Grenoble is a city of around 160,000 inhabitants located near the French Alps. The climate is quite cold in winter, there are some 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 and universities. A lot of foreign scientists and students live there (as to say, more than in other comparable towns in France). Grenoble is crossed by two rivers, the Drac and the Isère, and is surrounded by three mountain chains, Vercors, Chartreuse and Belledonne.
Lyon International airport is not so far, about 100 km (1 h in bus, car or train). Buses go hourly to Grenoble. 20€ one-way, or 30€ return (valid for 2 months) ticket.
Just follow the highways from/to Geneva, Lyon, Chambéry, Valence.
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. At non-peak times (in the late evening for example), trains from Grenoble to Paris usually pass through Lyon. This will add up to one hour waiting at Lyon Part Dieu Station.
Trains link hourly Lyon (Part-Dieu station) to Grenoble, from 5:30 am to midnight (5am to 10pm from Grenoble to Lyon). You will travel in regional trains (TER) for 1h30. Full price is 15 Eur. Don't be surprised, the train schedule sometimes include 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 on highways around the town or you are likely to lose one hour in traffic jam (between 7h-9h am and 5h-6h pm).
Lot of regional buses can take you from the center of the town to ski stations and various countryside towns. For example, Grenoble to Chamrousse (bus 6010) ski station is 2.7 Eur. By the way, if you think going skiing by coach, you would have better buying tickets by advance. In case the bus is crowded, you get the priority. Tickets are sold at the main bus station (just next to the railway station) and at the tourists' information office (French: Maison du tourisme, tramway A or B station).
Information on regional buses: http://www.vfd.fr/ (in French only for now, but finding buses schedules is easy). Beware that winter schedule (called in French in VFD website: saison neige) is not the same as for the rest of the year.
Town tramways and buses
Two lines of tramway cross the town every few minutes (every quarter of hour on Sundays) and a lot of buses (lot fewer on Sundays). Individual ticket price is 1.2 Eur. Tickets can be bought in the bus from the driver, and from machines on the platform for tramways (tickets are compatible with both). Information on town buses and tramways: http://www.semitag.com/ (in French).
Despite its proximity to mountains, Grenoble is flat, so you won't experience steep slopes in the town. If you feel like it, you will find slopes in the near mountains. Anyway, a nice and easy ride is to follow the two rivers that cross Grenoble. There is a cycle track along the Isère for several kilometers, and along the Drac. There is an old bicycle track along the Isère river passing in front of the town centre, and various dedicated lanes along the main boulevards. Bicycles are allowed on some streets, but riders often have to use the same lane as buses (for the fearless riders only).
It is possible to hire a bicycle for a day or a week at the railway station (two other locations will be opened by February 2004). 5 Eur a day.
If you use a wheel chair, you will notice that the some efforts have been accomplished to fit your needs. Tramways are designed to ease the access of wheel chairs, and a lot of buses do so. However most of work is to be done for the streets and you will experience problems because of steps between the pavement and the street.
Paul Mistral park is a big park in the center of the town. A rink allows the use of rollers, and some people usually play street hockey. The park contains big lawns with trees to appreciate quietness. At the center, a tower (the tower Perret) was built in 1922, but it is currently not possible to go up, due to safety problems. The park has no fences, so it is opened all the time.
Natural History Museum (French: 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). Opened MTWTF, 9h30-12h am, 1h30-5h30 pm and SS 2h pm-6h pm. Closed on December the 25th, January the 1st, May the 1st. Facilities for disabled. The museum has nice collections of mineralogy, wild life in the Alps and 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). Opens everyday 10h-18h30 (closed on Tuesdays, on December the 25th, January the 1st, May the 1st). The museum is a modern, smart building that is worth seeing. Collections of modern art.
Musée Dauphinois, 30, rue Maurice-Gignoux (tel. (+33) 4 76 85 19 01). Open on Wednesday to Monday except 1 January, 1 May and 25 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 displays permanent and temporary exhibitions about the people and lifestyle of the former province of Dauphiné. Outside the building are pleasant gardens of the convent with a nice view from the city.
Musée De L'Ancien Eveche, 2, rue Très Cloître (tel. (+33) 4 76 03 15 25). Open every day from 9h to 18h except on Tuesday from 13h30 to 18h00 and on Sunday from 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. On the underground are the ruins of an ancient Roman walls and baptistry, dating from the IV century. Ask for an audioguide (French or English) on the entrance desk, it's free!
You may also like the visit of Saint-Louis Church (place Victor Hugo, tramway A, B, buses 3, 13, 33, 34) or of the Cathedral (place Notre-Dame, tramway B).
Hiking or climbing are possible just near to the town. Ask for the "Carte des Sentiers Sipavag" (a free hiking map) at the Tourism Office (4, rue de la République) or Maison de Montagne (3, rue Raoul Blanchard), which are very 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); it is a nice add-on to the Sipavag map and lists a number of parks and hikes you can reach with public transportation. You will also find suitable maps at any bookshop; the best ones are published by the IGN and Didier Richard.
By winter, skiing is a popular activity, and is only 45 min from Grenoble by car. Ski stations close to Grenoble include Autrans (1000 m high in Vercors), Chamrousse (1700 m-2200 m high in Belledonne). Avoid the two last two weeks of December, which are overcrowded at all ski stations and the most expensive of the year.
Mountain lakes are a great place to visit during a hot summer day, for swimming or just admiring the landscape. For example, Robert Lakes and Achard Lake are one or two hours hike from Chamrousse. Several paths are available, some accessible to 10-year olds, some advised for adults only. Fishing in lakes and in some rivers is allowed, but (as everywhere else in France) requires to a fee. For information about fishing, contact the local fishermen's union (French: Union des pêcheurs à la ligne. 8, rue Ampère, tel. (+33) 4 76 96 61 29, fax (+33) 4 76 49 02 17, http://www.peche-en-montagne.com/ ).
cable car (French: téléphérique), bank (French: 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, email@example.com). Closed in January. Opens 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 upside, and the trip in the plastic bubbles is impressive. At the summit there is a fortress, called the Bastille (no link with Bastille Day), some 300 m above the town. When you arrive at the top, you can visit the ruins of a fort, walk for some hours in the nature on the hill or simply enjoy the view of the town and the mountains, or have a break at the restaurant. 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 are some monuments dedicated to soldiers of the mountain, and the 2004 60th anniversary of the liberation of Grenoble (1944). 5.50 Eur full price for return ticket, 3.80 Eur for students. http://www.telepherique-grenoble.com/. You can also walk to the top via one of several paths or go by car. Paths start from the Fountain de Lion on the East side, or a park on the West, near the large arch.
Moucherotte mountain, the hard (and best) way to see the town from upside, 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 and alone.
You will find a technical university (Joseph Fourier), liberal arts university (Pierre Mendès-France), political sciences university (Sciences PO) and several engineering schools in physics, chemistry, electricity, computer science, and a business school. See http://www.inpg.fr/ and http://www.ujf-grenoble.fr/
If you are looking for a big commercial center with everything one may need, consider Grand Place (tramway A direction Echirolles). Be prepared to the crowd every Saturday.
For more "authentic" shopping, stop at Victor Hugo tramway station (tramway A or B). The tramway station is next to the Grenette place, which is the center of the town. This place and all streets around are reserved to pedestrians (and tramways). You will enjoy small streets with lot of people in shops and restaurants.
It's better to arrive in a city with a good guide... The Guide du Dahu is the best guide of Grenoble with all the restaurants where to eat. It's the work of 20 students of the local business school (GEM). 300 pages, columns restaurants, bars, culture, sport, night. 2,5€ by tobbaconists, bookshops
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 the typical Alpine dishes such as fondue and raclette.
Les Alpages, 5 rue de Strasbourg, tel. (+33) 04 76 46 32 62 (fax (+33) 04 76 43 12 70). This is not a restaurant, but a world record cheesemongery. Recommendable 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) 04 38 37 03 74. This restaurant serves traditional crepes from the Brittany region. They serve salee or surcre crepes, offering a pletora of toppings. The restaurant also serves traditional cider (cidre) during the winter time. It is well decorated with paintings and sculptures of boats (famous in the Brittany region) and overall has a homely feeling.
La Fondue, 5 rue Brocherie, tel (+33) 04 76 15 20 72. Well known in the southeast 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).
Many Italian pizza restaurants are located on the north side of the Drac river. One can walk across the pedestrian bridge and see many restaurants lined up.
Boulangeries and Patisseries- these little bread and pastry bakeries not only have wonderful tartes and cakes they also sell small quiches, paninis, and sandwiches. Grenoble is the walnut capital of Rhone-Alpes regions so look for small cakes (gateaux) with walnut cream or cakes with Chartreuse (a liquor made in a neighbouring city).
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 west of Grenoble) are the Caves de la Chartreuse (tel. (33) 4 76 05 81 77), 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 http://www.chartreuse.fr for more information.
The Drac is a small river and may appear harmless, as water doesn't usually cover the whole bed. But the level of water may change quickly, specially when the dam upstream releases water. Don't wander in the bed: six children aged eight and their teacher died this way in December 1995.