A few kilometers from Lyon and only three hours by train from Paris, Saint-Etienne (France) is a city that lends itself particularly well to a city break. For a weekend or a few days, discover this former industrial city which has chosen culture to find a new dynamism. Between its numerous museums, its theaters or its modern architecture, the capital of design has many assets!
What to do in Saint-Etienne? What are the good addresses and the unmissable visits? Here are some ideas to help you prepare your next stay.
Saint-Etienne in short
- How to get there? It is very easy to get to Saint-Etienne by train. From Paris, direct lines allow you to get there in just over 3 hours. Or only 30 minutes from Lyon.
- How long does it take? Ideally at least 2 days / 1 night to discover the city and visit some museums. 3 or 4 days will not be too much to take your time and discover more out-of-the-way places.
- When to go there? Saint-Etienne has no shortage of indoor activities, so you can go all year long without fear. Whatever the weather, you’re bound to find something to do in the dry!
- How to get around Saint-Etienne? A streetcar network makes it easy to get around the city. The ticket costs 1,4 € and allows you to move freely during 1h30.
Tip: opt for the City Card
If you are a culture addict and plan to visit several museums, then opt for the City Card. This tourist pass gives you free access to most museums, unlimited use of the streetcar and bus network and discounts with many partners. Valid for 1, 2 or 3 days, it is available from 16 euros.
The map of the best places in Saint-Etienne
To help you find your way around, find on this map all the great addresses mentioned in this article!
5 ideas of visits in Saint-Etienne
Stroll in the city center and discover the architecture
It is of course by taking the time to walk in the streets of the city center that you will feel the pulse of Saint-Etienne.
Did you know that Saint-Etienne is part of the Unesco creative design cities since 2010? This title is also due to its architecture, because in the middle of the old buildings are mixed modern structures: in “Sainté”, design is even in the streets!
Visit the (many!) museums of the city
Like former industrial cities such as Manchester, Saint-Etienne has succeeded in its transformation through culture. There are many museums in the area covering a wide range of disciplines. Between the Cité du Design, the Musée de la Mine, the Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain or the Musée d’Art et d’Industrie, there is bound to be a place made for you!
Go to Firminy to discover the architecture of Le Corbusier
About ten kilometers from Saint-Etienne, the city of Firminy has a unique architectural ensemble in Europe with several buildings designed by the famous architect Le Corbusier (1887-1965).
I highly recommend taking a guided tour of these buildings, which allows you to understand Le Corbusier’s vision and to discover that behind the cold side of concrete are hidden extremely well designed spaces for the daily life of its inhabitants.
It was at the end of his life that Le Corbusier worked in Firminy. At the time, the city was experiencing a demographic boom: the development of the steel industry generated many jobs and it was difficult to house all the workers. The public authorities then decided to design a new district that would include housing and facilities for daily life. It was in this context that Le Corbusier was asked to build a housing unit, a stadium, a cultural center and a church.
The church : the favorite visit
Built more recently, between the 70’s and the beginning of the 2000’s, on the plans imagined by Le Corbusier in the 60’s, the church surprises by its exterior architecture. Without the cross that dominates it, it is indeed difficult to realize that it is a religious building.
Today, only the upper part of the building has a religious vocation. The lower part is an interpretation center that presents one or two exhibitions per year. The interior is impressive: the openings play with the path of the sun to tint the walls with colored halos. A must see.
Go see a show
Take advantage of your visit to Saint-Etienne to go and see a show. The opera has a hall with one of the best acoustics in Europe and offers a varied program: recitals, lyrical, symphonic, dance, young audience…
Take a look at the program of the Comédie, a national drama center founded in 1947. The establishment has two halls with 300 and 700 seats. With, in addition, a bar/restaurant and a terrace, this theater is a warm and lively place.
Create your own chocolate bar
Saint-Etienne is a land of design but also of chocolate! Before the Second World War, there were 25 chocolate factories here which were able to prosper thanks to the coal industry which provided the energy necessary for this trade but also to the presence of the railway line which allowed the production to be exported.
Since 1882, the house of Weiss perpetuates this tradition. It is an artisanal chocolate factory which carries out all the stages of transformation of chocolate, from the bean to the bar.
In the suburbs of Saint-Etienne, the Weiss workshops are open to the public to show the know-how of their teams around a convivial moment. Here, you have the possibility to meet the teams, to drink a hot chocolate and of course to crack in the store!
The little original touch is the creation of your own bar! You choose your chocolate base (white, milk or dark), up to three additional ingredients to embellish it (hazelnuts, puffed rice…) and a master chocolatier creates your bar in front of you.
And also…: enjoy the nature close to Saint-Etienne
To complete your stay and enjoy a more natural setting, you can go to the Gorges de la Loire like in Saint-Victor sur Loire where you will find a beach and many water activities (paddle, kayak…) only 15 minutes from the city center.
The Pilat Regional Park will also allow you to do outdoor sports activities: hiking, via ferrata (in summer), snowshoeing and cross-country skiing (in winter).
Best places in Saint-Etienne
Where to go to eat?
Saint-Etienne does not lack good addresses but here are two that I particularly recommend.
Go to Solar, the restaurant of the artistic exploration space “La Comète”. The chef Benjamin Gagnaire welcomes you from Monday to Friday from 12 to 2 pm with a cuisine elaborated from local and seasonal ingredients. The menu changes every day and, if you are in a hurry, you can opt for the take-away formula in returnable boxes to enjoy your meal while taking care of the environment!
For dinner, the restaurant “Madame, table de cheffe” offers excellent gastronomic cuisine in a charming setting. You can choose between the chic and cosy atmosphere of the interior or the relaxed patio.
On the Firminy side, stop at Ô Corso. This brasserie offers copious dishes at a very good quality/price ratio. My suggestion for the gourmets: choose the Weiss chocolate fondant, a treat!
Where to sleep?
To put down your suitcases and rest, there is no lack of hotels in Saint-Etienne. For a good quality/price ratio in the heart of the city, you can go to the Continental hotel (2 stars). The rooms are basic but very clean and quiet.
Some stores of local know-how
Arts and crafts, ceramics, illustration, screen printing, jewelry, design, etc. Saint-Etienne is a city full of know-how!
In Saint-Etienne, many creators and craftsmen join forces to open their store in the city center! By getting lost in the city, it is therefore possible to find independent designer stores or even to do workshops on the spot to create yourself: starting with the City Hall district with the Femme à Barbe which offers textiles and jewelry, but also the Atelier du Coin, a craftsman’s store located at the bottom of the steps of the Crêt de Roch, the Atelier Inkoozing, rue Paul Bert, which offers workshops to introduce you to screen printing. But also, Marushop, a store which gathers a hatter-fashion designer and an illustrator or the Local, towards the Place Chavanelle which proposes workshops of drawing, ceramics, flowers and sewing, according to your desires of the moment!
And to stock up on local products, go to the Magasin, the store of the Saint-Etienne tourist office, which has gathered locally produced delicacies, games, clothes, jewelry, books…
You now have all the cards in hand to prepare your trip to Saint-Etienne so enjoy your stay 😉
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This article was produced in collaboration with the Saint-Etienne Métropole Tourist Office