Grenoble, or ‘The Capital of The Alps’ is a town in southeastern France. It’s surrounded by mountains and you’ll see them wherever you are in the city. It’s where I spent my year abroad as a language assistant in primary schools, and it’ll always have a special place in my heart because of that. If you’re planning on visiting Grenoble, whether for skiing, or hiking come summer, then here are some of the best things to do in Grenoble.
1. The Bastille
The Bastille of Grenoble is one thing every visitor to Grenoble should do. It’s on top of Mount Rachais; a small hill in the city. It’s an old fortress with many old walls and ruins that were used during battles to protect the city. There’s plenty to explore. There’s the old Mandarin Caves, tunnels, great view points, a museum and even a couple of restaurants at the Bastille.
You can get to the Bastille by walking up the mountain, running, or taking the cable car.
2. Take the cable car
The cable car which takes you up to The Bastille first opened in 1934. At the time it was the first city cable car in the world. The bubbles give you a great view of the mountains, the Isere River immediately below, and the city of Grenoble itself. It’s worth taking a trip during your visit to Grenoble!
3. Le Tord Boyaux
We used to head to this pub quite a lot during my year abroad! It’s super popular with students thanks to cheap drinks, graffiti all over the walls and dancing on tables not being frowned upon. If you’re up for a fun night out then you could do a lot worse than here!
This was truly one of the best restaurants I found in Grenoble. It was hidden a little out of the way but had a great set menu deal where three courses for dinner were very reasonably priced. They serve traditional French cuisine such as duck, pates, and some steak-frites!
5. Eat Pizza along Quai Perriere
I don’t think you’ll have ever, or will ever, see as many pizza restaurants in the same place as you will along Quai Perriere. There’s easily over 20 pizza restaurants here. I ate at a fair few of them during my time in Grenoble and the best tip is to head to one that looks busy. If it’s busy then it’s probably one of the better ones.
6. Shop at Halles Ste-Claire
This big covered market in the centre of Grenoble is a great place for picking up your fresh fruit and vegetables. As I recall it is slightly more expensive than some of the others a bit further of of the city centre, but it’s also one of the prettiest.
If you love exploring markets when you travel then make sure this is on your to-do list for Grenoble!
7. Learn at the Musée de la Résistance et de la Déportation de l’Isère
Given that this was what I wrote my A-level history coursework on I was keen to visit the Resistance museum. It’s expansive and teaches you all about the history of Grenoble and the resistance to Italian and German forces during WWII. It also covers the deportation of over 1000 local Jewish people to Nazi camps.
It’s not lighthearted that’s for sure, but it’s very interesting if you like history.
8. Drink rum at Barberousse
Another bar in Grenoble popular with students is Barberousse. This bar is ship themed and specialises in flavoured rums (some of which are dangerously good!).
9. Warm up at La Fondue
If you’ve spent the day skiing at Chamrousse, or Les Deux Alpes or Alpe d’Huez, then warm up with a big fondue once you get back into town. La Fondue has the wood panelling you’d expect of a restaurant serving this type of food.
It’s got 17 different types of cheese and meat fondues, does Raclette and tartiflette and also chocolate fondues! You’ll leave feeling very, very full!
10. Grab a post work aperitif at L’Amis d’abord
Another year abroad favourite was aperitifs at L’Amis d’Abord. This bar had some outside seating and had great prices on beers. It does get busy though so arrive early to secure a space for you and your friends.
11. Explore the markets outside of the centre
There’s at least one market in pretty much every region of Grenoble. My local, and favourite, one was Marché de l’Estacade. It’s full of good quality, traditional and local produce.
I remember a man who brought his own honey to sell and he’d spoon it out of these massive silver tubs to put into your empty jam jars. Then there was the man who’d fry up his homemade tortellini and ravioli and offer samples.
This was on top of fruit, vegetables, cheese, milks, meat, charcuterie, fish and flowers. I’ve never found a market quite like it.
Marche de l’Estacade runs from Tuesday to Sunday from 06:00 to 13:00 on Avenue de Vizille/Rue Joseph Rey, with stalls set up underneath the overpass.
12. Drink all the beers at Les Frères Berthom
If you like beer then head to Les Freres Berthom which has an absolutely huge menu of beers. They’ve got fruity ones, strong ones, beers of all sorts! Gets super busy at the weekend so go there early.
13. Browse a flea market
Every Sunday morning there’s a big flea market at the Porte de France on the far side of Isère to centre-ville. There’s lots of absolute rubbish here, but there’s also some gems to be found. There’s an even bigger Brocante (flea market) held every few months along Quais Perrière and Saint Laurent.
14. Explore the old town
You can’t come to Grenoble without discovering the old town. It’s all cobbled streets, dead ends and little market squares. By the end of my 8 months in Grenoble I knew every turn and shortcut, but the first few weeks I definitely got lost a few times!
15. Party until 6am at a club in Grenoble
Grenoble has a big student population and it’s also got a pretty good party scene for such a relatively small town. In Grenoble you head to a bar until 1am and then it’s time for the club. I remember having some late nights at Ambiance Cafe in southern Grenoble and Le Vertigo near Jardin de Ville.
16. La Ferme à Dédé
Another place for a hearty winter or post-ski meal is La Ferme à Dédé. Expect traditional fare from the region like gratin dauphinois, grilled hanger steak and more.
17. Celebrate beaujolais
Beaujolais is a massive party that takes part all over France in November to celebrate the release of that year’s wine. Everyone heads to the shops to buy a bottle (or 5) of the new wine and then heads to the streets to drink it.
Although police have been trying to crack down on street drinking I’m pretty sure it still happens. It sure did when I was living in Grenoble in 2012!
18. Get a fancy coffee at The French Coffee Shop
If you’re missing your coffee topped with cream and lots of added sugar then you’ll love The French Coffee Shop. They’re Grenoble’s answer to Starbucks and offer drinks such as oreo hot chocolates, and caramel lattes. Plus there’s wifi and comfy seating!
19. Visit Le Millésime
One of the first events I attended in Grenoble was Le Millesime. It was a wine festival in Place Victor Hugo where for about 10euros you were given a glass and could visit all the stalls and producers to try their wine. The festival tends to take place during the last week of October every year so if you’re visiting Grenoble then, add it to your list of things to do!
20. Browse the Christmas Market
Grenoble also has a great Christmas market which takes over the town centre. There are stalls all along Place Grenette and in Place Victor Hugo. They’re the traditional wooden hut type stalls and there’s lots of Vin Chaud, gifts and tasty food to warm up with. Plus, it’s entirely free to visit.
21. Cycle up to Sassenage
In the weather permits hire a bicycle and cycle along the cycle path next to Le Drac river all the way up to Sassenage.
At Sassenage you’ll find a castle and some caves to explore. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon when the weather is nice!
22. Brunch at Pain et Cie
My absolute favourite place for brunch in Grenoble was Pain et Cie. At the weekends they do special breakfast deals where you’ll get croissants, coffee, fruit juice, salamis and hams with housemade spreads to go on top. It’s a great place for a leisurely breakfast with a paper or a good book!
23. Visit some of the gardens
Grenoble is a very green city and there are so many beautiful parks. Some of my favourites were Parc Paul Mistral and Jardin de Ville. I used to love picking up a croissant from one of the markets of boulangeries before heading to a park with a good book.
24. Take a day trip to Vizille Castle
The castle and grounds of Vizille are absolutely beautiful and well worth taking a trip to if you’re visiting Grenoble. It’s a thirty minute drive by car or bus to get here from Grenoble.
The castle is one of the most important and prestigious in the entire region and was used to house the inheritor of the French throne.
The town itself is very small, but charming in that typical French way. The real attraction is the castle. It’s free to enter the gardens which span for 320 acres. They’re stunning with a river, deer and plenty of flowers. The castle has now been turned into a museum of the French Revolution for which there is a fee.
25. Try the famous Chartreuse spirit made by monks
Chartreuse is a local spirit. It’s a minty green colour and very, very strong. It’s the only liqueur in the world which is this colour naturally!
I think it’s a bit of an acquired taste but if you want to try it then head to where it’s made over at the town of Chartreuse. Here you’ll discover the spirit is made by monks and you can visit the monastery which is just a short drive away from Grenoble.
26. Ski the Olympic slopes at Chamrousse
Just thirty minutes drive away from downtown Grenoble is the locals’ ski resort: Chamrousse. If you’re visiting Grenoble in winter you simply have to add a visit here to your list of things to do in Grenoble.
In 1969 the Winter Olympics were held in Grenoble and you can still ski the downhill course today. It’s pretty steep in sections (obviously) but worth doing if you’re an intermediate skier!
27. Get cultured
You might not come to Grenoble expecting to find a good museum, but you’d be wrong. The Musee de Grenoble is much bigger than it looks from the outside and has some really great exhibitions. There’s paintings, sculpture and even some Egyptian artefacts.
You could easily spend a few hours exploring the galleries here. There’s also a sculpture garden included with admission too.
Prices for adults range from 5 – 8€, depending on exhibition.
Getting to Grenoble
Whilst Grenoble does have an airport, it’s seasonal and is usually more expensive to fly to than Geneva or Lyon. There are plenty of direct flights from London to Lyon and Geneva and then it’s a short train journey from here (or few hours’ drive) to Grenoble.
Where to stay in Grenoble
I always use Booking.com or Airbnb to book my accommodation. When my parents visited they stayed at both of the following places which were great due to central location and quality.
- Hôtel d’Angleterre: Great location right in the middle of Grenoble.
- Happy Appart Grenoble: Super close to the station so good for catching the bus to the mountains in the morning. Walking distance to Centre Ville (about 20-30 minutes) and good for bigger groups who want kitchen facilities.
Want more France travel ideas?
- Climbing La Bastille
- A review of Pain et Cie
- How to have a budget ski holiday near Grenoble
- A Youtube video of a trip to Grenoble
- Eating (and drinking) in the Dordogne Valley
- France’s most beautiful towns are in the Dordogne Valley
- A weekend in Lille
- Brunch At Merci In Paris
- A Valentine’ Weekend In Paris
- 5 adventures to have in the Dordogne Valley
- The Dordogne Valley on video