Things to do

A guide to Saint-Denis, home of the Stade de France

Driving from our Calais terminal is a great way to get to Saint-Denis, home of the Stade de France and one of France’s most historic churches.

A guide to Saint-Denis, home of the Stade de France

Saint-Denis is home to two legendary places of French worship – the Basilica Cathedral, resting place of French royalty, and the Stade de France, where passionate fans cheer on the national football and rugby teams. 

As one of the venues for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, Saint-Denis has plenty of things to keep fans occupied if they are spending time here. 

Less than ten minutes from the centre of Paris by train, the area has a real sense of independence, with a proud history and a vibrant multi-cultural feel. 

Where is Saint-Denis?    

Saint-Denis is a district to the north of Paris, around 10km from the city centre. 

Driving to Saint-Denis from Calais

It takes around three and a quarter hours to drive to Saint-Denis from the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle terminal in Calais, via the A26 and A1 motorways (with tolls). 

The top places to visit

Saint Denis is the patron saint of France, and it is thought divine help spurs on the national teams playing in the Stade de France! This is the place you are most likely to be heading in Saint-Denis, but allow for some extra time for the other attractions on offer. 

You don’t have to drive to explore Saint-Denis – it is only a short Metro ride from Gare du Nord. But if you do, here’s some more tips for getting around Paris by car

Stade de France

A large three tier stadium at night, with a capacity crowd, before a football match. The pitch is covered in a blue sheet with ‘Champions du Monde’ written on it
Credit: ‘Stade de France’, by Darthvadrouw, licensed under CC BY 4.0

Built for the 1998 FIFA World Cup, the Stade de France is the only stadium in the world to have hosted the finals of both the football and rugby World Cup. The French football team have bittersweet memories of the stadium – it was the scene of its first World Cup triumph in ’98 but also its defeat in the final of Euro 2016. 

With a capacity of over 81,000, the Stade de France is one of the largest stadiums in Europe. It has also hosted UEFA Champions League finals and many music events. If you can’t get a ticket for a football or rugby match there, a stadium tour is the next best thing! Tours last around an hour and take you into the stands, the changing rooms, through the tunnel and to the side of the pitch. The ticket price includes entry to the stadium museum.  

Basilica Cathedral of Saint-Denis

A monumental stone tomb in a cathedral. Various sculptures of figures adorn the outside of the tomb.

There are few more important churches in France than the Basilica of Saint-Denis. It marks the site of the tomb of the first bishop of Paris, Saint Denis, who was martyred in 250 AD. First a place of pilgrimage, it then became the abbey of Saint-Denis and a mausoleum of French kings and queens from the 7th century. Its royal associations continued for over a thousand years, with Louis XVIII the last monarch to be laid to rest there in 1824. 

As one might expect, the interior is astounding. There are over 70 effigies and monumental tombs in the royal necropolis, making it the largest collection of funerary sculpture from the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The tomb of Louis XII and Anne of Brittany is one of the most beautiful. The basilica is also one of the first examples of the Gothic style of architecture. The rose windows, stained glass, nave, choir and doors are particularly stunning. 

Tickets for visiting the Basilica Cathedral can be bought in advance. 

Parc de la Légion d'Honneur

The Parc de la Légion d'Honneur is a tranquil green space in the heart of Saint-Denis. It is the former park that once belonged to the abbey, which is now home to the Education House of the Légion of Honor. Napoleon Bonaparte created this institution as a school for the daughters of the holders of the Légion of Honor, the highest military and civil order in France. 

A tulip festival is held in the park every April, and there are fitness trails and a children’s playground. It is a great place for a picnic after a visit to the basilica. Guided tours of the Education House are available. 

Musée d'art et d'histoire

Housed in the cloister of a Carmelite convent, the Museum of Art and History has some fascinating collections on a range of themes. Saint-Denis was historically a centre of Communist activism, and there is an exhibition on the Paris Commune of 1870-71. Historical and archaeological remains on display bring medieval Saint-Denis to life, and there are also interesting displays about the Carmelite order itself. 

Parc départemental Georges-Valbon

Trees and a lake in a large city park
Credit: Georges Valbon Park, by Guilhelm Vellut, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Georges-Valbon Country Park is the largest park in the greater Paris area, encompassing 400 hectares of parkland, wildflower meadows, gardens and woods. The park is within walking distance of the centre of Saint-Denis. Ornamental lakes and waterfalls are dotted around the park, which is home to over 140 species of birds. Horse-drawn carriage rides through the park are available over the summer months. Paddle boats and rowing boats can be hired, along with bicycles and tandem bikes.

The farmers’ markets at Marché Saint-Denis

The food markets in Saint-Denis are a real draw for people visiting the area. Held three times a week in the market hall and on the surrounding streets, the markets specialise in foods from local producers and around the world. Browse stalls selling cheeses, meat, pasta and grains (especially couscous), fruit, vegetables, spices and seafood. North African influences in Saint-Denis are very strong, and the smells are heavenly, from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt. 

Parc des Chanteraines

Across the Seine from Saint-Denis lies another great escape from the city – Chanteraines Park. Much smaller than Georges-Valbon, it features a lake, ornithological reserve, botanical gardens, water meadows and open parkland. It is a great spot for a walk by the lakes or for the kids to burn off some energy. There is also a small educational farm, cafés, riding school and children’s play areas. A narrow-gauge railway runs through the park, which is a great thing to do on a summer’s day.  

A façade of a Gothic cathedral stands on a main city square. The sky is blue but cloudy

Visit Saint-Denis with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle

Whether you are travelling to Saint-Denis for a date with rugby destiny, or just want to explore more of what the area has to offer, your journey can start with a 35 minute trip on Eurotunnel Le Shuttle from Folkestone to Calais.

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Visit Saint-Denis with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle

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