6 reasons Grenoble is far more than a gateway to the Alps

How to spend a weekend in gorgeous Grenoble.

Last September my cousin moved to Grenoble for 6 months as part of her year abroad whist studying French & German at university. I hadn’t ever thought of visiting Grenoble but I found £30 return flights (from Stansted) and with free accommodation it seemed impossible to say no!

View of Grenoble across Isère river to the mountains.

A lot of skiers may know Grenoble as the airport they fly into before embarking for their Alpine resorts. But I discovered there is more to this city than simply being a gateway to the ski slopes above! And the end of Summer was a great time to visit and enjoy all it has to offer.

1. Ride the iconic cable car up to the Bastille

The ‘bubbles’ on their way up to the Bastille
(as featured by @topgrenoblephotos)

A trip to Grenoble is incomplete without a trip to the Bastille. The Bastille is the fortress that sits atop a hill of the same name overlooking Grenoble and the most fun way to reach this stoic fortress is by taking the iconic cable car. It’s an interesting experience piling into these almost futuristic looking round bubbles and sailing up over the river and the city!

View of Grenoble from the Bastille

Once you emerge from the cable car exit you are greeted with unbelievable views across the city to the mountains that cradle and surround it. The sky was so clear when we went up and we were even lucky enough to see Mont Blanc rising up on the horizon!

2. Enjoy brunch at Pain & Cie

Brunch at Pain et Cie

Brunch is probably my favourite meal of the day because you can really justify having anything you want, right?! I am always very happy with a pastry laden brunch and Pain & Cie did not disappoint. The hot chocolate came in a bowl that was almost the size of my head and the fresh bread and croissants were complimented with white chocolate spread. Yup. White Chocolate Spread. So good.

3. Soak up some culture at the Musée de Grenoble

Musée de Grenoble

The Musée de Grenoble is situated on the bank of the river and contains artwork from Picasso to Renoir to Warhol. What made it so spectacular for me was how quiet it was. Most art galleries I have visited have been bustling with people and there is always a sense that you may be in someone’s way. In the Musée de Grenoble I was almost always in an exhibit room alone, enjoying the artwork all for myself. It felt amazing to be so selfish with it and take in the incredible paintings for as long as I wanted.

4. Cycle out of the city to a 17th century castle

Getting out of the city on the Métrovélo

Given its close proximity to the Alps it is not a surprise that Grenoble is an active city. A great way to get around is by bike and the bright yellow Métrovélos can be hired to cycle by anyone. This was a fun way for us to get out of the city and ride along the river.

Castle Sassenage

There are plenty of villages and castles along the way and we stopped in Sassenage to visit its 17th century castle. We didn’t go inside but we did enjoy a walk around the castle grounds to stretch our legs. The cycle to Sassenage is around 6km from Grenoble train station where you can hire the bikes.

5. Cool down with inventive ice cream

White Peach and Lime & Basil ice creams

Even though it was the end of Summer (middle of September) when I visited, the temperature was still pretty high, around 26C. For a Scot this is hot and the best way to cool down was with a refreshing ice cream or sorbet from Terre Adélice. Situated near to Jardin de Ville, this ice cream store has a stack of inventive flavours to choose between! Some of the choices on offer honestly included Rice Pudding, Kumquat and Fresh Goat’s Cheese (I took a photo of the menu, it’s true!).

I played it safe with white peach and lime & basil. They were very refreshing and a perfect afternoon treat in the hot sun!

6. Stroll along the river and through the Old Town

Grenoble’s Old Town is incredibly compact and you can easily walk it in around an hour. It is a warren of alleyways opening out into beautiful squares. I was so amazed by the views to the mountains that seemed to be lurking round every street corner! It was incredible to see. The Old Town is nestled on the Southern bank of the  Isère River beneath the Bastille which means you can easily include a stroll along the river bank. Make sure to take a photo from one of the bridges that span it (see title photo for inspiration!).

My favourite ‘square’ was Place Notre Dame with its beautiful fountain Fontaine des Trois Ordres. Just watch out for trams! They’re a really easy way to get around the city but they sneak their way through the Old Town!

Chez Marius at Place Notre Dame

Top Tip: We enjoyed tasty burgers at Chez Marius, it has a beautifully simplistic storefront so take a snap even if you don’t eat there!

Have you flown into Grenoble to ski in the Alps? Would you have ever considered taking a  trip to visit Grenoble itself?!

Cat x


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