Saint-Étienne has so much to offer. Situated only a stone’s throw from the Pilat Regional Natural Park, the Forez mountains and the gorges of the River Loire, the city is lucky enough to be sufficiently near the countryside while offering everything that can be expected of a major cultural centre. Climbing, paragliding, hiking and mountain biking, are just some of the activities available, making the city of “Les Verts” (Saint-Étienne Football Club) a joy for to sports lovers. In summer, there is the Saint-Victor water sports centre where it is possible to go water-skiing and canoeing. Too cold for that in winter? No problem, just go to the ski resort!
It is located in the Rhône-Alpes region – see map. With more than 200,000 students, the Lyon-Saint-Étienne and Grenoble metropolitan areas are two of the largest French university centres. Rhône-Alpes is a prosperous region, its economy second in size only to Île-de-France in France. This can be attributed to the diversity of the production in different sectors.
In the 16th century, Saint-Étienne became a market town, and developed an innovative weapons manufacturing industry. The accounted for the town’s importance. During the French revolution, Saint-Étienne was briefly renamed Armeville – ‘arms town’ – because of weapons production.
In the first half of the 19th century, it was a chief town of an arrondissement in the département of the Loire, with a population of 33,064 in 1832. The concentration of industry prompted these numbers to rise rapidly to 110,000 by about 1880. It was this growing importance of Saint-Étienne that led to it becoming the capital of the département and seat of the Prefect, on 25 July 1855.
Saint-Étienne is located less than 1 hour away from Lyon, the capital of the region known for its historical and architectural landmarks and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was historically reknowned as an important area for the production and weaving of silk and in modern times has developed a reputation as the capital of French gastronomy. Economically, Lyon is a major centre for banking as well as for the chemical, pharmaceutical, and biotech industries. The city has a significant software industry and in recent years has fostered a growing local start-up sector. Lyon also hosts the international headquarters of Interpol, Euronews and International Agency for Research on Cancer.
Saint-Étienne is only 2 hours 50 from Paris, 2 hours from the main winter resorts of the Alps and their breathtaking downhill ski slopes. The beaches of Marseille and Montpellier are only 3½ hours away, and the Drôme Provençale, one of the loveliest French regions, a 1 hour 30 drive from Saint-Étienne. Turin is only 4 hours away, Geneva, 2½, and Barcelona, 6½ hours.