Sitting at the base of the snow-speckled Alps, Grenoble is one of France’s unsung heroes. Relatively compact, with a beautiful historic fort and outdoor opportunities galore, here’s our pick of the best things to do in Grenoble.
1. Fort de la Bastille
Nestled in the overlapping hills of the Chartreuse mountain range, the Fort de la Bastille stands. This ancient fortress, constructed during the Middle Ages, overlooks Grenoble from the north and is the most prominent landmark of the French city.
With additions being made to the crumbling collection of turrets, tunnels, and grey stone up until the 19th century, the Fort de la Bastille has acted as the centre of military action for hundreds of years.
The Fort de la Bastille was built to protect the city of Grenoble (which was, at the time, the military stronghold of the Alps) from the attack commanded by the dukes of Savoy.
This explains the need for the criss-crossed underground passageways that lie beneath the fort, along with the small, damp dungeon found at the top of the Fort de la Bastille, winding ramparts, and square blockhouses.
Whether you’re a history-lover or not, we’d pick the Fort de la Bastille as one of the best things to do in Grenoble thanks to the panoramic views you can see from the top. Well worth the hike (or the cable car) up there.
2. The Alps
With Grenoble being so close to the Alps, another thing to do in the city is to hike a section of the French mountains.
The Moucherotte Trail is located slightly west to Grenoble and peaks at around one thousand and nine hundred metres.
During winter the mountain is covered in layers of thick snow so the best time to follow the Moucherotte Trail is during the warmer months. While the hike is not considered to be very challenging, the ten kilometre route is incredibly scenic.
Of course, the Alps are well known as a winter skiing destination – there are few places in Europe better for a luxury ski trip, here’s why.
We spent some time hiking in the Ecrins National Park near to Grenoble. Here’s why everyone should go hiking in the French Alps.
3. Les Bulles
Nicknamed ‘Les Bulles’ (meaning bubbles), the Grenoble-Bastille cable cars are the best way to get to the Fort de la Bastille. The glass bubbles offer crystal clear views of the city as the cars climb up around two hundred and sixty six metres, hence why Les Bulles are on the list of the best things to do in Grenoble.
Since 1934, the lower station for Les Bulles has been located in the Jardin de ville. Originally the cable cars were blue twelve-sided cabins; these dodecahedrons were redesigned several times before reaching the final ‘bubble’ design in 1976.
Les Bulles are a popular tourist attraction in the city for their quirky design and easy access to the ancient fortress of Bastille.
4. Palace of the Parliament of Dauphiné
Located in Place Saint André in Grenoble, the Palace of the Parliament of Dauphiné was constructed during the 1500’s. Before the French Revolution, this renaissance palace housed the Parliament of Dauphiné.
The building has since undergone quite a bit of work. In 1897 the left wing was extended; the interior of the left wing is more flamboyant than the right renaissance wing.
The Palace is currently under renovation to maintain the gothic renaissance design and rejuvenate the building with a modern touch.
The Palace of the Parliament of Dauphiné is one of the highlights of Grenoble due to its beautiful, ivory design, rich French history, and central location in the city.
5. The Museum of Grenoble
With over eight hundred pieces of artwork dating from the 13th century to the 20th century, the Museum of Grenoble is one of the best things to do in the city. It’s no surprise that the Musée welcomes over two hundred thousand visitors per year that swarm to see its collection of ancient and contemporary art.
The Museum of Grenoble is sectioned into two main parts; the first section houses the paintings and sculptures from the 13th century to the 19th century.
This section covers many artistic revolutions ranging from neoclassicism to impressionism. Some of the big names in this section include Monet and Gauguin.
The second section focuses more on 20th century works with pieces by Picasso and Warhol.
With other rooms displaying Egyptian antiquities (including the 6th-century mummy ‘the prophetess of Antinoe’) and a selection of Greek and Roman archaeology, The Museum of Grenoble is a must-see attraction in Grenoble.
6. Grenoble Cathedral
While there are many beautiful churches dotted around the city of Grenoble, the Grenoble Cathedral holds the most history. Currently the cathedral is the seat of the Bishop of Grenoble.
The Roman Catholic Church dates back to 4th century, although the cathedral was rebuilt in the 13th century and has since been completely remodelled. Once the concrete facing added in the 19th century had been removed, the Grenoble Cathedral revealed its original, Roman façade.
Although the exterior of the cathedral is fairly plain, inside the cathedral hang many pieces of Renaissance art. Grenoble Cathedral is also noticeable for its brick bell tower and 15th century ciborium (an elaborately carved wall.).
The 19th century stained glass windows throw colourful shattered light into the church, illuminating the wood panels and 18th century pulpit.
The Grenoble Cathedral is both a place of religious and historical interest. Wandering the pews of the church is another thing to do in the city of Grenoble.
7. The Summum
Known for the many famous artists that perform there, The Summum is a popular theatre that seats up to around three thousand people.While it’s the biggest concert hall in the city, the Palais des Sports is slightly larger as an indoor performance venue.
The Summum opened in 1988 and has had acts such as Blue, Deep Purple, and Nirvana perform on its wide stage.
A trip to The Summum in Grenoble is well worth it for the chance to see live performances of popular English and American bands along with French musicians.
8. Palais des Sports
Built for the Olympiques Winter Games held in Grenoble in 1968, the Palais des Sports is another popular attraction in the French city.
The indoor ice hockey arena is located in Paul Mistral Park and has hosted many sporting events. During the Olympics, the stadium was coined the ‘Stade de glace’ as many figure skaters and ice hockey players competed under its vaulted roof.
Grenoble hosts a whole range of festivals throughout the year that attracts many tourists hungry for music, food, and French festivities.The festivals span from the Festival des 38 Rugissants (celebrating nomadic music) to the Open Air Short Film Festival in July.
The main summer event in Grenoble is the Cabaret Frappé Music Festival where around fifty thousand people gather in the City Gardens to listen to every different genre of music.
Many live musicians perform in hopes of being discovered while visitors relax under the shade of trees and snack on food from the cafes set up around the festival.
The festivals in Grenoble offer another thing to do in the city for little to no cost.
While there are many buildings of religious, historical, and cultural interest in the city, another thing to do in Grenoble is to explore one of the many lush gardens and parks woven around the pastel-painted houses and cobbled streets that form the French city.
The Jardin des Plantes is a beautiful, botanical garden located in central Grenoble. The sand coloured, paved paths are surrounded by uniform lines of bushes, trees, and blooming flowers.
Dauphins Garden is another garden worth seeing in Grenoble. Located close to the river Isère, the Dauphins Garden is speckled with flowers enclosed in circles of rocks along with winding paths shaded by trees.
The gardens in Grenoble have made it to our list of the best things to do in the city for their natural beauty and place of calm in the French city.
11. The City
One of the best things to do while exploring Grenoble is wandering around the city while dipping in and out of the many shops, cafes, and restaurants that line the streets.
Whether you prefer the taste of artisan chocolates decorating the tables in Chocolats Zugmeyer or would rather sift through racks of clothes in Naf Naf, Grenoble offers a range of tucked away coffee shops and tall department stores.
Grenoble has a way of satisfying everyone’s cravings. Whether you’d rather pass your time exploring the crumbling Fort de la Bastille, or would prefer unwinding with drinks and jazz music at the Cabaret Frappé music festival, there’s always something to do in the French city.
We’ve listed some of our favourite things to do in Grenoble, now we want to know what you think are some of the best things to do in the city. Let us know in the comments below!
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