France’s culinary capital of Lyon stands grandly at the meeting point of two big rivers in the southern half of France. It’s a wonderful city to visit for food, culture and history, and is surrounded by idyllic countryside in all directions.
Of course, it helps to explore if you’ve got a rental car. We’ve got pick-up locations across the city, including at Saint Exupery Airport, the railway station and in the city center. Whether you’re in the city for work or a holiday, you’ll be able to quickly find us and jump in one of our wide selection of vehicles.
Don’t forget you can collect a car at one of our offices and drop it off at another if that suits your journey plans, and we never charge you for using your credit card.
The sights and attractions of Lyon spread wide across the Rhone Valley and you’ll want to see some of the landmarks further afield too. If you have a rental car in Lyon, you’ll find that there’s a very comprehensive road system to help you get around the city and the spectacular mountains to the west and east.
Lyon stands in the southern half of France but it’s still 190 miles north of the Mediterranean coast at Marseille. So the city forms an important inland hub for the major road routes of southern France.
There is no official orbital road, but the layout of motorways and trunk roads around the city actually forms several circular routes. These can help you find your bearings in the heart of Lyon, or bypass the center altogether if necessary.
Take the A7 motorway and head south into the Rhone Valley towards Avignon and the Mediterranean, while the A6 heads north, in the direction of Macon and Dijon. You’ll be able to drive to St Etienne on the A47 while the A42 and A48 head west into different parts of the Alps.
It's worth noting that the central Lyon operates a one-way system, so make sure you've got your route fully planned before setting off. You'll more than likely need to cross one, if not both, or the city's rivers – the Saone and the Rhone – but there are a wide variety of bridges you can take.
Throughout France the traffic drives on the right and most of the rules of the road are similar to the other continental European countries. When you are driving around Lyon and the central southern region of France you’ll find that the maximum motorway speed limit is 81mph. Urban motorways, dual carriageways, and other roads have lower limits. Built-up areas have a 31mph limit.
Lyon has a worldwide reputation for being the center of fine French cuisine and an economic powerhouse, but you’ll find there’s a lot more to this fascinating city than Michelin stars. Don’t neglect the sights within a short drive of the city either, from the hills of the Auvergne to the old towns of the Rhone Valley, there’s plenty to see in all directions.
Take in Lyon's heritage
At the heart of Lyon is the Old Town. The original settlement was built here on the heights above the west bank of the Saone River, just before it merges with the Rhone.
There are so many landmarks in this old district that it has been designated a World Heritage Site. If you wander around this area, you’ll be able to see monuments from all eras, including Roman remains and churches from the Renaissance.
The most imposing sight is a lot younger, though. The huge Basilica de Fouviere that looms high above the city center is a finely decorated Victorian Gothic church standing on the site of the old Roman Forum. Today it’s a fine spot to look out over the city and plan your adventures. You’ll see that the church is beautifully floodlit at night.
A short walk away, still on the hill of Fouviere, is the Metallic Tower. This is like a mini Eiffel Tower and has become one of the symbolic sights of the city. The 19th-century structure is only 86m high but stands at the highest point of Lyon.
The highlights of Lyon also include the Institute Lumiere, the old home of Auguste Lumiere. He was one of the two brothers who pioneered cinema in the city. Inside his grand house, today is an interesting museum about these early French moviemakers.
A taste of the Rhone-Alpes
These days France’s third-biggest city has grown into a large urban area, but one characteristic that it has retained is its fine French cuisine. Locals joke that the city’s chefs serve ‘pig fat fried in pig fat’, but the latest wave of young chefs have embraced more healthy ways of eating and Lyon is now home to some of France’s highest-rated chefs.
Try lunch at the La Cave d'à Côté, a chic café tucked away in the narrow backstreets of the city, or head to Brasserie Chantecler in the lively Croix-Rousse neighborhood. In contrast, formal dinner at the finest multi-Michelin-starred eateries can be pricey but may be the most sensational part of your visit.
Look out too for traditional ‘bouchons’ – informal, old-fashioned family-run restaurants. Specialties here are likely to include sausages, duck pate, and pork.
To the east and west
Try the short scenic drive along minor roads to the hilltop village of St Symphorien-sur-Coise, where an old church overlooks terraced fields, and the old town of Montbrison, which is known locally for its cheeses. Take a stroll here along the river, spotting half-timbered houses leaning over the water and the flower-decked waterway running through the edges of the town’s streets.
Head east out of Lyon and you'll find it isn't far to the great sights of the French Alps. The spa resort of Aix-les-Bains and pretty foothills of the Chaine de Belledonne are easy day trips and the perfect location for a relaxing break. For a quick outing that’s even closer, try the delightful drive from Meximieux to Pont d’Ain on the D984. The tranquil villages and tree-lined roads are like a drive back in time.
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