Grenoble has one of the most beautiful backdrops of any city in France. Nestled in the Isère Valley and surrounded by inspiring peaks of the French Alps, Grenoble offers a breath of fresh air – both literally and figuratively. Beautiful gardens and green spaces can be found throughout this industrial town, providing a true appreciation for the outdoors.
Start exploring the city in the Vieille Ville, the charming historic center filled with cobbled streets and picturesque squares. Then decide which of the many top-rated museums you want to visit. Grenoble’s impressive number of museums speaks to the rich heritage of this city, formerly the capital of the historic Dauphiné region. The Musée de Grenoble has one of the best fine arts collections in France; other museums are dedicated to archaeology, history and local culture. After discovering the urban tourist attractions, explore the nearby regional natural parks to get lost in the flowering meadows and densely wooded pine forests.
Read also: best tourist attractions in Grenoble
1 Old Town
The Vieille Ville is a beautiful area to explore with its beautiful old houses, narrow cobbled streets and squares. Start a tour at the Musée de l’Ancien Évêché on Rue Très Cloîtres. This museum is located in an old episcopal palace that stands on the remains of the Gallo-Roman ramparts from the 3rd century. The museum illustrates the history of Grenoble from antiquity to the Middle Ages to the 20th century. Then walk to the Cathédrale Notre-Dame . The 11th to 15th century cathedral has a beautiful choir with a tabernacle from 1455 to 1457. Admire the glorious interior space, then head to the picturesque Place aux Herbes. Once the city’s main gathering place, this medieval square is where farmers’ markets are still held on Tuesday and Sunday mornings.
For those interested in French literature, continue to the Musée Stendhal on Grand Rue. This museum is located in Stendhal’s grandfather’s house, a typical Bourgeois residence from the 18th century. The museum is dedicated to the literary works of the famous novelist and has a library with approximately 1,000 publications on the subject of Stendhal. Near the Place de Gordes is an attractive 18th century square. Stop here for a coffee break and then consider heading to the Jardin de Ville a few steps further.
End your tour at the Palais de Justice , a remarkable 15th- to 16th-century building that served as the parliament building of the Dauphiné estates for 500 years. The elaborately detailed facade features decorative styles from Flamboyant Gothic to Early Renaissance. The center is the oldest part, created around 1490 to 1510 from Echaillon stone. The Palais de Justice is located on Place Saint-André, near France’s second oldest café, the Café de la Table Ronde , built in 1739.
2 Grenoble Museum
One of the most prestigious museums in France, the Musée de Grenoble presents an exceptional collection of visual arts in a beautiful setting. The modern building offers 18,000 square meters of exhibition space, surrounded by a beautiful park full of statues. The museum’s extensive collection ranges from antiquities and medieval art to European paintings from the 15th to the 20th century. Particularly well represented are Italian masterpieces from the 18th century and paintings from the Ecole Française.
Highlights of the museum’s European paintings include Rubens’s exquisite Saint Gregory painting, the expressive Saint Jerome piece by Georges de La Tour, the beautiful L’Assomption de la Vierge by Philippe de Champaigne, and the realistic Roger Délivrant Angélique painting by Eugène Delacroix. One of the most interesting ranges is the museum’s nineteenth-century art, from Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres to Paul Gauguin. Among the masterpieces of the Impressionists are Vue de Montmartre depuis la Cité des Batignolles by Alfred Sisley and the beautiful L’Etang de Givernypainting by Monet. There are also excellent works by post-impressionist and modern artists Matisse, Picasso, Léger, Ernst and Bonnard.
Address: 5 Place de Lavalette, Grenoble
3 Bastille Fort
The Fort de la Bastille offers the best views in Grenoble. To get here, hop into one of the bubble-shaped cars of the Téléphérique de la Bastille cable car. Enjoy the exhilarating ride, which starts at Quai Stéphane-Jay on the edge of the Jardin de Ville and travels through spectacular scenery on its way to the Fort de la Bastille. This fortress crowns the hilltop and from its impressive height offers stunning panoramic views of the Alpine landscape. The Fort de la Bastille used to be a prison; now it houses several museums. The Center d’Art Bastille presents exhibitions of contemporary art. Le Musée des Troupes de Montagneexplores the history of soldiers from this mountainous region. For adventurous types, the Acrobastille offers a chance to take part in mountain climbing and acrobatic sports such as zip-lining, abseiling and labyrinth courses. For those who enjoy nature walks, there are many scenic trails around the fortress. The Fort de la Bastille’s refined restaurant, Chez le Père Gras , offers excellent cuisine with breathtaking views. The patio has a romantic atmosphere under the lime trees. The fort also has an informal cafeteria and gift shop.
Official site: https://www.bastille-grenoble.fr/english/index.html
4 Grenoble-Saint Laurent Archaeological Museum
This excellent archeology museum is located in the Eglise Saint-Laurent , a listed historical monument of France. The Carolingian (8th century) church in Romanesque style was built on a crypt from the Merovingian period (6th century). This fascinating crypt offers a rare glimpse of the art and architecture of the earliest period of the Middle Ages. Visitors will be amazed by this incredible ancient sight. The presentations of the museum and the ancient mausoleum provide a vivid picture of the religious history that dates back 1,500 years.
Address: Place Saint-Laurent, Grenoble
5 Museum of the Resistance and Deportation of Isère
The Museum of the Resistance traces the history of the French Resistance from 1941 to the liberation. The museum reveals the Nazis’ violent repression and deportation of the local Jewish population, illustrating specific episodes that took place. The museum approaches the subject with sensitivity, while illuminating the lives of resistance fighters who tried to resist the Nazi regime. Grenoble had one of the largest resistance movements in France.
Address: 14 Rue Hébert, Grenoble
6 Dauphinois Museum
This unique museum focuses on the culture and heritage of the Dauphiné region. Housed in a 17th-century building (formerly a monastery), the museum illustrates all aspects of life in the region through archaeological, historical and ethnological exhibitions. There are permanent exhibitions about the region’s rural life, the people of the Alps and the history of skiing. Once or twice a year, the museum organizes temporary exhibitions that focus on foreign cultures.
Address: Rue Maurice Gignoux 30, Grenoble
7 Dolphin Garden
Grenoble has many pleasant green spaces and the most lush garden is the Jardin des Dauphins. The garden is in a picturesque location on the other side of the River Isère below the Fort de la Bastille. It offers sensational views of Fort Rabot, standing on a rocky outcrop in the distance. Built on the site of the city’s ancient fortifications, the Jardins des Dauphins encompasses 30 hectares of green space filled with a variety of ancient trees and wild shrubs. Due to the southern location of the garden, exotic plants can bloom here, such as bananas, loquats and pomegranates. With its inviting tree-lined walkways, the Jardin des Dauphins is the perfect place to stroll on a sunny day.
Address: 24 Quai de France, Grenoble
8 The Store – National Center for Contemporary Art
In the gritty industrial part of Grenoble, this edgy art center is located in a former warehouse designed by Gustave Eiffel. Opened in 1986, Le Magasin offers some of the best contemporary art exhibitions in France. Three times a year, the center hosts temporary exhibitions of original work in its 3,000 square meter space. The center also offers facilities to support new talent and works closely with artists who exhibit their art here. Other activities include conferences, workshops and training programs.
Address: 8 Esplanade Andry Farcy, Grenoble
9 City Garden
Bordering Grenoble’s Vieille Ville (old town), this elegant garden was once the private property of the Dukes of Lesdiguières and became a public park in 1710. The impressive 17th-century Hôtel de Lesdiguière was formerly the Duke’s home. This mansion now houses the Maison de l’International which welcomes foreigners and promotes cultural exchanges. With its gated entrance, vibrant rose gardens and French-style flower beds, the Jardin de Ville has a special charm. When the weather is pleasant, many locals are found on the lawns. It’s a great place for a picnic or a leisurely stroll. The Jardin de Ville also hosts many events in the summer.
Address: 5 Jardin de Ville, Grenoble
10 Place Grenette
South of the Jardin de Ville is Grenoble’s main town square. Lined with quaint historic houses, Place Grenette has many bustling cafés and restaurants with terraces on the square. During the 17th century, Place Grenette was used for grain and animal markets. In the center of the square is an ornate fountain with winged cherubs and dolphins, created by sculptor Victor Sappey.
Where to stay in Grenoble for sightseeing
We recommend these good hotels in Grenoble, near top locations such as the old town:
- Park Hotel Grenoble – MGallery by Sofitel: 4-star luxury, park views, chic decor, spacious rooms, small gym.
- Grand Hotel Grenoble Centre: mid-range price, central location, stylish design, luxury bedding, valet parking.
- Okko Hotels Grenoble Jardin Hoche: affordable prices, trendy design, free snacks and drinks.
- Ibis Styles Grenoble Center Gare: budget-friendly hotel, near the train station, modern decor, free breakfast.
Day trips from Grenoble
Château de Vizille
In an idyllic setting 16 kilometers from Grenoble, this beautiful castle is a feast for the eyes. The building also has an intriguing history. The castle was built between 1611 and 1627 by a nobleman who was a leading Protestant. However, he renounced his faith in 1662 to obtain the title of Connétable. The castle has a staircase leading to the Renaissance-style park. In 1788, the Estates of the Dauphiné held a meeting here, which laid the foundation for the French Revolution, in which a demand was formulated for the personal freedom of all French people. The castle now houses the Musée de la Révolution Française (Museum of the French Revolution).
Address: Place du Château, 38220 Vizille
Parc Naturel Regional Chartreuse
In the green mountainside about 30 kilometers outside Grenoble, this verdant national park offers an idyllic retreat into nature. The Chartreuse Regional Natural Park has a remote feel and is only accessible via narrow country roads. This regional park is ideal for hiking in the summer and a popular ski destination in the winter. Charming mountain villages invite visitors to relax and enjoy life. Cozy traditional inns and hearty country cuisine add to the experience.
Vercors Regional Natural Park
About 25 kilometers southwest of Grenoble, this pristine alpine region has been a protected reserve since 1985. The area is known for its dramatic landscape and astonishing biodiversity. Covered with forests, gorges and many hiking trails, the Vercors Regional Park is an ideal place to discover unspoilt nature. In winter, the area’s ski areas are suitable for skiers of all levels. There are also opportunities for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.