Lovely little Grenoble is the gateway town into the French Alpes in the southeast of France. It is small but it is packed with charm and fantastic things to do.
The city is well known for the prestigious University of Grenoble. It is a world-renowned research institution and is known as one of the best places in the world to learn the French language. This has helped the city become a strong tech hub and Grenoble is also home to many world-leading companies in this sector.
The combination of this international community, the stunning backdrop of the French Alpes and the beauty of the city itself makes for a unique travel experience.
Don’t make the mistake of just transiting through Grenoble on your way in and out of the French Alpes – this delightful town deserves a stay of at least a couple of nights.
Here are the 16 best things to do in Grenoble:
16 Fantastic Things to do in Grenoble
Table of Contents
- 16 Fantastic Things to do in Grenoble
- 1. Admire the Mountain Views
- 2. Explore the Old Town
- 3. Visit the Grenoble Fine Arts Museum
- 4. Grenoble Archeological Museum
- 5. Explore the Saint Laurent neighborhood
- 6. Take a Ride on the Grenoble Cable Car
- 7. Visit La Bastille
- 8. Les Halles Sainte-Claire
- 9. Go Glove Shopping
- 10. Have tea at Gwendoline’s
- 11. Have a Michelin Star Meal – Fantin Latour
- 12. Have a cocktail at The Blind Pig
- 13. Have a great flat white at Cafe Myro
- 14. Have dinner in a Chapel
- 15. Eat local
- 16. See the street art
- Where to Stay in Grenoble
- How to Get to Grenoble
1. Admire the Mountain Views
French author Marie-Henri Beyle or Stendhal was born in Grenoble and is believed to be the author of the city’s now iconic phrase “in Grenoble, every street ends with a mountain”. One of the delights of Grenoble is to wander its streets and literally see a rather spectacular mountain at the end of each one.
2. Explore the Old Town
As you leave the more modern streets of Grenoble to walk to the heart of the town you will notice large copper nails planted between the pavement stones. These indicate where the old walls were located before Grenoble became a city. This is also when you know you are officially entering the old part of the city.
The old town is completely pedestrianized and best explored on foot. There are many small and winding streets filled with beautiful boutiques, cute cafes and stylish restaurants. Grenoble is the flattest city in France so walking on foot is no struggle.
3. Visit the Grenoble Fine Arts Museum
Dating back to 1798, Grenoble Fine Arts Museum is home to over 900 works of art both ancient and contemporary. In the first half of the 20th century the museum was often considered to be one of the most eminent museums of modern art in the world at the time.
In 1994, the museum moved to a new location in Grenoble on the banks of the Isere river. The new location was a monastery in the 13th century and became part of the first barracks of the city in the 15th century.
The current building was designed by a local architecture firm that incorporated the traditional elements of the site with modern architecture. The interior of the building is light and airy and has been cleverly designed to maximise sunlight and to point the eye to the works on display.
I often say I have visited enough museums for a lifetime, but I very much enjoyed visiting this beautiful building and experiencing the soothing high ceilings, white walls and sense of space. Plus it is very photogenic.
4. Grenoble Archeological Museum
The small city of Grenoble contained not only one but two exceptions to my I no longer need to visit museums rule. The Grenoble Archeological Museum is fascinating and a must visit while in Grenoble.
This unique museum is a mix of buildings and structures dating back to the 6th century and today it uses an impactful light show to highlight its history. The museum was built on the remains of a necropolis that contained over 1,500 graves. It was deconsecrated in 1983 to become an archeological site and then a museum.
After entering the museum the place to head is the viewing platform, The Nave. This is the best place to see the amazing mix of structures in the museum. Look down and see the mausoleum that was built in the 5th century. Look ahead and see the Choir and its beautiful stained-glass windows that were installed in 1886. Look up and see swastikas engraved on the ceiling in 1919 when they were considered to be a good omen.
After experiencing the viewing platform head down to the crypt, one of the very few monuments of the 6th century still around that was kept above ground. If you’re feeling a little ghoulish it is then possible to view some of the archeological areas and the bones discovered within them.
Entry to the Grenoble Archeological Museum is free.
5. Explore the Saint Laurent neighborhood
After visiting the archeological museum, explore the streets of the Saint Laurent neighborhood. It is a small district filled with narrow houses with red tiled rooftops that have been by the banks of the Isere river since the 3rd century.
This area of Grenoble was referred to as “Little Corato” due to the influence of the migrants from Puglia in Italy who settled here in the 19th and 20th centuries. Today this picturesque area is home to restaurants and cafes and a regular flea market.
6. Take a Ride on the Grenoble Cable Car
Grenoble’s cable car links the centre of the city with the Bastille fortress. The cable car or bubble as it is known locally has been in operation since 1934. It was the first urban cable car and the round clear bubbles have become a symbol of the city.
The lower station of the cable car is on the banks of the Isere river. The cable car takes 5 minutes to climb from 216 metres to 482 metres and provides stunning views of the Grenoble on the way. The cable car costs 9 euros for a round trip.
7. Visit La Bastille
The cable car takes visitors up to La Bastille, the fort that overlooks Grenoble. If you’re feeling active you can also hike up to the La Bastille.
Grenoble is surrounded by three mountain chains: Chartreuse, Vercors and the Belledonne mountains. The viewing platform at La Bastille is one of the best places to appreciate Grenoble’s spectacular setting with 180-degree panorama views. And on a clear day, there are views of Mont Blanc.
But the view isn’t the only reason to visit La Bastille. There is a mountain troops museum, the Basille Art centre which hosts exhibitions, a via ferrata, geological paths and a zip line.
Or have the unique experience of climbing a mountain whilst just moments from a city. The peak of Mount Jalla is 200 meters above the Bastille and can be reached via a 30-minute path or hike up to Mont Rachais for more of a challenge.
If that all sounds a bit much just head to Restaurant Du Téléférique which provides meals with a view.
8. Les Halles Sainte-Claire
Grenoble’s first market opened in 1825. Since the city’s main market has had a couple of iterations and a move. Today it is located in the heart of the city in Grenoble’s pedestrian centre.
This beautiful covered market was last renovated in the 1990s and it was listed as a historical monument in 2007. The market today has nearly 30 stalls ranging from the boucherie to the fromagerie. If you are looking to buy cheese or other food souvenirs whilst in Grenoble this is the place to go.
9. Go Glove Shopping
Two hundred years ago Grenoble was the luxury glove capital of the world. The city can trace its glove-making history back to 1328. At its height in the late 18th century the city manufactured over one million pairs of gloves a year.
The combination of gloves becoming less popular as a fashion item and mass production methods mean there now is only one place in Grenoble that continues to practice the glove-making methods of the past, Gant Lesdiguieres.
The store is owned by Jean Strazzeri and he continues to use the kidskin leather and traditional cutting methods of the past to hand make his beautiful gloves. You may well see a machinist working away when you visit the store as I did.
I purchased a beautiful pair of periwinkle blue gloves with a cashmere interior and may I say they are like putting a hug made of kittens onto my hands! I highly recommend taking home a pair as the perfect Grenoble souvenir.
10. Have tea at Gwendoline’s
The beautiful Gwendoline tea shop sits on Place Victor Hugo and welcomes visitors with its large airy windows and outdoor seating. The salon is run by the lovely Maguy Meyer. She studied in Glasgow and learned to love British-style tea making and brought it to Grenoble.
Enjoy a full afternoon tea including pastries or visit for brunch. All dishes are prepared by Maguy using local and organic produce. And she has improved on the typical British tea time by offering wine at all times of the day.
11. Have a Michelin Star Meal – Fantin Latour
Dining at the Michelin star restaurant Fantin Latour was a highlight of my visit to Grenoble. Let’s start with the restaurant itself. The restaurant is named after its home, 19th-century mansion Fantin Latour. The mansion has a beautiful garden with hens and guinea fowls as well as bee hives.
The garden comes with a lovely swing that begs for instagram photos and when the weather permits seating is available outside.
Head chef Stephane Froidevaux is truly passionate about sourcing ingredients from the local area (they use the honey from the bee hives in the restaurant) and particularly from the mountains. This is his second michelin star restaurant.
The dining room at Fantin Latour has a wonderful convivial atmosphere. The high-ceilinged room is light and bright and feels like the place to be.
We enjoyed the brasserie lunch menu which offers set menus of outstanding value as well as a la carte options (the full gourmet menu is only served in the evening). I began my meal with an outstanding tuna tartare with fresh herbs and lemon.
I couldn’t resist their signature filet de boeuf with truffle sauce and was well rewarded for my choice.
An outstanding meal in a wonderful location, do try to get a booking at Fantin Latour before you head to Grenoble.
12. Have a cocktail at The Blind Pig
Did you know that the blind pig was the nickname for a speakeasy in the United States during prohibition? Me either! This charming cocktail bar has a quirky interior with a mezzanine level as well as outdoor seating and some tasty cocktails.
13. Have a great flat white at Cafe Myro
As someone who was raised in Melbourne, Australia I freely admit that I am a coffee snob. So you can imagine how pleased I was to find that Cafe Myro’s barista trained in my own home city!
Her specialty coffee shop is located in the heart of Grenoble’s old town. Cafe Myro also offers breakfast, snacks and lunch on weekdays and Australian style brunch on the weekends. Everything is homemade and sourced locally when possible.
14. Have dinner in a Chapel
The Chapel of the Rue Des Bains dates back to the end of the 19th century and was where many residents of Grenoble were baptized. The chapel was deconsecrated in the 1970s and today it is a restaurant that has retained many of the architectural features of the original building.
La Chapelle is best known for its focaccia which is its version of pizza. There are also other offerings on the menu including hamburgers and salads etc. Try to get a seat on the first floor as you’ll be able to look out over the entire restaurant.
15. Eat local
As Grenoble is in France I am sure you’re not surprised that many items on this list are about food and beverages. Grenoble has some wonderful restaurants that are all about seasonality and sourcing locally as much as possible.
Le Rousseau is located in Grenoble’s old city. The menu changes weekly based on seasonality and availability. Everything is natural and organic The restaurant offers very well priced set menu options at both lunch and dinner and has an extensive selection of wines.
When I visited local egg and truffle were on the menu, followed by lamb or fish and I couldn’t resist the delicious alpine cheeses as a dessert.
Just outside the old city, Jeanette only workers with suppliers and ingredients sourced from within 19 miles of their restaurant. Their menu also changes weekly and they love to feature local herbs as they are in season as well as the region’s signature walnut.
The plate size at Jeanette is perfect for sharing. And of course this allows diners to sample the maximum number of dishes.
16. See the street art
The Grenoble Street Art Festival began in 2015. Each year local and international artists take over the streets and buildings of the city. Since the first street art festival, 135 permanent installations have been placed throughout the city.
The street art festival generally takes place towards the end of the Spring each year. In between the Grenoble tourism office offers seasonal street art tours.
Where to Stay in Grenoble
Okko hotels are a french 4 star chain whose proposition is quite different from the standard 4 star hotel. Instead of having multiple spaces like lobbies, breakfast room etc Okko hotels have one large central space called The Club.
The Club at the Okko hotel Genoble Jardin Hoche is designed to feel like home and I must say it does a good job. The Club has various configurations of chairs and tables that allow for relaxing, eating, drinking or working. There are fridges where guests can help themselves to free soft drinks or free coffee/tea as well as alcohol that can be purchased.
A selection of newspapers and magazines are on hand and there are free snacks like nuts and biscuits all day. An apertivo is held every evening between 630 and 8pm. Snacks are free and drinks can be purchased.
Breakfast is served in The Club and consists of hot options like bacon and eggs as well as all the usual suspects of the continental breakfast. The difference here is that Okko sources locally where possible so the jam, yoghurt and cheeses are all from the region.
The Okko Grenoble has a fantastic big outdoor terrace with views of the mountains – of course! The hotel is named for the Hoche gardens which the terrace overlooks.
Guests have 24 hour access to The Club. The hotel also has a gym with weights and a bike as well as a sauna. And there is always someone at reception to help if needed.
I better mention the rooms! This 4 star hotel has 138 rooms. The rooms are small but every inch has been maximised for comfort, space and design. The bed is extremely comfortable and in my room, it was connected to a curved couch which was the perfect place to drop handbags etc.
The bathroom design was unique. Entering the bathroom means walking straight into the shower – the sink and toilet are “after” the shower. Not sure what I thought about this but I would prefer not to walk through the shower.
The design is modern and stylish with a clear focus on comfort. The walls have small mounted boxes that contain bottled water and a nespresso style coffee machine. Plus there are lots of outlets and usb points that are easily accessible.
Okko Grenoble is located outside of Grenoble’s old town but it is only a short walk to reach its paved streets. The location also offers easy access to the restaurants, bars etc in “new”Grenoble.
I liked the Okko concept so much that I chose to stay at the Okko in Lyon a week later and it was just as good. Yes this is a chain of hotels and they don’t have the charm of the small family fun boutique hotel but they are outstanding value for money and offer a great home away from home option whilst exploring a city.
Check Prices and Availability for Okko Hotel Grenoble – Read more Reviews on Trip Advisor
How to Get to Grenoble
Grenoble sits at the crossroads of northern and southern Europe in the Auvergne Rhone-Alps region of southeastern France.
There are three options for flying into Grenoble:
- Grenoble airport is quite small and has flights to a limited number of European and UK destinations.
- Lyon Airport is much larger with more flight options and located just under one hour from Grenoble by car or the fastest train journey is 1 hour and 20 minutes.
- Geneva Airport is the third option but it generally takes 1 hour and 45 minutes to travel to Grenoble from this airport.
Once you have arrived in Grenoble there is no need for a car if you are keen to spend most of your time in the old town.
The Grenoble Alpes Metropole Pass provides good value if you’re planning on visiting quite a few of the paid attractions in the city.
The Isere Regional Tourist Board covered all of the costs associated with writing this article – thanks guys. However, as always my opinions are my own. Also, this things to do in Grenoble post includes affiliate links. That means if you click through and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. I wanted to make sure you were aware of this.