Grenoble

This location has long made it a perfect destination for winter sports fans and, in 1968, Grenoble hosted the Winter Olympics. The games brought a prestigious defeat for the Soviet Union as Norway took more gold medals. Today, true to the sporting tradition, the current ski infrastructure is second to none. Grenoble's mountainous location often grants the town a visit from the world's most challenging cycling event, the Tour de France.

The city's origins date back to the 3rd Century AD, after the Allobroges tribe built the first defensive walls around the small town, which came to be known as Gratianopolis after Emperor Gratian visited it in the 4th Century AD. Grenoble, and the entire Dauphine region, has been part of France since 1349. Ten years before that date, Pope Benedict XII and Dauphin Humbert II founded Grenoble University. This gave Grenoble the reputation of an important scientific center that has endured until the present. Of many famous people born in Grenoble, the town honors Stendhal, a renowned 19th Century novelist. A local museum pays tribute to this writer.

The city is divided into two parts: Old Town, with its ancient city walls and 17th-Century townhouses, and the modern section, which might not contain anything of note, but has all the facilities travelers need in terms of accommodation and shopping. Another of Grenoble's historic landmarks is Fort de la Bastille, a 16th-Century fortress towering above the city. In order to enjoy an amazing panorama of the city and far beyond, just take a lift to the top of the fort. As for entertainment, Grenoble hosts a jazz festival in March, a rock festival in April, and a grand European theatre festival in June and July.

The local cuisine has two sweet specialties, the so-called Noix de Grenoble, a sweet walnut candy, and gateau aux noix, a walnut cake. And be sure to visit the Italian quarter, where Italian cafés and restaurants thrive in the winding, narrow streets of the Old Town.