Olivier Fruchart : Home > Picture gallery > Grenoble > Grenoble



Picture: 1999


ontrary to what is sometimes thought, although being surrounded by mountains ranging up to 10000ft, Grenoble is not 'somewhere high in the mountains', but at the bottom of a valley, at only 200m-high (600ft) above sea level... And to completely dismantle the cliché, I must add that all the streets in the valley itself are very flat. This is due to the fact that the valley, initially carved by icecaps (during the quaternary geological period), has been later filled up by materials brought by two converging rivers.

The first river is named 'Isère', and as displayed in the above picture, it is running directly through the historical center of Grenoble. The second one is named 'Drac', and it is running 1-2km away from this center. Several periods of economical growth have made the city of Grenoble progressively filling up all the space between these two rivers. This filling was symbolically completed in the last 40 years by the building of many research centers near the confluence point of the rivers, which ended recently with the building of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) at the very confluence point (see the picture on the right, taken from the ESRF Web site).

Summary of history

he history of Grenoble starts some time BC. There was then a village with a Celtic name, 'Cularo'. Romans settled near the village in 43 BC, and the settlement grew to a small town which which was renamed 'Gratianopolis' in 379 AD, in tribute to Emperor Gratian.
For a long time the city remained small despite the founding of a University as soon as 1339, and was mainly a garrison town. A period of continous growth was triggered in the mid-ninetenth century by the first setup near Grenoble of the first water-powered electricity plant (Aristide Bergès, 1869), called at that time white coal. Many industries settled in the vicinity, which lead to a five-fold increase of population between 1860 and 1960. The growth was then sustained by the hosting of many research centers, by the Olympic Winter Games in 1968, and later by microelectronics plants.


n 2003 there were about 400000 inhabitants in Grenoble and suburb, from which 160000 in the town itself. There are around 8000 researchers in the valley, and 56000 students in the University.