Sightseeing in Grenoble
As a city that sits at the foot of the white-peaked French Alps, you need only look around whilst in Grenoble to take in the majesty of your surroundings. One of the very best places for taking in the spectacular views is the Bastille, a grand fortress that rests atop silvery slabs of stone on Mount Rachais in the Charteuse mountain range. Peering over the city below, the 16th century fort consists of cobbled stone watchtowers, weathered walls and moss-strewn steps for a true sense of Grenoble's great history. At its peak, you'll be rewarded with panoramic scenes of evergreen trees, followed by the dense network of buildings that make up the city.
Yet another grand building in Grenoble that dates back to the 16th century is the Palais de Parlement du Daphiné. Built in 1500 on the very turn of the century, stand in its peaceful square today and you'll admire an elegant cream-coloured building that complements the French character of the city. It played a prominent role in the past events of the area too, as it was the site of Parliament until the French Revolution in 1799.
However, such a huge event as the Revolution did not cause the stunning structural work in Grenoble to stop. You'll certainly see this is the case at the 19th century Saint Roch Cemetery. The elaborately detailed ice-white tombs here date back to 1810, and they hark back to Grenoble's industrial era of glove making.
Being such a principal city for the entire area of the Alps, the city has amassed an impressive collection of artefacts and relics over the years. That's why there's an incredible selection of museums spread across Grenoble, with five even found on the rising hills of Mount Rachais. At the very least, you should visit the Museum of Grenoble. It is located on the site of a 13th century monastery, and a walk around its exhibitions will reveal ancient Egyptian and Roman pieces, plus French masterworks ranging from the 13th century to the present day. Don't miss this opportunity to see the vibrant brushstrokes of Delacroix, Gauguin and Picasso up close!
Romantic Breaks in Grenoble
The atmosphere alone of this beautiful French city will make you feel as if love is in the air! However, a serene stroll with your loved one around Grenoble’s timeless streets will reveal yet more moments to set the mood.
Enjoy a rustic French lunch of warm baguettes and soft cheese at the peaceful square on Rue des Allies and the crisp midday sunshine will help you appreciate its exquisite detail. Lined with townhouses with ornate iron balconies, at the heart of the square is the Fontaine Trois Ordres. As well as being an achingly romantic fountain of cascading waters and dark green dragons, the monument has a rich history, as it was built in 1897 to commemorate the town’s battle in the French Revolution.
Whilst the city is already surrounded by gorgeous Alpine scenes of intense green and white, Grenoble still has a smattering of open spaces that make beautiful evening walks. The Parc Paul Mistral was born out of a grand exhibition that took place in the city back in 1925. However, today only one structure survives – a towering stone column known as Tour Perret. Wander the park and amidst the firs and golden brown oak trees, you’ll spot the stone monument that once held the Winter Olympic flame when the sporting event was held here in 1968.
Fun Seekers in Grenoble
Great news for fun seekers in Grenoble – the city hosted the 1968 Winter Olympics. Ever since that monumental event, the city has been set up for sport, with some seriously amazing ski slopes nearby. But even if you’re not here for the skiing, you’ll find plenty to do in Grenoble.
Firstly, the Stade des Alpes stadium is actually set up inside a park – the Parc Paul Mistral to be exact! With a capacity of more than 20,000 people, it’s the home of the Grenoble Foot 38 football club. Try to catch a game if you can, as it’s an unusual experience to watch live football when you’re this deep into the Alps! As a particularly sporty city, you can watch live rugby too at the Stade Lesdiguières, where the FC Grenoble Rugby Union Club play their games. If American sports are more your thing, Grenoble highlight its wintry connection with an ice-hockey team known as Brûleurs de Loups.
Plus, with so many rising mountains and craggy rock faces encircling the city, it’s not surprising that the Grenoble locals are climbing and mountaineering enthusiasts. The via ferrata in Grenoble that works its iron trail up Mount Rachais to the Bastille is well worth your effort. You’ll enjoy astounding views at the top, where feathery green firs can be seen for miles around.
But now on to the main event near Grenoble – the skiing! Its location places it close to some of the most stunning ski resorts in the French Alps. To help you, we’ve listed just a few of the forty seven (yes forty seven!) that are easily reachable from Grenoble. Plus, you can catch a coach transfer direct from Grenoble Airport to all of the resorts detailed below:
Chamrousse – Sitting 1700m high in Belldonne, this small, peaceful ski resort has a combination of slopes for both skiing and snowboarding. With 35 slopes covering all levels, if you’re an advanced skier you really won’t want to miss the Olympic runs here, where Jean Claude Killy won two gold medals! Chamrousse is 76km from Grenoble Airport, about 1 hour 10 minutes away.
Les Deux Alpes – One of the most beautiful ski resorts in France, Les Deux Alpes sits amongst Europe’s largest glacier. Skiing is just as delightful with wide-open pistes and even specially made snow parks and half pipes for boarders. As a popular resort, the off-piste action is exciting too. Les Deus Alpes is 110km from Grenoble Airport, so it’ll take you roughly an hour and a half to arrive.
Alpe d’Huez – You’ll be looking on high if you stay at Alpe d’Huez! That’s because the ski resort sits at an altitude of 1860m, with some of its slopes as high as 3300m. However, it’s real claim to fame is the world’s longest ski run, where you’ll ski an incredible unbroken 16km. Arrive at Grenoble Airport and you’ll be 103km from Alpe d’Huez, for around an hour and a half transfer.
La Grave – This one’s for the experts! La Grave has a challenging set of slopes and is famous for its 2,150 metre drop at the Vallons de la Meije. Whilst the off-piste atmosphere is pretty peaceful, the area has astounding natural beauty and is close to a grand 12th century village perched upon the hillside. La Grave is 120km from Grenoble Airport, so it will take you about an hour and a half to get there.
Val Thorens – Yes, this ski resort is a little further away than the others, but it’s well worth travelling the distance! That’s because Val Thorens is the highest ski resort in Europe, with an amazing altitude of 2300m. Despite its great height, there are 54 ski slopes to suit all abilities here, and experts have the chance to carve fresh powder on the unexplored Hidden Valley. Val Thorens is 195km from Grenoble Airport, so it’ll be around a two and a half hour coach transfer for you.
Family Fun in Grenoble
Grenoble is a great place for families for two main reasons – firstly it’s close to the best family ski resorts in France (as you’ll see in our Fun Seekers section), and secondly it has a huge number of fascinating museums!
The main museum that is certain to inspire young minds is the Archaeological museum of Saint-Laurent. Sitting on the site of an old Benedictine church, the museum features excavations dating back to the 3rd century AD. Yet uniquely, such ancient artifacts are housed in a modern, gleaming interior that was renovated in 2011. But perhaps children will be most fascinated by the spooky crypts and preserved skeletons that are over 1,400 years old!
Our other top tip for family friendly days out is Grenoble’s Natural History Museum. Beyond showing still life of Alpine country scenes and wildlife, the museum keeps things interesting by actually having live exhibitions. There’s an aquarium filled with a variety of colorful fish, and the so-called ‘carnival of insects’ live display is a constant source of fascination for little ones.
Being a city with a proud sporting heritage, there’s also plenty of opportunity for the whole family to get involved in outdoor pursuits. Places such as the Saint Paul de Varces Rock Climbing School teach budding climbers of all abilities, whilst the Nautical Stadium is a favourite for its huge Olympic swimming pool.
Events in Grenoble
Grenoble Jazz Festival
If you’re in the city for a spot of late skiing or just a pleasant springtime city break, you should definitely check out the Grenoble Jazz Festival. It takes place every March and the whole city comes alive with the soothing sound of jazz. Even the many museums in the city get in on the act – it’s quite an experience to listen to a saxophone echoing through the halls of an art gallery.
If you’re feeling thirsty after all that skiing or exploring the city, the area between Place Saint-André and Place Notre Dame is the place to be. The streets here are lined with rustic restaurants and authentically attired pubs to enjoy a tipple or two.
For some much needed retail-therapy before you return home, visit the area around the Victor Hugo Tramway Station near Place Grenette. You’ll come across artisan shops and chic boutiques that are perfect for picking up one-off souvenirs.
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