Do you need a car in Lyon?
( LYS )
As is also the case with a city like Toulouse, Lyon airport serves two quite distinct functions — firstly, it caters for passengers who actually want to visit the city of Lyon itself, and secondly it caters for people who want to head east into the Alps, and who have very little interest in the city of Lyon. In terms of car hire, most of our advice concerns people in the first group, or for people who want to visit the Alps in summer, as transfers to and from ski resorts are usually provided as part of a ski holiday package anyway. For looking at anywhere to the east of Lyon, much of this advice is similar to what we would say for people looking at picking up a hire car in Geneva, as there is a great deal of overlap.
Do you need a car in Lyon? Introduction
Why should you rent a car in Lyon?
What are the main reasons for hiring a car here? Do you just want to drive locally? Do you want to go further afield, or should you even look at taking a road trip?
In terms of factors like the cost of the hire itself, fuel costs, road tolls and parking charges, is it worth hiring a car in Lyon?
Lyon Car hire summary
Cheapest rate for one week
Based on cheapest economy car hire deal with no added extras. [full notes - basic costs]
How much should I expect to pay in the peak season?
Based on cheapest deal during the summer holiday season. (Unless otherwise noted) [full notes - seasonal variations]
Free parking score
Total 459 - of which 140 have free parking. [full notes - parking]
- Scenic drives — it doesn’t matter which direction you head out of Lyon, the scenery is superb. Even if it is perhaps not as well celebrated as some of the more popular tourist areas closer to the Mediterranean coast, there is still much to see.
- Driving a couple hours east will take you into some excellent walking territory in the Alps, whereas heading west you can visit the stunning volcanic landscape of the Auvergne.
- Flexibility — Lyon might be France’s second city, but unless you are wanting to travel on one of the few railway routes out of Lyon which are heavily trafficked (mainly the north-south TGV Mediterranean route, but also intercity routes to Chambery, Grenoble and St Etienne), you will find that trained in this part of the world are not actually very frequent, and sometimes torturously slow.
- Ski car hire — although you can easily take resort transfers from Lyon, hiring a car gives you more flexibility to visit different ski resorts, and naturally, to do so at your own pace.
- Cycling – Alpe D’Huez is perhaps the most famous climb anywhere in the cycle racing world. It’s just under a 2 hour drive from the centre of Lyon to the start of the climb. So here’s the challenge – if you are already planning a cycling holiday to France, then chances are, you will already have the transport sorted for your bikes. The closest you will be able to get to Alpe D’Huez by train is Grenoble. So what if you’d just like to include a climb of Alpe D’Huez as a single event, in the middle of touring round the French Alps? Well this is where it gets quite difficult. First you’d have to get to Grenoble, then take a local bus to Bourg D’Oisans, then do the same on the way back. It’s by no means impossible, but it’s just going ot be a lot easier to, well, park and ride! However you do it, various bike hire options are available locally.
Why not? Visiting Lyon without a car
Lyon public transport quick facts
Overall public transport score
Walking and Cycling Overview
Active travel score
This overall rating considers walking and cycling in and around Lyon.
- City of Lyon — Lyon has plenty to offer, whether you are looking for ancient or modern attractions. The city has a huge Roman quarter, whilst also having extensive northern areas around Part Dieu.
- Gastronomy — if France is home to the world’s best cuisine, then it is Lyon that is its capital, not Paris. There are numerous fine restaurants all over the city, but no car is needed to get there.
- Metro — as with other major French regional cities like Marseille, Toulouse and Lille; Lyon is served by an excellent and modern metro system. Four lines spread out from the city centre area, so you’ll have no problem getting around.
- Other nearby cities — basing yourself in Lyon, you can easily make day trips to nearby St Etienne, Chambery or Grenoble. These are all around an hour by train from Lyon. Alternatively, you can take the much faster TGV link and head as far south as the Papal city of Avignon or even Aix-en-Provence, in a similar amount of time.
- Le Puy-en-Velay — of the many volcanic rock formations which can be found around the Auvergne, the most impressive must be the volcanic plug at Le Puy-en-Velay. This particular location can easily be visited by train from Lyon with one change in St Etienne.
- Combine with Paris — by TGV, Lyon is just two hours away from the French capital Paris. This makes it easy to combine two of France’s great cities into one trip, especially as there is a much wider choice of flights to Paris than there is to Lyon.
- Lyon airport station — the natural inclination when you arrive at any airport is to get out as quickly as you can, and to head straight for your destination, but in the case of Lyon airport, the TGV railway station, designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, really is something quite special. The station is highly worth a visit, even if you do only turn round and go straight back to the car hire lot.
For many years, you can only board trains heading north or south away from the airport, but in 2010 the “Rhonexpress” tram link was finally opened into the centre of Lyon itself. This journey now takes around 25 minutes, with easy connections into the rest of the Lyon Metro system.
- Ski transfers — most ski holiday packages will include a coach transfer to your resort, whereas if you are making your own dynamic package, these can easily be added at the time of booking. Alternatively, it is easy to take the train direct from Lyon airport to the cities of Chambery and Grenoble, and continue onwards towards resorts such as Albertville, Aime for La Plagne and Bourg-St-Maurice in the Isere Valley.
There is certainly no need to hire a car in Lyon if you are just planning on staying in and around the city itself, but we think that the scenery nearby deserves more attention than it often gets. To get the most out of this, a hire car is strongly recommended.
Note — outside the ski season, the range of flights to Lyon from UK regional airports is quite limited, but you can easily transfer from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport to either Part Dieu or Perrache station in the centre of Lyon in just two hours. In the winter, you can also look at flights to Chambery or Grenoble.
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