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Lyon ranks second only to Paris on the list of France's most populous metropolitan areas. However, this historic city remains more popular as a transportation hub than a tourist destination. Lyon stands at the crossroads of five major motorways, three major rail stations and two important rivers. Before heading outside the city via car hire in Lyon, visitors may wish to further explore Lyon's ancient history and legendary gourmet cuisine.
Who to Book With
Five different international car rental chains, including Sixt and Avis, are represented at the Lyon-Saint-Exupéry International Airport, 24 kilometres east of Lyon's well-preserved Old Town. National chains such as France Cars and Ada are also widely available across the city, especially near its Old Town. All of the above establishments offer online booking.
Best Time to go
Lyon's busiest times of year are its early December four-day Festival of Lights and the entire month of August, when most French people take their summer holidays. Rented vehicles and accommodations are both hardest to find and most expensive during these busy occasions. The months of May, June and September bring better bargains, smaller crowds, and weather less unbearably hot than in summer.
Need to Know Essentials
Prior to collecting your car hire, these documents need to be presented:
- A photo ID such as a passport
- A valid driver’s license belonging to a motorist over 21 years of age
- Proof of insurance
Like most other major French cities, central Lyon is best explored by foot or bicycle instead of motorised vehicles. Motorists should park their vehicles in one of the city's rapidly filling car parks before venturing into Lyon's Old Town and Presqu'île districts. Driving does, however, become much easier once motorists venture onto any of Lyon's five surrounding motorways. A6 travels north to Paris, A47 travels west to Saint-Étienne and A43 heads towards the French Alps. A42 leads to Switzerland and Germany, while A7 travels south to Spain, Italy, and the French Riviera.
Lyon has been one of France's most important transportation hubs since the Roman Empire. Today, the city contains no fewer than three significant rail stations, four subway lines, four tram lines and over 100 lines within its recently redesigned bus networks. European credit card holders can also take advantage of Vélo'v, Lyon's popular public bicycle network.
The historic Perrache, Part-Dieu in the main business district, and St Exupéry near its namesake airport are Lyon's three major SNCF rail stations. These high speed trains may be the fastest way to travel throughout France. It takes just two hours to reach Paris from Lyon aboard a TGV high speed train, while Marseille is just over a 90 minute TGV journey away. Eurostar trains take about five and a half hours to travel between London and Lyon. TCL operates the four subway lines which stop at a total of 40 stations every day between 40 stations between 05:00 and 24:00.
TCL recently redesigned Lyon's bus network in 2011, but this is still among the few French cities which still uses electric trolley buses. Two of the city's over 100 bus lines, numbered C1 and C3, are large articulated trolley buses whose brand name is Cristalis. Ticket prices for all TCL buses, trams and metro lines are £1.35 per single journey.
Taxis in Lyon are widely available, but expensive. Fixed fares begin at nearly £1.68, followed by an extra £1.13 per kilometre during the day or extra £1.70 per kilometre on Sundays, holidays and at night. Further extra surcharges are incurred for airport or rail station pickups, pets or large luggage, as well as extra passengers. Visitors must request taxis by phone or in person at taxi stations. Lyon Taxi Prestige allows passengers to travel in the lap of luxury for costs no more expensive than most other taxi companies offer.
The Swiss city of Geneva and the ski resorts of the French Alps each lie about two hours away with car rental in Lyon. However, many lesser known, but equally worthwhile, destinations are even closer to this longtime transportation hub. Locals frequently make the half hour drive to the medieval village of Pérouges, while another two-hour road trip leads motorists to Annecy, known as the Venice of Savoie because of its lovely canals and lakes.
Crémieu - The rulers of the Dauphiné region once presided over the ruined medieval château at Crémieu, one of Lyon's closest and most popular day trip destinations. Visitors can stroll through the ancient city gates or browse the wares sold at the 15th century outdoor market.
Pérouges - Several films have been shot in and around the splendidly preserved medieval village of Pérouges, which all visitors enter through an ancient high wall called the Porte d'en Haut. Each weekend, many Lyon locals make the 29km drive to this remarkably well-preserved medieval village filled with cobblestoned streets and breathtaking buildings.
St Romain-en-Gal - One of France's biggest Gallo-Roman archaeological sites, St Romain-en-Gal, lies just 48km south of Lyon along the Rhône River's right bank. Although little information about the local archaeological museum is available in English, the outdoor ruins and spectacular indoor Gallo-Roman mosaics are nonetheless worth closer looks.