Grenoble, popularly known as the ‘Capital of the Alps’, is the capital of Isère. Its position is fantastic, between the Drac and Isère rivers and surrounded on either side by the mountain regions of Chartreuse to the northeast and Vercors to the southwest.
A famous university city, and the cultural heart of Isère, Grenoble attracts high-tech industries. It all makes for a lively city, with bars and restaurants filling the maze of streets where medieval and modern buildings merge.
The old town is fascinating, with museums ranging from the Musée de Grenoble, which has one of the best art collections in France, to the Musée de la Résistance et de la Déportation de l’Isère, telling the story of one of the major centres of the Resistance in France during World War II.
Grenoble provides a wonderfully alternative city-break, with first-class museums, history-filled castles, as well as Les Bulles cable cars up to the mountains above, where the views are simply stunning. Here, more than 40 festivals take place throughout the season, mixing music, wine-tasting, literature, as well as street performances and movies.
Strolling, or the efficient city tram service, provides opportunities to view architecture throughout many periods, including the former military barracks of Bonne that is now being transformed into an eco-housing neighbourhood.
The city is perfect for walking with no hills, plenty of cafés and lots to look at. When you stand in Place Sainte-Andre, the square in the middle of the city, you have historic monuments all around you. This is an impressive sight along with a good cup of coffee. Naturally, you will be drinking it at the Café de la Table Ronde that is the second oldest café in France. The café was the favourite place of Sara Bernhardt, Jacques Brel and the city’s son, the novelist, Stendhal.
Art is found on most streets in Grenoble, thanks to the Street Art Festival, which takes place annually in June. Up to now, more than 200 works have been created, with international artists as Shepard Fairey, Wild Drawings and Nevercrew.
Enjoy the terraces of the old town and immerse yourself in the contemporary and electro ambiance of the Grenoble night life.
At the foot of the Chartreuse Massif, venture to the 18th century-Bastille Fortress boarding the famous “Bubbles” gondola, and once at the top, enjoy one of the most beautiful mountain panoramas at altitude.
Gourmet lovers – get your spoons ready! Grenoble is a dream location if you enjoy food. The region is renowned for using local produce in recipes that have been handed down generation after generation. A local dish is Gratin Dauphinois, a creamy potato gratin that is available at most restaurants.
But one of Grenoble’s big pleasures is ambling slowly through the city, people watching and trying some of the local food. The streets and squares are lined with open air cafés for coffee as well as pastries, sweets and even savoury dishes featuring the Grenoble walnut which grows nearby.
Other local specialities include the delicate disc-shaped Saint-Marcellin cheese, which dates to the 15th century and Ravioles du Royans — thinner and finer than traditional ravioli, these are usually filled with cheese and herbs. Try both at Le Casse-Croûte à Dédé, an informal spot that’s ideal for a well-priced lunch.
For inspired local food, it’s difficult to beat Le Fantin Letour , run by award-winning chef Stéphane Froidevaux, whose previous restaurant in Provence was given a Michelin star. Now settled in Grenoble, Froidevaux creates dishes inspired by the mountains. In summer he spends his free time foraging for wildflowers to include in his menu, while in winter, his seasonal ingredients include truffles and spices combined with root vegetables.
Set in a beautiful 19th century house, or hôtel particulier, the location is idyllic, with chickens, rabbits and beehives in the garden shaded by a 200-year-old linden tree. The brasserie-style lunchtime menu changes every day, using products from the Marché de L’Estacade and herbs from the garden, costing around £22 for two courses.
Some of Grenoble’s hotels are housed in the city’s historic buildings too — Le Grand Hotel Grenoble with its central location and modern interiors is one of the best. Or why not check in to the eco-minded OKKO hotel, around a 10-minute walk from the centre? The rooms are well-thought out and comfortable, with hip, crumpled linen bed sheets, although they are small; perhaps better suited to solo travellers than couples.
For more information visit isere-tourisme.com
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