Words by Sharron Lynskey and Chris Jones
It’s that time of year again, as Ireland look to go one better than last year’s strong second-place performance in the Six Nations. The team starts with one of the toughest tests of all – an away fixture in Paris. Last year’s clash ended in a 19-9 victory for Ireland, while the last meeting at the Stade de France ended in an agonising 10-9 win for Les Bleus. Expect another close encounter on Saturday 3rd February.
If you’ve been lucky enough to bag a ticket to the big game, we have all the details on how to get to the stadium, what to do while you’re in Paris and where to go for the best pre- and post-match pints.
If you still haven’t booked your match ticket, some are still available on the Stade de France website.
Photo by Spedona, used under CC licence
The Stade de France is France’s national stadium, situated just north of Paris in the suburb of Saint-Denis.We strongly advise that you use public transport to get to the stadium due to its busy location, but if you are taking the car to Paris for the weekend, be sure to check out our top tips for driving in France.
From Charles De Gaulle airport or the Calais ferry, you’ll use the A1 motorway and take exit number 2, signposted Stade de France, to join the A86 motorway. Then exit at number 9, signposted Saint Denis – La Plaine Stade de France.
If you are getting off the ferry in Cherbourg, head for Paris on the A13 motorway. On the outskirts of the city, you’ll fork left onto the A14 at junction 7, signposted Nanterre/La Défense/Paris-Porte Maillot/Saint-Germain-en-Laye. After approx. 16km, exit onto the A86, signposted Saint-Denis. Stay on this motorway for another 14km and exit at number 8b, signposted Saint-Denis Centre, then follow signs for Stade de France.
From the Roscoff ferry, the fastest route to Paris is via Rennes and Le Mans on the E50 route. Once you get to the capital, join the Boulevard Periphérique anti-clockwise and exit at junction 23 for the A1, signposted Saint-Denis. Then follow signs for Stade de France.
Parking tickets cannot be purchased on match day and any fans bringing the car to the game will have to purchase a parking ticket in advance on this website.
Remember that on match days, there is restricted access to the grounds. Only authorised vehicles and/or those displaying a parking ticket will be allowed to park. The stadium’s car parks will open from 8am until 9pm.
If you’re opting for public transport, you can either take the metro or the RER (metro extension). Both RER lines B and D can be taken from stations Châtelet and Gare de Nord. If you take line B, get off at La Plaine Stade de France and if you’re on line D, get off at Stade de France Saint Denis.
Metro line 13 also connects the stadium with Montparnasse (a 25-minute walk), Invalides (a 20-minute walk) and Saint-Lazare (a 15-minute walk). Get off at Saint-Denis Porte de Paris.
Whether you are looking to warm up or wind down, or if you don’t have a ticket and want to watch on TV, there is no shortage of pubs and bars where you can soak up the match-day atmosphere.
Head straight for Rue Princesse, also known as ‘Rue Du Soif’ (Thirsty St), where you will find a number of hearty, fun establishments. Take Metro line 10 to Mabillon, or line 4 to Saint-Germain-des-Prés, and it’s just around the corner. Eden Park – named after the All Blacks’ home stadium in Auckland – is a dedicated rugby pub full of memorabilia, and if it’s a taste of home you’re after then you can’t go wrong with the bustling Little Temple Bar.
North of the Seine, the pubs and bars around the Grands Boulevards metro station are also popular haunts for rugby fans. Corcoran’s and O’Sullivan’s are the closest Irish pubs, while there’s also Café Oz if you fancy a taste of Australia. All have big screens for the match.
Photo by Claude Attard, used under CC licence
Paris is one of the world’s must-see cities, so you don’t need us to list its most important sights, but if you are spending any time in Saint-Denis then there are a few extra sightseeing options.
Number one on your list should be a tour of the Stade de France – especially if you have any budding Jonny Sextons or Sophie Spences in tow. The stadium tour includes access to a permanent exhibition featuring the history of the stadium’s construction and important mementos including signed shirts and replica trophies. A guided tour usually lasts about an hour and tickets can be booked on their website, but keep in mind that tours aren’t available on match days.
Though not the most picturesque part of Paris, Saint-Denis boasts some other attractions that may be worth investigating. Most notable is its impressive Basilica (pictured above) – the burial site of French monarchy for more than a millennium, and an important pilgrimage location.
Finally, La Cité du Cinéma could be worth a visit for film buffs. A fully functioning film studio complex designed and supported by the famous French director Luc Besson (Taken, Leon, The Fifth Element), it offers guided tours and regular exhibitions and events. There’s more information here.
All images: public domain unless otherwise stated.