Thinking of heading to France to support your team in the Euros this summer? We've got you covered with an itinerary for watching the England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland matches in France.
As the Premier League draws to a close, football-phobes everywhere thank God they won’t have to endure anymore top flight action until August. Moments including the likes of Sergio Aguero smashing the ball into the back of the net, Spurs finishing below Arsenal (again) and a team with 5000/1 odds winning the Premier League, all gone until next season. Weekends will now involve walking the dog, yielding to DIY tasks around the house or taking a trip to buy a new sofa in the never-ending DFS sale.
But this year, the wait is only until June 10th. Yes - much to the delight of most men (and some women) in the UK, Euro 2016 in France is just around the corner. And for those that don’t know, that means one more month of stadium-singing, net-bulging, crazy-celebrating action. With England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland featuring in this year’s tournament, football fever will again sweep the UK.
France is only across the pond and the Euros offer a great opportunity to see a couple of cities and follow your team alongside thousands of others who will travel by plane, car, ferry and train to support their team through thick and thin. Even though a huge amount of you won't have tickets for the games, you won't be needing one for entry into the hundreds of bustling French bars and pubs.
Below we've put forward an itinerary covering two games for each of the Home Nations (and the Republic of Ireland), telling you what cities the games are in, when the matches are and our recommended route and transportation. So grab your mates, book a few days off work and get to France by any means necessary. Just remember to stay in your other half's good books and bring them back something nice (preferably not footy related).
Saturday, 11th June v Russia, Marseille, 8 p.m.
Thursday, 16th June v Wales, Lens, 2 p.m.
Monday, 20th June v Slovakia, Saint-Etienne, 8 p.m.
Every major competition England go into seems to be met by false hope - hope that they might just win their first major championship since that great day in 1966 when Sir Geoff Hurst scored a hat-trick and won England the World Cup. However, with the two Premier League top goalscorers in Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy full of confidence, a 100% qualifying record and a favourable draw in the group stages, could this be England’s year? It's been a milestone 50 years since they last won something, so it would be fitting if they ended their drought in 2016. One thing's for sure, Jamie Vardy will certainly be having a party if they go all the way.
- Thursday 16th June: Early Morning Ferry – Dover to Calais (2hr 30mins).
- Thursday 16th June: Drive to Lens (1hr) and arrive in time for England v Wales.
- Friday 17th June: Drive to Paris (2hrs) for two nights.
- Sunday 19th June: Drive to Saint Etienne (5hrs) in build up to England v Slovakia.
- Tuesday 21st June: Head back up to Calais for the return ferry.
Given that Lens is so close to Calais, we recommend jumping in the car with a few friends and catching a ferry. If you arrive the same day as the England v Wales game, you won't have much time before the game but with a 2 p.m. kick off, the drinks will be flowing well into the night. We suggest heading for Paris the next day where you can enjoy the capital's attractions over the weekend. You'll probably want to be in Saint Etienne the day before the Slovakia match to soak up the atmosphere so drive down on the Sunday. You'll be in for a long drive back up to catch the ferry in Calais on Tuesday. If you feel it's too much, stop off in Lens for a nights kip before boarding the next morning. Once you've sorted out all your transportation, book your accommodation as early as possible to avoid disappointment.
Saturday, 11th June v Slovakia, Bordeaux, 5 p.m.
Thursday, 16th June v England, Lens, 2 p.m.
Monday, 20th June v Russia, Toulouse, 8 p.m.
Finally the Welsh have something to celebrate after reaching their first major international competition since 1958. In national stars Aaron Ramsey and the world’s most expensive footballer Gareth Bale, Wales have real match winners and genuine potential to cause an upset at this year’s tournament. Having been drawn in the same group as England, the game against their UK rival is the one to look out for in Lens on June 16th. If they can get out of the group and into the knockouts, Coleman's boys will hail it a successful campaign.
- Friday 10th June: Fly from Cardiff to Paris (1hr 20mins).
- Saturday 11th June: Train to Bordeaux (3hrs 10mins) for Wales v Slovakia.
- Monday 13th June: Return train back to Paris for one night.
- Tuesday 14th June: Train from Paris to Lens (1hr 15mins) in build up to Wales v England.
- Friday 17th June: Return train to Paris and flight back to Cardiff.
We suggest booking a return flight to Paris and connecting to the cities via train. If you arrive the day before Wales’ first group game, you can get the train to Bordeaux early on the Saturday with plenty of time before the 5 p.m. kick-off. Make sure you spend a full day and book another night here for a dose of cultural France. Return back to Paris on the Monday by train before heading to Lens nice and early on the Tuesday in build up to the big game against England on Thursday. The next day you can take the short train ride back to Paris before flying back to Cardiff.
Sunday, 12th June v Poland, Nice, 5 p.m.
Thursday, 16th June v Ukraine, Lyon, 5 p.m.
Tuesday, 21st June v Germany, Paris, 5 p.m.
Considering Northern Ireland haven’t featured in a major competition since 1986, the cities of Nice, Lyon and Paris are sure to be full of Northern Irish supporters come game day. Their chances of winning are incredibly slim and made even slimmer by a tricky group that contains the most successful ever nation in the competition – Germany. Having said that, stranger things have happened this season, so we won’t be writing them off. Just ask Leicester City.
- Wednesday 15th June: Fly from Belfast to Paris (around 5hrs with one-stop).
- Thursday 16th June: Early morning train to Lyon (1hr 50mins) for NI v Ukraine.
- Sunday 19th June: Train back to Paris in build up for NI v Germany.
- Wednesday 22nd June: Return flight back to Belfast from Paris.
Book return flights to Paris and if you choose to arrive late on the Wednesday, head for Lyon early the next morning in preparation for the game against Ukraine. That way you'll have plenty of time to sink a few pints with your fellow supporters before the 5 p.m. kick-off. Book a hotel for a couple of extra nights so you can explore the attractions in Lyon before heading back on the short train journey to the capital. See the sights and enjoy the excellent cuisine prior to taking in the buzzing Euro 2016 atmosphere in build up to Northern Ireland’s final group game against Germany. We suggest waiting the next day to fly home (mainly to ensure they'll let you on the plane).
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND
Monday, 13th June v Sweden, Saint-Denis, 5 p.m.
Saturday, 18th June v Belgium, Bordeaux, 2 p.m.
Wednesday, 22nd June v Italy, Lille, 8 p.m.
Republic of Ireland will be happy to be in the competition and under Martin O'Neill they have an experienced manager who is taking the nation in the right direction. They'll find it incredibly tough in a group that contains Italy and a hugely talented Belgium squad that many have tipped to go all the way. Even Sweden will prove a tough fixture with a certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic to keep quiet. Get out of this group and O'Neill will be the first to hand his players a barrel of Guinness.
- Sunday 12th June: Fly from Dublin to Paris (1hr 30mins).
- Monday 13th June: Head for Saint-Denis via public transport (up to 1hr) for ROI v Sweden.
- Monday 13th June: Return to Paris to enjoy the attractions for a few days.
- Thursday 16th June: Train to Bordeaux (3hr 10 mins) in build up to ROI v Belgium.
- Sunday 19th June: Return train back to Paris for flight back to Dublin.
We recommend flying from Dublin to Paris on the Sunday as Ireland's first game against Sweden is just outside the city centre in Saint-Denis. After, you can spend a couple of days in the French capital before heading to Bordeaux via train a couple of days early to join the Irish fan base in preparation for the game against Belgium. We suggest heading back on the Sunday by train and then jumping on a flight back to Dublin. It goes without saying that Paris and Bordeaux are two extremely popular cities so book your hotels as soon as possible.