Saint-Étienne is ideally situated for exploring southeast France, with the Rhône Valley vineyards, the Loire, and the French Alps all within day-trip distance. If you’re visiting Saint-Étienne for the France Rugby World Cup 2023, why not make the most of the time between matches and take in some of the regional highlights?
Ready to hike a volcano, sample Côte du Rhône wines, and discover France’s gastronomic capital? Here’s our pick of the six best day trips from Saint-Étienne.
1. Pilat Regional Park
With more than 72,000 hectares of forested peaks, vine-clad hills, and dairy farmlands in the foothills of the Massif Central, and all less than an hour’s drive from Saint-Étienne, Pilat Regional Nature Park makes it easy to escape from urban life.
Take your pick of nature walks and mountain hikes—the most popular include the trail to the summit of Crêt de l’Oeillon, which affords sweeping views of the Rhône Valley and the Alps, or the 1,431-meter peak of Crêt de la Perdrix, the highest point in the park.
Distance from Saint-Étienne: 19 miles (30 km)
How to get there: A 45-minute drive.
Don’t miss: Hiking the summit of the Crêt de la Perdrix.
2. Gorges de la Loire
West of Saint-Étienne, the Loire River carves its way through rocky gorges and wooded valleys. This is the forgotten corner of the Loire, far from the UNESCO-listed châteaux and Grand Cru wineries of the Loire Valley, and its wild landscapes make a dramatic backdrop for outdoor adventurers looking to get off-the-beaten-track.
Hiking trails run along the stretch of river between Saint-Paul-en-Cornillon and Saint-Just-Saint-Rambert, where highlights include Grangent Lake, the evocative ruins of the Château de Grangent, and the riverside beaches of Saint-Victor-sur-Loire.
Distance from Saint-Étienne: 10 miles (15 km)
How to get there: A 30-minute drive
Don’t miss: The view over the Château de Grangent.
Rugby fans will likely already find themselves visiting Lyon, another one of the Rugby World Cup host cities, but France’s gastronomic capital is also a popular day-trip destination from
Saint-Étienne. Come hungry and make a beeline for the legendary Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, where you can fill up on Lyonnais delicacies, then head out to explore the traboules of the atmospheric Old Town.
A day trip leaves just enough time to visit the hilltop Notre Dame de Fourvière Basilica, take a stroll along the quays of the Rhône and Saône Rivers, and admire the city’s colourful murals.
Distance from Saint-Étienne: 39 miles (62 km)
How to get there: Take the train (45 minutes) or drive (1 hour).
Don’t miss: A walking tour of Vieux Lyon.
4. Côte de Rhône
Top of the list for wine lovers is a tour of the northern Rhône Valley—part of France’s second-largest wine-producing region—famous for its smoky red Syrah wines and unique blends of red Syrah and white Viognier grapes.
The wine-making villages of Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage are closest to Saint-Étienne, where you can book wine tastings at family-run wineries, take a vineyard tour, and learn about the region’s unique terroir. Prefer white wine? You’ll find popular varietals around Condrieu and Château-Grillet.
Distance from Saint-Étienne: 30 miles (45 km)
How to get there: Join a guided tour from Saint-Étienne or drive (50 minutes to Côte-Rôtie).
Don’t miss: Wine tasting amid the vineyards.
With its medieval castle, glittering alpine lake, and winding canals, Annecy is every bit the fairy-tale French Alps resort. A walking tour of the Old Town is the best way to explore the cobbled lanes and flower-lined canal ways, after which you can climb the towers of the Château d’Annecy for a view over the lake.
Pack your swimsuit and head down to the lakeside beaches, where you can rent a paddleboat or stand-up paddleboard, or try water-skiing and wakeboarding along Lake Annecy.
Distance from Saint-Étienne: 115 miles (185 km)
How to get there: Take the train via Lyon (around 3 hours with connections) or drive (2 hours).
Don’t miss: A cruise around Lake Annecy.
Sitting pretty in the foothills of the Chaîne des Puys volcanoes, a day trip to the university town of Clermont-Ferrand includes both natural and manmade wonders. The volcano-themed Vulcania amusement park is a popular choice for those with kids in tow, or else you can head into the mountains to admire the craters for yourself on a short hike.
Back in the centre-ville, Clermont-Ferrand’s most distinctive landmark is its Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption Cathedral, a Gothic masterpiece sculpted from black lava rock, as is the striking Amboise Fountain and Mozac Abbey, just outside the city.
Distance from Saint-Étienne: 90 miles (145 km)
How to get there: Take the train (3 hours) or drive (1 hour 40 minutes).
Don’t miss: A view of the volcanoes.
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