Montpellier is a bustling and vibrant city in the South of France often overshadowed by neighboring cities in Provence, but well worth a visit. The city is beautiful, an architectural treat rich in history. It's full of boutiques and sidewalk cafés, and dotted with magnificent squares and has a history stretching back to the 12th-century traders when the great Jewish traveler, Benjamin of Tudela, described the city's teeming, international population. It wasn't just merchants from the Levant, from Greece and further afield who came to the city; its university was founded in the 13th century and became noted for its medical school.
Today Montpellier rivals Toulouse as the most lively and thriving city of the area and those 60,000 odd students keep the city young.
Top Montpellier Attractions You Must See
The Old Town: Make your way through the winding streets of the old town and the delightful little squares you come across by accident, like the places St-Roch, and de la Canourgue. Like many old towns, Montpellier was the subject of much rebuilding and you'll see beautiful 17th- and 18th-century mansions lining the streets. Crossing the middle of the Old Town, rue de la Loge and rue Foch were built in the 1880s.
Place Jean-Jaurès and Place du Marche aux Fleurs is where the students gather in the bars, cafés, and restaurants that fill up, particularly on summer evenings when it's better to dine outdoors.
Beyond the Old Town: Place de la Comedie (also called L'Oeuf or the 'Egg') links the old town and the newer areas and is lined with cafés and shops. One end is closed off by the impressive 19th-century Opera; the other end leads to the Esplanade, a place for strolling and finally to the Corum concert hall.
La Promenade Royale du Peyrou is a great place for a summer stroll. Formal gardens look over the city and out to the glorious Cévennes parklands. At one end, daily fruit and veg markets show off the glorious colors and scents of southern France ingredients. And a huge Saturday flea market also gives you the chance to buy odd gifts and artifacts to take home.
The Arc de Triomphe stands at the city end, with Louis XIV as Hercules, reminding the inhabitants of the all-conquering wars of France's great monarch, the Sun King.
Where to Stay in Montpellier
Montpellier has a wide range of accommodations, from budget hotels to upscale lodging.
Pullman Montpellier Centre. A modern, stylish hotel with rooftop swimming pool next to the restaurant.
Best Western Le Guilhem. This 16th-century house has been converted into a hotel with comfortable, mainly renovated rooms, many overlooking gardens. Take breakfast on the terrace.
- Read guest reviews, compare prices and book Le Guilhem on TripAdvisor.
Royal Hotel is a 3-star hotel between the Comedie and the station, so is very convenient. It has good amenities and a nice old-fashioned feel.
- Read guest reviews, compare prices and book the Royal Hotel on TripAdvisor.
Getting to Montpellier
The best options for visiting Montpellier are to fly directly into Montpellier from many other European cities, or fly to Paris and take a train.
You can get a Europe or France rail pass which will give you flexibility in traveling by train in France. Then, you can fly into Paris (which is much more likely to be a direct flight, and usually costs less) and take the train to Montpellier train station.
You can fly into any major European city and rent a car.
Check out detailed information on How to Get from London, the UK, and Paris to Montpellier.
What to See Around Montpellier
Montpellier on the Mediterranean is well placed for other gems in this part of southern France. One of the top cities in this gorgeous area, Montpellier is near the delightful old fishing village of Sete, known for its annual races in traditional boats, and close to the nudist resort of Cap d'Agde for those bold enough to strip off and bare all.
Beyond you get to Avignon with its fabulous Pope's Palace and extraordinary history.
In between these two you have one of the great sites of France. The Pont du Gard is a Roman aqueduct that carried precious water to Nimes; it's one of the places to visit and is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of France.
Edited by Mary Anne Evans