Population: 180,000; 400,000 in metropolitan area
The green shirts of its famous football team, Les Verts. The renowned Biennale Internationale Design convention. And a proud history as a great industrial city of eastern France. Yet for all this tradition as both working and sporting centre of excellence, Saint-Etienne has even more to offer. A place of contrasts, it is one of those large cities that also boast the advantages of a closer-knit community. The sporting and cultural attributes are never more apparent than in AS Saint-Étienne's famous 'Chaudron' football stadium and the Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain, France's second-leading collection after the Centre Pompidou.
This big village is close to some fabulous countryside too: located some 500m above sea level, both the Pilat Regional Natural Park and the Loire gorges are situated on its doorstep. Today's Saint-Etienne is a city capable of reinvention, of redesigning itself. It does not forget its history, rather it takes inspiration from it. The creativity once evident in its manufacturing past, now drives its efforts in the design sector – to the extent where Saint-Etienne is the only French city to have been made a UNESCO City of Design.
Legend has it that in Roman times, the first settlement took the name Furanum from its location on the Furan River. This name changed to Furania and persisted until the Middle Ages.
A cradle of the Industrial Revolution in France, Saint-Etienne became a centre of heavy industry and metalworking. By the beginning of the 19th century the city was the biggest mining area in the country and France's first railway was constructed here. By the 1970s, Saint-Etienne's industry was in decline and the city suffered a significant economic and demographic downturn.
Football has served as an escape from the realities of daily life. The city's legendary club AS Saint-Étienne are an indivisible part of the city's character. The local people identify hugely with the Greens and the stadium they call the 'Cauldron' is once again reaching boiling point.
Saint-Etienne is a dynamic city, especially when it comes to culture. Contemporary musical artists are showcased at Le Fil concert hall while Saint-Etienne is the only town in Rhone-Alpes to have a Zenith large-scale performance venue, constructed in 2008.
• Jules Massenet, composer (1842–1912): among the most famous works of this contemporary of Franz Liszt are Manon (1882), Werther (1892) and Thaïs (1894)
• Aristide Briand, politician (1862–1932): MP for Saint-Etienne from 1902 to 1919, Briand held 20 ministerial posts and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1926
• Geoffroy Guichard, industrialist (1867–1940): founder of the Casino group and major investor in AS Saint-Étienne, whose stadium is named after him
• Muriel Robin, comedian (1955–): a multi-talented performer, Robin has acted in several films and is also a scriptwriter
• Mickaël Furnon, singer (1970–): leader of the group Mickey 3D who came to fame with a song about Johnny Rep
THINGS TO SEE & DO
• Étivallière sports park: Next to Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, this is ideal for a morning run. This complex boasts a range of sporting facilities including a rugby stadium. If you prefer an indoor work-out, try the Soccer 5 complex, dedicated to five-a-side football, also a stone's throw from St-Étienne's stadium. Do not forget to visit the museum devoted to the Greens.
• Couriot Pit Mining Museum Park: Located in the pithead buildings of the last working mine in Saint-Etienne (closed in 1973) at 3 Rue du Maréchal Franchet d'Esperey, ten minutes walk from the city centre. Visitors can explore reconstructed mine workings and the former pithead buildings including the communal washroom, machine room and lamp storage room. The museum is also used for live performances, screening films and festivals.
• Loire cruises: To escape the summer heat, take a cruise down the Loire gorge on a trip combining nature and culture on board the cruise boat Le Grangent. Departures are from Saint-Victor-sur-Loire, 13km west of Saint-Etienne (the only city in France to have an inland freshwater port). Relax and enjoy the wonderful scenery.
• Place du Peuple: A short walk from Place de l'Hôtel de Ville, Saint-Etienne's main retail outlets are located in Place du Peuple and the surrounding streets: Rue Alsace-Lorraine, Rue Michelet and Rue Général Foy. Check out Chocolats Weiss with its exquisite range of chocolate, one of the city's specialities.
• Rue des Martyrs de Vingré: The pedestrianised street is a favourite destination for a night out. Enjoy a drink in a very British, football-friendly atmosphere. Choose from a host of eating opportunities, from pizzerias to refined cuisine, with plenty of terrace dining. If you wish to extend your evening, head to Place Neuve and party until the early hours.
Saint-Etienne is well served by the road network. Drive ten minutes from the centre to join the A72 motorway towards Clermont and the A47 to Givors, which then connect to the A6 Lyon/Paris and the A7 Lyon/Marseille as well as the A89 to Geneva and Bordeaux. Lyon is less than an hour away by road, while Marseille can be reached in three hours.
Châteaucreux station offers four direct TGV trains a day to Paris, with a journey time of 2 hours 40 minutes. The railway link between Saint-Etienne and Lyon was the first TER (express) line in France. It now has departures every 15 minutes at peak times with the journey to Lyon Part-Dieu station lasting 40 minutes.
Saint-Etienne is situated close to two airports: Andrézieux-Bouthéon is 20 minutes away and offers charter and low-cost flights (with free parking); Lyon Saint-Exupéry airport is a mere 60 minutes away, meaning Saint-Etienne is less than two hours from over 100 major European cities.
Distances to other UEFA EURO 2016 venues
Lyon – 65km
Marseille – 335km
Nice – 500km
Paris – 525km
Saint-Denis – 540km
Toulouse – 540km
Bordeaux – 600km
Lens – 735km
Lille – 750km
Distances between city centres, by motorway where possible
Source: mappy – viamichelin
Distance of Stade Geoffrey Guichard to...
City centre: 4km
Airport (Lyon): 70km
Stade Geoffroy Guichard is the only major French stadium with a central urban location, just a few kilometres from the heart of the city. The stadium is close to two SNCF railway stations, a tram line and several bus routes. The wider city is served by three tram lines and 74 bus routes. Buy your tickets from kiosks or shops displaying the STAS logo; a range of ticket types is available. Saint-Etienne also has a popular bike hire scheme, VéliVert.
Founded in an industrial area, AS Saint-Étienne are traditionally a working-class club. Initially football was played by the sporting section of the Casino Stores Employees' Social Club, an organisation established by the Casino group in Saint-Etienne in 1912. The team chose to play in green – the grocery chain's signature colour.
Roger Rocher took over as club president in 1961 and the trophy cabinet soon began to fill. The whole of France looked on in admiration in the 1970s as the Greens became a dominant force. A memorable European Champion Clubs' Cup final ensued in 1976 where a 1-0 defeat by FC Bayern München did not prevent St-Étienne fans descending on the Champs-Élysées in jubilant scenes.
Michel Platini arrived at the club, but despite winning Ligue 1 in 1981 (the side's last championship) and a few parting blows on the European front (including a 6-0 dismantling of PSV Eindhoven), the glory days became consigned to a fondly remembered past. Disaster then struck with a scandal that resulted in relegation to the second division in 1984.
Over the next 20 years, with a string of different presidents and managers, and off-the-pitch problems, the Greens yo-yoed between the top tier and Division 2. In 2004 the club were acquired by Bernard Caïazzo and Roland Romeyer – and St-Étienne quickly re-established themselves in Ligue 1. The policy became to develop players, which paid dividends with the emergence of Loïc Perrin, Faouzi Ghoulam, Kurt Zouma and Josuha Guilavogui.
Over the last four years, the focus has been on securing sporting and financial stability, with the latter achieved through performance-based salaries. Under the stewardship of coach Christophe Galtier, the Greens finished tenth, seventh, fifth and fourth in Ligue 1 in successive seasons and a return to European competition.
• Aimé Jacquet (1941–): captain of the Greens in his playing days, Jacquet coached France to glory at the 1998 FIFA World Cup
• Dominique Rocheteau (1955–): nicknamed the 'Green Angel', an iconic figure in the club's 1976 European Cup run. Now St-Étienne's vice-president
• Michel Platini (1955–): the current UEFA President helped St-Étienne lift the French title in 1981 before moving to Juventus the following year
• Laurent Blanc (1965–): Paris Saint-Germain coach and member of the 1998 World Cup-winning side, Blanc played for Les Verts for two seasons
• Willy Sagnol (1977–): a graduate of the St-Étienne academy who achieved notable success abroad (with Bayern)
Did you know?
St-Étienne still hold the record for most French league titles (10) although their last triumph dates back to 1981.
Saint-Etienne staged matches at EURO '84, the 1998 World Cup and the 2007 Rugby World Cup. The city is also a regular host of the Tour de France and was a stage town for the 25th time on 17/18 July 2014. This places Saint-Etienne on the podium for most visits by the Tour de France, behind Pau and Alpe-d'Huez. The Saint-Etienne Exhibition Park hosts the start of the SaintéLyon, a 70km overnight running race to Lyon held in early December every year.
www.geoffroyguichard2016.com: Stade Geoffroy-Guichard
www.saint-etiennetourisme.com: tourist information office
www.saint-etienne.fr: city of Saint-Etienne
www.agglo-st-etienne.fr: Saint-Etienne metropolitan area
www.saint-etienne-ateliervisionnaire.fr: Saint-Etienne region
www.reseau-stas.fr: Saint-Etienne public transport
www.asse.fr: AS Saint-Étienne official site