Grenoble airport is a busy winter sports hub that until recently was almost idle in spring and summer. For the past few months Ryanair has been trialling bargain ‘off-piste’ flights three times a week at £9.99 one way. If these succeed other carriers will follow.
The airport communications department, in conjunction with tourist offices in Grenoble and Vienne, is keen to promote the Alpes-Isere region as a summer destination. And why not? A crammed three-day press trip itinerary may not be recommended for most Silver Travellers but five, six or seven days would give a good taste – and taste is the operative word – of Grenoble, its hinterland, and Vienne.
A shuttle bus operates from the airport into Grenoble (15€ single, 20€ return); car hire is an alternative, essential for reaching Vienne easily if you have only a few days. Otherwise, as here, it would be better to treat them separately. Driving in either city can be problematic, but both have excellent local buses and Grenoble has trams.
So, to the tastes: a cable car to the Bastille, the old citadel of Grenoble, moves slowly enough for almost anyone (a friend or partner can help if necessary) to board and disembark. Views from the top are magnificent. For the history of warfare enthusiast there is a museum to the mountain troops, the caves where snipers were positioned to pick off invaders and of course the citadel itself.
It is a popular destination for the more athletic locals, who jog or cycle up and down. The track is passable by car or mobility vehicle. There are two restaurants. Chez le Pèr’Gras, the gourmet choice, has foie gras on the menu as well as delicate filo parcels stuffed with pear, walnuts and blue Sassenage cheese, a very French variation on ravioli with more cheese, and a Chartreuse ice cream with chocolate and a strawberry.
The city centre has a mouth-watering market and of course more restaurants. On the way (or as alternative) to lunch the Fromagerie des Alpages is run by the ebullient Bernard Mure-Ravaud, Meilleur Ouvrier de France, who in the UK would be insulted by the title ‘best worker’: our preference was ‘curator’ as he not only selects but matures his cheeses. Only a photograph can do justice to his display. Incidentally, he supplies the restaurant Salut in Islington. His website www.les-alpages.fr shows more.
Walking, or the efficient city tram service, provides opportunities to view architecture of many periods, including the former military barracks of Bonne now being transformed into an eco-housing neighbourhood. More adventurous walkers will find many trails in the countryside around Grenoble, with maps and ideas available from the tourist office.
A different kind of art is available in the streets nearby, as Grenoble has an annual Street Art Fest in June; traditional tastes have the elegant modernist Musée de Grenoble. Historical museums, including the Second World War and Resistance, the Musée Archéologique in the church of St Laurent, and Sacré Cœur ‘a miniature Montmartre’, for contemporary stained glass. Information on the jazz festival and other events can be accessed from www.grenoble-tourisme.com and the www.isere-tourisme.com.
Top ten things to do in Grenoble
- Take the Téléphérique cable car to La Citadelle and eat at Chez le Pèr’Gras.
- Watch street artists in action in June or tour the works they leave behind with a map from the tourist office.
- Visit the market at Halle Sainte-Claire (Tuesday to Sunday) and walk afterwards along Rue August Gaché with buildings from the 1820s.
- Buy cheese at Fromagerie Les Alpages, 4 rue de Strasbourg.
- Visit the Musée de Grenoble for one of the most comprehensive collections of art outside Paris.
- Visit Le Magasin des Horizons, built by Gustave Eiffel, in the Bouchafer-Viallet area for temporary exhibitions of contemporary art.
- Visit the de Bonne eco-neighbourhood and Jardin des Vallons.
- Visit the Sacré Cœur Basilica opposite the railway station for contemporary stained glass.
- Visit the St Laurent Archaeological Museum, Rue St Laurent.
- Ride on a city tram or take a bus ride into the countryside.
Ryanair flights from London Stansted to Grenoble Airport start at £9.99 one way and run until 27 October 2018.
Shuttle bus transfer to Grenoble city centre costs €15 single; €20 return.
A two night stay at the 4-star Mercure Grenoble Center Alpoted is priced from €89/night with breakfast based on two sharing.
Car hire from Grenoble Airport with Hertz www.hertz.com starts at €37/day.
For more information visit www.grenoble-tourisme.com or for the surrounding countryside www.isere-tourisme.com.
Read about summer short breaks and the top ten things to do in Vienne