France hosts the Rugby World Cup in 2023. From 8 September to 28 October: 7 glorious weeks of sports in stadiums across the country. 48 matches, 660 players, 20 teams from 5 continents, and 45 days of rugby – and festivities.
A whopping 450,000 fans are expected to visit France and millions will watch the games on television all around the world.
The matches take place in 9 host cities each with their own unique character and charm: Bordeaux, Lens, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nantes, Nice, Paris, St Denis, Saint-Étienne and Toulouse. See our top tips for where to go and what to do in each of the host cities.
Paris – Saint-Denis
The Rugby World Cup 2023 kicks off – and ends in Paris.
The city of light, of romance, of love – a lot of clichés and yet, Paris really is such an incredible city that the clichés don’t matter. From the Eiffel Tower to Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre – the world’s most popular tourist destination offers a myriad of fascinating places for visitors to fall in love with.
The Stade de France is a gigantic stadium, located in the historic commune of Saint-Denis, a suburb of Paris, 10km from the city centre. It has a seating capacity of 80,000 and is in fact France’s biggest stadium. Reach it by Metro (line 13) to Saint-Denis – Porte de Paris or by RER (train line D) to Stade de France – Saint-Denis.
In Saint-Denis: The Royal Basilica of Saint-Denis was the world’s first monumental masterpiece of Gothic art. The royal necropolis houses the tombs of 75 French kings and queens, and 63 princes and princesses through the centuries
In Paris: Where do we start?!
The flower market close to the great Gothic cathedral of Notre Dame, it’s like a little oasis in the city and has been trading since 1808 (4th Arrondissement). Musée d’Orsay, the former train station turned museum is an incredible building with the world’s largest collection of impressionists masterpieces, plus furniture and sculptures, far easier to get round than the Louvre. If you’ve never done it before, climb the Eiffel Tower for a view over the city like no other. Visit Montmartre for its arty, villagey feel and Sacré-Coeur. Sainte Chapelle – the chapel that’s older than Notre-Dame and feels like standing in a jewel box on a sunny day… Paris has so much to offer, we’d have to write a book to fit it all in!Walk everywhere, it’s the best way to see it all…
Paris’s Gastronomic scene
44,000 restaurants, well over 100 of them are Michelin-starred, and thousands of bars.
In a city where food is elevated to art, Paris offers so many opportunities that the best thing to do is find your own favourite by trial.
Traditional: Brasserie means brewery in France, but the food is the real star, traditional, classic French dishes are the order of the day. Try Bouillon Chartier, one of the most perfectly preserved restaurants of old Paris. Perpetually popular with tourists and Parisians (7 Rue du Faubourg Montmartre).
OTT dining experience: The Train Bleu restaurant located inside the Gare du Lyon takes some beating; with a spectacular interior it’s a memorable station buffet!
The Inside Track – Paris
For serious bling and a dip into the royal past of Paris, Versailles is easily reached from Paris via train (from Montparnasse or Saint Lazare stations) or RER Line C. You’ll need a whole day to explore this immense and magnificent palace and gardens.
Unusual: Take a backstage visit of the Opera Garnier. This famous opera house was the setting for the “Phantom of the Opera” story and is a monument to Belle Epoque Paris.
An hour by train from Paris, the capital of Hauts-de-France, Lille’s old town, is vibrant, exuberant and flamboyant. 17th century buildings, cobble stone streets, intimate courtyards, elegant squares and a thriving café culture. Like a miniature Paris but easier to discover and with a great vibe thanks to a young population.
The match takes place at Stade Pierre Mauroy is located in the Lille suburb of Villeneuve d’Ascq about 6km south-east of Lille’s city centre and main railway station. It’s in a quietish area with not much to do and is located between a motorway, golf course and shopping centre with a few food outlets in the shopping centre. Reach the stadium by metro. It is just a short walk from Metro station Cité Scientifique and 4 Cantons Grand Stade, both on metro line 1. You can take the metro from Lille city centre and at Gare Lille Europe where the Eurostar trains arrive, and from Gare Lille Flandres which is a short walk away.
Must-sees in Lille
Hop on the tram or tube to Roubaix and visit the art deco La Piscine museum in a converted public swimming pool
The old Stock exchange building – the courtyard now hosts a second hand book market which is stunning.
Lille’s Beer and Gastronomic scene
Lille is one of the top gastronomic cities in France and you’ll find a huge array of restaurants. Try the local speciality carbonnade – beef stewed in beer and sugar. Another local favourite, potchvleesche, may be a bit more of an acquired taste, three cold meats in aspic. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, pop to Meert the superb cake shop in rue Esquermoise where they sell mouth-watering local waffles!
When it comes to bars – it’s all about the beer here – the champagne of the north! There are dozens of microbreweries in the city and surrounding areas. So much choice but don’t miss Le Capsule. Locals will tell you this is THE bar to go to for beer lovers. Knowledgeable staff, comfy chairs and an outstanding, constantly updated range of beers. Bar-lacapsure.fr
Stade Pierre Mauroy is located in the Lille suburb of Villeneuve d’Ascq about 6km south-east of Lille’s city centre and main railway station. It’s in a quietish area with not much to do and is located between a motorway, golf course and shopping centre with a few food outlets in the shopping centre. Reach the stadium by metro. It is just a short walk from Metro station Cité Scientifique and 4 Cantons Grand Stade, both on metro line 1. You can take the metro from Lille city centre and at Gare Lille Europe where the Eurostar trains arrive, and from Gare Lille Flandres which is a short walk away.
Read our guide to Lille
Elegant and smart – sunny Bordeaux lives up to its nickname “The Pearl of Aquitaine”.
In recent years a major rejuvenation of the Capital of Wine has left it looking very buff indeed. The buildings have been cleaned, a futuristic tram system whizzes people around the city, and the cruise ships that stop here mean that businesses have prospered. All of which mean Bordeaux is one of the finest destinations in France for a visit – especially if you like great wine, fine food, fabulous architecture and vineyards (St Emilion is just 45 minutes away by train).
The match takes place at Stade de Bordeaux 8km from the city centre, it can be easily reached by tram line C, Parc des Expositions/Stade stop; line B, Porte de Brandenburg stop. Or by train, 20 minutes from Bordeaux St Jean Station
Must-sees in Bordeaux
The exceptional Bassins des Lumieres immersive art venue in a former WWII German submarine bunker.
Read our top ten in Bordeaux
Bordeaux’s wine and gastronomic scene
Let’s face it, this town has more wine bars than you can shake a stick at so, take your pick. From the old wine warehouse district, the Quartier des Chartrons in the old town to the trendy bars in the newer parts of the city.
Gastronomy and wine go hand in hand here. Wander through the atmospheric streets of the old town to discover many enticing cafés, restaurants and bars.
Get the whole low down on Bordeaux for rugby fan with tips on the best restaurants, the top things to do and nearby Saint-Emilion – unmissable.
Sophisticated, lively and classy this is a foodie’s paradise, perfect for culture vultures, a shopper’s delight – there’s something for everyone here. The old town is definitely the place to head to for a flavour of Lyon… literally. Pretty much every other building houses a restaurant or Bouchon, a traditional Lyonnais eatery, and the atmosphere is fun, fab and funky. Lyon cossets its visitors and it’s easy to fall in love with this elegant city.
The newly renovated, 59,000 capacity football stadium Stade de Lyon is located around 12km from the city centre. It will house a brasserie Bocuse and entertainment complex. It has been voted the most beautiful football stadium in France by FranceFootball fans. Reach it via tramline 3.
Marseille is a city with a split personality: huge modern metropolis/Mediterranean beauty with pockets of tranquillity and outstanding natural allure. Vibrant, sunny, exotic, cultural, gastronomic – Marseille has it all…
The state-of-the-art State Vélodrome reopened in 2014 and is a modern highlight in France’s oldest city. To get there: from the main train station Saint-Charles, take metro line 2 to either Rond-Point du Prado or Sainte Marguerite Dromel (both located at different sides of Stade Vélodrome). The stadium is located in the business district of the town so it’s not great for going out but it’s only a short journey back to the city centre.
Les Calanques, Mucem, day trip to Aix-en-Provence
Marseille’s gastronomic scene
Marseille has lots to keep foodies happy and if you like seafood, then you’re going to be truly indulged here. Splash out on the local speciality bouillabaisse, a spicy fish stew (it’s expensive).
Locals love: Visitors tend to stick to the restaurants around the port – understandable as the views are stupendous. But it is more expensive there and locals tend to go to less touristy areas like the fabulous Cours Julien.
There are loads of bars, the most famous perhaps being La Marine Bar which featured in the film Love Actually.
One of the most glamorous cities of France, Nice has everything – sun, sea and sparkle. Ever popular with tourists there’s plenty to do and see and it’s not for nothing that this vibrant city is called “the jewel of the Cote d’Azur”.
The old town, Vieux Nice is lively, colourful and vibrant. Stylish streets, marvellous markets, sophisticated shops, boho boutiques and plenty of bars, cafés and restaurants mean there’s something to please everyone here. Nice enjoys the most sunshine of any city in France (300 days a year), has the longest urban seafront in Europe and is the most visited city in France after Paris.
Stade de Nice is about 3 km from the city centre. It is a 6-minute train ride from Nice-Ville to Saint-Augustin station, then take a free shuttle running every 3 minutes in front of Stade Méarelli or take a 10-minute signposted walk.
Toulouse is known as ‘la Ville Rose’ (the Pink City) due to the terracotta bricks used in many of its buildings. It is a sunny, vibrant, elegant city – a curious and fascinating mix of old and new. It’s renowned for its technological track record – it’s the capital of the European aeronautics industry and is home to Europe’s largest space centre.
The 33,000 capacity Stadium de Toulouse where matches will be played is 3km from the city centre, situated on an island. Reach it by metro to either Empalot or St. Michel stations from where it is a 15-minute walk or a free shuttle bus transfer.
Toulouse loves its 18th Century Capitole, a magnificent and grand building that houses the town hall (and the opera house amongst much else). Check out the Salle des Illustres, with spectacular 19th century paintings on the ceiling and walls. Enter via a door in the arched passage of the Capitole – it’s free.
Toulouse is a compact maze of meandering cobbled streets that lure to you to wander and enjoy the colourful buildings, the shops, bars and sites – and there are plenty of them. Museums, churches and huge mansion houses galore (pick up a free booklet from the tourist office for details). See our guide to secret Toulouse…
The old town has a great atmosphere; Place St Georges is the place to go for a taste of local life and lovely terrace cafés. Encircled by classical style buildings and charming shops this is where those in the know hang out.
Not far from Lyon, Saint-Etienne isn’t so well-known but it’s a great city and surrounded by glorious countryside.
There are more than a dozen museums and sites of interest. Saint-Étienne proudly bears the label UNESCO City of Design due to its contemporary style and Le Corbusier designed urban area – considered one of the best examples of the renowned architect’s work in Europe. Everywhere you go here you’ll come across vibrant, quirky and very modern architecture.
The Cité du Design is a centre of creativity and research into design – this is where you’ll see the future! The Musée d’Art et d’Industrie pretty much represents the renaissance of Saint-Étienne from its industrial past and present to a city that today also embraces culture and art with gusto.
Tip: Collect a map and guide book from the tourist office – everything is spread out in this town so you’ll need to check travel details.
Stade Geoffroy-Guichard is located in a business and industrial area. It’s not greatly appealing and offers little in the way of bars and restaurants, so stay in the main city centre for more options. To get to the stadium around 3km away, take tram T1 or T2 and alight at stop G. Guichard. From there it is a 5 to 10-minute walk to the stadium.
Nantes is buzzing, vibrant, creative, with districts that vary considerably. There are elegant buildings around the Place de l’Opera as well as the dazzling shopping centre. The quirky island of the machines on Nantes Island is a must-see – giant mechanical animals that are truly spectacular. You can take boat rides on the river Erdre to see the glorious countryside on Nantes’ doorstep. Visit the vast Chateau of the Ducs de Bretagne, hand out in the old district of Bouffay with its maze of streets and welcoming bars. Nantes is a sprawling city so pop to the tourist office to get a guide to all the sights. There’s a tram system so it’s easy to get around.
Matches take place at Stade de la Beaujoire, take a tram from the city centre, Line 1, and get off at Beaujoire from where its a very short walk.
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