Grenoble, capital of the French Alps
Grenoble is surrounded by three major chains of Alpine mountains (Belledone, Chartreuse and Vercors) and the city lies at the centre of them all. One of the essential visitor experiences may well therefore be going up to the Bastille, a fortress with the best panoramic views. From here you can look over the River Isère and all the museums located along the riverbank, and on the opposite side the historic districts, the most modern ones, the mountain chains and one of the most stunning horizons there can be. You can do this on foot or by taking one of the famous cable cars like we did.
Although surrounded by so much nature, Grenoble has been a major industrial powerhouse since the economic boost provided by the 1968 Winter Olympic Games. Ever since then it has been a leader in several sectors such as science and technology. From the Bastille you can also see the Polygon devoted to scientific research and development, on the right.
Location: Dauphins Garden
The Dauphiné culture
You can walk down from the Bastille by various marked paths, where you will see many locals practising all kinds of sports. You will come to the museum area, including the Musée Dauphinois which focuses on popular culture and the people of the Dauphiné Alps, and you will finish up in the peaceful "Italian" district (so called by the locals because many immigrants, mainly from Italy, settled here). You could then make a stop at one of its restaurants, like the Saint-Vincent, where the food and atmosphere are good and you can enjoy pleasant views of the river.
Location: 54 Quai Perrière
Art in the street
This university city of 160,000 inhabitants includes 48,000 students and they bring a lot to the town. You can discover a parallel world revealed in murals and graffiti in the streets of Grenoble. Exhibitions, cultural activities, street art, festivals and very much more add to what the town has to offer to ensure you a great welcome at any time of year.
We had the chance to see a performance (Consul et Meshie) at Magasin des Horizons, a building constructed by Les Ateliers Eiffel, yes, the French engineer who created the famous metal tower in Paris. It is a place for art and culture and the coolest of interactions inviting you to reflect. In other words, artists, philosophers, communicators of ideas, and others, promote and stimulate thought on the challenges of our times.
Location: 8 Espl. Andry Farcy
La Belle Electrique
On the same esplanade where Magasin is located, Andry Farcy, is the Belle Electrique, a concert hall for the really talented in electronic music as well as those maybe less so. It is also a place of experimentation to train artistes, create awareness and teach young people and adults about the new tools and techniques of technology and digital culture.
We were also fortunate to be able to go to a Now Future #5 live concert by the artistes Bjarki, Kas:St and SPFDJ. To go back to your hotel at the end of the evening, if you are staying in the city centre, you can walk (half an hour) or use a public bicycle (12 minutes).
Location: 12 Espl. Andry Farcy
A good place to stay is the OKKO Hotel, situated between the Esplanade Andry Farcy and the historic centre. This is not just any hotel chain. Its establishments tend to be very original, with no reception, breakfast room or meeting rooms. It simply has one large space called 'The Club'. This is a common area that is both open and exclusive, where you can work, relax, have a drink or help yourself to a bite to eat.
This hotel is in the "Ecoquartier" of Bonne, a former military district released in 1994 to be converted to an ecological district. The new five-hectare neighbourhood, very close to the city centre, offers a combination of activities and an urban park full of healthy living. The Bonne barracks was the first place in France to be declared an "ecoquartier".
Nearby you can visit the Paul Mistral Park where you will find Grenoble City Hall, the Alps Stadium, the Palace of Sport and the Perret Tower.
Location: 23 Rue Hoche
The centre of Grenoble
We still have not mentioned the centre of Grenoble, as interesting as it is essential. It is not too big, and you can easily walk through various eras and learn about over 2000 years of history. You can start by examining the remains of the ancient Roman walls, dating from 286 B.C., and some of the 39 towers still standing.
Grenoble’s squares are always full of activity and the most popular are Place Saint-André, where you will find the former palace of the Dauphiné Parliament, the Collegiate and the famous Café de la Table Ronde (the second oldest in France); Place Grenette which has been the main square since the seventeenth century; Place Aux Herbes, still the home of a market of local produce from Tuesday to Sunday; Place Notre-Dame, the site of the Cathedral; and Place Victor Hugo which marks the end of the old district and the beginning of an elegant French nineteenth-century district.
Wander down Jean-Jacques Rousseau Street and see the birthplace of famous Romantic writer Stendhal; Bonne Street to reach the gate where Napoleon entered; Félix-Poulat Street to continue looking at the typical facades and the "Elephants" buildings; or Voltaire Street where many notable buildings are hidden away. Treat your senses to the Jardín de Ville, the ancient patios of Chenoise Street and the Halle Sainte-Claire market, and stop for a while at the delightful restaurant of ICI Grenoble, a favourite with the young. Food guaranteed good to eat, good to look at and good for your budget.
Location: Historic centre of Grenoble
City of museums
The major city of the Department of Isère is full of museums and you will probably not have enough time to visit them all during your stay. Perhaps the most interesting are the Museum of Grenoble, which we will talk about later; the Dauphinois Museum, mentioned above; the Museum of the Ancien Évêché (the Old Bishopric), in the former bishop’s palace, which features the history of the province; the Museum of the Resistance which tells the story of the Jewish population of the town and how they quickly mobilised and set up strong resistance to the German Nazi regime in the Second World War; the Museum of the French Revolution; and the Ancien Musée de Peinture (former Museum of Painting).
Location: 14 Rue Hébert
Museum of Museums
The Museum of Grenoble is considered one of the best in Europe for its collections of ancient art and its modern art of the twentieth century. That’s why we’ve given it a paragraph all to itself. If you don’t have time to visit all the museums, this is the only one you really should not miss.
The local people are proud of the over 1500 paintings of the western world on show, from the thirteenth century to the present day, by great artists such as Piccaso, Miró, Rubens, Gauguin, Monet and Andy Warhol. It is amazing.
Location: 5 Place de Lavalette