Musee de la Mine: Saint-Etienne has a rich history of mining, and this is the biggest site in southern France. Situated in picturesque surroundings close to the city centre, a guided tour will only cost you €7. It’s been considered a historic monument since January 2011.
Musee des Verts: Another museum, yes – but don’t groan, this one’s dedicated to football. AS Saint-Etienne have won Ligue 1 more times than any other side (10) having dominated the 1960s and ‘70s, so there’s plenty to delve into here. You can get the stadium tour which includes museum admission for €15.
Credit: Philippe Merle/AFP
Loire gorges: If you’ve got a whole day and the weather is nice – your chances are good in June – you can hop on a boat down the Loire river and take in the beautiful scenery, hidden villages and vintage architecture. You’ll get a proper itinerary and stop along the way. Alternatively, go solo and enjoy some canoeing.
Kiosque a Musique Place Jean Jaures: One of the prettiest spots in Saint-Etienne, the square will be busy during the Euros as a hub of musical activity. With its grass and fountain, it should be the perfect place to chill with a few drinks.
Cité du design: The city is proud of its reputation as a design-centric hotspot, and this is its crown jewel. Exhibitions here change regularly, and it’s a modern space popular with the bohemian locals.
3 fast facts
- Saint-Etienne’s Stade Geoffroy-Guichard was the scene of Michael Owen’s famed goal against Argentina at France 98.
- It will host four games at Euro 2016 – three in the group stage and another in the last 16 – having previously been used for the 1984 European Championship and aforementioned 1998 World Cup.
- Long known for manufacturing weapons, Saint-Etienne was briefly renamed ‘Armeville’ during the French Revolution.
Where do the stars hang out?
Cafe Saint-Jacques is a bar in the city centre frequented by the city’s trendy mob. Serving various cocktails, beers and wines, it’s a popular spot for night-time enjoyment and particularly on Saint-Etienne matchdays. With a roof terrace and ‘cosy lounge’ upstairs, you probably won’t want to leave.
Saint-Etienne with David James, courtesy of Continental Tyres
The setting for England vs Argentina at France 98 and THAT Michael Owen goal (plus David Beckham's red card, but keep that quieter), Saint-Etienne welcomes the English again when they face Slovakia on June 20.
Local cuisine you have to try
- Fourme de Montbrison cheese was first created in the 8th century and is still made now in jasseries – that’s farms in quiet hamlets, to you and us. The cow’s milk creamy cheese is soft and blue streaked, so you should be able to spot it.
- Head to Cornand, Saint-Etienne’s famous grocers, for their homemade pasta. You can get your hands on some sublime ravioli and cannelloni flavoured with various delights.
- Capacity: 42,000
- Year built: 1931 (renovated 2014)
- Record attendance: 47,000 (1985)
David Beckham. Kicking out. Diego Simeone. Silly boy. Yeah, that one. The Stade Geoffroy-Guichard's final game of France 98 was England's heartbreaking exit to Argentina, after staging five games in the group stage. It hosted two matches at France's victorious Euro 84, and will welcome four games at Euro 2016 – including England's Group B tussle against Slovakia. Better luck this time?
- Get on your bike: Saint-Etienne is known as France’s home of cycling, and you can hire a Vélivert bike there 24 hours a day. There are 24 docking stations dotted around the city, and you can return a bike to any of them. Visit the website for details (http://www.velivert.fr/)
- If you’re struggling for accommodation, try slightly further afield in Lyon – it’s less than an hour’s train ride away, and even accessible by cab if there’s enough of you to split the fare.
- It’s not uncommon for English fans to sniff out Irish bars abroad – and in Saint-Etienne there’s no shortage. The wonderfully named Le Saint Patrick and Crazy Leprechaun will do if you’re not fussed about the local scene, or the Smoking Dog for somewhere a bit more upmarket.
3 most Instagrammable locations
- Château de Bouthéon: This castle’s grounds are immaculate, so you won’t be found wanting for photo ops inside or outside the building itself.
- Le Corbusier: Around 20 minutes from Saint-Etienne, the Firminy Vert site is an architectural paradise.
- Cathédrale Saint Charles: Beautiful by night – even if it is technically unfinished. There should have been another three bell towers; perhaps they’ll do them later...
Sons and daughters of the city
Willy Sagnol: The 58-capped France international began his career with les Verts after joining them in his early teens, before moving on to greater things with Monaco and Bayern Munich. The Champions League and five-time Bundesliga winner has moved into management, though his last job ended in disappointment at Bordeaux. After steering them to the Europa League, 2015/16 started badly and he was sacked in March.
Loic Perrin: Centre-back Perrin is a Saint-Etienne legend; a one-club man who, at 30, has only ever known his hometown club from his pre-teen years. He’s now among the club’s top 10 for appearances, having made his debut back in 2003.
Sylvain Armand: Former PSG left-back Armand spent nine years in the French capital but never actually played for his hometown club, despite representing the youth team. His other clubs thought he was good enough, though: after making his name with Clermont and then Nantes, where he won Ligue 1, Armand went on to achieve the feat again in Paris before leaving in 2013.
Paul de Vivie: Said to be the father of French cycling touring, ‘Vélocio’ created the derailleur bike which featured four gears. What he neglected to do was take out a patent, meaning he missed out on the fortune of an invention that revolutionised cycling.
Thierry Gueorgiou: Don’t worry, you’re not supposed to have heard of him either. But Gueorgiou is a multi-world champion in… wait for it… orienteering. Apparently not everybody thinks it’s a waste of time in P.E.
Fan park info
Saint-Etienne’s fanzone isn’t slap bang in the city centre, more a mile-ish walk from it in François Mitterrand Park. It’ll show all of the games from Euro 2016, so there’s bound to be an atmosphere at whatever time you go. The stadium is only a 10-minute walk from there.