The third year of my French and International studies degree was spent teaching English to primary school kids in France. It was hard to choose between spending a year in Paris or a year elsewhere and in the end I chose elsewhere. That elsewhere was Grenoble, a beautiful town surrounded by mountains in every direction. Grenoble is perfect for people who like an outdoors lifestyle; think walking, skiing, rock climbing and cycling. But there’s also plenty to keep the less activity-inclined interested.
1. Take a ride on the cable cars to the top of the Bastille
Getting to know a city is often best done by heading to the highest point and looking down. The cable cars in Grenoble are probably the best well-known attraction and they whip you up to the top of the Bastille; an old fort used in times of war. Nowadays there’s a couple of fancy restaurants, a rope swinging, rock climbing adventure course, a museum and some fantastic views! On a nice day you can even spot Mt Blanc!
2. Visit Pain & Cie for a lazy Sunday brunch
There’s nowhere in Grenoble I’d rather go for breakfast than Pain & Cie. This Grenoblois institution serves up freshly made bread with a wonderful assortment of homemade spreads. Think speculoos, nutella and white chocolate, as well as sweet and tangy jams. The coffee here is great too!
3. Watch the 6 Nations rugby at O’Callaghans
If you’ve timed your visit to Grenoble around the same time as the 6 Nations, you’d best get into the spirit of things and visit a pub in the centre of Grenoble for a pint and some screaming and shouting at the TV. O’Callaghans is Grenoble’s well-known Irish pub (every city has at least one!) and is where you’ll find a lot of expats, as well as locals, watching the games.
4. Hike up the Bastille in summer with a picnic
When the weather’s nicer, taking a hike up to the top of the Bastille is what the locals love to do. You’ll see some crazy fools deciding to run up the track too! Take a picnic and relax at the top.
5. Hire a bicycle and follow the cycle path along the river for as long as you can
Grenoble has a great cycle hire scheme. Simply pick up a bike for hire from the main train station and follow the river north. There’s a wide cycle track right alongside the river and it’s beautiful when the sun is shining. On the whole Grenoble is great for cyclists, with many locals opting for two wheels rather than four due to the traffic that often builds up.
6. Take a day trip to the beautiful castle in Vizille
There’s plenty of great day trips from Grenoble, but if you’re going to do just one then head to Vizille. Take the bus from the Gare for about 30 minutes and you’ll arrive in the small and picturesque village of Vizille. There’s not a whole lot to do here other than see the castle, but what a castle! Wander through the grounds with its trickling river, say ‘Bonjour!’ to the animals and try and avoid the swans!
7. Drink a Monaco
A Moncao is beer with grenadine and lemonade. It’s pink in colour and you’ll see locals drinking it all over Grenoble - for good reason! Just make sure you get your pronunciation right or you’ll end up with a mojito like I did a few times!
8. Buy your groceries from the market under the railway tracks Marché de l'Estacade
There’s no shortage of markets in Grenoble but by far the best is the market under the railway tracks to the west of Grenoble. Perhaps I’m biased as it was my local favourite. Sunday’s are the best day to visit when all the stallholders are present. My favourites?; the man cooking up fresh tortellini and ravioli (time it right and you’ll get a taster!), the honey being dripped out of huge vats into jars and the rotisserie chicken (the fat drips down and cooks the potatoes below), order a whole chicken and some potatoes and you’ve got most of your Sunday lunch sorted!
9. Spend your weekends skiing at Alpe D’huez
You can’t spend time in Grenoble in the winter and not go skiing. Alpe D’huez is one of the biggest ski resorts and is just 1 ½ hours away from the centre of Grenoble. Ski Ligne offer great deals on transport and ski passes that actually cost less than a day’s ski pass when bought in resort!
10. Picnic in the park with delicious, gooey cheese and fresh baguettes in summer in Parc Paul Mistral or Jardin de Ville
There are numerous parks around Grenoble but two of the best, and most central, are Jardin de Ville and Parc Paul Mistral. Grab some gooey cheese and fresh baguettes and you’ve got yourselves a great picnic!
11. Take a hike in Autrans
When the sun comes out Grenoble is gorgeous. Head up to Autrans to explore the open fields, rolling hills and get a stunning view onto Grenoble.
12. Visit La Musee de Grenoble
Grenoble’s biggest museum has plenty to keep you entertained on a rainy day. Exhibitions change throughout the year and there’s a fantastic sculpture garden out the back of the museum.
13. Have drinks in a ship themed bar at Barberousse
Barberousse only serves rum and lots of it. But don’t let you put that off! Far from being disgusting, the rum at Barberousse is flavoured. You’ll find strawberry, cherry, chocolate.. In fact, pretty much any flavour! Visit on a Friday or Saturday night when the party is in full swing!
14. Work your way through the beer list at Les Frères Berthom
Les Frères Berthom has a huge beer list, the biggest in Grenoble without a doubt. If you’re a beer drinker this is definitely the place to visit. My favourite was Kirsch, a cherry flavoured beer.
The road on the far side of the river has a lot of pizza restaurants. And when I say a lot I mean about 20+. If you’re in Grenoble for a while take it upon yourself to see how many pizza restaurants you can visit!
15. Take on all the pizza restaurants along Quai Perrière
16. Watch the Grenoble ice hockey team
Grenoble’s ice hockey team, Brûleurs de Loups (wolf burners), are great fun to watch and a must do if you’re in town when there’s a home game.
17. Drink Mulled wine at the christmas markets
In mid-November the Christmas markets spring up all over Europe. The entire centre of Grenoble is filled with small wooden huts and fairy lights selling mulled wine, cider, warming food and pretty decorations.
18. Taste local wine at Le Millésime in early November
In early November Le Millésime comes to Grenoble. Held in Place Victor Hugo in the centre, this is a festival of wine. The entry price gets you a souvenir wine glass and as much wine as you can manage!
19. Eat amazing food for a great price at L’Ardoise with their set menus
While Pain & Cie is great for breakfast, L’Ardoise is my go-to for dinner. Their very reasonably priced set menus include the best items on their menu such as the honey duck or their sumptuous
20. Get a little drunk on Beaujolais night in mid-November
Beaujolais night is the night when the first wine of the year comes into the shops around France. In cities all over the country the French will buy a bottle (or three) of the new season wine and drink it at home or out on the streets. Street parties form and you can be sure you’re in for a great night!
21. Take on the 1968 Olympic Men’s Downhill course at Chamrousse
If you’re a keen skier, a trip to Chamrousse, the closest ski resort, is a must. Take on the Men’s downhill course from the 1968 winter Olympics if you dare!
22. Grab your friends and play board games well into the night at K Fée des jeux
For a slightly different night out grab your friends and go to K Fée des jeux. There’s a massive range of board games and card games at this cafe where you can also order some food and drinks to keep you going well into the night.
23. Visit The French Coffee Shop if you’re missing your fancy lattes
Missing your starbucks latte topped with cream and sugar? The French Coffee Shop will fix your craving! The French Coffee Shop serves up imaginative lattes and hot chocolates and is the perfect place to catch up on work or read a book whilst nestled on one of it’s comfy sofas.
Hannah is an adventure travel lover and has been since her parents marched her up Mount Vesuvius at the age of 6! When she's not out exploring she can probably be found eating her way through a country's local cuisine. Find out more on her blog, That Adventurer.