in France. It forms the triangle Lyon - Grenoble - Saint-Etienne. This triangle is the economic core of the region. These three urban areas are very complementary, and have smaller cities around, like satellites.

  • Lyonmarker's area : 1,798,395 inhabitants (2008)
  • Grenoblemarker's area : 560,453 inhabitants (2008)
  • Saint-Etiennemarker's area : 321,703 inhabitants (1999)
  • Valencemarker's area : 164,334 inhabitants (2008)


The biggest agglomeration to the smallest :


Although there have been people in Rhône-Alpes since pre-historic times, the earliest recorded settlers of the region were the Gauls. Cities such as Lyon were founded by them and the region traded with both northern and southern Europe. Most of the area became part of Roman territory during the invasion of Gaul led by Julius Caesar and was at various times part of the regions of Lugdunensis and Gallia. Lyon itself became a major Roman city.

The region, excepting Savoy, was part of the Merovingian and Carolingian Kingdoms before becoming a royal territory under the Capetians. As it became a royal territory early on in French history, its history has not differed much from France since. (see History of France)


Main article : Transports in Rhône-Alpes.
Rhône-Alpes is a major European transit hub, linking northern France and Europe to the Mediterraneanmarker area. Millions travel along its motorways in summertime from Parismarker to holidays at the sea. The E15 Euroroute (Britainmarker to Spainmarker) runs through the region. There are international airports at Lyon, Grenoble and Saint-Étienne and many other minor airports and airfields.The region is also a transport hub for the rail-network with the TGV running through Lyon from Paris and the north, to the Mediterranean. A trans-national, high-speed rail-link is under construction from Lyon to Turinmarker.


Main article : Economy of Rhône-Alpes
Rhône-Alpes is a prosperous region, its economy second in size only to Île-de-Francemarker in France. This can be attributed to the diversity of the production in different sectors.
  • Industry, in particular:
    • Light engineering and high-tech
    • Mechanical engineering in the area of Annecymarker
    • Special machining in the area of Clusesmarker
  • Services, in particular:
    • High-tech industries & nanotechnology, especially in Grenoblemarker
    • Tourism with the Alps (for skiing), Lyon and Grenoble (for culture) and the Ardèche (adventure sports/camping) particularly popular
    • Education, with major universities in Lyon and Grenoble

In the past mining, especially coal mining was an important sector, particularly around Saint-Étiennemarker, although this has declined.

It should be noted that the area of the region that lies close to Switzerlandmarker has an economy linked to that of Genevamarker. Indeed, this area forms a hinterland for the Geneva hub.

Major cities

Annecymarker Saint-Chamondmarker
Bourg-en-Bressemarker Saint-Étiennemarker
Bronmarker Saint-Martin-d'Hèresmarker
Caluire-et-Cuiremarker Saint-Priestmarker
Chambérymarker Valencemarker
Grenoblemarker Vaulx-en-Velinmarker
Lyonmarker Vénissieuxmarker
Roannemarker Villeurbannemarker


Main article : Olympique Lyonnais.
Rhône-Alpes is the home of several successful football teams, including Olympique Lyonnais (current French Champions) and AS Saint-Étienne (one of the former clubs of Michel Platini). Another team has come in the french top-level in 2008 : Grenoble Foot 38.


Lyon is noted as a gastronomic center of France and specialities served in its traditional bouchons include Lyon sausage, special salami (known here as "rosette"), tripe and quenelles. In the east of the region the food has an Alpine flavour with dishes such as fondue,raclette common, gratin dauphinois and gratin savoyard. The region is also famous for its Bressemarker poultry and the many varieties of cheese including Tomme de Savoie, Bleu de Bresse, Reblochon, Saint-Marcellin and Vacherin.

Wines are also interesting in this region such as the very famous Beaujolais, Côtes du Rhône and Savoy wine.

Chartreuse liqueur is made in the region.


The Bastille, 260 m above Grenoble
Situated between Paris and the Côte d’Azur, on the border with both Switzerland and Italy, and offering access to two international airports (Lyon and Geneva), impressive rail connections and a vast motorway network, the Rhône-Alpes region is literally at the crossroads of Europe.

Boasting 8 natural parks and peerless sites such as Mont Blanc and the Gorges de l’Ardèche, the Rhône-Alpes offers a wide range of different landscapes: mountains, vineyards and gentle valleys, fields of lavender and olive groves.

Every form of sport is readily available, set against an impressive natural backdrop: hiking, mountain biking or even paragliding and canoeing… the Rhône-Alpes is not only the second most important golfing region in France with over 60 courses but it also has the largest ski area in the world and has hosted the Winter Olympics three times.

Enthusiasts of art and culture will not be disappointed by the region’s Villes d’Art: Lyon, which is classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, Annecy, Grenoble, Chambéry, and Saint Etienne.

And last but not least, connoisseurs of good food and wine will be spoilt for choice by the range of local specialties available to taste along with a Beaujolais or a Côtes du Rhône, and by the sheer number of famous restaurants (with Paul Bocuse at the top of the list) in the region.


There are six main lakes in Rhône-Alpes


For several centuries Lyon, capital of Rhône-Alpes, has been known as the French capital of gastronomy, due, in part, to the presence of many of France's finest chefs in the city and its surroundings (e.g. Paul Bocuse). This reputation also comes from the fact that two of France's best known wine-growing regions are located near Lyon: the Beaujolais to the North, and the Côtes du Rhône to the South. Beaujolais wine is very popular in Lyon and remains the most common table wine served with local dishes.

Lyon is the home of very typical and traditional restaurants: the bouchons. Bouchons are usually convivial restaurants serving local dishes, and local wines.

Lyon is famous for its morning snacks, the mâchons, made up of local charcuterie and usually accompanied by Beaujolais red wine. Traditional local dishes include saucisson de Lyon (sausage), andouillette, coq au vin, esox quenelle, gras double (tripe cooked with onions), salade lyonnaise (lettuce with bacon, croutons and a poached egg), marrons glacés and cardoon au gratin.

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