Grenoble is a city of around 158,000 inhabitants (550,000 taking into account the metropolitan area) located in the French Alps. The climate is quite cold in winter, with days of snow almost every year. Summers are known to be hot, as mountains surrounding the town stop any wind. The town is renowned for its scientific research centers, including Minatec and the Synchrotron (nanotechnology and high-brilliance source of X-rays, respectively) and universities. The city hosts a relatively large population of foreign scientists and students (more than in other comparable towns in France). Grenoble is crossed by two rivers, the Drac and the Isère ("the lion and the serpent"), and is surrounded by three mountain chains, the Vercors, Chartreuse and Belledonne.
There are two airports near Grenoble:
- Grenoble Isère International Airport, also known as St Geoirs, about 40 km from Grenoble, or about 35 minutes by coach . Coaches are available for 4€ one way, although only run a few times a day. This is a small airport although flights are more frequent in the ski season.
- easyJet offers great flights To / From Grenoble Isère International Airport.
- Lyon International airport, also known as Saint Exupéry or Satolas, is further away, about 100 km (1 h by bus, car or train). Buses go hourly to Grenoble. 20€ one-way, or 30€ return (valid for 2 months) ticket.
- AirSouthwest offer flights to and from Plymouth, UK.
Also, you may consider coming from
- Geneva Airport , 157 km from Grenoble, is a usual destination of many flight companies, and therefore the choice of many international students. Generally this is the cheapest route from most major European cities. Grenoble can be reached by car in about 2h. By train (several times daily) it takes about 3 hours; the price ranges from 26€ to 44€, depending whether it goes through Lyon. There are also direct buses to Grenoble for 56€. Remember that Geneva is a Swiss city and depending on your country of origin you may need a visa. It is also worth remembering that Switzerland has its own currency (the Swiss Franc); nearly all retail outlets in Geneva accept Euros but change is given in Swiss Francs. European Union citizens should not have problems travelling via Geneva. Geneva Airport also has a "French part" that does not require to enter into Swiss territory if you come from France and your destination flight is to France.
The town also has a little aerodrome (landing-strip = 900 m), situated in the city of Le Versoud (8 miles away).
Parking in Grenoble
Just follow the highways from/to :
- A41, Geneva (by Chambery)
- A48, Lyon
- A49, Valence
- A51, Aix-en-Provence (south)
Grenoble can by difficult to navigate by car, but once you get there the "Park and Ride" (parking relais) system operated by SEMITAG-parking is a good way of getting around. (see trams and buses)
Several high speed trains (TGV) from SNCF link Paris to Grenoble directly every day, for a three-hour trip of 640 km. Full price is about 70 Eur for a one-way ticket. Young people and students will be entitled to a 12-25 (douze-vingt-cinq) discount which reduces ticket prices by a few Euros. Those staying for more than a few months and/or planning to travel by train a lot are advised to purchase a 12-25 card (around €50) which gives considerable additional discounts.
Hourly trains link Lyon (Part-Dieu station) to Grenoble, from 5:30 am to midnight (5am to 10pm from Grenoble to Lyon). This takes around an hour and a half via the trains regional (TER). Full price is 15 Eur. The train schedule sometimes includes buses. The price is the same, the duration is the same, they start at the same station and arrive at the same point.
Avoid rush hour (7-9 am and 5-6 pm) on highways around the town- you are likely to lose around one hour in traffic jams.
You need taxis in the city ?
- Taxis of Grenoble : Tél. +33 (0)4 76 54 42 54 ; Fax +33 (0)4 76 51 55 66 ;
- Suburban Taxis : Tél. +33 (0)4 76 54 17 18 ; Fax +33 (0)4 76 54 45 75 ;
Lots of regional buses can take you from the gare routiere (in the town centre, by the train station)to ski stations and various towns in the surrounding countryside. For example, Grenoble to Chamrousse (bus 6010) ski station costs €2.70. It is better to buy tickets in advance for access to ski stations in high season- if the bus is crowded, you get priority. Tickets are sold at the main bus station and at the tourist information office (French: Maison du tourisme) which is on tram lines A and B (stop: Hubert Dubedout- Maison du Tourisme).
Information on regional buses VFD (in French only, but finding buses schedules is easy). Be aware that the winter schedule (saison neige) is not the same as for the rest of the year.
Trams and buses
Four tram lines cross the town with services every few minutes (less frequent on Sundays) and an extensive bus network operates within the city itself, the suburbs and villages further out. Individual tickets cost around €1.30, less if bought in lots of 10 or more, and various
daily and weekly passes are available. Tickets are valid for one hour of travel across the Semitag network (bus and tram). Tickets can be bought in the bus from the driver, and from machines on the platform for tramways, or at the Maison du Tourisme. You must stamp (composter) your ticket for it to be valid- this is done on the platform at the tram stop or on entering a bus.
Information can be found at SEMITAG and maps at Maps SEMITAG (in French).
Despite its mountainous surroundings, Grenoble itself is one of the flattest cities in Europe, so cycling is an easy way of getting around. Pleasant recreational cycle routes follow the Drac and Isere rivers. An old bicycle track along the Isère river passes in front of the town centre, and the main boulevards have dedicated cycle lanes. Bicycles are allowed on some smaller streets, but riders often have to use the same lane as buses (for the fearless only!). It is possible to rent bicycles for a day, a week or longer at the railway station and other MetroVelo offices- around €5 a day and about 15/20€ per month. For more information: métro-vélo (French only).
The entire tram network and many bus routes have been adapted for wheelchair users. The flatness of the city means it is generally very accessible.
Sightseeing and Activities
- The Bastille Hill. An ancient series of fortifications overlooking Grenoble. May be reached cable car by , round trip €5.95.
- The Parc Paul Mistral is a big park in the centre of the town. It houses a roller skating rink, and people often play street hockey. The park also boasts extensive lawns and quiet tree-lined avenues. At the centre stands the tower Perret, built in 1922. Illuminated at night with blue lights it bears a considerable resemblance to both Dr. Who's sonic screwdriver and the Tower of Mordor. It is not currently possible to go up due to safety problems.
- Natural History Museum (Muséum d'histoire naturelle), 1 rue Dolomieu (tel. (+33) 4 76 44 05 35, fax (+33) 4 76 44 65 99, firstname.lastname@example.org). Open MTWTF, 9h30-12h, 13h30-17h30 and SS 14h-18h. Closed December the 25th, January 1st, May 1st. Facilities for disabled. The museum has some nice collections on the subject of mineralogy and Alpine wildlife, and also houses an aquarium.
- Art Gallery (French: Musée de Grenoble), 5, place Lavalette (near the Cathedral, tramway B at stop Notre-Dame) (tel. (+33) 4 76 63 44 10). Open 6 days a week 10h-18h30 (closed on Tuesdays, December 25th, January 1st, May 1st). The museum is a modern, smart building that is worth seeing. Collections of modern art. Among others, the museum holds four Picassos, one Miro, one Kandinsky and one Andy Warhol.
- Musée Dauphinois , 30, rue Maurice-Gignoux (tel. (+33) 4 76 85 19 01). Open Wednesday to Monday except 1st January, 1st May and 25th December. Opening times: 10h-18h (October to May), 10h-19h rest of year. Admission is free. This museum is housed in the former convent of Ste-Marie-d'en-Haut, on the side of the Bastille hill. It houses permanent and temporary exhibitions about the people and lifestyle of the historic province of Dauphiné. Outside the building are pleasant gardens with a nice view over the city. Exhibitions are in both French and English.
- Musée De L'Ancien Eveché , 2, rue Très Cloître (tel. (+33) 4 76 03 15 25, fax (+33) 4 76 03 34 95). Open every day from 9h to 18h except Tuesday (13h30 to 18h00) and on Sunday (10h00 to 19h00). Admission is free. The museum is housed in the former bishop's palace at Place Notre Dame. It displays objects and pieces of art narrating the history of the Isère region and its people from Prehistoric times up to the present. Under the museum is an archaeological crypt; the remains of the city's Roman walls and and a remarkable 4th Century baptistry, discovered during work on tram line B, are not to be missed. Ask for a free audioguide (French or English) at reception.
- Museum of Resistance and Deportation , 14 rue Hebert (tel.(+33) 4 76 42 38 53 , fax : (+33) 4 76 42 55 89. History of french resistance during WWII in the alps.
- Musée Archéologique Saint Laurent , Place Saint Laurent. First Opened in 1846. It is considered to be a unique archeological site. Over 3000 artifacts and objects have been recovered here. (+33) 4 76 44 78 68 — closed for works until december 2008 –
- Saint-Louis Church (place Victor Hugo, tramway A, B, buses 3, 13, 33, 34)
- The Renaissance Palace of the dauphins, the courthouse until 2002. (Place Saint Andre). A 15th-century building. Belonging to the Isère Council, a renovation project is going to give this building new lease of life whilst respecting its patrimonial character and adding a modern touch at the same time.
- The Cathedral (place Notre-Dame, tramway B) has been extensively restored in recent years. A free tourist guide gives a potted history of the building and some of its works of art (in French, with an English translation written by a native speaker (this one!) for once so it makes sense).
- The Museum of French Revolution installed in the castle of Vizille, place Liberation (tel. (+33) 4 76 68 07 35, fax (+33) 4 76 68 08 53). A little city about 14 km in south of Grenoble.
- The little train of La Mure A travel with 18 tunnels and a spectacular view on the river Drac and the dam of Monteynard. Saint-Georges-de-Commiers, 17 km from Grenoble.
- Musée Hydrelec in the massif of Oisans, about 45 km in south of Grenoble. Hydro generating station near a big dam (Grand'Maison). (in French)
With three mountain ranges on the doorstep, Hiking and climbing are very popular. The place to start is the Maison de la Montagne (3, rue Raoul Blanchard), where you can browse maps and helpful staff (several English-speakers) can help you choose a route according to your level of fitness and the time you have on hand. For short walks around the city, ask for the "Carte des Sentiers Sipavag" (a free hiking map) at the Tourism Office (4, rue de la République) or Maison de la Montagne , close to the Hubert Doubedout tram station. Also look for the "Guides des Balades" at the TAG office (in the same building of the Tourism Office)- a nice add-on to the Sipavag map whcih lists a number of parks and hikes you can reach with public transportation. The new edition for 2007 includes over 50 different walks, from half-hour strolls to full-day hikes. You will also find suitable maps at any bookshop; the best ones are published by the IGN (National Geographic Institute) and Didier Richard.
- In winter, skiing is also popular activity; the nearest stations are only 45 min from Grenoble by car. Ski stations close to Grenoble include Autrans (1000 m up in the Vercors), Chamrousse (1700 m – 2200 m, in Belledonne). Avoid the two last two weeks of December, which are overcrowded at all ski stations and the most expensive of the year. During high season there are also several daily buses to big ski resorts such as Deux Alpes and Alpe d'Huez (1h30 minutes trip). Tickets can be bought at the Gare Routiere and they offer reductions when buying bus tickets and ski passes in combination. If skiing's not your thing, you might like to try snowshoeing- many centres around Grenoble offer half- or full-day excursions, ask at the Maison de la Montagne or the Maison du Tourisme.
- Mountain lakes are a great place to visit during a hot summer day, to swim or just to admire the landscape. For example, the Lacs Robert and Lac Achard are one or two hours hike from Chamrousse. Several paths are available, some suitable for the whole family, others advised for adults only. Also, Annecy- a small, historic city on the edge of a beautiful lake, perfect for swimming- can be reached by train in 1h30 (up to 32 EUR return trip). Fishing in lakes and in some rivers is allowed, but (like everywhere else in France) a permit is required. For information about fishing, contact the local fishermen's union (French: Union des pêcheurs à la ligne. 8, rue Ampère, Grenoble, tel. (+33) 9 50 35 11 73, fax (+33) 4 76 49 02 17, e-mail: email@example.com
- The cable car (French: téléphérique), Quai Stéphane Jay (if you're walking, follow the Isère in the direction of the center of the town until you see the cables, you cannot miss them), (+33) 4 76 33 44 44 (fax: (+33) 4 76 51 61 49, firstname.lastname@example.org). Closed in January. Open every day, 10h45-18h30 in winter and up to 9h15-00h15 in summer. The cable car is the easy way to see the town from above, and the trip in the plastic bubbles is impressive. At the summit (some 260 m above the town) is a 19th-century fortress, La Bastille. When you arrive at the top, you can explore the fortifications, have a meal or light refreshments, follow winding paths further up the mountainside or simply enjoy the view (on a clear day Mont Blanc is visible in the distance). If you take the path (GR9) to the rear of the Bastille, you can walk approx 20-30 mins further up to Mont Jalla to get an even better view, where there is a memorial to the mountain regiments who fought in WWII and a monument erected on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Grenoble (1944). You can also walk up to the Bastille via one of several paths or go by car from the city of La Tronche. Paths start from the Fountain of lion on the East side, (this path is called Montée Chalemont) or a park on the West, near the large arch (called Jardin des Dauphins).
- Moucherotte mountain, the hardest (and best) way to see the town from above, for hikers willing to spend nearly a whole day. Go to Saint-Nizier-du-Moucherotte by car or regional bus (bus 5100), then follow the path to the top (you will start at 1000 m and go to 1900 m). The view of the town is stunning. A lot of people use this path on Sundays in Spring and Summer, so you won't get lost.
- If you are looking for a big commercial centre with chain-stores etc., consider Grand Place (tramway A direction Echirolles). Generally very crowded, especially at weekends.
- For more "authentic" shopping, stop at Victor Hugo tramway station (tramway A or B). The tramway station is next to Place Grenette, which is the centre of the town. This area is largely pedestrianized. Small, winding streets house many boutique-style shops, chain-store outlets, traditional French cafés and all the usual city centre parephanalia.
- The markets. There are several daily food markets in the city centre, for example at St Claire Les Halles (near the Cathedral) which has a covered food hall (houusing cheese and butchers' stalls) as well as the outdoor fruit and vegetable market. The food is locally produced, cheap and undisputably wonderful. Watch out for the grape-stealing pigeons- a great favourite with children but detested by the stall-holders!
It's better to arrive in a city with a good guide… The Guide du Dahu is probably the best restaurant guide to Grenoble. The work of 20 students of the local business school (GEM), it includes 300 pages covering restaurants, bars, culture, sport and nightlife. €2.50 from tobbaconists and bookshops in the city.
You can find good restaurants in the central part of the town, roughly between the Gare and Place Notre Dame. The St-Laurent neighborhood (on the northern side of the Isère river) has a number of Italian restaurants and pizzerias. In the winter, try typical Alpine dishes such as fondue, raclette and the legendary tartiflette.
- Les Alpages, 5 rue de Strasbourg, tel. (+33) 4 76 46 32 62 (fax (+33) 4 76 43 12 70). This is not a restaurant, but a world-renowned cheesemongery (brilliant word!) Recommended if you want to discover any of the 1200 kinds of cheese from the entire world sold here.
- La Marie Morgane, 3 rue Frederic Taulier, tel (+33) 4 38 37 03 74. This restaurant serves traditional crepes from the Brittany region. Both savoury and sweet crepes are served, with a plethora of toppings on offer. The restaurant also serves traditional cider. Not particularly regional, but very homely and the next-best thing if you're not actually going to Britanny.
- La Fondue, 5 rue Brocherie, tel (+33) 4 76 15 20 72. Well known in the southeast of France and western Switzerland, fondue is a traditional dish during the wintertime. La Fondue restaurant serves traditional fondue (emmental and gruyere cheese) with mix ins as well as some non-traditional fondues (cheddar for example).
- Le Bombay,60 Cours Jean Jaurès, tel +33 4 76 87 71 80. This is probably the best Indian restaurant in Grenoble, for when you need a break from Cheese and Crepes.
- A Confesse, 1 Rue du Sappey, tel +33 4 76 54 11 60. Great little restaurant serving crepes and fondue in a good setting, on the north side of the river. Enter through the confessional.
- Many Italian pizza restaurants are located on the north side of the Isere river. Quite cheap, good, filling food popular with students.
- Boulangeries and Patisseries- these little bread and pastry bakeries not only have wonderful tartes and cakes, but they also sell small quiches, paninis, and sandwiches. Grenoble is the walnut capital of France so look for small cakes (gateaux) with walnut cream, especially during the winter. Other specialities include Chartreuse (a herbal liquor traditionally made by the monks of Grande Chartreuse, a monastery high in the mountains about an hour from Grenoble).
- Restaurant of cable car, La Bastille : (+33) 4 76 51 11 11 , the view, the view.
- Chez le Pèr'Gras, La Bastille : (+33) 4 76 42 09 47
- Restaurant Les terrasses, Place Déesse Hygie , Uriage-les-Bains : Tél. (33) 4 76 89 10 80 ; Fax. (33) 4 76 89 04 62 ; (Uriage-les-Bains, a small health resort 10 km from town hall of Grenoble)
There are a number of bars and pubs located in the downtown area, especially between Place Grenette and Place Notre Dame. Just take a walk and sit where you feel like.
- In the nearby city of Voiron (25 km north-west of Grenoble) are the Caves de la Chartreuse (tel. (33) 4 76 05 81 7
7), where the famous liqueur is made by the Carthusian Monks. It is claimed to be the largest liqueur cellar in the world. Free guided tours are provided, with a tasting session in the end. Opening hours are 9h-11h30 and 14h-18h30 (closes at 17h30 and weekends from November to April, no lunch break in July and August).
See the Listing of the Hotels in Grenoble
- Hotel Dauphitel, 16 avenue Kimberley – Echirolles,
- Hôtel Ibis Centre, 5 rue de Miribel, Les Trois Dauphins, Place Félix Poulat,
- Hôtel Ibis Gare, 27 Quai Claude Bernard,
- Hôtel Ibis Grenoble université, rue de la Condamine – Gières,
- Hôtel Mercure Centre Alpotel, 12, Boulevard Maréchal Joffre,
- Hôtel Mercure Grenoble Président, 11, rue Général Mangin,
- Park Hotel,
- Le Grand Hôtel, Place Déesse Hygie ; Uriage-les-Bains : ; (Uriage les Bains, a small health resort 10 km from Grenoble)