Sure we were in town for the best of international rugby. But along the way we were bowled over by the architecture, art and food in Saint-Étienne.
Here is what we got up to…
An artistic escape into Saint-Étienne
At the Galerie Ceysson & Bénétière, we had to take moment to pause and reflect. This Rugby World Cup has been about colour and vibrancy – and in large parts, we fell, it’s been at its best when athletes have felt free to express themselves. Think of Portugal, Fiji and Uruguay. Here, with the space to showcase the creative, the colours leap out at you.
For all that this city is about industry and heritage and local produce, it’s the artistic side that you feel the locals revel in. There’s a pride there. You’ll see it in the street art, in the sculptures jutting out of the city streetscape.
It’s perhaps also why architect Le Corbusier’s work outside of the city, in Firminy, is so celebrated. A pioneer, reshaping brutalist structures for public and sporting use, you’ll not forget the urban collective he put together, when you see it. But then Saint-Étienne is also a UNESCO creative city of design, and throughout the area you’ll see imposing buildings.
Getting around them will help you build up an appetite…
Food in Saint-Étienne
There’s a buzz at the Halles Mazerat, Biltoki – a fresh-feeling food market that offers an array of options. The highlight for us being to select your fish and have it prepared for you… While over on the bar at the other side, electing the win you thought would work best.
Wine, you ask? Impossible to ignore here in France, and in Saint-Etienne it’s no different. So we paid a visit to Vinifacture’s urban hub, where they produce wine in the heart of the city for an array of businesses and events…
It’ll also be tough to forget the Weiss chocolate factory tour, either. Much respect for the staff of the famous factory (and there’s a landmark street art motif of founder Eugène Weiss dipping his fingers in chocolate on the side of one building, done by artists local Ella & Pitr, which shows the ties between industry and art here). They let us try our hand at producing some of their chocolates and we could barely keep up after 30 seconds!
We also enjoyed fine meals at Le Coissou, La Java Bleue, and Auberge de la Jasserie amongst others.
Another angle at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard
Saint-Étienne’s rich sporting history takes in some rugby, sure – and we definitely felt the vibe as Saint-Étienne hosted Rugby World Cup action – but the football club, AS Saint-Étienne, has been the sporting heartbeat of this community, and has a rich history.
What we found at their club museum (Musée des verts) was arresting, interactive and informative sporting fun. There’s a lot to take in about their European adventures, domestic brilliance, and ties to the people of this city, once powered by the mining industry.
Oh, and a shout out to the stadium restaurant, which is surprisingly classy.
Also, out by the club shop is the Orbital Taproom, a local business with excellent options for independently-brewed beer… And pizza!
Bet of the rest in the city
All we’ll say is, what a sporting achievement it was to take on former Wallaby try-machine Drew Mitchell… At axe-throwing*.
Thanks to everyone at Numéro 8 for looking after us! Especially for the tips on food in Saint-Étienne and where to go for a nightcap after.
*We’ll forget the ‘pass the ball to the targets’ challenge at the Rugby world Cup fan village in Saint-Étienne, in which the Australian international, predictably, wiped the floor with us!
To find out much more about the very best of this city, visit the official Saint-Étienne tourism page.