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Pocket Guide: Isere

Named after the river that runs through this French department, Isère begins just south of Lyon and stretches southwards and eastwards into some of the some of the most dramatic scenery in the French Alps.

Isère’s cultural capital is Grenoble, home to some fine museums and the gateway to popular French ski resorts. Discover the beauty of Isère’s national parks to the east, which are just as active in the summer with hikers and bikers as they are with lovers of snow sports in the winter.

Where to Stay in Isère

Have all of Grenoble’s sights and restaurants on your doorstep by staying in a modern hotel in the heart of this lively university city. Make use of your hotel’s indoor or outdoor pools, some of which have impressive mountain backdrops.

For a sporty stay in Isère, stay in a hotel near the Chartreuse National Park and enjoy all the outdoorsy activities on offer. If you’re staying in the northern part of the region, you can find an Isère hotel conveniently near Lyon airport. On the western edge of Isère, you’ll have the forests of the Pilat Natural Regional Park within a short distance of your hotel.

Things to Do in Isère

In Grenoble, where the Isère and Drac rivers join, wander through the atmospheric streets which mix Medieval with modern. Make time for a ride on the téléférique, the cable car that goes from Quai Stéphane-Jay across the Isère to the imposing Fort de la Bastille.

Thanks to a huge student population, Grenoble is a vibrant place of bars and nightclubs, and its cultural scene is just as energetic. Check out the large collection of art from the 19th and 20th centuries in the Musée de Grenoble.

Grab your skis and head to Alpe-d’Huez, one of the largest ski areas in the French Alps. Tour de France fans will recognise its mind-blowing hairpin turns as one of the tour’s most arduous climbs. Nearby is Les Deux Alpes, with even more ski runs to choose from. And once the snow disappears, you can career down the hills on a mountain bike or float through the valleys while paragliding.

In the west of Isère, stroll through the Medieval streets of Vienne, which has a charming old town as well as an attractive riverside quarter along the Rhône and some fascinating Roman ruins. You’ll also be within reach of some of France’s most-celebrated vineyards, including Crozes-Hermitage.

Where to Eat in Isère

The cuisine in Isère is as rich as the landscape – particularly the pungent St-Marcellin cheese that gives camembert a run for its money. Grenoble is the place to try innovative cuisine if you want something sophisticated.

Getting around Isère

The closest airports in Isère are in Grenoble and just north of the region in Lyon. If you’re staying in west Isère, you could make use of the airport at Saint-Etienne. There’s a good motorway network throughout Isère, and trains are mainly regional services to complement the high-speed TGV that runs past Lyon and onwards to Grenoble.