Located southwest of Lyon in the Rhône-Alpes, Saint-Étienne is a design fan’s dream. From funky galleries and museums to architectural gems, it’s the perfect place for a weekend city break. Here’s what to see and do.
A Melting Pot of Creativity and Innovation
On the site of the iconic and historic arms factory in Saint-Étienne, the Cité du Design is a platform for creativity, research, teaching and training through and about design. Three renovated buildings co-exist with two modern constructions, including the Platine, containing exhibition halls, a multimedia library, a shop, a designer’s offi ce and a restaurant. The Observation Tower completes the facilities, offering 360-degree views. The Cité du Design also organises well-known events like the Saint-Étienne International Design Biennial and annual exhibitions both in Saint-Étienne and abroad.
A Design Identity
Saint-Étienne became a UNESCO City of Design and Member of the Creative Cities Network in 2010. The city has fully embodied its signature role as a ‘Visionary Workshop’ which reflects its ability to constantly innovate. There is a range of tours for you to explore the city on the theme of your choice: ‘The Roots of Saint-Étienne Design’ or ‘Step-by-Step Saint-Étienne Parks and Gardens’, and there are many pedestrianised streets, architectural visits and heritage trips to enjoy. During your walk, stop off at the Weiss chocolate shop, founded in 1882, and taste some of the specialities on offer, such as nougastelles – crunchy nougatine chocolates made to a traditional recipe.
Le Corbusier, Firminy Vert, A Unique Site
The Firminy Vert site is located just 20 minutes from Saint-Étienne and one of celebrated architect Le Corbusier’s biggest projects. Explore this unique area and you’ll find the lofty concrete Saint-Pierre church with its sublime acoustics and lighting. Then pay a visit to the museum on the lower ground floor of the church for a better understanding of Le Corbusier’s work, which dared to turn traditional notions on their heads to introduce a new style of residence imbued with art and poetry. The Maison de la Culture and Residence (with approximately 1,500 residents) are both fascinating stages of the journey where you’ll explore Le Corbusier’s extraordinary vision, personal style and architectural concepts.
Discover the Local Museums
The city is brimming with must-visit museums. Visitors can experience a myriad of worlds, from the mining museums where you enter the miner’s underground universe to the Museum of Art and Industry to explore the roots of design. The Museum of Modern Art houses one of the most important collections in France, offering a look at modern and regional artists. Saint-Étienne’s museums are also scheduled to present numerous temporary exhibitions during the Biennale Internationale Design Saint-Étienne, March 9-April 9, 2017.
Visit La Chartreuse de Sainte-Croix-en-Jarez
The village of Sainte-Croix-en-Jarez, listed amongst the most beautiful in France, is on the buttresses of the Pilat range in the heart of the Regional Nature Park. It is surrounded by Carthusian buildings and the village homes are former hermitages. It’s well worth a detour from the city.
For visitor information, go to: saint-etiennetourisme.com/en
From France Today magazine