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Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseille: How to spend your time in France’s Rugby World Cup cities

Marseille in the sunshine.
Marseille in the sunshine. Copyright Byway
Copyright Byway
By Euronews Travel
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Arts, culture and food: These are our top tips for things to do in France beyond Paris and outside of the rugby stadiums this autumn.

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Rugby fans from all over the world will soon descend on France for the 10th Rugby World Cup.

The tournament is being played across nine host cities: Paris, Marseille, Nice, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Lyon, Lille, Saint-Etienne and Nantes.

People are never short on recommendations for the City of Love, but if you’re not yet acquainted with France’s other major urban hubs then there’s plenty to discover outside of the stadiums.

We already spoke to a few flight-free travel experts to get their guidance on touring France by train. And the concierge team at Byway - who specialise in crafting incredible rail holidays - also shared their top tips for things to do.

“By remaining flexible with your travel plans, you’ll be able to discover so much more of the cities you’re heading to,” says Neil Steventon, Head of Travel Experience at Byway.

“You could treat yourself to the flavours and smells of Old Nice’s Saleya flower market, or sample the craft beers at Lille’s La Capsule in the city’s old town. Explore the pretty port town of Cassis, a short train ride away from Marseille or take a day trip to romantic Clisson, a short ride from Nantes.”

With the first match kicking off in Paris tomorrow (8 September) and the season closing on 28 October, there’s plenty of time to get your head in the travel game.

Things to do in Bordeaux

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Bordeaux has a rich history to explore by foot, boat and public transport.Byway

The River Garonne bisects Bordeaux, so a leisurely stroll alongside it takes you past many of the city’s main monuments, including the huge reflecting pool at Place de la Bourse. River cruises give you a different perspective again.

Wander around the Jardin Public, designed for locals as a green getaway from the inner city. Why not pack a picnic, hire a bike and make a day of it?

Learn about the regional history of Bordeaux from the Iron Age through to the 21st century at the Musée d'Aquitaine.

Things to do in Nice

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The Mediterranean is in touching distance of Nice's great cultural attractions.Byway

This colourful Cote d'Azur city has heaps going on outside the Stade de Nice.

Get your bearings with a walk up to the Colline du Château, the original city site which has been occupied since ancient times.

The Matisse Museum and Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art are must-sees, while Old Nice’s Saleya flower market provides another kind of visual feast, alongside a variety of different food stalls.

Wander along the seafront to choose your favourite beach; you could stop for a picnic at Coco Beach or indulge in a seaside lunch at Castel Plage.

Things to do in Marseille

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France's second biggest city has plenty to do, while also being a brilliant base to explore smaller coastal towns and the magnificent Calanques near Cassis.Byway

At the other end of the French Riviera, Marseille has its own share of bustling markets with plenty of fresh, delicious food.

Greeting you at Marseille station, the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde dominates the skyline. Hiking up (or riding the “petit train” from the Vieux Port) rewards you with a sweeping panorama back over the city and Bay of Marseille - including Chateau d’If, the 14th-century fortress immortalised in The Count of Monte Cristo.

It's easy to while away an afternoon around the marina or the quartier des createurs. But Marseille is also a perfect base for trips further afield on non-match days.

Pop down the coast by train (pay at the station) to explore the pretty port and fishing village of Cassis. Have lunch in one of the many waterfront restaurants, then relax on its pebble beaches.

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Things to do in Lyon

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A funicular train in Lyon, one of France's Rugby World Cup host cities.Byway

Many of Lyon's top sights are in the Presqu’île district, around which the Saône and Rhône rivers flow.

Start your exploration at Place Bellecour, one of the largest squares in Europe, before enjoying a leisurely stroll through the scenic streets.

Stop off at the Musée des Beaux-Arts for one of the country's best collections of sculptures.

Things to do in Lille

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Arts, culture and food lovers will fall in love with Lille.Byway

Lille has a thriving and diverse food scene. With Michelin-starred restaurants, strong Flemish influences and iconic pâtisseries, the city is the perfect place to immerse yourselves in authentic French gastronomy and art de vivre.

Pâtisserie Méert, trendy bar La Capsule and Le Singe Savant microbrewery are Byway’s top recommendations for cakes and beer - Lille’s drink of choice. L’Échappée Bière offers tours that take in the sights while learning about the history of brewing in the city.

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Head to Palais des Beaux Arts, Lille's municipal museum, to view its excellent collection of fine art, sculpture and historic artefacts. You can take your pick from the series of expertly curated routes and gallery tours available.

A gallery like no other, La Piscine-Musée d'Art invites viewers to explore the series of rotating exhibitions displayed in the beautiful Art Deco structure of a former municipal swimming pool.

Things to do in Nantes

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France's sixth largest city, Nantes has plenty to keep tourists entertained.Byway

Explore the Château des Ducs de Bretagne: a large castle in the heart of Nantes that gives an insightful introduction to the region.

At your own pace, walk the 'green line', a self-guided tour through the city marked out by a painted green line. Originally created as part of a local arts festival, the green line will take you past the must-sees of the town, from historic castles to contemporary art installations.

Take a day trip to Clisson, a small, romantic town, with a Tuscan air. Walk along the riverside and visit the Chateau de Clisson.

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Thing to do in Toulouse

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Wander along and across the Garonne River to get to know Toulouse better.Byway

Hopefully, your team won’t lose, but there’s plenty to cheer you up in this popular French city if they do.

Wander across the Garonne to the Quartier Saint-Cyprien. You'll find a wonderful food market, Europe's largest poster museum, and an avant-garde art gallery in a former slaughterhouse.

Marvel at Toulouse's Place du Capitole: one of the most majestic public squares in France.

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