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Isère Family Holidays & Breaks

Children on a ski liftChildren on a ski lift© E Lecocq
Family walking Family walking © E Lecocq
Children horse-riding Children horse-riding
Boating on a lake Boating on a lake © YCGC Pays Voironnais
Children cyclingChildren cycling© S Corporon
Flying Time 1.1hrs
Timezone GMT +1
Currency Euro

Today

Overview

The pretty département of Isère south of the main ski regions of the French Alps is home to two big ski resorts, Alpe d’Huez (hub of the Massif des Grandes Rousses area) and Les Deux Alpes. Together known as the Grandes Alpes, they offer plenty of easy and intermediate terrain. Alpe d’Huez, in particular, is widely underrated and has never been very trendy yet boasts charismatic skiing from village to village, and from high above-treeline areas to pretty valleys.

In summer, as in the rest of the Alps, hiking, cycling and climbing are popular activities on family holidays, as is swimming in crystalline mountain lakes. And the picturesque area capital, Grenoble – flat yet surrounded by mountain ranges – has some year-round attractions for families.

Things to do with kids in Isère

Ski at Alpe d'Huez, a favourite for family holidays in Isère, or at Les Deux Alpes (together, the resorts form the Grandes Alpes).

Explore Grenoble, an hour and a half from the main ski resorts. Kids go mad for a ride on its cable car with its funky bubble-like pods accommodating up to six people. It takes you up to the 19th-century fortress of La Bastille, which offers great views over town and, on a clear day, Mont Blanc in the distance. Meandering paths take you back down the hillside. Because of its overall flatness, Grenoble is also great to explore by bike – there are special routes alongside the Drac and Isère rivers. Metrovelo has good-value bike hire, including baby seats. A good rainy-day bet is the Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle, with stuffed animals and skeletons aplenty, plus displays on earth sciences and ethnography.

Take a jaunt on the Chemin de Fer de la Mure, a tourist train taking you over spectacular viaducts and through 18 tunnels, including the 1km ‘Tunnel Mystérieux’ complete with magic lanterns and animated models. Departing from St-Georges-de-Commiers less than 20km from Grenoble, it has a special kids’ carriage with a play area.

Hike from Chamrousse, south-east of Grenoble, to mountain lakes Lac Robert and Lac Achard. There are various paths, some well-suited to families, and when you get there you can swim or fish (with a permit) amidst gorgeous scenery.

Eat

See our French Alps destination guide for tips on eating out in Isère and the region as a whole. Grenoble has a particularly good choice of Italian and Asian eateries (it has an Italian quarter) that can be handy on family holidays.

When to go to Isère

The ski-season in Isère lasts from December to April. Summers sports enthusiasts will find the area pleasantly uncrowded even in high season. Another good time to schedule family holidays is September, when the annual four-day Coupe Icare festival of free flight at St Hilaire du Touvet–Lumbin includes a concours de déguisements with para-glider and hang-glider pilots flying in costume, plus street performances and children’s activities.

How to get to Isère

Grenoble Isère airport has links with a variety of UK airports, some in winter only. The area is also within easy reach of Lyon international airport and Geneva in Switzerland.

For more eco-friendly travel, there are frequent TGV trains to Grenoble from Paris, where you can hook up with Eurostars from London.

It’s a 7hr 30min (870km) drive to Grenoble from the Channel ferry/Eurotunnel terminus at Calais, almost entirely by motorway.

Cost

Isère can be a good-value destination for family holidays in the French Alps by virtue of some of its resorts having been underrated in the past. A wide choice of self-catering accommodation helps keep cost down too.

By Nick Dalton

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Poll

What do you remember most clearly about your childhood holidays?

Long days on the beach
38%
Long journeys by car or plane
22%
Making new friends
17%
Spending more time with parents
23%

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