Use This Grenoble Itinerary to Explore the French Alps

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by Brittany Scott-Gunfield

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Known as the capital of the Alps, Grenoble is a vibrant city in southeastern France, nestled amongst the mountains and bursting with character. Although the mountains may be the main draw for holidaying in the Alps, spending one day in Grenoble to experience the stunning city life is a must when in the area.

With a quaint old town full of mediaeval buildings, plenty of parks for ambling and museums for a cultural experience, there’s plenty to see and do on a day trip, no matter what time of year.

Grenoble along the Isere River
Grenoble along the Isere River

Getting To & Around Grenoble

Located a short distance south of Geneva and southwest of Lyon, Grenoble is quite easy to reach from nearby cities, so if you’re spending a week or more in the Alps, it’s very easy to get to by public transport or car. If you’re beginning your journey from further afield, however, it can be slightly more tricky.

Grenoble does have an airport, Grenoble Alpes-Isère Airport, however, it doesn’t serve many international airports or have regular flight schedules outside of the ski season.

So if travelling to Grenoble from other cities such as London or Berlin, it’s much easier to fly into Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport or Geneva Airport and take a train or bus to Grenoble.

It may be easier still if you rent a car at the airport to drive yourself to Grenoble and shorten your journey to around 1 hour 15 minutes from Lyon, or 1 hour and a half from Geneva.

If you’re flying into Paris, you can easily take the high-speed TGV train from the Gare de Lyon and reach Grenoble in just 3 hours. You can view schedules here.

Within Grenoble, public transport is very easy to navigate and can take you all over the city via tram, bus and cable car.

Although Grenoble is remarkably easy to walk around on foot; despite being located in the Alps, Grenoble is actually the flattest city in France, with mountains all around the surprisingly flat terrain, so walking around the city is not only enjoyable but also easy.

If you want to speed up your visit over a day trip to Grenoble, you can make great use of the very popular tram system which has multiple lines connecting various neighbourhoods and attractions, making it quick and easy to get around the city centre.

Just buy a ticket at the machines on the platforms and travel cheaply for one hour, or over a whole day.

Tram in Grenoble
Tram in Grenoble

1-Day Grenoble Itinerary

With a dynamic blend of historical charm and outdoor opportunities, Grenoble offers a unique and captivating experience for visitors, with plenty to discover over one day in the stunning city.

Vieux Grenoble

Grenoble’s Old Town, or Vieille Ville, is the best place to start your trip to the city as it’s full of character that welcomes you in, thanks to its stunning architecture and historical marvels.

Start your morning at the imposing 18th-century Cathedral of Grenoble located in the grand square, Place de Notre Dame, complete with incredible 19th-century fountain, Fontaine des Trois Ordres.

Wandering further into the heart of the old town, past charming boutiques and buildings, you’ll arrive in Place Saint-André. If you’re visiting Grenoble on a Tuesday or Thursday, make sure to stop by Place aux Herbes en route to take a look at the regional speciality products at the local market.

Place Saint-André is one of the city’s most beautiful squares, which is home to the 15th-century Saint-André Church, the historic Café de la Table Ronde, one of France’s oldest cafés, and the incredibly ornate Palace of the Parliament.

Built in the 14th century, this palace was the headquarters of Justice in Grenoble for 500 years and is well worth a look at as you pass through the old town. You can also have guided tours in English during July and August, although the inside of the magnificent building is… less magnificent than the outside.

After a couple of hours exploring the narrow, winding streets and historical architecture of the old town, perfect for photography to capture the essence of Grenoble’s rich past, you may find yourself ready for lunch, and Café de la Table Ronde is the perfect stop.

Established in 1739, Café de la Table Ronde is one of the oldest eateries in France and showcases its lengthy experience with its historic menu that highlights classic French cuisine and regional specialities.

Try the Quenelles de brochet (pike dumplings), coq au vin, or tartiflette if you’re after a traditional taste that you can’t find anywhere else in the world.

Of course, if you want to explore local cuisine more, then you also cannot go wrong with a visit to the nearby Les Halles Saint-Claire, the central market hall.

Saint-Andre Church
Saint-Andre Church

Jardin de Ville

After lunch, a leisurely stroll is in order, and Grenoble has plenty of delightful parks to enjoy, including the nearby Jardin de Ville.

Jardin de Ville in Grenoble is an essential stop on a trip to the city, offering a serene escape with a rich historical background.

Established in the 17th century as the private garden of the Duke of Lesdiguières, the Jardin de Ville now serves as a public park in a classic French garden design, featuring symmetrical pathways, ornate statues, and a central fountain.

The park also hosts the Lesdiguières Pavilion, which now hosts cultural events and exhibitions, so take a look at the park’s cultural calendar before you visit to find out what to do in Grenoble for a day.

The park is also the location of the cable car, which takes you up to the next essential stop on your Grenoble itinerary.

Fort de La Bastille

The cable car is an iconic Grenoble landmark, but not as much as the Fort itself, so taking a trip up to the fort is an essential part of your time in Grenoble.

The Fort de La Bastille was initially built as part of the city’s defences during the Napoleonic Wars, strategically positioned atop the Bastille Hill overlooking Grenoble. Its primary purpose was military defence, serving as a key stronghold to protect the city and control access to the Alpine passes. Over the years, the fort played various roles in military operations and also served as a prison.

Today, while the Fort de la Bastille retains its historical significance, it has been repurposed for tourism and cultural activities. While not a traditional museum, parts of the fort are open to the public for exploration; visitors can wander through the fort’s corridors, ramparts, and dungeons, discovering artefacts and learning about its past through informational displays.

One of the fort’s main attractions, however, is the breathtaking panoramic views offered from the top of the hill. After stepping out of the cable car, or hiking up the winding path, visitors can enjoy sweeping vistas of Grenoble, the surrounding Alps, and the meeting point of the Drac and Isère rivers.

These views are breathtaking, with the flatness and vastness of the city in full display, with the main avenue stretching straight out into the distance, with the region’s incredible natural beauty of the mountain peaks all around.

If you’ve got time, you can continue walking past the fort to hike around the hills and seek out a higher and more spectacular view of the city. Otherwise, take the cable car back down or walk down to the riverside along the trail from the fort to your next stop.

Fort de La Bastille
Fort de La Bastille

Musée de Grenoble

If you’re keen to get out of the glaring sunny on a hot summer’s afternoon or you’ve been caught in a shower, head over to the Musée de Grenoble for a couple of hours to catch a glimpse of some beautiful artwork.

The Museum of Grenoble is one of France’s most prestigious art museums with an impressive collection of works ranging from ancient to contemporary, including some by notable artists like Monet, Matisse, and Picasso.

In addition to its extensive art collection, the Musée de Grenoble frequently hosts temporary exhibitions and cultural events, so whether you’re an art enthusiast or a casual visitor, there’s something for everyone.

Whether you’re seeking inspiration, relaxation, or simply a cultural event, the museum provides an enriching experience that can be enjoyed at your own pace.

Open from 10 am to 6.30 pm every day except Tuesdays, entrance to the museum’s permanent exhibit is free for all.

Those more interested in ancient history than art may instead want to visit the nearby Musée archéologique Saint-Laurent. This archaeological museum has countless local finds along with a 6th-century crypt very much worth exploring.

Tour Perret

If you’re keen to discover more of Grenoble on foot, you can take a 15-minute stroll south to the Tour Perret located in the Parc Paul Mistral via two delightful parks, or if you’re in a rush or wish to rest your legs, you can take the number 16 bus for a few minutes instead.

When walking, take a detour through Place de Verdun and Jardin de Plantes Joséphine Baker to enhance your journey. Place de Verdun, honouring a World War I battle, is a lively square surrounded by stunning buildings, while the Jardin de Plantes Joséphine Baker is a tranquil botanical garden with diverse plant species, named after the celebrated exotic dancer and singer of the 1920s.

Although you may be eager to reach the tower as you can clearly see it from a distance, the entire Parc Paul Mistral is worth exploring, as it was designed as an exhibition space in 1925, although now the only remaining remnant is the Perret Tower.

Spanning 33 hectares, Parc Paul Mistral is the largest park in Grenoble and has numerous paths dissecting the trees, ponds and lawns that host a number of concerts and other cultural events throughout summer.

The tower itself, Tour Perret, was designed by Auguste Perret and showcases the 1920s Art Deco style using reinforced concrete and was one of Europe’s first skyscrapers, standing at an impressive 86 metres high.

Although still with a lift and spiral staircase, the tower is no longer accessible due to damage sustained over time, however, it remains an important structure to visit, and looks particularly impressive at night when the structure is lit up.

Grenoble Nightlife

While Grenoble is not as famous for its nightlife as larger cities like Paris, it still offers a vibrant and diverse scene, with several trendy districts full of bustling bars and restaurants open late into the night.

Spending an evening out in one of these areas is a great way to end your day, allowing you to immerse yourself in the local culture and social atmosphere after exploring the city’s sights during the day.

Popular districts like Place Notre-Dame and Quartier Championnet buzz with energy as locals and visitors gather in cafes, bars, and restaurants as the sun sets.

Sampling local drinks like Chartreuse liqueur, produced by monks in nearby Chartreuse Monastery, or enjoying a refreshing cocktail made with regional ingredients adds a taste of Grenoble’s unique culinary heritage to your evening experience.

Génépi liqueur is a local tipple made by steeping the herb in alcohol and sugar, resulting in a fragrant and slightly bitter digestif. Plus, wild berries like raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries are abundant in the Alpine region surrounding Grenoble and are frequently found in cocktails in the area.

Rue Brocherie near Place Notre Dame in the old town has a number of bars frequented by Grenoble youth and social butterflies, while BLIND PIG is a popular bar in the Championnet district in the south of the city.

If you’re after a more upmarket end to your Grenoble day trip, then head to Maison Fantin Latour. This haute cuisine restaurant is quite expensive, but it’s well worth the price as it’s in an exceptional location and serves extraordinary food using local ingredients.

Grenoble at night
Grenoble at night

Have More Time?

Since Grenoble doesn’t have a very nearby airport, it’s not so easy to take a day trip from further afield, and much better to visit while staying for a longer period in the area.

If you’re enjoying a holiday in the area, you can also spend more than one day and take the time to go canyoning or explore local hiking routes in the Vercors range of the French Alps or visit another museum or park in the city.

Grenoble offers numerous trails of varying levels of difficulty, although each has remarkable scenery. The Chemin de la Mature is a fairly easy hike around the top of the Bastille Hill behind the fort and follows an old military path along the mountainside, offering panoramic views of the Alps.

Or you could head to Lac Achard in the Belledonne Massif. Accessible by foot or short bus ride from Grenoble, the hike to Lac Achard is relatively easy and suitable for beginners with the trail passing through forests and meadows, culminating at the picturesque Lac Achard, where hikers can relax and enjoy the scenery.

If you’re looking for other things to do in Grenoble centre,  the Museum of the Resistance and Deportation of Isère offers a fascinating insight into WWII for those with a historical interest.

Its commendable collection of artefacts, documents, and personal testimonials provides valuable perspective into the bravery and sacrifice of those who resisted Nazi occupation and faced deportation.

Through immersive exhibits and multimedia presentations, visitors can gain a deeper understanding of the Holocaust, the experiences of resistance fighters in France, and the impact of deportation on individuals and local communities.

Whether you have a passing interest in history or a deep curiosity about wartime resistance movements, a visit to this museum in Grenoble promises to be a thought-provoking and enlightening experience.

Hiking around Bastille Hill
Hiking around Bastille Hill

Where to Stay in Grenoble

1924 Hôtel – A charming 3-star hotel in the centre of the city, this place has lovely, chic decor and plenty of room options. There is also room service, an airport shuttle service and a superb breakfast.

RockyPop Grenoble Hotel – A hip, modern more luxe option in the city centre, this is an excellent upmarket hotel option in Grenoble. There are countless rooms available, an on-site restaurant and fitness centre and plenty of other amenities.

Les Appartements de Grenoble – These apartments are an excellent choice for those who’d like their own space in Grenoble. There are plenty of one-bedroom and studio options to choose from with lots of great amenities available.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Grenoble hotels!

A visit to Grenoble offers a perfect blend of cultural exploration and natural beauty, making it an ideal addition to any holiday in the Alps. From its picturesque old town and renowned museums to its proximity to stunning mountain landscapes and outdoor adventures, Grenoble provides a captivating and diverse experience that can be perfectly summed up in a day.

Are you planning to visit Grenoble? Have any questions about this route? Let us know in the comments!

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Brittany Scott-Gunfield

Brittany is a writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from Colchester, England, she is slowly but surely travelling the world as a digital nomad. She loves to hike around different landscapes and has a deep love for travelling around France (and elsewhere in Europe).

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