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Things to do in Saint-Étienne
If you want to visit and experience a true French town, then this is the perfect stop for you! St. Etienne is the perfect mix of city and country. The town is close to Lyon which is the third largest city in France and only about an hour away by FlixBus. If you’re looking to spend some time in the mountains, either hiking in the warmer months or skiing in the winter months, there are many different national parks and ski resorts within two hours of St. Etienne where you can get your fix of adventure!
Similar to Lyon, St. Étienne has a very industrial past and was very important to France. To honor and commemorate this past, the city opened Musée d'Art et d'Industrie (Museum of Art and Industry). St. Étienne is known for being major contributors in three different industries: bicycles, weapons, and textiles. At the museum, you can see different ribbon weaving machines in action. With some of these machines and items on exhibit dating back almost 150 years, you almost feel like you were transported back in time. Ticket prices for students are €5.
If you are a lover of fine French chocolate because who isn’t, the next museum you should visit while in St Étienne is Les Ateliers Weiss. In fact, this is not only a museum but an operational factory. For €4.50 you can be guided by a chocolate artist through the company’s factory and of course at the end of the tour you will have the chance to taste the chocolate and buy some for the journey home. If you’re a lover of Nutella or Biscoff spread, you should taste the company’s own homemade recipe.
If exploring other galaxies tickles your fancy, Planétarium de Saint-Etienne (St Étienne’s Planetarium) is a wonderful place for you to spend an afternoon. Learn about different constellations and planets from a comfy armchair. Many of the exhibits are in French, so you can take this opportunity to deepen your knowledge of the French language or begin learning French. No matter how comfortable you are in French, the planetarium is a wonderful place to visit while in St. Étienne. Entrance for those under 25 is €6 and €7.10 for those older than 25.
If you enjoy watching soccer or just want to have an awesome experience to tell all your friends about back home, see a AS Saint-Étienne match in Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, otherwise lovingly known as “l’enfer vert” (green hell) or “le Chaudron” (the Cauldron) due to the team’s colors of green and white. The rallying chant that unities the team and the fans is called “Allez-les verts” (Go Greens). The football club and stadium both have long histories that any local would be proud to share with you. Depending on who Les Verts are playing you may be able to find reasonably priced tickets if you buy the day before or even right before the game.
Hiking, Skiing and Other Outdoor Adventures
There are two large national parks near St. Étienne that give you the possibility to fill your desire for adventure. Parc naturel régional Livradois-Forez while amazingly beautiful is more centered around the education of the natural surroundings than enjoying the park itself. If that peaks your fancy, then the park is only an hour outside of Saint-Étienne and could easily be a pit stop on your way to your next destination to break up the trip and learn a little along the way. If you are looking for ways to stay active, Parc Naturel Régional du Pilat may be more of what you’re looking for. Here you can find almost any sport that you could possibly want to do, in addition to learning opportunities and chances just to have a nice city-break and picnic. If you visit the park’s website, you will see that they have laid out many different hikes ranging from a few hours to multiple days and covering all levels of intensity. If you want to pretend like you are competing in the Tour de France, there are both paved bike paths and mountain biking paths depending on your mood and experience level.
If you are traveling through St. Etienne during the winter and want to catch some of that famous French Alp ski action, Pilat is an awesome place to do so without all the hype of ski resorts in Grenoble or Chamonix. However, if you are a downhill skier only, then you may enjoy a trip to Grenoble or Chamonix more since Pilat is more suitable for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. If you have never skied before, Pilat may be one of the best places to learn since it is very relaxed, you will not feel the rush of larger ski mountains. Both Alpe d’Huez, one of the biggest ski resorts in the region outside Grenoble, and Chamonix are about three hours from St. Étienne. So if downhill skiing or hiking Mount Blanc is a priority to you while in this region of France, then know they are within reach of St Étienne but not without some planning.
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