10 Top Tourist Attractions in Grenoble & Easy Day Trips
Grenoble has one of the prettiest backdrops of any city in France. Nestled in the Isère Valley and surrounded by inspiring mountain peaks of the French Alps, Grenoble offers a breath of fresh air-both literally and figuratively. Beautiful gardens and green spaces are found throughout this industrial town, revealing a true appreciation of the outdoors.
Begin exploring the town in the Vieille Ville, the charming historic center filled with cobblestone streets and picturesque squares. Then decide which of the many top-rated museums to visit. Grenoble's impressive number of museums speaks to the rich heritage of this city-formerly the capital of the historic Dauphiné region. The Musée de Grenoble boasts one of best collections of fine arts in France; other museums are devoted to archaeology, history, and local culture. After discovering the urban tourist attractions, explore the nearby regional nature parks to get lost in the flowering meadows and densely wooded pine forests.
See also: Where to Stay in Grenoble
1 Vieille Ville (Old Town)
The Vieille Ville is a delightful area to explore with its lovely old houses, narrow cobblestone lanes, and little squares. Begin a tour at the Musée de l'Ancien Évêché on Rue Très Cloîtres. This museum occupies an old Episcopal palace that stands on the vestiges of 3rd-century Gallo-Roman ramparts. The museum illustrates Grenoble's history from ancient times through the Middle Ages until the 20th century. Next, walk over to the Cathédrale Notre-Dame. The 11th to 15th-century cathedral has a beautiful choir with a tabernacle from 1455 to 1457. Admire the glorious interior space and then head over to the picturesque Place aux Herbes. This medieval square, once the town's main gathering place, is where Farmers' Markets are still held on Tuesday and Sunday mornings.
For those interested in French literature, continue to the Musée Stendhal on the Grand Rue. This museum is in Stendhal's grandfather's home, a typical 18th-century Bourgeois residence. Devoted to the famous novelist's literary works, the museum has a library of around 1,000 publications on the subject of Stendhal. Nearby the Place de Gordes is an attractive 18th-century square. Stop here for a coffee break and then consider walking over to the Jardin de Ville a few steps away.
Wind up your tour at the Palais de Justice, a remarkable 15th- to 16th-century building that was the Parliament House of the Estates of the Dauphiné for 500 years. The elaborately detailed facade features decorative styles from Flamboyant Gothic to Early Renaissance. The center is the oldest part, created around 1490 to 1510 from Echaillon stone. The Palais de Justice is found at Place Saint-André near France's second-oldest café, the Café de la Table Ronde, built in 1739.
2 Musée de Grenoble
One of the most prestigious museums in France, the Musée de Grenoble presents an exceptional collection of fine arts in a magnificent setting. The contemporary building offers 18,000 square meters of exhibition space surrounded by a gorgeous park filled with sculptures. The museum's expansive collection ranges from antiquities and medieval art to European paintings of the 15th through 20th centuries. Especially well represented are 18th-century Italian masterpieces and paintings of the Ecole Française.
Highlights of the museum's European paintings are Rubens' exquisite Saint Gregory painting, the expressive Saint Jerome piece by Georges de La Tour, the lovely L'Assomption de la Vierge by Philippe de Champaigne, and the realistic Roger Délivrant Angélique painting by Eugène Delacroix. One of the most interesting assortments is the museum's 19th-century art, spanning from Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres to Paul Gauguin. Among the Impressionist masterpieces are Vue de Montmartre depuis la Cité des Batignolles by Alfred Sisley and the magnificent L'Etang de Giverny painting by Monet. There are also excellent works by post-Impressionist and modern artists Matisse, Picasso, Léger, Ernst, and Bonnard.
Address: 5 Place de Lavalette, Grenoble
3 Fort de la Bastille
The Fort de la Bastille offers the best views in Grenoble. To arrive here, hop in one of the bubble-shaped cars of the Téléphérique de la Bastille cableway. Enjoy the exhilarating ride, which begins at Quai Stéphane-Jay at the edge of the Jardin de Ville, and travels through spectacular scenery on the way up to the Fort de la Bastille. This fort crowns the hilltop and at its impressive height offers a stunning panoramic outlook of the alpine landscape. The Fort de la Bastille was formerly a prison; now it houses several museums. The Centre d'Art Bastille presents expositions of contemporary art. Le Musée des Troupes de Montagne explores the history of soldiers from this mountainous region. For adventurous types, the Acrobastille offers a chance to participate in mountaineering and acrobatic sports, such as zip lining, rappelling, and labyrinth courses. For those who enjoy nature walks, there are many scenic trails around the fort. The Fort de la Bastille's fine dining restaurant, Chez le Père Gras, offers excellent cuisine with breathtaking views. The outdoor patio has a romantic ambience under the linden trees. The fort also has a casual cafeteria and a gift shop.
4 Musée Archéologique Grenoble-Saint Laurent
This excellent archaeology museum is in the Eglise Saint-Laurent, a listed Historic Monument of France. The Romanesque-style Carolingian (8th-century) church was built on a Merovingian (6th century) crypt. This fascinating crypt offers a rare glimpse of the art and architecture from the earliest period of the Middle Ages. Visitors will be amazed by this incredible ancient sight. The museum's presentations and antique mausoleums create a vivid picture of the religious history that dates back 1,500 years.
Address: Place Saint-Laurent, Grenoble
5 Musée de la Résistance et de la Déportation de l'Isère
The Museum of the Resistance traces the history of the French Resistance from 1941 until the Liberation. The museum reveals the violent repression of the Nazis and the deportation of the local Jewish population, by illustrating specific episodes that took place. The museum approaches the subject with sensitivity, while illuminating the lives of resistance fighters who attempted to resist the Nazi regime. Grenoble had one of the largest Resistance movements in France.
Address: 14 Rue Hébert, Grenoble
6 Musée Dauphinois
This unique museum focuses on the culture and heritage of the Dauphiné region. Housed in a 17th-century building (formerly a convent), the museum illustrates all aspects of life in the region through archaeology, history, and ethnology exhibits. There are permanent exhibits about the rural life of the region, the people of the Alps, and the history of skiing. Once or twice a year, the museum also hosts temporary exhibits that focus on foreign cultures.
Address: 30 Rue Maurice Gignoux, Grenoble
7 Jardin des Dauphins
Grenoble has many pleasant green spaces and its most luscious garden is the Jardin des Dauphins. The garden lies in a picturesque location on the far side of the Isère River below the Fort de la Bastille. It offers sensational views of Fort Rabot, standing on a rocky crag in the distance. Built on the site of the town's old fortifications, the Jardins des Dauphins encompasses 30 hectares of green space filled with a variety of ancient trees and wild shrubbery. The garden's southern exposure allows exotic plants to thrive here, including bananas, loquats, and pomegranates. With its inviting tree-lined pedestrian paths, the Jardin des Dauphins is the perfect place to ramble on a sunny day.
Address: 24 Quai de France, Grenoble
8 Le Magasin - Centre National d'Art Contemporain
In the gritty industrial section of Grenoble, this edgy art center occupies a former warehouse that was designed by Gustave Eiffel. Opened in 1986, Le Magasin offers some of the best contemporary art exhibits in France. Three times a year in its 3,000-square-meter space, the center hosts temporary exhibits of original work. The center also provides facilities to support new talent and works closely with artists who display their art here. Other activities include conferences, workshops, and training programs.
Address: 8 Esplanade Andry Farcy, Grenoble
9 Jardin de Ville
Bordering Grenoble's Vieille Ville (Old Town), this elegant garden was once the private property of the Dukes of Lesdiguières and became a public park in 1710. The impressive 17th-century Hôtel de Lesdiguière was formerly the Duke's home. This mansion now houses the Maison de l'International that welcomes foreigners and promotes cultural exchanges. With its gated entrance, vibrant rose gardens, and French-style flowerbeds, the Jardin de Ville has a special charm. When the weather is pleasant, many locals are found lounging on the lawns. It's a great place for a picnic or a leisurely stroll. The Jardin de Ville also hosts many events during the summer.
Address: 5 Jardin de Ville, Grenoble
10 Place Grenette
To the south of the Jardin de Ville is Grenoble's main town square. Lined with quaint historic houses, the Place Grenette has many bustling cafés and restaurants that feature outdoor seating in the square. During the 17th century, the Place Grenette was used for grain and animal markets. At the center of the square is a graceful fountain featuring winged cherubs and dolphins, created by sculptor Victor Sappey.
Where to Stay in Grenoble for Sightseeing
We recommend these good-value hotels in Grenoble near top sites like the old town:
- Park Hotel Grenoble - MGallery by Sofitel: 4-star luxury, park views, chic decor, spacious rooms, small gym.
- Grand Hotel Grenoble Centre: mid-range pricing, central location, stylish design, plush bedding, valet parking.
- Okko Hotels Grenoble Jardin Hoche: affordable rates, trendy design, free snacks and refreshments.
- Ibis Styles Grenoble Centre Gare: budget-friendly hotel, near the train station, contemporary decor, free breakfast.
Day Trips from Grenoble
Château de Vizille
In an idyllic setting 16 kilometers from Grenoble, this magnificent château is a sight to behold. The building also has an intriguing history. The château was constructed between 1611 and 1627 by a nobleman who was a leading Protestant. However, he renounced his faith in 1662 to gain the title of Connétable. The château features a flight of steps leading down to the Renaissance-style park. In 1788, the Estates of the Dauphiné held a meeting here, which laid the foundations of the French Revolution, outlining a demand for the personal freedom of all Frenchmen. The château now houses the Musée de la Révolution Française (Museum of the French Revolution).
Address: Place du Château, 38220 Vizille
Parc Naturel Régional de Chartreuse
In the verdant mountainside about 30 kilometers outside of Grenoble, this verdant national park offers an idyllic retreat in nature. The Chartreuse Regional Nature Park has a remote feel and is only accessible by narrow country roads. This regional park is great for hiking in the summer and a popular skiing destination in the winter. Charming alpine villages invite visitors to relax and enjoy life. Cozy traditional inns and hearty country cuisine add to the experience.
Parc Naturel Régional du Vercors
About 25 kilometers southwest of Grenoble, this unspoiled alpine terrain has been a protected reserve since 1985. The area is known for its dramatic scenery and amazing biodiversity. Covered with forests, gorges, and many hiking trails, the Regional Park of Vercors is an ideal place to discover pristine nature. In winter, the area's ski resorts cater to skiers of all levels. There are also opportunities for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.