Grenoble Tourist Attractions
Grenoble, the old capital of the Dauphiné, is beautifully situated in a basin in the Isère valley, surrounded by mountains rising to 3,000 m/9,900ft.
It is the chief town of the département of Isère, an important industrial center and a university town. The city attracted the eyes of the world when the Winter Olympics were held here in 1968, leading to a great increase in tourist traffic. Important contributions are made to the city's economy by glove manufacture and the walnuts which are grown in the lower Isère valley between Tullins and St- Marcellin.The city is dominated on the north by Fort Rabot and, higher up, the Fort de la Bastille, both situated on foothills of the 5km/3mi long Mont Rachais range (1,045 m/3,429ft).Grenoble was the birthplace of the 19th C. novelist Stendhal (Henri Beyle, 1783-1842).Originally a city of the Allobroges, under the name of Cularo, Grenoble was enlarged by the Emperor Gratian in 379 A.D. and renamed Gratianopolis. Four years earlier, in 375, it had become the see of a bishop. In the fifth C. it fell under Burgundian and later under Frankish rule; then in the 12th C. it passed to the Counts of Albon, who took the style of "Dauphin" and thus gave the Dauphiné its name. The last Dauphin of the Viennois, Humbert II, ceded his territory to the French king Philip VI, after which the title of Dauphin was held by the heir to the French throne. The first stirrings of the French Revolution were felt in Grenoble in 1788. During the 19th C. the city prospered as a result of the development of industry.Interesting new buildings are the Town Hall (by Maurice Novarina, 1967), the Maison de la Culture (by André Vogenski, 1968, with three large halls and important modern works of art, and the Ice Stadium (by Junillon and Demartini).
The hub of Grenoble's life is the Place Grenette. To the north of this is the beautiful Jardin de la Ville, originally the gardens of the Château of the Duc de Lesdiguières (1543-1626); part of the Château has been preserved and the old town hall now houses the Musée Stendhal. The station for the cable railroad (télérifique) leading to the Bastille is to the found on the Quai Stephane Jay.
On the east side of Place St-André in Grenoble is the church of St-André, built in 1220-1236 as the Dauphin's palace chapel, with a Gothic tower of 1298. In the north transept is a 17th C monument to the Chevalier Bayard, the knight sans peur et sans reproche.
Palais de Justice
In Grenoble, the Palais de Justice (Law Courts; 15th-16th C), was originally the meeting-place of the Estates of the Dauphiné, with a beautiful Early Renaissance facade. The former Chambre de la Cour des Comptes has fine carved paneling (1521-1524).
In the Place Notre-Dame in Grenoble, to the east of Place St-André, is the Cathedral of Notre-Dame (11th-15th C), with a beautiful interior. In the choir, on the right, is a tabernacle of 1455-1457, more than 14m/45ft high, robbed of its statues.
Parks and Gardens
Grenoble is well supplied with parks and gardens. On the far side of the Isère, below the Fort de la Bastille, are the Jardin des Dauphins (orientation table) and the Parc Guy-Pape, both with views of Fort Rabot, built on a rocky crag. In the southeast of the city is the Parc Paul-Mistral, in which are a number of modern buildings including the Olympic Stadium, built in 1967, which seats 70,000 spectators. There is another park on the banks of the Isère opposite the church of St-Laurent.
The Musée des Beaux-Arts, in the Place de Verdun in Grenoble, is one of the most important museums in France. The old masters are well represented by Palmezzano, Le Pérugin, Veronese, Tintoretto, P. Brueghel, Cranach, Rubens, Velásquez, Murillo, Goya, Doerer, Zurbarán and many others; the moderns are not forgotten, either, with works by von Bonnard, Vuillard, Renoir, Monet, Sisley, Signac, Vlaminck, Matisse, Miró, Ernst, Tanguy, Mathieu, Soutine, Modigliani, Derain, Picasso, Delaunay, Braque, Léger, Fautrier and Giacometti. Contemporary artists include Morellet, Paolozzi, Cane, Sol Lewitt, Sam Francis and Wesselman. The museum also houses an important Egyptian collection.Also of interest are the Musée Dauphinois (history and culture of the Dauphiné), the Musée Hébert (works by the 19th C painter of that name), a museum, in the house where Stendhal was born, which deals with the story of the French Resistance, and the Natural History Museum (fauna of the Alps, mineralogy).
Center of Contemporary Art
In the west of Grenoble, housed in an industrial building designed by Gustave Eiffel (1900), is the new Center of Contemporary Art, opened in 1986. It puts on periodic special exhibitions, and also has facilities for the training of young artists.
Fort de la Bastille
The best general view of Grenoble is to be had by taking the cableway from Quai Stéphane-Jay up to the Fort de la Bastille. This fort high up on the hill was a prison; now old motor cars and motor cycles are on display.Under the east side of the hill crowned by the Fort de la Bastille is the church of St-Laurent (11th C, restored in 16th and 17th centuries), which is built over a lower church, a Merovingian crypt of the sixth-seventh C.
There are good views from the Tour Perret in Grenoble (86 m/282ft high; lift) in the Parc Paul- Mistral. 2km/1.5mi south of the park is the Olympic Stadium (1967), with seating for 70,000 spectators.
Possible excursions from Grenoble are to the Vercors by way of the attractive winter sports resort of Villard-de-Lans (1,043m/3,420ft), to the Pelvoux massif and Chamrousse, and - an experience not to be missed - to the Grande Chartreuse (alt. 961m/3,153ft), mother house of the Carthusian order, which was founded by St Bruno in 1084.
Alpe d'Huez, lying southeast of Grenoble at an altitude of 1,860m/6,105ft, is both a summer and a winter resort, with ample scope for walking and climbing, summer skiing and sunny ski runs in winter. From the Dôme des Petites Rousses (2,813 m/9,229ft) and the Pic du Lac Blanc there are superb panoramic views.
This little climatic resort of Bourg d'Oisans (alt. 720 m/2,360ft) in the valley of the Romanche is the chief place in the district of Oisans and an excellent base for excursions in the Dauphiné. It has interesting agricultural markets (butter, cheese, etc.). Near the town is the Cascade de la Sarennes.
The little industrial town of Vizille would be of no great importance were it not for the Château of the Connétable de Lesdiguières. The nobleman who built this Château was a leading Protestant who renounced his faith in 1662 in order to gain the title of Connétable. The Château was begun in 1611 and completed in 1627 with the construction of a flight of steps leading down to the Renaissance-style park. At a meeting of the Estates of the Dauphiné held here in 1788 the foundation of the French Revolution was laid with a demand for the personal freedom of all Frenchmen.
Map of Grenoble Attractions