Languedoc Roussillon is one of France’s sunniest regions and Montpellier is one of its most fascinating cities.
There are three parts to Montpellier. First, the old town with its wiggly medieval streets. And, there's the new bit of town which seems to change week by week. And finally, there’s the coastal part with its gorgeous sandy beaches.
The old city of Montpellier
Montpellier used to be a fishing village many years ago, now it’s a cool town with a hip vibe. The sun shines pretty much from spring through autumn and then some – 300 days a year on average.
Montpellier echoes to the sound of cigales in the plane trees. Wandering in the medieval town is stress-free, it’s a small city, easy to get your bearings and simple to get around on foot or via the excellent tram service.
The place de la Comedie or rather Place de L'ouef (Egg Square) as the locals call it thanks to its oval shape, is the beating heart of the city and a popular meeting point. The statue of the Three Graces is the most popular selfie spot in town. Don’t miss Café Riche in the square, it’s an institution, locals meet here for a Perrier tranche (Perrier water with a slice of lemon) or Perrier menthe (with a shot of mint). Perrier water is from a source located between Montpellier and nearby Nimes, so everyone drinks it here like… well, water! This big, vibrant café is also popular for afternoon tea, coffee and aperitifs and is the perfect people watching perch. There’s also lots of street entertainment with musicians, magicians and dancers, it’s not organised, just spontaneous and much loved by the locals and visitors.
On a hot day, cool down with a spot of culture in the air conditioned Musée Fabre. It houses an eclectic collection that spans several centuries of art, from 14th century religious masterpieces to the enormous and brooding art of Pierre Soulages, one of France’s greatest living artists. There are some fabulous and important works here including a Delacroix painting which inspired Monet, who called him the “Father of Impressionism”.
For a spot of food shopping, head to the market at Les Arceaux in the Peyroux district on the edge of the old town. It’s held underneath the arches of a magnificent aqueduct that looks Roman but isn’t.
There are loads of terrific restaurants but for something a bit different head to the contemporary art centre for Sunday brunch, you need to be there by 11.am as there’s no reservation system but for about 18 euros you’ll get a great cooked breakfast/lunch in a very unusual venue. The locals love this place and for an insider taste of Montpellier – it’s perfect.
The new city of Montpellier
Montpellier has a split personality architecturally speaking. The new part of town is spreading in a most remarkable social experiment that is designed to improve life for the residents. The New York Times has listed Montpellier in its top 100 architectural cities to see before you die.
The most innovative architects in the world have designed buildings here but the project has developed in a very organised way. It’s not just a mad mix of modern designs, there’s a consistent theme being woven through this new part of Montpellier. Architects have been given a free hand overall but keeping to a few rules. Wide open spaces are key, height restrictions are monitored, and the look has to a certain extent been controlled. The designs and colours are different but there’s a harmonious look.
The famous French film Monsieur Helot’s Holiday was filmed in Montpellier. Follow in his footsteps and take tram line 3, the coaches are designed by Christian Lacroix, to the beach.
Montpellier makes for a great base for sightseeing in the area. The train service is very good and it’s a short distance to such legends as Narbonne, Carcassonne, Séte and even Barcelona, from the local station.
At French Connections, we love to help you make your holiday dreams come true with the perfect sunny home rental. See all our properties in and around Montpellier.