Three highrises dominate the Grenoble skyline as you approach the capital of the Alps – that is if you can take your eyes off the towering mountain ranges that seem to lie at the end of every street. Situated in the heart of the fertile Isere Valley at the junction of the Isère and Drac rivers, Grenoble is a lively student town that has also garnered a less glamorous reputation as the Silicon Valley of France. And those highrises? Relics from the city’s hosting of the 1968 Winter Olympics, the triple-threat white towers are loved by some for their kitsch value, but hated by others for their imposition on the historic town.

Egghead wants his booky-book
If you’re a literature buff and don’t succumb to Homer Simpsonesque taunts about burying your head in a book, Grenoble has the added attraction of being home to the famed French author Stendhal, whose famed work Le Rouge Et Le Noir (The Red And The Black) is considered a classic of the realist genre. His house is open to the public and a museum is also being built to showcase his works.

You can’t handle chartreuse!
In the mountains near Grenoble lies a booze production line with a recipe guarded by a handful of monks. The result is Chartreuse, a fiery liquor imbibed in all its glorious colours and forms in bars across the city. Taken as an aperitif or a digestif, drinking a glass of Chartreuse is a perfect winter warmer.

Moving on up
Do you know the French for ‘Go out and have a crack at some outdoors stuff instead of sitting on your arse in bars’? Google says it’s ‘Sortez et faites bourrer une fente à certains dehors au lieu de se reposer sur votre cul dans les barres’, but when you put that back in Babel Fish it comes out as ‘Leave and make stuff a slit with unquestionable outside instead of resting on your bottom in the bars’. Lost in translation, apparently. But outside of its deserved reputation as a winter sports haven, with some of the continent’s best ski fields, in summer Grenoble opens the door to mountain biking, hiking and golf, all in the southern French sun.

Tour de France
The awe-inspiring inclines of the French Alps regularly play host to the world-famous cycling event, so for fans it’s worth seeing if the July tour passes through the region on any given year. If you’re planning to go, book early as cycling nuts will flood the area and book all the accommodation.

Cable cars
The bubbles that are ubiquitous in Grenoble postcards are the cable cars that whisk you over the river Isère to the Fort de la Bastille, which commands the precipice affording a unique view of the town and surrounding mountains, a hotbed for the French Resistance in World War II. The restaurant at the top is one of the most sought-after in town, so reserve a spot.

Late nights
With a large student population, Grenoble’s bars and cafés have a university feel, giving them an extra buzz when the sun goes down. In winter, skiiers may come down from the slopes for a night in town, while in summer the streets and squares are lined with bustling cafés boasting great coffee and even better cocktails.

Bonus points for:
’60s highrises you either love or hate
Loses marks for:
’60s highrises you either love or hate