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You can almost feel Montpellier stirring from its winter slumber at the start of spring. It’s a dazzling city at any time of year, but there is a certain freshness to the air and its streets in springtime, when the café tables stretch out onto the pavements. The South of France is warming up and here are eight reasons why spring is an ideal time to visit.
Montpellier boasts a glorious Mediterranean climate, with over 300 days of sunshine each year. This makes it a dream destination in the winter months of course, yet springtime is really when the city starts to turn to gold. The sky is a vibrant blue and the building façades simply look gorgeous. Montpellier’s Antigone district is particularly impressive at this time of year, especially its Hôtel de Région, twinkling in the reflections of the River Lez. Montpellier’s own Arc de Triomphe also dazzles.
The start of spring is when events, festivals, music and everything in between leave the warmth of the city theatres and concert halls and cascade out into the streets and open spaces of Montpellier. The city becomes a massive performance stage and it’s fabulous. The city’s comedy festival, Printemps des Comédies, starts up each May for a whole month, the incredible Live Architecture Festival captures people’s attention sometime in June, and at one of Montpellier’s closest beaches, kite-surfing competition Festikite kicks off in May.
Montpellier is an outdoor city. With picturesque squares full of tables, pavement cafés aplenty and markets where you can buy, eat and linger happily, it’s all about watching the world go by Mediterranean-style. In the South of France, apéritifs are taken seriously and, as the weather warms in spring, locals finish their days and start their evenings outside, under sprouting canopies and blossom-clad trees. Squares that are particularly delightful for an apéritif are bustling Place Jean-Jaurès, sweet Place Saint-Come, and Place Notre-Dame-des-Tables.
Food is incredibly seasonal in France. In winter, you’ll see locals with baskets full of potatoes and leeks, which in summer are swapped for tomatoes and radishes. Clementines on the market shelves mark the run-up to Christmas and the winter months, while nectarines and peaches show that the weather is warming up. Montpellier is in the Languedoc region of the South of France, known for its seafood, salads, cheeses and Catalan influences. The warmer weather in spring goes hand-in-hand with Montpellier’s al fresco dining – and the seasonal plates couldn’t taste any better.
If you travel to Montpellier in the spring your budget will stretch further. Flights to Montpellier airport (or neighbouring Beziers or Nimes) will be cheaper, as will be city accommodation. After you’ve arrived and because of the mild weather, you can explore happily and not actually spend that much money. ZAT Montpellier (Temporary Artistic Zone festival) in April, for example, brings the arts to the streets for all to enjoy. It combines live theatre, dance and music with visual arts, street art, performances and more. Take a look at our top picks of things to do in Montpellier for more inspiration.
Montpellier occupies a pretty great location in the South of France. Within 20 minutes or so you can be pushing your toes into the sand next to the Mediterranean Sea. With the beaches understandably being busier during the summer months, spring (and autumn, too) is the perfect season for some beach time. The water is warm enough to play around with water sports and all the rental companies will have opened back up again after the winter. There are lots of beach options near Montpellier. Palavas-les-Flots and Carnon Plage are two of the beaches with facilities closest to the city (under 30 minutes by car), or you can travel just a little further east to Espiguette, a beautifully vast and rugged beach and a favourite in the region.
One of the joys of being in France is the markets; from the large, covered city market halls to small artisanale gatherings of just a few local producers. Being an integral part of French life, these take place come rain or shine, though they are that bit sweeter in the warmer months. Montpellier has handfuls of markets, selling everything from food and local produce to antiques and vintage clothes. If you’re self-catering during your stay, be sure to buy your food from the local markets. The sellers will happily talk to you about their produce, suggesting herbs or spices that are particular to the regional that would go well with what you’re cooking. Ah, life in the South of France…
One of the city’s favourite events is in the spring. La Comédie du Livre is the South of France’s largest literary festival and it takes place on the streets of Montpellier each May. It’s been running for more than 30 years, each year focusing on a country or a particular type of literature, and comprising everything from talks and readings to book stalls and workshops. More than 300 writers, authors, publishers and booksellers gather to debate and celebrate all things literature.