Écusson is the historic heart of Montpellier. This pedestrianised part of the city lends itself to wandering slowly through the dappled streets, popping into boutique shops and grabbing a coffee at one of the many corner cafes. Head for Rue de la Loge, which itself is a modern street, and go off in any direction, picking a smaller street. You’ll soon find yourself surrounded by sandstone buildings, opening up into different pretty squares.
Montpellier is one of the few large cities in France without any Roman heritage. It was founded in the 10th century by the counts of Toulouse and became known for its scholarly direction, especially its Medical School. No amphitheatres, then, but a collection of equally awe-inspiring landmarks. Its very own Arc de Triomphe mustn’t be missed. Neither must the Promenade du Peyrou and Saint-Clément Aqueduct.
Espiguette beach is the jewel in the crown of coastline near Montpellier. It is simply stunning; rolling white sand dunes, wild grasses, clear blue waters. It is a vast, long beach and so even in high season it doesn’t feel as completely overwhelming as others in the area do. To get to the beach on public transport, take Tram Line 3 towards Étang de l’Or. Get off at Étang de l’Or and then take the Herault bus to Espiguette beach.
The Musée Fabre holds one of the most extensive collections of European Art in the world and is a must-visit for art lovers and those interested in local art, too. The museum holds many pieces from artists local to the Occitanie region. The museum lies right in the city centre – just off the Esplanade Charles-de-Gaulle – and if you have one museum on your list, this should be it.
Head to Antigone, one of Montpellier’s neighbourhoods, for neo-classical architecture delight. Just next to the historic centre, this new and dominating area of the city was designed by Catalonian architect, Ricardo Bofill, on 36 hectares of what was once army barracks. Established in the 1970s, the wide avenues, large squares and the futuristic-style buildings are still surprising to the eye. Don’t miss Hôtel de Région and Place du Nombre D’Or.
Montpellier has a delightful collection of squares, both in its old town, and scattered through the greater city itself. Nothing says French city break like whiling away a few hours in a square. Place de la Comédie is the main square in Montpellier and its vastness is quite spectacular. It is one of the largest pedestrianised areas in Europe and so if you’re after a place to people watch in the sun, look no further. Smaller squares include Place Saint Roch, which has a gorgeous fountain in its centre and Place Jean Jaurès, a pretty square littered with cafes.
Nearly a quarter of Montpellier’s residents are students, which makes for a vibrant nightlife. So does the Spanish influence, here, as people head out in the evening very much on Mediterranean time. If you’re looking for dynamic nightlife in a city break, on every corner, from about 11pm onwards, you’ll find people sprawling out onto the streets in the city’s cafes or dancing ’til dawn in hidden bars. We’ve collated our favourite 10 bars in Montpellier for you to use as a guide, too.
Around 100 grand private mansions – known as ‘hôtels particuliers’ – were built in and around Montpellier by wealthy merchants and noblemen in the 17th and 18th century. A handful of these can be visited on a guided tour by the Tourist Office. Château de la Mogère and Château de Flaugergues are two of the most popular to visit, giving a glimpse into the wealth and life of Montpellier’s elite in those times.
Markets remain a fundamental part of French life and happily Montpellier has its fair share of them. Whether looking for food to cook if you’re self-catering whilst exploring the city, or simply to take in the atmosphere and buzz, Montpellier has a delightful collection of covered, local and specialist markets. Read our guide to 10 of Montpellier’s best markets to plot your route to explore them!
With beautiful beaches to its south, just 25 minutes north of Monthpellier is Pic Saint-Loup, a mountain rising up from an area of scrub land at the start of the Cévennes foothills. There are great hiking trails all around this area and the views from the summit are incredible (the trail to the top takes about an hour).
To get to Pic Saint-Loup from Montpellier, numerous bus lines run throughout the week. Have a look at the Herault Transport site for times and details.