France is one of country in Europe that has the most to offer: Culture, a huge historical heritage, many wonderful sights and a perfect geographic position with some of the best mountains in the world for skiing, the Ocean on the West coast for the amateur of big waves and the Mediterranean Sea for those looking for a perfect tan.
When it comes to spend your Holidays in a French city, even though the romantic Paris always comes at mind, the country side also offers some great opportunities to discover a bit more of the French culture. In the South of the country, the very charming Montpellier is often elected by the French as their favorite city in terms of quality of life: Sunshine all year long, population of young students, beaches just few minutes away… Montpellier has everything to attract the tourist that you are!
A journey through Montpellier
Start your day by the Antigone neighborhood, a district that completely rises from the ground in the 70´s. The small city started to grow big and Mayor George Freche decided to extend Montpellier toward the sea. Antigone is a very interesting neighborhood in an architectural perspective as it was mainly build in a Greek style but with a touch of modernity. The big columns and many statues of Greek divinity that you will meet along makes you feel like roaming in a different country. You will find at the very end of the path the beautiful Regional hall, entirely made out of glass. This is a well-known place for a nice walk under the sun and a great neighborhood to find some great seafood restaurant.
Continue your visit by the main square of Montpellier: The “place de la Comedie”. Famous for its opera and its “3 graces” fountain, the place is the meeting point of every Montpellier inhabitants and students waiting for friends to go for a drink or coffee in the city center. The classic architecture will thrill the photographers looking for some typical French pictures to bring back home. The whole square is surrounded by restaurants and pubs, which are most likely for tourists, but you can find some good student bar around with cheap prices all week long.
While in the city center, take the opportunity to roam in the narrow streets of Montpellier in directions of the St Roch Church. This is the best opportunity to get some authenticity and admire the giant wall painting in front of the church. You will also find there some of the best traditional French restaurants of the city where you will be able to eat outside on terrace… a must!
Continue through the old neighborhood of the “vieux courier” to the St Anne church and its famous little square always animated by the music college students and the consumers of the Irish pub. The old building is the peak of the city which tip can be seen from everywhere around. The church is now, and since 1992, the modern art museum of the city, which makes it a quite unusual place for such kind of art exhibition, but always a good experience for art lover.
At the very top of the city you will find the Peyrou Park which has in its center a huge statue of French king Louis XIV and has a perfectly preserved old water tower that use to supply water for the whole city. At it´s far end, you will be able to admire some very nice roman arch.
The Peyrou Park is one of the only green areas in the city center. The lack of Green Square is probably one of the only big flaws of Montpellier where it´s a bit hard to find a respectable park in the city center to resource you. Hopefully, the city is surrounded by a great country side and the beach that is easily reachable.
Finally, down the street you will find the Botanic garden of the city, one of the oldest in the country, and which is famous for its bamboo collection. In front of it, the giant cathedral is a place to absolutely visit. It´s side building hosts the medicine school of Montpellier, which is the oldest one in the world still in activity today. The neighborhood host many good wine pubs where you will be able to try the best of the regional products.
There are, of course, many things to see in the city. The midtown is wonderful to explore, so feel free to get lost and enjoy yourself in its narrow old street.
A region with many sights
If you have the chance to spend more days in the Region, you will find out the surrounding of Montpellier is full of great places to see. By bus, train or car, there is many way to reach those wonderful places, for a little afternoon escapade in Roussillon.
Obviously, Montpellier is just few kilometers from the Mediterranean Sea, so it would be a shame to not go put your feet on the sand for few hours!
Just 30 minutes by train from Montpellier, you will reach the little harbor city of Sète. Built on a huge rock, you will have a wonderful view on the sea, be able to enjoy quality time on the beaches and try some of the best seafood of the region. Of course, take your time to walk along the canals of the city and soak up the atmosphere of rural France.
If you want to go deep into the southern culture take the train for a day or two to the old Roman city of Nimes. The whole city center is built around the huge coliseum that host many events from Corrida to concert. Just roam in the city center and take this opportunity to try some Mediterranean cuisine inspired by the Spanish culture.
If you are looking for some real authenticity, take a trip to St-Guilhem-le-desert, which is part of the “most beautiful village in France” label. This absolutely well conserved village is astonishing in every point: the old abbey, the canal running through the streets, the traditional shops and the wonderful landscapes everywhere. The surrounding hills are perfect for a day out hiking and get an amazing view of the whole region!
Tips for Montpellier
- If you are on a budget or with the kids and need to find a great activity, you can find in the northern part of the city the Zoo of Montpellier which has free entrance for everybody (only the Amazonian glasshouse is charged)!
- The city and its region are pretty well served in term of public transport. You can easily go everywhere with the tramway or the bus. Both of them are relatively cheap (the regional bus is only 1.5€ for a one way ticket in the whole “Herault region”).
- The same way you don´t have to pick an expensive accommodation straight in the city center, as you can reach it easily with public transport. Take a look at a website like this one, if you need help to pick the good hotel. Though, if you are young on a budget and are looking for accommodation, you would have to organize yourself way in advance, as the city only has one hostel, which is obviously always full.
- For the sporty amongst you, there is a bike path that goes from the city center directly to the beach (you can find the bike path map here).