Title image: (c) GAM – Lucas Frangella
Yes, Paris is amazing which is why it’s a top destination in France, but there’s so much more to discover in this beautiful country. Why not add a few days to your plans and enjoy one of the best weekend trips from Paris by visiting Grenoble? Recently listed as one of the “Top French Cities”!
Grenoble is nicknamed the “Capital of the French Alps” and it’s a city with so much to offer. You can take a lovely train ride from Paris and arrive in Grenoble within just 3.5 hours or you can get there by car in 5 hours.
What you’ll find when you get there is a vibrant French city sitting on the Drac and Isere rivers, surrounded by three majestic mountain ranges (Vercors, Chartreuse, and Belledonne). Because of this setting, it’s no surprise that Grenoble attracts nature lovers and adventure seekers from Paris and all over Europe. But it also has plenty of urban and cultural pleasures to offer.
The city itself is surprisingly flat making the center easy to navigate on foot or by bicycle and there are lots of interesting things to see and do. Grenoble has a rich history of more than 2,000 years so you can enjoy beautiful architecture, museums, and historic sites along with more modern, and cultural activities and amenities.
This Top French City also enjoys some great annual events like the Street Art Fest Grenoble Alpes. Held every year in June this colorful, cultural event is Europe’s first festival celebrating street art as a multidisciplinary art. Throughout the month local and international artists display their works of large murals, graffiti, collages, sculpture, frescoes and even digital street art.
What to see and do when visiting Grenoble, France
City sights & activities in Grenoble, France
Not only does Grenoble offer both urban and nature pursuits, but it’s also a fabulous mix of old and new.
The Vieille Ville (Old Town) is Grenoble’s historic center and you can spend hours getting lost in the maze of pedestrian and cobblestone streets and lanes.
Following the streets of Vieille Ville will take you past some stunning architecture and often leads to peaceful parks and charming squares like the medieval Place aux Herbes where farmers’ markets are held Tues-Sun.
Close to this square is the Grenoble Notre-Dame Cathedral with its impressive Gothic interior and the Museum of the Old Bishopric, formerly a 13th-century Episcopal palace.
Take a stroll towards the green serenity and shady sycamore trees of the 17th-century Jardin de Ville and stop to admire the dazzling Palais du Parlement with its incredibly detailed facade. While you’re in this area it’s a good time to consider taking a break at one of the outdoor tables in Place de Gordes or at the Cafe de la Table Ronde in Place Saint-Andre, one of the oldest cafes in France.
Close to the Jardin de Ville is Place Grenette which is Grenoble’s main town square. With a lovely fountain at the center and a fringe of beautiful historic houses and inviting restaurants, it makes another good spot for a rest.
On the edge of Jardin de Ville you can hop into the “bubbles” of the Grenoble Cable Car, running since 1934, and ride up to the Fort de la Bastille. The ride up and the view from the top are spectacular offering vistas of the mountains, rivers and the city of Grenoble.
Museum-lovers will be kept busy in Grenoble with at least 15 diverse museums to explore. The sleek and modern Musee de Grenoble holds one of the most impressive art collections in France and is surrounded by a sculpture park.
In the Musee Dauphinois, you can learn about the culture and traditions of the original inhabitants of Dauphiné with thousands of drawings, postcards, and stickers on display. If French literature is of interest to you then Musee Stendhal is another spot to visit.
For history buffs, a visit to the Resistance Museum (Musée de la Résistance et de la Déportation de l’Isère) is a must. It’s a somber teaching museum covering Grenobles’ resistance in WWII to the Germans and Italians plus the suffering and deportation of local Jewish people by the Nazis.
But don’t think for a second that Grenoble is just about history. It’s also a university town which creates an energetic, youthful atmosphere full of fresh ideas and contemporary concepts.
One of the most unique things to do in Grenoble is to take a tour of France’s first eco-neighborhood. The Eco District of Bonne was once the site of old barracks right in the center of the city. The area has now been transformed into eco-housing, shops, and green spaces and has won numerous awards.
Nature activities around Grenoble
The city of Grenoble is definitely a destination worth visiting all on its own. However, it also makes a perfect home base for enjoying nature activities year-round.
Cycling and hiking options are abundant even within, and close to, the city limits. In fact, there are 600 km of trails and 320 km of cycle paths to make use of. Trail running is another favorite activity for the health-conscious and there’s easy access to trails with spectacular city views.
In the mountains, less than 30 km southwest from Grenoble, Vercors Regional Natural Park has more than 2,000 sq km of unspoiled natural beauty to explore. In spring through fall there are forests, gorges, and trails to hike and bike. In the winter the ski hills open up for downhill and cross-country skiing or snowshoeing.
Chartreuse Regional Nature Park is also about 30 km from Grenoble but is much smaller than Vercors. However, it’s a favorite with nature lovers and adventure seekers. With over 1,300 km of trails, hikers and mountain bikers are in their glory as are wildlife watchers due to the vast varieties of animals and birds. It’s also a top spot for winter sports.
In a little over one hour you can be in Aix Les Baines, a top thermal spa town in France sitting on the edge of Bourget Lake. Aside form enjoying the natural hot springs there’s also swimming, sailing, and other water activities.
Hikers come from all over to venture out on the many trails surrounding Grenoble. There are lots of family walks like the easy 4 km loop trail from Lac Luitel Natural Reserve, the 6 km Le Belvedere de Vizille or the slightly more challenging 10 km trail from Jarrie. For the extreme hiker with more time and stamina, there are also multi-day hikes like the 127 km Belledonne Journey GR® 738.
As already mentioned Grenoble is a year-round destination and winter sports abound. Grenoble is close to almost 20 ski resorts including Chamrousse, Villard de Lans, Les 7 Laux, Chartreuse and the famous ski resorts in Oisans – L’Alpe d’Huez and Les Deux-Alpes.
Are you convinced that the Top French City of Grenoble makes a great weekend trip from Paris? Or maybe even a destination in France all it’s own? If you like the idea of a city with a balance of history, urban fun, nature, and culture then visiting Grenoble should definitely be on your travel bucket list.
*This post was made possible with sponsorship from France Tourism as part of the Top French Cities campaign.
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Born in England, Sarah developed her wanderlust at a young age as she traveled around Europe with her parents. As a young adult she spent every penny she could on experiences as opposed to possessions. Eventually she found a way to earn a living doing what she loved: traveling, writing and capturing images of the wondrous world we live in. When not on the go Sarah enjoys time in her “sometimes home” of Vancouver.