For world travelers who want a look at life in a small, quintessentially French town, it doesn’t get more picturesque than Grenoble.
Located in eastern France, Grenoble sits at the foot of the French Alps, which means you’ll have a stunning backdrop whether you’re sipping coffee along the Isère river or spending the afternoon strolling local parks. It was the site of the 1968 Winter Olympics and still serves as a perfect escape for the outdoor adventurer.
You can travel up the side of a mountain via small, suspended glass “bubbles,” called bulles by the locals, which is a somewhat terrifying adventure in itself. At the top of the mountain sits the Bastille fortress, a military structure built in the early 1800s. You can tour the interior of the fort, which has been converted into an art center, restaurant, and museum dedicated to mountain rescue forces. You can also take a visit to Acrobastille, a zip-lining adventure experience that gives you an eagle-eye view of the city.
Take a trip around the fort and you can find some amazing views of the city and the Alps, not to mention a hiking trail that dates back to at least 43 BC.
You can also go back in time by exploring the network of caves, which soldiers carved out of the mountainside to shield themselves from enemy fire.
Once you’re back on lower ground, the town of Grenoble itself has a lot to offer, from a whole slew of Italian restaurants along the river (being so close to Italy has its perks!) to small local parks surrounded by fresh flowers.
Also not to be missed is the fancy patisserie Au Chardon Bleu, a gorgeous tea room that specializes in gourmand desserts, chocolates, and other treats. I tried out the passionfruit tart and couldn’t stop myself from taking a bite before the picture.
You can even pick up a bottle of Chartreuse, a locally-made alcohol with a distinct color that tastes, as one expert I know describes, “like a Christmas tree with all the ornaments.” Brace yourself, this drink has a kick to it.
After a day of outdoor fun, beautiful views, delicious food and drinks, we were a little sad to be leaving Grenoble. The town is the perfect day trip in France, but I’d even go so far as to say it’s the perfect French town. So if I ever win the lottery, I’m packing up and buying a house in the mountains of Grenoble.