Peterjon Cresswell's tour of the Euro 2016 venues returns to Paris to the Parc de Princes.
Paris is one of 200 soccer cities featured on Libero, the digital travel guide for football fans. Currently featuring a full ten-stadium downloadable handbook to France Euro 2016, Libero is a one-click treasure trove of football trip tips, tales and trivia. See www.liberoguide.com/paris/.
The role of the French capital in the history and development of the world game cannot be overestimated. The World Cup, the European Championship and the European Cup were devised and agreed upon in the boardrooms of Paris, which has played host to many finals.
The most memorable have involved France itself, namely the European Championship win of 1984 starring Michel Platini and the World Cup win of 1998 starring Zinedine Zidane. The venue for 1984, the Parc des Princes, and the arena built for 1998, the Stade de France, are international stages worthy of any great occasion.
Each is a major host of Euro 2016 – surely to be overshadowed by issues of security after the terrible events in the French capital in November 2015. As part of a city-wide wave of terrorist attacks, the Stade de France was targeted by suicide bombers during a match between France and Germany, explosions clearly heard around the packed arena. Four died outside the ground, including the three attackers.
The tragic events occurred just as the domestic club game is going through a significant and seriously funded revival. Football in the French capital has changed completely thanks to the huge financial injection by the Qatar Investment Authority in Paris Saint-Germain, now crowned champions four times running. Based at the Parc des Princes, until 2013 PSG had only claimed two titles in over 40 years.
As well as the arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the signing of David Beckham put PSG onto a level they had never known before. After the first post-Qatar title win of 2013, PSG beat moneyed Monaco to a second consecutive title in 2014. In 2015, they went one better and won the treble.
2016 saw PSG win the title by mid-March, sweeping everyone aside. There’ll be no more Zlatan in 2016-17, however – and European success has proved elusive.
Paris has two airports: Charles-de-Gaulle and Orly. CDG is 25km (16 miles) north-east of the city centre. The RER (suburban rail) line B takes 25 minutes to reach the Gare du Nord, the main train station and terminus for Eurostar services from London. RER trains (single €9.10) run every 15 minutes. A taxi to town should cost about €50.
Orly is 13km (8 miles) south of town. The Orlyval shuttle links with Antony on the RER B line (€10.90 including onward journey to town). A taxi to town should cost about €35.
Some budget airlines use Beauvais airport, 85km (46 miles) north of Paris, linked by buses (€15.90 online/€17) to Porte Maillot (journey time 1hr 15mins).
City transport in Paris consists of métro, RER lines, buses and trams. A single ticket is €1.80, a carnet of ten €14.10 and a Mobilis day pass €7 for zones 1 and 2 (including the Stade de France). For a taxi, call +33 60 76 04 914.
For the Parc des Princes, take métro line 9 to Porte de Saint-Cloud, a short walk from the stadium. As you walk up the avenue des Parc des Princes, the Tribune Paris is to your left.
Line 9 runs through key stations such as Franklin D Roosevelt and Trocadéro near the Eiffel Tower.
Reservations can be made at parisinfo.com.
For the Stade de France, the four-star Suite Novotel is directly opposite, on restaurant-lined rue Jules-Rimet. Rooms start at €110 but are quickly booked for big games. There is also an Ibis on two sides of the stadium: Sud and, one star up, Ouest, plus a bottom-of-the-range Formule 1 option nearby.
For the Parc des Princes, by Porte de St-Cloud métro station, the three-star Hôtel Murat usually has doubles for under €170. The nearby Holiday Inn Paris-Auteuil should charge around €270.
Convenient for the Eurostar terminus and transport to the Stade de France, hotels of varying quality ring the Gare du Nord. In the Accor group are the Ibis Styles Gare du Nord TGV and the four-star Mercure Terminus Nord while in a similarly wallet-friendly nationwide chain is the Kyriad Paris X Gare du Nord. Squeezed between the chains, the Richmond and the New Hotel are perennial cheapies. Even cheaper, a short walk away right by the Gare de l’Est, the Lorraine (3 rue d’Alsace, +33 1 40 35 81 80) is strictly no-frills but eminently affordable.
Also in the vicinity, and in the lower price range, the Campanile 10 is another nationwide chain while the Hôtel des Arts is conveniently located in Bastille. For St Michel, the Hôtel de Nesle is that rare combination of charming and affordable.
Home of PSG and before that the French national team, the Parc des Princes in south-west Paris near the Bois de Boulogne started life as a velodrome. In fact, it was used as the finish line of the Tour de France until 1967. A venue for the 1900 Olympics but not the 1924 Games, the Parc later fell victim to the building of the city’s ring road, the Périphérique.
Rebuilt in 1972, shortly afterwards it became home to PSG, the French national side and, briefly, a revived Racing Club. Only PSG remain, though the Parc did host five games for the 1998 World Cup finals when the Stade de France replaced it as the national stadium. With a capacity of 49,000, the Parc has enjoyed considerable improvement since the recent investment in PSG.
The stadium is divided into a lower red section and upper blue. The hardest home fans, the Kop, occupy the lower Boulogne end nearest Porte de St-Cloud métro. Opposite, the Auteuil end is also PSG. The best seats are found in the Présidentielle Francis Borelli nearest to rue du Commandant Guilbaud.
For domestic fixtures, away fans occupy the corner between Auteuil and the Présidentielle, accessed from rue Claude Ferrère. Neutrals may be best placed in the Tribune Paris along the eastern sideline nearest the métro.
For the Parc des Princes, the classic PSG bar has always been Aux Trois Obus (120 rue Michel-Ange), right by Porte de St-Cloud métro station. Although now gentrified in retro orange and brown, with arty images of sporting action, this classic Parisian café still features its signature back mirror of the Parc des Princes.
Right by the Parc des Princes, Les Deux Stades (41 ave du Général Serrail) is a timeless table-football bar, perennially the best choice for a pre-match drink.
Around Paris, there is a bar on every corner. Locals still flock to Oberkampf and Bastille while tourists swarm around St Michel. There, happy hour at 4pm on rue de la Huchette sees a frenzy of activity, bar staff trying to tempt in punters with promises of cheap (€5!) pints. Venues include Bull’s Brothers, Ze Bar and Georges Café.
Friendlier establishments include the sport-centric expat chain of Frogpubs, with five branches in town. These are smart operations with own-brewed beer and a textopint service to buy someone a drink by your mobile phone. Another chain is O’Sullivans, which also specialises in post-work drinks, pub grub and TV sports. Half-a-dozen branches are placed in prominent spots around the city. Irish-themed Corcoran’s has seven operations around Paris.
On the Left Bank, The Long Hop on rue Frédéric Sauton is a long-term favourite, a steep stroll away from the Bombardier. On the same side of the Seine, The Mazet (61-63 rue St-André-des-Arts) can be great on its night.