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Grenoble: the ancient capital of the Dauphiné

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Grenoble is an important city in the French Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. The city is located in a vast plain crossed by the Isère river and not far from the Alpine chain. The point where the city is located is where the Drac river flows into the Isère river. The city center is located just over 200 meters above sea level. The city has 160,000 inhabitants which, with the urban agglomeration, exceed 400,000 inhabitants.

A short distance from the city are the Alpine peaks, with several mountains reaching almost 3,000 m in height. These include the Vercors massif (2,346 meters), the mountain ranges of Chartreuse (2,082 meters) and the Chaîne de Belle Donne (2,977 meters). Grenoble is in fact close to the western slopes of the French Alps. Grenoble is today known for its scientific studies, the city is home to one of the oldest French universities (1339) and numerous research institutes.

City of Gallic and then Roman origin, Grenoble has a history of around 2,000 years. In the Middle Ages the city was part of the Dauphiné of which it was the capital since the 11th century. Ancient fortified city on the border with Savoy, in its historic center, it still preserves interesting civil and religious buildings. The historic center is dominated by Fort de la Bastille, an impressive 16th century fortress.


Among the places of interest in the historic center of the city we find Place Grenette, where the ancient wheat market took place. This square today is the commercial heart of the historic center full of restaurants and brasseries. Another interesting square is the Place Saint-André where the Dauphiné Parliament Building is located, the oldest part of which dates back to the 15th century. The collegiate church of Saint-André (Collégiale Saint-André, 13th century) which is one of the first Gothic buildings in the city. In place Notre-Dame are the Notre-Dame Cathedral (the oldest part of which dates back to the 12th and 13th centuries) and the Saint-Hugues church, as well as the former bishop’s palace and the remains of the baptistery. Among the squares of the historic center, the Place aux Herbes with its market is also worth mentioning.

Other interesting places in the city are the Jardin de ville where the lower cable car station of the city is also located. Historic buildings include the 14th century tour du Trésor. La tour de l’Isle, dating back to the 14th century, and the ancient town hall, the Hôtel de Lesdiguières, built in the early 17th century. On the other side of the Isère river, on the right bank, there is the Saint-Laurent district, the so-called Italian district of the city, with restaurants and pizzerias. Here is also the Mint Palace (hôtel des monnaies), a beautiful building from the early 16th century.


The city also has an important military historical heritage made of fortifications. Among these, the most important is the Fort de la Bastille, which dominates the city from above and consists of a watchtower built in the 16th century and a series of fortifications with ramparts, moats and casemates that extend from the top of the mountain to to reach the city below. The fortress can be reached via a cable car from the center of Grenoble. In the city there are also the remains of the Roman walls (at rue Lafayette and at the Museo de l’Ancien-Evêché), of the medieval ones (tour de l’Isle and at the Museum of Grenoble) and of the fortifications erected in the 19th century.

Grenoble also houses some very interesting museums, the most important of which is the Musée de Grenoble which houses the third largest art collection in France after the museums of Paris and Lyon. The museum has valuable collections of contemporary art and paintings ranging from the thirteenth to the twenty-first century, as well as collections of Egyptian and Greek art. The city also hosts a well-known Jazz Festival (Grenoble Jazz Festival).



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