14 Top-Rated Attractions & Places to Visit in Grenoble
Enclosed by the majestic mountain peaks of the French Alps, Grenoble has one of the prettiest backdrops of any city in France. The glorious scenery offers a breath of fresh air, both literally and figuratively.
Beautiful gardens are scattered throughout Grenoble, and the town's natural surroundings beckon you to get lost in the flowering meadows and densely wooded pine forests, or breeze down powdery ski slopes at a nearby ski resort.
Despite being a modern urban metropolis, Grenoble has a quaint Vieille Ville (Old Town). The city also boasts many superb museums, testimony to a rich heritage as capital of the historic Dauphiné region.
Learn about the best places to visit with our list of the top tourist attractions and things to do in and around Grenoble.
1. Wander through Vieille Ville (Old Town)
The historic city center is a delightful maze of pedestrian-only streets lined with lovely old houses and narrow cobblestone lanes leading to elegant squares.
At the heart of the Vieille Ville (Old Town), the Musée de l'Ancien Évêché occupies a 13th-century Episcopal palace, which is classified as a Monument Historique. The museum illustrates Grenoble's history from ancient times through the Middle Ages until the 20th century.
Nearby, the 13th- to 15th-century Cathédrale Notre-Dame surprises you with its glorious high-vaulted Gothic interior, a striking contrast to its plain facade.
A few steps from the cathedral is the Place aux Herbes, where a traditional open-air farmers' market is held every day (in the morning) except Mondays. Besides its outdoor space, the square features a covered market hall that dates to the 19th century.
At the nearby Place de Gordes, you can soak up the elegant 18th-century ambience while dining at one of the restaurants or cafés with outdoor seating. A short walk from the Place de Gordes, the Jardin de Ville inspires relaxation or picnics under the shady sycamore trees.
Also near the Jardin de Ville, the Ancien Palais de Justice (Palais du Parlement du Dauphiné) was the Parliament House of the Dauphiné Estates for more than 500 years. Stendhal based the character, Julien Sorel, in his novel Le Rouge et le Noir (The Red and the Black) on a historical figure who went to trial at the Palais de Justice.
The Palais du Parlement is found on the Place Saint-André next to France's second-oldest café, the Café de la Table Ronde, which dates to 1739.
2. Musée de Grenoble
A surprising modern monument in the Vieille Ville, the Musée de Grenoble presents masterpieces within 18,000 square meters of exhibition space. The sleek contemporary building is surrounded by a park filled with sculptures.
This expansive museum boasts one of the most prestigious collections of fine arts in France. The assortment spans the 13th century to the 21st century. Especially well represented are the works of the Italian Renaissance, the 17th-century Ecole Française, and modern art.
Highlights of the museum's European paintings are Rubens' distinctive Saint Grégoire painting, the ethereal L'Assomption de la Vierge by Philippe de Champaigne, the realistic L'Entrée du Grand Canal by Canaletto, the evocative Tête de la Grande Odalisque by Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres, and the captivating Portrait de Madeleine Bernard by 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 Claude Monet.
Exceptional modern art pieces are Intérieur aux Aubergines by Henri Matisse and Le Songe d'Une Nuit d'Eté by Marc Chagall.
The museum has a boutique and a casual restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the Place de Lavalette and a monumental sculpture by Alexander Calder.
Address: 5 Place de Lavalette, Grenoble
3. Fort de la Bastille
The Fort de la Bastille crowns a hilltop and offers Grenoble's best panoramic views. You can see glimpses of Mont Blanc and the Massif du Vercors peaks in the distance.
To arrive here, you can hike up to the top, or for an easier route, hop in one of the bubble-shaped cars of the Téléphérique de Grenoble-Bastille cableway.
The exhilarating Téléphérique ride 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.
The Fort de la Bastille was formerly a prison; now it houses a contemporary art center (the Centre d'Art Bastille) and a military museum (Musée des Troupes de Montagne).
For adventurous types, there are plenty of things to do. Acrobastille Parc de Loisirs offers a chance to participate in mountaineering and acrobatic sports, such as ziplining, rappelling, and labyrinth courses. If you enjoy nature walks, then you will appreciate the scenic trails around the Fort de la Bastille.
The Fort de la Bastille's fine-dining restaurant, Chez le Pèr'Gras, offers traditional Dauphinois cuisine and breathtaking views. The outdoor patio has a romantic ambience under the linden trees.
Another gourmet option is the Restaurant O2 Téléphérique, which specializes in contemporary-style French cooking. This restaurant is more casual and has an outdoor terrace where guests can admire the city and mountain vistas. You may purchase discounted tickets for the Téléphérique ride if you have a reservation at the Restaurant O2 Téléphérique.
4. Musée Archéologique Saint-Laurent
The Musée Archéologique Saint-Laurent displays its collection within the Eglise Saint-Laurent, which is classified as a Monument Historique.
The Eglise Saint-Laurent was an early Christian church and has retained rare 8th-century Carolingian elements. Take in the architectural splendor of this ancient sanctuary and then visit its fascinating 6th-century crypt that contains ancient mausoleums.
Within the space that was the church's cloister, archaeological objects are displayed in a series of exhibits. Religious objects form a large part of the collection. Visual presentations put each piece in context, so that you get a sense of the religious history that dates back 1,500 years.
Address: Place Saint-Laurent, Grenoble
5. Jardin des Dauphins
The Jardin des Dauphins is Grenoble's most expansive green space. The luxuriant grounds are set on six landscaped terraces, covering 30 hectares. The landscaping includes a variety of leafy trees and wild shrubbery, creating the feel of an unspoiled nature site.
The garden's southern exposure allows palm trees and Mediterranean plants to thrive here. You will even find exotic vegetation, including bananas, loquats, and pomegranates.
Shaded pedestrian paths and picturesque staircases invite you to take a leisurely stroll. Stunning views are found along the way. The Jardin des Dauphins is one of the best places for tourists to admire the vistas of the Grenoble cityscape and the mountains in the distance.
Address: Place Aristide Briand, Porte de France, Grenoble
6. Le Magasin, Centre National d'Art Contemporain (CNAC)
Opened in 1986, the Centre National d'Art Contemporain presents some of the best contemporary art exhibits in France.
Throughout the year in its 3,000-square-meter space, the center hosts temporary exhibits of original work. The center also hosts festivals, film screenings, workshops, and training programs.
Address: Site Bouchayer-Viallet, 8 Esplanade Andry-Farcy, Grenoble
7. Jardin de Ville
With its gated entrance, refreshing wooded area, and colorful flowerbeds, the Jardin de Ville has a special charm. This leafy green space in the Vieille Ville provides an escape from the city's urban hustle and bustle.
When the weather is pleasant, many families with kids come here for the children's playground and locals picnic on the lawns. During the summertime, the Jardin de Ville is used as a venue for festivals and concerts.
The garden was once the private property of the Dukes of Lesdiguières and became a public park in 1719. Within the garden is the 17th-century Hôtel de Lesdiguières, formerly the Duke of Lesdiguières' residence (now the Maison de l'International, which promotes cultural exchanges).
Address: Jardin de Ville, 2 Rue Hector Berlioz, Grenoble
8. Place Grenette
A few steps away from the Jardin de Ville is Grenoble's main town square. Attractive historic houses line the square. At the center is a graceful fountain featuring winged cherubs and dolphins, created by the sculptor Victor Sappey.
During the 17th century, the Place Grenette was used for grain and animal markets. Today, the Place Grenette has many bustling cafés and restaurants that feature outdoor seating in the square.
9. Musée de la Résistance et de la Déportation de l'Isère
Grenoble had one of the largest Resistance movements in France during the Second World War (from 1941 until the Liberation). The city was known as the "capital of the Resistance fighters".
The history of Grenoble's Resistance movement is illustrated at this museum. Exhibits pay tribute to the heroism of Grenoble's Resistance fighters, while also presenting the realities of deportation for the local Jewish population. Photographs, original drawings, newspaper clippings, and other documents help bring the story to life.
The museum is open to the public free of charge and also doubles as a memorial site.
Address: 14 Rue Hébert, Grenoble
10. Musée Dauphinois
This unique museum focuses on the culture and heritage of the Dauphiné region. The collection is housed in a 17th-century building, the former Couvent Sainte-Marie d'en-Haut (Convent of the Sisters of the Visitation), which is classified as a Monument Historique.
Permanent exhibits focus on the rural life of the region, the people of the French Alps, and the history of skiing. The museum also presents temporary exhibits about foreign cultures.
Address: 30 Rue Maurice-Gignoux, Grenoble
11. Domaine de Vizille
The Domaine de Vizille is nestled in an idyllic setting of rolling hills, about 20 kilometers from Grenoble. This exquisite property is labeled as a Jardin Remarquable. It's worth visiting to see the formal French garden, ornamental lake, and fragrant rose gardens.
This château also has a fascinating history. 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). The collection includes paintings, drawings, and historical artifacts dating to the time of the French Revolution.
Address: Place du Château, 38220 Vizille
12. Parc Naturel Régional de Chartreuse
The Parc Naturel Régional de Chartreuse is found in the verdant mountainous landscape about 30 kilometers outside of Grenoble. The location has a remote feel and is only accessible by narrow country roads.
For those who appreciate outdoor activities, this natural park is one of the best places to visit in the area. It's a favorite spot for hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter.
A popular place to stay overnight is in Saint-Pierre-de-Chartreuse, a charming alpine village sheltered by the Chartreuse mountains.
13. Parc Naturel Régional du Vercors
About 27 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. This park makes for a lovely day trip from Grenoble.
Covered with forests, gorges, and many hiking trails, the Regional Park of Vercors is an ideal place to discover pristine nature and participate in outdoor sports such as mountain biking, rock climbing, and spelunking.
In winter, the area's ski resorts cater to skiers of all levels. There are also opportunities for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
14. Musée Stendhal
If you are interested in French literature, a must-see landmark is the Musée Stendhal in the Vieille Ville. This museum is housed in a typical Bourgeois apartment that was the birthplace and childhood home of Marie-Henri Beyle, known by the name of Stendhal.
Stendhal ranks among the most illustrious of French authors. He lived in Paris during France's Second Restoration period and was celebrated for his novel Le Rouge et le noir (The Red and the Black) published in 1830.
This small museum displays mementos and gives an insight into Stendhal's personal life. Historical paintings provide context, illustrating Stendhal's biography. A highlight of the museum is Stendhal's library.
The museum is open year-round on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Opening hours are 2pm until 6pm.
Address: 20 Grande Rue, Grenoble
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Inspiring Natural Scenery: The soaring mountain peaks that surround Grenoble beckon visitors to go hiking or skiing in the French Alps. Europe's highest mountain, the legendary Mont Blanc (a two-hour drive) near Chamonix offers breathtaking scenery for outdoor adventures. Another spectacular nature site is the Monts d'Ardèche Natural Regional Park (about two hours south). A driving itinerary of the Gorges d'Ardèche leads to discoveries of spectacular gorges, prehistoric caves, and quaint villages.
Charming Countryside of Provence: South of the French Alps is the bucolic Provence region, a sun-drenched landscape dotted with medieval hilltop towns. The Haut-Vaucluse area of Provence (about two hours away) consists of quiet countryside with small farms, olive groves, lavender fields, and picturesque villages. The UNESCO-listed Palais des Papes in Avignon is about a two-hour drive from Grenoble. A slightly longer drive leads to the sultry Provençal town of Nîmes, which is full of pleasant tree-lined streets and squares, bustling outdoor cafés, and fascinating ancient Roman monuments.
Cultured Cities Within Easy Reach: For those who appreciate art museums, gorgeous gardens, and historic churches, the cities of Lyon and Geneva are rewarding places to visit. Famous for its regional cuisine, the UNESCO-listed city of Lyon is only a one-hour drive away and less than 2 hours by train. Near the French border, Geneva in Switzerland is renowned for its cosmopolitan culture and pristine lakeside scenery. From Grenoble, it takes only about 2 hours by car to arrive at Geneva.