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Grenoble ( ) is a city in south-eastern Francemarker situated at the foot of the French Alps where the Dracmarker joins the Isère Rivermarker. Located in the Rhône-Alpes region, Grenoble is the capital of the department of Isèremarker. The proximity of the mountains make the city named "Capital of Alps."

The history of the city encompasses a period of more than 2,000 years. Grenoble has been the capital of Dauphiné since the 11th century. The city experienced a period of economic expansion in the 19th and 20th centuries, symbolized by the holding of the X Olympic Winter Games in 1968. Nowadays, Grenoble is a significant scientific centre in Europe.

The population of the city (commune) of Grenoble at the 2006 census was 156,107 inhabitants.The population of the urban unit of Grenoble was 427,659 inhabitants in 2006. The population of the Grenoble metropolitan area (French: aire urbaine de Grenoble) at the 2006 census was 531,440 inhabitants. The residents of the city are called Grenoblois.

Among the numerous communes included are the city's largest suburbs, Saint-Martin-d'Hèresmarker, Échirollesmarker, and Fontainemarker, each with a population exceeding 20,000 inhabitants.


Areal view of Grenoble with the Tour Perret
Grenoble is surrounded by mountains. To the north is the Chartreusemarker, to the south and west the Vercorsmarker, and to the east the Belledonne range. For the French it is the capital of the Alps, and the Tour de France regularly passes through Grenoble.

The city is exclusively built on the alluvial plain of the River Isere and the Drac Rivermarker, at an altitude of . Mountain sports are an important tourist draw for the city. Twenty ski stations surround the city, the nearest being Le Sappey-en-Chartreuse, which is about 15 minutes' drive away.

Historically both Grenoble and the surrounding areas were sites of mining and heavy industry. Abandoned mills and factories can be found in small towns and villages, such as the coal mine at La Muremarker.


Grenoble can be accessed by plane from Grenoble-Isère Airportmarker, Saint-Exupéry International Airportmarker near Lyonmarker, Geneva Cointrin International Airportmarker. Within Grenoble there is a comprehensive bus and tram service. It operates 26 bus lines and 4 tram lines, serving all of greater Grenoble.

The train station and a tram (lightrail)
Grenoble is served by the TGV network with frequent services to and from Paris-Gare de Lyonmarker and less frequent trains to and from other destinations in France such as Lille Europemarker and Nantesmarker. TER services connect Grenoble with Genevamarker and destinations to the east. Valencemarker to the west provides connections with TGV services along the Rhone valley. Rail and road connections to the south are less well developed.

Road links to the north and west are good, by autoroute, including to Lyonmarker and the Rhone valley via Valence. A highway (in French: autoroute) runs east up the valley towards the Alps and Italy.

The city is also circled by a partial beltway.


For the ecclesiastical history, see Bishopric of Grenoble.


Last remnants of the Roman Walls
The first reference of Grenoble goes back to 43 BC. Cularo was at that time a little Gallic village founded by the Allobroges tribe near a bridge across the Isere River. A strong walls was built around the small town in 286.

The Emperor Gratian visited Cularo and touched by the welcome of the people, he made this village a Roman City. Regarding that honour, Cularo was renamed Gratianopolis (“city of Gratian”) in 381.

Christianity spread in the region during the 4th century. The diocese of Grenoble was founded in 377. The bishops detained from that time a significant political power over the city and intitulated themselves until the French Revolution “bishops and princes of Grenoble” .

After the collapse of the Roman Empire the city was part of the first Burgundian kingdom in the 5th Century, then the second Burgundian kingdom of Arles until 1032, when it was integrated to the Holy Roman Empire.

Middle Age

Coat of arms of Grenoble
Grenoble grew significantly in the 11th century when the Count of Albon chose this little city as the capital of their territories. At the time, their possessions were a patchwork of several territories sprawled in the region. The central position of Grenoble allowed them to strengthen their authority. These counts took later the title of Dauphins. Grenoble became then the capital of the State of Dauphiné.

In spite of that status, the authority of the counts was shared with the Bishop of Grenoble. One of the most famous of them was Saint Hugh. Under his rule, the bridge of the city was rebuilt; a hospital was constructed along with a leper hospital.

Coat of arms of the Dauphiné

The inhabitants of Grenoble took advantage of the division between the Counts and the Bishops and obtained the recognition of a Charter of Customs that guarantied their rights. That charter was confirmed by Kings Louis XI in 1447 and Francis I in 1541.

The last Dauphin Humbert II founded in 1336 the Conseil Delphinal which settled at Grenoble in 1340. He also established the University of Grenoble in 1339.Nevertheless, doubtful and heirless, Humbert sold his state to Francemarker in 1349 on condition that the heir to the French crown uses the title of Dauphin. The first one, the future Charles V, spent nine months in Grenoble. The city remained the capital of Dauphiné, henceforth a province of France. The Estates of Dauphiné were created.

The only Dauphin who really governed his province was Louis XI, whose the “reign” lasted nine years, from 1447 to 1456. This was only under his rule that Dauphiné totally joined the Kingdom of France. The Old Conseil Delphinal became a Parlement (the third one in France after the Parlements of Paris and Toulouse), strengthening the status of Grenoble as a Provincial capital. He also ordered the construction of the Palais du Parlement (finished under Francis I) and obtained that the Bishop pledged allegiance, making thus the political union of the city.

At that time, Grenoble was a crossroad from where you could join Viennemarker, Genevamarker, Italymarker or Savoy. It was the industrial centre of Dauphiné and the biggest city of the province.


François de Bonne, duc de Lesdiguières
Due to its geographical situation, Grenoble and its region were a place quartering for the French troops during the Italian Wars. Charles VIII, Louis XII and Francis I went several times to Grenoble. But the people had to suffer from the exactions of the soldiers.

The nobility of the region took part in the different battles (Marignano, Pavia) and gained an immense prestige. The best-known of its member was Bayard, "the knight without fear and beyond reproach".

Grenoble suffered from the French Wars of Religion. Dauphiné was indeed an important settlement for Protestants and experienced thus several conflicts. The baron des Adrets, the leader of the Huguenots, pillaged the Cathedral of Grenoble and destroyed the tombs of the former dauphins.

In 1575, Lesdiguières became the new leader of the Protestants and thanks to the accession of Henry IV at the throne of France, he allied with the governor and the lieutenant general of Dauphiné. But this alliance did not put an end to the conflicts. Indeed, a Catholic movement, the Ligue, which took Grenoble in 1590, refused to make peace. After months of assaults, Lesdiguières defeated the Ligue and took back Grenoble. He became the leader of the entire province.

Lesdiguières became the lieutenant-general of Dauphiné and administered the Province from 1591 to 1626. He began the construction of the Bastille in order to protect the city. He also ordered the construction of new walls, increasing the size of the city. He finally constructed the Hôtel Lesdiguières, new fountains and dug sewers.

From Louis XIV to the French Revolution

The day of the Tiles
The revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV caused the departure of 2,000 Protestants from Grenoble, weakening the economy of the city.

But it also weakened the glove industry of Grassemarker, making the glove factories of Grenoble without any rivals. It allowed a stronger economic development for the city during the 18th century. There were at the beginning of that century only 12 glovers who made each year 15 000 dozens of gloves; in 1787, they were 64 and made 160 000 dozens of gloves.

The city gained some notoriety on 7 June 1788 when the townspeople assaulted troops of Louis XVI in the "Day of the Tiles". The people attacked the royal troops to prevent an expulsion of the notables of the city (that would have seriously endangered the economic prosperity of Grenoble). Fallowing the events took place the Assembly of Vizille. Its members obtained the meeting of the old Estates General, beginning thus the Revolution.During the French Revolution, Grenoble was highly represented in Paris by two illustrious notable, Jean Joseph Mounier and Antoine Barnave.

In 1790, Dauphiné was divided in three departments and Grenoble became the chef-lieu of the Isere departmentmarker. The city was renamed Grelibre and took back its real name only under Napoleon. Only two abbeys were executed at Grenoble during the Reign of Terror. Pope Pius VI, prisoner of France, spent three days at Grenoble in 1799 before going to Valencemarker where he died.

19th century

Defensive walls around the town
Fountain of the Three Orders
The approval of the establishment of the Empire was clear and overwhelming (in Isère, the results showed 82,084 yes and only 12 no).

Grenoble welcomed for the second time a prisoner Pope in 1809. Pius VII spends ten days in the city on the way to his exile in Fontainebleaumarker.

In 1813, Grenoble was under threat from the Austrian army which invaded Switzerlandmarker and Savoy. The city, well-defended, contained the Austrian attacks and the French army defeated the Austrians, forcing them to withdraw at Genevamarker. But the invasion of France in 1814 resulted in the capitulation of the troops and the occupation of the city.

During his return from the island of Elbamarker in 1815, Napoleon took a road that led him near Grenoble, at Laffreymarker. He met there the royalist 5th Infantry Regiment of Louis XVIII. Napoleon stepped towards the soldiers and said those famous words: " If there is among you a soldier who wants to kill his Emperor, here I am ". The soldiers all joined his cause. After that, Napoleon was acclaimed at Grenoble. He said later: “From Cannesmarker to Grenoble, I still was an adventurer; in that last city, I came back a sovereign” . But after the defeat of Waterloomarker, the region suffered from a new invasion of Austrian and Sardinian troops.

This 19th century corresponds to a significant industrial development of Grenoble. The glove factories reached their Golden Age at that time, with a production sold in the United Statesmarker, the United Kingdommarker or Russiamarker .

The Bastillemarker fortress was transformed between 1824 and 1848 by the general Haxo and took its present-day aspect. During the Second Empire, the region saw the construction of its railway network and the first trains arrived at Grenoble in 1858.

In 1869, Aristide Berges played a major role in industrializing hydroelectricity production. With the development of his paper mills, he accelerated the economic development of the Grésivaudan valley and Grenoble.

20th century

The World War I accelerated that trend. Indeed, in order to sustain the effort of war, new hydroelectric industries settled next to different rivers of the region. Several other enterprises moved into armament industries. Chemical enterprises also settled in the region of Grenoble.This development resulted in a significant immigration at Grenoble, particularly from Italian workers. They settled in Saint-Laurent quarter.
Gate of the exposition
The economic development of the city was highlighted by the organisation of the International Exposition of the “Houille Blanche” in 1925, visited by one million of people.

During World War II, at the Battle of the Alps, the Nazis troops were stopped near Grenoble, at Voreppemarker by the forces of General Cartier. The French forces resisted until the armistice. Grenoble was then part of the French State, before knowing the Italian occupation from 1942 to 1943. Their mercy towards the Jewish populations resulted in a significant increase of their number in the region.

Grenoble was extremely active in the Résistance against the occupation. Its action was symbolized by figures such as Eugène Chavant, Léon Martin or such as Marie Reynoard.The University of Grenoble sustained the clandestine actions and provided false documentation for young people to prevent them from being assigned to STO.

In September 1943, the German troops occupied Grenoble, increasing the conflicts with the clandestine movements. On November 11, 1943 (the anniversary of the armistice of 1918) massive strikes and demonstrations took place in front of the local collaboration offices. In response, the occupant arrested five hundred members among the Résistance organizations of Grenoble. This violent crackdown was nicknamed the “Grenoble’s Saint- Bartholomew”.

Xth Winter Olympic Flame
But this event intensified the action of Grenoble’s movements. On November 13, they blew up the artillery at the Polygon, which was a psychological shock for an enemy who intensified then the repression. But this did not prevent the destruction of their new arsenal on December 2 at de Bonne Casern. After he Normandy leadingmarker, the resistance actions reached their height, with numerous attacked that considerably hampered the activity of German troops. On November 5, General Charles de Gaulle came at Grenoble and named the city Compagnon de la Libération, in order to award a heroic city at the peak of the French resistance and combat for the liberation.

In 1968, Grenoble welcomed the Xth Olympic Winter Games. This event totally modernized the city, with the development of infrastructure (airport, motorways) and the creation of new neighborhoods. It also developed new ski resorts (Chamroussemarker, Les Deux Alpesmarker, Villard de Lansmarker).

Main sights

The Bastille from downtown

La Bastille

The Bastillemarker, an ancient series of fortifications, sits on the mountainside overlooking Grenoble, and is visible from many points in the city. The Bastille is one of Grenoble's most visited tourist attractions, and is a good vantage point for viewing the town below and the surrounding mountains.

Although the Bastille was begun in the Middle Ages, later years saw extensive additions including a semi-underground defense network. The Bastille has been credited as the most extensive example of early 18th century fortifications in all of France, and held an important strategic point on the Alpine frontier.

"Les Bulles": the cable cars
Since 1934, the Bastillemarker has been the destination of what locals call "Téléphérique de Grenoble Bastille", a system of egg-shaped cable cars ("Les Bulles") that provide riders with an excellent view over the Isère Rivermarker. At the top are located two restaurants: Le Restaurant du Téléphérique‎ ( with one of the most beautiful view of Grenoble) and Chez Le Pèr'Gras‎.

Palace of the Parliament of Dauphiné

Palace of the Parliament of Dauphiné

This palace was constructed between 1478 and 1539. It was the location of the Parlement of Dauphiné until the French Revolution. It then became a courthouse until 2002, (Place Saint Andre). The palace was extended at the end of the 19th century.

This building now belongs to the Isère Council (Conseil Général de l'Isère‎). An ongoing renovation project will give this building a new life whilst preserving its patrimonial character and adding a modern touch at the same time.

The Musée de Grenoble and the Tour de l'Isle in background

Museum of Grenoble

It is one of the great museums of France and Europe. On display are Egyptian antiquities as well as Greek and Roman artifacts. The museum is above all renowned for its collection of paintings that covers all the artistic evolutions.

The museum also includes the park Albert Michalon and its sculptures, the tour de l'Isle and its collections and also some remnants of the old walls of the city.

Archaeological museum

Archaeological museum of Saint Laurent

Located in the Place Saint Laurent, the collections come from the archaeological excavations done on the site and are dated throughout the 3rd century A.D. Situated on the right bank of the Isère, the museum presents the vestiges permitting to carry up the time until the origins of Christianity.The museum is situated in a Benedictine church of the 12th century. Discovered in 1803 by Jacques Joseph Champollion-Figeac, brother of the egyptologist, Jean-François Champollion. The church is one of the first monuments classified in France, thanks to the intervention of Prosper Mérimée, historic monument inspector. Since 1978, a systematic excavation is led Loud in the setting of a regional research program on the evolution of the churches during the Middle Ages. The museum is closed for works until September 2010.

Education and Science

Secondary level

The presence of a large international community through both foreign students and foreign researchers has prompted the creation of an international school more than a decade ago. The Cité Scolaire Internationale Europole (CSI Europole) was formerly situated downtown in the Lycée International Stendhal, across from the Maison du Tourisme.

Building on campus

Tertiary level

In a 1339 pontific bull, Pope Benedict XII commissioned the establishment of the University of Grenoble. In 1968 the university was relocated in a unique campus outside of the city in Saint Martin d'Hèresmarker.

It was also sub-divided into separate universities as part of educational reforms. Grenoble Institute of Technology is also considered as part of the University.

Grenoble is now an important university center, with more than 60,000 students including 16% from abroad.

Science and engineering

Grenoble is also a major scientific center, especially in the fields of physics, computer science and applied mathematics: Joseph Fourier Universitymarker (UJF) is one of the leading French scientific universities while the Grenoble Institute of Technology (INPG) trains more than 5,000 engineers every year in key technology disciplines.

Many fundamental and applied scientific research laboratories are conjointly managed by Joseph Fourier University, Grenoble Institute of Technology and the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS). Numerous other scientific laboratories are managed independently or in collaboration with the CNRS and the French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control (INRIA).

Other research centers in or near Grenoble include the European Synchrotron Radiation Facilitymarker (ESRF), the Institut Laue-Langevinmarker (ILL), the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and one of the Commissariat à l'Énergie Atomique (Nuclear Energy Commission)(CEA) main research facilities.

The recent development of Minatec, a centre for innovation in micro & nanotechnology only increases the position of Grenoble as one of the European scientific centers.

The city benefits from the highest concentration of strategic jobs after Paris in France (12,7% of the employments, 28,000 jobs, specialized in research and computer science). Grenoble is also the largest research center of France after Paris with 21,000 jobs.

Human and social sciences

An IEP is located here, the Institut d'études politiques de Grenoble, as well as an internationally ranked business school, the Grenoble École de Managementmarker (Grenoble-EM) and Wesford Graduate Business School.

Science and industry

  • The town is famous for manufacturing of gloves, for which an innovative technique from Xavier Jouvin was introduced in the 19th century.
  • Grenoble is also famous in the world for its "Polygone Scientifique", one of the largest scientific research centers.
  • The city has many high-tech and world-renowned enterprises in the surrounding area.
The biggest enterprises of Grenoble were in 2007, by number of employees:

Enterprise, location Number of employees

STMicroelectronics, Grenoble et Crolles 5,947 Semiconductor manufacturing, R&D
Schneider Electric, Grenoble agglomeration 5,140 Electrical equipment, R&D
Caterpillar France, Grenoble et Echirolles 2,640 Construction of heavy equipment
Hewlett Packard France, Eybens 2,000 Computer science
BD, Pont-de-Claix 1,667 Conception and production of advanced systems for drugs administration
Sémitag, Eybens 1,450 Public Transport
Crédit agricole Sud Rhône-Alpes, Grenoble 978 Bank
Groupe Casino, Grenoble agglomeration 929 Supermarkets
Soitec, Bernin 915 Microelectronics - SOI technology
Siemens Transmission & Distribution, Grenoble 800 Electrical material

The presence of enterprises such as HP or Caterpillar in the city results in the settlement of many American and British workers in Grenoble, especially in surrounding mountain villages. The region has the second largest Anglo-Saxon community in France after Paris.. This community drives an English speaking Church and was the impetus for the International School.


  • Grenoble is famous for many nearby ski resorts nestled in the surrounding mountains.

  • The via ferrata Grenoble is a climbing route located on the hill of the Bastille in Grenoble.




  • The town hosts an important Comics publisher, Glénat.


There are two movies that feature Grenoble:

Les Filles de Grenoble – mafia and prostitution in Grenoble, France (1981)

Grenoble – La Villeneuve the city conceived anew, Canada (1974)

People from Grenoble

Grenoble was the birthplace of:

Notable citizens

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Grenoble is twinned with:

See also


External links

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