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Set in a beautiful valley between the alps and several “Massifs,” Grenoble is a good access point to hiking, skiing, and beautiful drives. We don’t love the city itself – gritty, still fairly industrial, not very lively.

Food and Lodging

  • **Chateau et Spa de la Commanderie (Eybens) – A nice enough hotel – it feels completely private, though not far from the city. Dinner was good, breakfast was average. Good price for what it is.
  • *Restaurant Le Seven has decent enough food – would be a ** if the setting was better. It’s a little grimy, lacking a view and at a busy intersection.
  • ***Restaurant le Fantin Latour: The Michelin guide describes this one-star restaurant as “Lots of feeling, bags of personality…” The garden setting is romantic, we loved our friendly server, the menu was great. There are two offers: gourmet in the evening and more “brasserie” style at lunchtime.
  • **Restaurant Le Rousseau, on the southern edges of Grenoble in Le Pont-de-Claix, is not in a great neighborhood, but it’s a worthy stop should you be passing through. Nice outdoor patio, elevated menus, interesting and well curated wine list with lots of natural and small-production options. Very friendly service.
  • *Restaurant Zakhang: trying very hard – a “melange” of influences from different global foods, mostly vegan or vegetarian. Heavy emphasis on color – the food is pretty, but not very good.
  • **Restaurant La Veyrie, north of town, has a great view. The food isn’t very ambitious, but it’s good enough and makes for a pleasant lunch spot.

Activities

  • **Musée archéologique Saint-Laurent is worth a visit – it’s a quick 20 minute stop. Housed inside a 12th century church, the museum climbs down through multiple layers of the building. We liked the detailed exploration of the health and physical condition of the bodies found throughout the crypt.
  • **Musée dauphinois: The 17th century convent which houses this museum provides an aptly historic setting for the museum’s collection of exhibits on the native people of this region, the Dauphiné highlands. Hardened by the volatile Alpine weather, these highlanders soon evolved their own distinctive identity and culture, which are colorfully depicted in elaborate sets on the top floor of the museum. Downstairs there are rotating exhibits, lovely gardens, an ancient cloister, and a Baroque chapel. It’s a larger museum, and takes about an hour to tour.
  • **Fort de La Bastille: La Bastille is one of the city’s most popular attractions with tourists. This centuries-old fortress (a ruin) dates back to the Middle Ages and in the 1800s was used to defend France against invasions from its then rival: the Duchy of Savoy. Later additions were made to the fortress and it is now one of the largest and most important examples of 18th century fortifications in the whole of France. The views are good, and the ropes course (for the under 12 set) was very popular. It’s worth a visit, especially to take the ‘bubbles’ – the spherical 1970s cable cars that connect the town to the fortress.

Further Afield

**Museum of the French Revolution, Vizille (20 minutes from Grenoble): definitely worth a stop if you’re in the neighborhood. Spectacular building in a lovely park, very interesting and thoughtful renovations to make it an effective gallery space. Takes about an hour to tour. Free. Check hours, closes at lunch.

The ***Massif de Chartreuse, hovering above Grenoble, is gorgeous. The roads are generally in good condition, and a major destination for serious road bikers. We drove the Col du Coq (great views, very popular with other day trippers) and stopped at several of the notable sites:

  • **Fort du Saint-Eynard is built into the edge of the cliff – the drop-off is terrifying. It has limited hours but looks worth a trip to tour the inside.
  • **Le Monastère de la Grande Chartreuse is deeply impressive, a huge facility deep in the woods. It’s worth a walk from the museum (which wasn’t open during our visit) to get a sense of the scale of the place. You can’t tour, or see very much from the outside.

**Uriage-les-Bains, a genteel spa village 10km south-east of Grenoble, feels like a time capsule from the turn of the century. Uriage’s water was officially declared “curative” in 1781, when a farmer noticed how healthy his animals were after they drank from the local source. His son built some wooden huts for those wanting restorative baths, and word spread; an elegant thermal resort was constructed in the 1870s, including a tramway to bring in wealthy patrons from Grenoble. There’s a massive town green for sunbathing and strolling, several aging spas with varying degrees of difficulty to access. I’d consider a weekend here, especially if you can get a table at Maison Aribert (two Michelin stars).

Above Uriage-les Bain, Chamrousse is a rather down-at-the-heels, 1960s style ski resort. The terrain looked fine.

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