Saint-Etienne On a BudgetSaint-Etienne (Saint Stephen), a city southwest of Lyon, is drawing on its Industrial Revolution origins and its history of arms, bicycle, textile and ribbon production, to reinvent itself as design city. And the change is noticeable. After almost 30 years of decline, the city is now looking optimistically towards the future. Its center and suburbs are smartening up at a rapid pace. There are plenty of good surprises, including two great museums and a great eating scene.
SightsSaint-Etienne has both cultural and natural sights, so there's something for everyone. For those interested in natural sights, the Gorges de la Loire Nature Reserve and the Barrage du Gouffre d'Enfer offer some great options like lakes, rivers, waterfalls, and forested areas.
For those more interested in cultural sightseeing, Saint-Etienne has plenty to offer there as well. Architecture dating as far back as the 1500's, interestingly decorated shops and homes, spectacular churches and monuments, and more. Saint- Etienne includes sights such as: decorated factories and shops, the Paul Landowski monument, The Church of Our Lady, The Joan of Arc statue, the Grand'Eglise, the Church of Saint Marie, and more.
NeighborhoodsThe Saint-Etienne city center is where most of the main sights and attractions are located. It is also where most of the shops and restaurants are found. The center is broken up into three neighborhoods.
The Jacquard neighborhood is one of the city center neighborhoods and has been on the map as a neighborhood since 1840. The woven fabric contributed to the development of this district during the nineteenth century. Many manufacturers built workshops in this area, easily recognizable by their high windows and the decoration of their facades in the open spaces. The silk condition building as well as some of the other factories with their decorations are one of the sight in this area. The national school of architecture is also located in this neighborhood along with the synagogue and the Place Jacquard with the sculpture monument of Paul Landowski.
Also in the city center, the neighborhood of Chavanelle is centered around the rue des Martyrs de Vingre - the old rue St-Jacques - which used to take the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela. The architecture here is mainly from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Some of the main sights here are the group of houses of the seventeenth century, rue Escoffier, the house of Feugerolles composed of a very beautiful staircase, the Place Chavanelle - a former bus station of the city which was renovated and returned to pedestrians and has works by contemporary artists highlighted on the square, and The Church of Our Lady with a Jesuit facade of the 19th century. This church houses a sculpted wooden pulpit by Desire Claude and the Callinet organ (1837), classified as a historical monument, restored by Gaston Kern in 1995. The bell tower houses a mechanical bell, restored in 2001.
The third neighborhood in the city center is the Old Town, which is where the majority of the sights and attractions are found including such locations as: The Grand'Eglise built in the 15th century , Gothic style structure in coal sandstone, the statue of Joan of Arc of Fremiet which is a reproduction of the statue place des Pyramides in Paris, The Rue de Lyon which is an old historical axis of the city and the church of Sainte-Marie, and The Francis I House built in 1547 in the primitive nucleus of the city.
ActivitiesSaint-Etienne hosts the forward-looking Biennale Internationale Design (Bi-Annual International Design) fair during March and April in every odd-numbered year. Since its very first edition in 1998, the Saint-Etienne International Design Biennial has taken stock of the state of design and creativity worldwide and given its visitors food for thought on changes in society and new lifestyles. This could be an interesting event to attend for those interested in art, design, and creativity.
Also, for art lover's, Saint Etienne's Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art is an excellent option. It is the country's second largest Art Moderne museum after Paris' Centre Pompidou, this museum features an exceptional collection of 20th-century and contemporary paintings, sculptures and photographs. Another great museum which also offers displays of some of the pieces features at the Biennale Internationale Design is the Cite du Design. Find out about the Biennale Internationale Design fair and browse diverse, regularly changing exhibitions here, in a gleaming glass-and-steel building.
Food and DiningSaint-Etienne has a great food scene with many fantastic restaurant options offering delicious fresh, locally sourced products. While there are plenty of great choices, here are a few ideas to help you get started: Le Gros Roger, for a taste of American cuisine, Pizzeria la Grotte Azzura, if your in the mood for pizza and Italian cuisine, or Aux Deux Pommes de Pin, for some traditional French options.
TransportationThe best prices for buses and trains in France can be found on Omio (formerly GoEuro). They let you search across all train, bus, and plane routes throughout Europe.
The nearest airport is Saint-Etienne - Boutheon Airport which is located in Andrezieux-Boutheon. This is mostly a local/regional airport, though, so for international flights, the Lyon airport may be a better option. Saint Etienne is only about 50km from Lyon, so the commute to get there from Lyon is not long. The main railway station is Gare de Saint-Etienne-Chateaucreux, which offers high speed services to Paris and Lyon and several regional lines. Saint-Etienne is also notable for its tramway which uniquely with Lille, it kept throughout the 20th century and its trolleybus system which is one of only three such systems currently operating in France. There is also a regular bus system here as well as a bicycle sharing system with 280 short term renting bicycles is available since June 2010.