A local’s guide to Grenoble, France: spectacular night skiing and great nightlife | France holidays


Food

There may not be a significant gastronomic tradition here, but certain foods should not be missed. Buy local cheeses saint-marcellin and bleu du vercors-sassenage at Les Alpages, run by master fromager Bernard Mure-Ravaud. Grenoble is famous for walnuts – made into oil, liqueur, pastries – and local producers can be found at Le Montagnard in the covered food market, Halles Sainte-Claire. There is only one Michelin-starred restaurant in town: chef Stéphane Froidevaux offers an affordable brasserie menu at lunchtime and fine dining in the evening at his sumptuous villa, Le Fantin Latour. But young chefs working with organic, seasonal products are emerging at contemporary bistronomique addresses such as Le Rousseau.

Inspiration

Musée de Grenoble.
Musée de Grenoble. Photograph: Zoonar GmbH/Alamy

I often go on my own to the landmark Musée de Grenoble: it’s one of France’s finest art museums, opened in 1798. Its outstanding collection includes masterpieces such as Le Boeuf Écorché by Soutine and Matisse’s Intérieur aux Aubergines. There are also works by Flemish grand masters and local painter Henri Fantin-Latour. Ten minutes’ walk from the centre, Musée Dauphinois, dedicated to our region, was created by André Malraux in an old convent. It has my favourite view over the city, and was an inspiration for me to try to do the same with our HQ, the Sainte-Cécile convent.

Neighbourhood

Cable cars in Grenoble

The Quartier des Antiquaires is one of Grenoble’s oldest neighbourhoods, right in the historic centre. Our publishing house and the offices of Fondation Glénat are right here in the 17th-century Couvent Sainte-Cécile. I bought and renovated this former Bernadine convent 10 years ago, when the neighbourhood was run down, and we’ve brought the Antiquaires back to life. The foundation hosts concerts, exhibitions and permanently displays a large collection of Rembrandt engravings. Visitors wandering the narrow streets will discover not just antique shops, galleries, fashion and design stores, but an artisan chocolate maker, Le Caraque Chocolatier, a wine shop, Le Zinc, stocking 1,000 wines, and my favourite bistro for hearty local cuisine, Café de France.

Green space

Grenoble is a pioneering ecological city, with a Green party mayor and is this year’s European Green Capital. We have very few green spaces in the city – though the Grenoblois will tell you green spaces are all around us, beginning six miles away, in the three surrounding massifs: Vercors, Chartreuse and Belledonne. Take the cable car above the city centre to the towering Bastille fort to see this natural panorama. In winter, the Chamrousse ski station is 30 minutes’ drive away, offering spectacular night skiing high above Grenoble. Back in town, I have a soft spot for our tiny Jardin des Plantes, a botanical garden with a quaint natural history museum.

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Nightlife

This is a university city, and nightlife begins with early evening happy hours. Certain streets and squares are packed out till the early hours. Expect pubs rather than old-fashioned bistros because what is popular here is craft beer, with dozens of microbreweries, whose ales are apparently superior quality because of the quality of the water. Shady Place de Berulle boasts Shakesbeer, the Belgian bar Brugs, and one of our many Irish pubs. Brasserie Neptune makes small-batch beers, so the menu changes every month. The municipal theatre has a dynamic arts programme, and more alternative performances take place in La Belle Électrique, in the old industrial quarter of Bouchayer-Viallet.

Stay

The comfortable Grand Hôtel (doubles from €90) is right in the centre, with reasonably priced rooms. It’s where I put up visiting authors.

Jacques Glénat has always kept the headquarters of his French publishing empire, Editions Glénat, in his native Grenoble. He has also set up a cultural institute, Fondation Glénat, in the city

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