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A trip to Grenoble is not complete unless you’ve been up the Bastille. The what? The Bastille is the name of the fortress and hill 476m above the town of Grenoble. It’s the most popular tourist site of the Grenoble area and welcomes around 600,000 visitors a year! Don’t miss out on climbing the Bastille in Grenoble – find out more about it in this post.
The history of the Grenoble Bastille
As with many old forts and castles, the location of the Bastille didn’t happen by accident. It was chosen for strategic reasons. The hill the Bastille sits on is in the perfect place to watch out over the city of Grenoble. From the hill, you’d be the first to know if anyone was trying to attack.
However, whilst great for looking out on to Grenoble, the Bastille also became an easy-to-attack target. If enemies were firing from the Chartreuse mountain range they had a pretty clear firing line to the Bastille.
To combat this the French built massive walls and installed cannons.
You can still see these walls when you hike to the top of the Bastille in Grenoble. You can also see some of the caves which allowed troops to move around the fort unseen and plot surprise attacks.
How to get to the top of the Bastille in Grenoble
When I returned to Grenoble for my mini ski break on a budget I decided to finally hike to the top of the Bastille. It’s something I never got around to during my year abroad even though I’d been up in Les Boules several times.
There are several different walking routes you can take and then there’s the cable car too.
Take “Les Boules”
The cable car that takes you to the top of the Bastille in Grenoble was the first urban cable car in the world.
It opened in 1934 and since then, more than 16 million people have travelled in it.
Each “bubble” takes a maximum of 6 people and you get fantastic views of the city and the mountain ranges on the journey. It only takes a couple of minutes to get the top this way. It’s popular too with around half of the visitors to the Bastille taking the cable car.
How to walk to the top of the Bastille in Grenoble from Jardin des Dauphins
This is the route I took when I walked to the top of the Bastille. If you decide to walk from Jardin des Dauphins you’ll have a picturesque, gentle climb through a well planted park.
Le Jardin des Dauphins is situated at the foot of the Bastille and perched on a cliff close to the Porte de France. The gardens are made up of a series of six terraces with walls linked by steps, passageways and paths.
Upon entering the garden there’s a mounted statue of the heroine Philis de la Charce.
Follow the paths uphill from terrace to terrace. There are two tunnels and a spiral tower staircase to navigate before coming out on the other side of a wooden bridge that crosses the moat of the Bastille. At this point you’ll reach Guy Papepark begins.
If you look out over to the cliff you can see the upper section of the Grenoble Via Ferrata: a narrow climbing path that is open to everyone brave enough to take it on!
The path winds upwards and there are plenty of shady spots to take a break. Make sure to look out between the trees for glimpses of Grenoble now down below.
As you continue you’ll pass what remains of the fort; old walls, caves and dark staircases.
After all that walking you’ll want to take a break, so find a nice sun spot and look out over the view for a while. If you’re still feeling active, then head behind the Bastille and continue climbing upwards through the caves!
What can you do on the Grenoble Bastille?
There’s plenty to do at the top of the Bastille! You could easily spend a whole day here.
The Mountain Troop museum
Full of information on how the Bastille was used by mountain troops many years ago. Great for history buffs.
Bastille Art Centre
Pass through the little pink door and into the vaulted rooms at the core of the Bastille fortifications to discover the Bastille Art Centre. Here there is contemporary French and international artwork to browse. The BAC takes advantage of the unique environment offered by the fort barracks to showcase contemporary French and international artists.
The “storming of the Bastille” via ferrata
If you love adventure you’ll love trying the via ferrata on the Grenoble Bastille.
The via ferrata climbs up the rocky slopes to the top of the Bastille. There are two sections and you’ll climb 205m. The second part is the hardest.
This isn’t an organised tour but something you can do solo. Only recommended if you have previous experience and you must have all required safety gear.
Take on this rope and zipline maze at the Grenoble Bastille. You’ll go through the moats and fortifications and explore by headlight. Great fun for everyone aged 4+
Price from 22€
Hike to the Mont Rachais
You can hike a real mountain from the city centre of Grenoble. Take the Jardin des Dauphins route outlined above then head towards Mont Jalla and finally up Mont Rachais which marks the beginning of the Chartreuse mountains.
You’ll climb 800 metres and have gorgeous views of Grenoble and the Alps.
When is the best time of year to visit the Grenoble Bastille?
The Bastille is good all year round. However there are a few local tips that’ll make your visit even better!
If you’re visiting in winter then make sure to wrap up warm. It doesn’t usually snow allow in the city of Grenoble but there will be snow all over the mountains and it’s still going to be cold.
If you’re visiting in summer then try and visit the Bastille the day after it’s rained a lot. This way the smog that tends to hang over Grenoble gets cleared by the rain and you’ll have a non-hazy view over the city.