Grenoble, Rhone-Alpes: tourism & sightseeing
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Grenoble is an important town in the alps to the south-east of Lyon. With snowy mountain peaks as its backdrop and a Winter Olympics in its past, Grenoble has earned its title as “the Capital of the Alps.” The town is also the final destination on the Route Napoleon that starts near Cannes.
Its 158,000 inhabitants and large student population have established the capital of the Isère department as an energetic center for mountain sports. It is also an important centre for academia - founded in 1339, the University of Grenoble now boasts 50,000 students and has helped to establish the city as a major center for research, especially in science.
Two rivers, the Isère and the Drac, wind through Grenoble and the Fontaine du Lion at the Place de la Cimaise symbolizes the two waterways with a statue of a lion (the Drac) grappling with a snake (the Isère).
With opportunities for snowshoeing, snowboarding, skiing, hiking, and climbing, nature is a large part of the local culture. For a panoramic view of the city and the French Alps, La Bastille, a 19th century fortress, can be reached by hiking or by cable car.
Grenoble also has a presence in arts and literature through museums and festivals. The city is the birthplace of 19th century French novelist Stendhal, most famous for Le Rouge et le Noir and La Chartreuse de Parme, and the Bibliothèques Municipales de Grenoble has a collection of his manuscripts. Filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard and philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau also spent time living in Grenoble.
Today, the Musée de Grenoble exhibits fine, contemporary, and modern art, the Musée de la Resistance explores the history of the French Resistance during WWII, and Le Magasin hosts art exhibitions in a converted industrial space.
The Grenoble Jazz festival held each March offers two weeks of music in bars and venues across the city.
For a midday coffee, pre-dinner apéro, or evening cocktail, there are cafés, bars, and pubs scattered throughout the center of town between Place Grenette and Place Notre-Dame.
One of Grenoble's key attractions is its iconic cable car. This was the first cable car to be built in a city - before those of Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town.
At the top of the cable car are not only 360° views of the alps, incredible views over Grenoble, a restaurant where you can enjoy lunch, dinner or a coffee whilst admiring the views but also the historic fort with defenses designed by Vauban (an important French military architect) and called the Bastille.
It is possible to walk up to the Bastille if you are feeling energetic, or take the cable-car up and walk down.
Down in Grenoble itself the lovely Place Victor Hugo is at the heart of the city. The square is beautifully gardened in the middle and has a large fountain and it is surrounded by elegant buildings with late 19th century facades.
The Rue de Bonne with its ancient gateway is where Napolean entered the city back in 1815.
From here head towards the Jardin de Ville - always lively in the summer - and the old Hôtel de Lesdiguieres which was the town hall until 1967.
The attractive Place de Gordes gives a good view of the Saint-André Collegiate Church with its 14th century Gothic spire. Next to here on the Place Saint-Andre is one of Grenoble's finest buildings - the Dauphiné Parliament building with its Gothic and Renaissance facades. Also on this square is the second oldest café in France - the Café de la Table Ronde - which dates back to 1739.
Grenoble also has a cathedral though it does not look like a traditional cathedral - it is dominated by its large 13th century gate tower with more of a castle look than a religious one.
Restaurants and eating out in Grenoble
While pizza, kebabs, and sandwiches are plentiful in Grenoble, it also offers a diverse selection of quality restaurants. French Alps specialties like Raclette, a dish customers make at the table with cheese, potatoes, meat, vegetables, and a grill, can be tasted at La Ferme à Dédé and traditional fondue can be found at La Fondue.
For more international flavors there is Indian food at Punjabi Dhaba and Le Bombay, as well as Lebanese at Le Cèdre, Italian at Ciao A Te, Japanese at Osaka, and Eastern European at Le Tchoutchoura.
Grenoble’s walnuts are celebrated, so be sure to buy a pastry made with walnut cream at a boulangerie. You can also buy a bottle or have a glass of Chartreuse, a liqueur made from herbal extracts and named for the Grande Chartreuse monastery in the mountains outside of town.
There is also a restaurant at the top of Grenoble's wonderful cable car and so you can have lunch or dinner overlooking fabulous views of the city.
Getting around Grenoble is easy with the four-line tram and extensive bus service. The train station is centrally located and it is possible to walk to most major attractions. As one of the flattest European cities, it is also an option to bicycle.
There is lodging for all budgets, from the upscale Park Hôtel Grenoble, to the midrange Hôtel Ibis Grenoble Centre, to the backpacker and student friendly Echirolles Auberge de Jeunesse.
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Map of Grenoble and places to visit
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Grenoble is classified as a listed town of Art and History
Address: Grenoble, Isere, Rhone-Alpes, 38000, France || GPS: latitude 45.1878, longitude 5.72694
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Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby
- Mont Jalla: site of natural beauty
- Jardin du musée Hébert: remarkable garden (2km)
- Parc du château de Vizille: remarkable garden (13km)
- Ruines de Séchilienne: site of natural beauty (16km)
- Saint-Gervais: ville fleurie 4* (19km)
- Chartreuse: regional natural parc (23km)
- Parc du château du Touvet: remarkable garden (26km)
- Cascade du Moulin-Marquis: site of natural beauty (27km)
- Gorges de la Bourne: site of natural beauty (27km)
- Grottes de Choranche: site of natural beauty (29km)
- Vercors: regional natural parc (37km)
The French version of this page is at Grenoble (Francais)