A drink lover’s guide to Grenoble

Nestled between the Rhône and the French Alps, Grenoble has plenty to offer the travelling gourmand, from some of the world's finest Syrah to produce made in the mountains

Words by Ashleigh Arnott

View of Grenoble
The view of Grenoble from the terrace at Chez le Per’Gras (Photo: Franck Crispin)

When taking in the magnificent views from Grenoble’s military fort, La Bastille, it’s very obvious why this unassuming city is known as the ‘capital of the Alps’. There are mountains on all sides – on a clear day the summit of Mont Blanc is visible – while the flat plains surrounding two shimmering rivers, the Isère and the Drac, are filled with the city’s jumble of parks, avenues and architectural treasures.

As the second city in the Rhône-Alpes, Grenoble offers a great deal of exceptional food and drink, albeit in a more low-key manner than its flashy bigger brother, Lyon. The mountains are a source of both ingredients and inspiration to the area’s chefs, and though its basin geology doesn’t allow for many inner-Grenoble grapes, wine lovers are spoilt for choice thanks to the many world-famous appellations to be found just a little further west, on the banks of the Rhône.

Perret Tower
Tour Perret is set in Grenoble's public Parc Paul Mistral

Things to see and do in Grenoble

If you’re feeling energetic, you can hike up the hill to La Bastille but then you’d miss out on a trip in one of the city’s cable cars, affectionately known as Les bulles (‘the bubbles’). The Téléphérique Grenoble Bastille is one of only three inner-city cable-car systems in the world (Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro boast the others) and whips you up to 475m above sea level in six minutes.

Grenoble cable cars
Grenoble's cable car system takes passengers up to the city's military fort

Back in the basin, the compact city centre is easy to navigate on foot or by bike or tram. Make sure to include the Parc Paul Mistral in your wanderings; as well as providing tree-lined avenues and well-kept lawns, it’s home to the 95-metre tall Tour Perret and the torch from the Winter Olympics that Grenoble hosted in 1968. Art lovers will already have the Musée de Grenoble on their lists thanks to its impressive (and eclectic) collection. As it was originally established as a contemporary art museum, many high-profile artists and collectors have donated works to them over the years – expect to see works by Rembrandt, Picasso, Matisse and more.

Chez le Per’Gras is perched above Grenoble, affording impressive views over the city from the dining room (Photo: Franck Crispin)

Where to eat and drink in Grenoble

A family-run restaurant that grew out of a mountainside farm, Chez le Per’Gras is a much-loved Grenoble gem perched above La Bastille. Spectacular views from its glass-walled dining room are matched by exemplary versions of traditional dishes such as oven-baked Gratin Dauphinois (Grenoble’s own invention) and chocolate mousse laced with the locally made herbal liqueur Chartreuse.

Chef Stéphane Froidevaux in the wine cellar at Le Fantin Latour (Photo: Xavier Ferrand)

A more ‘fine dining’ approach is taken at Michelin-starred Le Fantin Latour (soon to be renamed after head chef Stéphane Froidevaux) – wild mint brings fragrant notes to the lemon granita that contrasts a rich, creamy goats cheese and you’re likely to find foraged mushrooms adding umami to the elegant starters. In good weather you’ll be invited to dine in the elegant courtyard garden, where you can watch the resident bees going about their important business.

If you’re in a cork-before-fork kind of mood, spend an evening in Le Zinc, a bar specialising in natural, organic and biodynamic wines with 1,000 bottles on offer, as well as house-made rillettes to balance the booze.

Chateau de le Commanderie
Château de la Commanderie is on the outskirts of the city and has a spa, restaurant and outdoor pool (Photo: Château de la Commanderie)

Where to stay in Grenoble

For modern convenience – both in location and amenities – RockyPop Grenoble is an excellent choice. Its lively ground floor bar is open late for nightcaps but the impressively quiet rooms also boast big TVs and WiFi for those who’d prefer to turn in early. At the other end of the scale, Château de la Commanderie delivers old-school luxury from a pastel pink château. It’s a 10-minute drive from the city centre but the spa makes up for it. There’s also an outdoor heated pool for summer and a lounge with a real fire to snuggle up next to in the chilly months.

Cyclists in the Rhone
Hiring bikes and cycling in the Rhône is a great way to see the area's most celebrated vineyards

The Ultimate Drinking Destination in Grenoble

Wine enthusiasts would be remiss to visit the region of Isère without going on a little Côte-Rôtie pilgrimage, and the town that gave the local (superb) Viognier appellation its name, Condrieu, is an excellent base. Get the lay of the land and the vineyards by hiring an e-bike for a few hours. Guided tours with Click & Cycle include a stop to admire the area’s most celebrated vineyards and a loop around the Île du Beurre, a tranquil nature reserve that’s home to a colony of beavers. For post-cycle refreshments Les Enfants du Rhône can provide baked Saint-Marcellin (the nutty little soft cheese is made 50 miles away) and many prized local wines by the glass.

E Guigal
A trip to Grenoble is a great opportunity to visit producers, such as E Guigal, in the Rhône

You’re spoilt for choice for vineyard tasting experiences but a great place to start is Le Caveau du Château, where as well as wines made by their own domaine – E. Guigal – you can try 13 different appellations from the Rhône valley. There is Côte-Rôtie and Condrieu, of course, but you can also can tick off Saint-Joseph, Gigondas, Cornas and Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Stay at Domaine de Clairefontaine, where the 17th-century house (and its resident swan) will make you feel like royalty. Their restaurant is Michelin-starred and there’s crémant on offer alongside the freshly squeezed juices at breakfast.