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Montpellier‘s art and creative scene is exactly what you would expect from a city that’s abuzz with students, growth and creativity. Old and celebrated meets new and invigorating: a true art lover’s dream. Follow our guide for a 24-hour art-filled exploration of this incredible city.
Founded in 1825, Musée Fabre is Montpellier’s most cherished museum – so much so that it’s classified as a Musée de France by the French Ministry of Culture to demonstrate its importance to France – and if you can only fit in one during your stay, this is where you should head first. It underwent a major renovation between 2003 and 2007 so not only is the art great, but the interiors are fresh and pleasant to wander around. The museum houses (mostly French) paintings, sculptures and ceramics.
Insider Tip: If you buy a ‘Temporary Exhibition’ ticket, you’ll have free access to the permanent collections of the museum and the Hôtel de Cabrières-Sabatier in Espeyran until your ticket expires.
Musée Fabre, 39 Bd Bonne Nouvelle, Montpellier, France, +33 467 148 300
Carré Sainte Anne
This is a stunning exhibition space in a renovated Gothic church. This is what we love best about this particular space – you wouldn’t necessarily know what was inside from the nearby square. Since 2011, artists such as Desgrandchamps, Garouste, Pagès, Di Rosa and more have used this unique space to showcase their work.
Insider Tip: This gorgeous space is open to the public free of charge, so try and make your visit as close to opening as possible. The experience is most enjoyable with the fewest people around.
Carré Sainte Anne, 2 Rue Philippy, Montpellier, France, +33 467 608 211
La Panacée has only been on the Montpellier contemporary art scene since 2013, but its unique space has got artists, locals and visitors hooked. Located in the former Royal College of Medicine and still home to one of the university’s residences, digital and visual arts are at the heart of La Panacée. It’s got a great courtyard space, too, so definitely give it an hour of your Montpellier art tour.
Insider Tip: Guided tours are free on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 3 pm, otherwise you can book them via the Tourist Office at a cost of €17.
La Panacée, 14 Rue de l’École de Pharmacie, Montpellier, France, +33 434 887 979
Whilst visiting La Panacée for its art, make sure you stop for a drink as well. It is one of the coolest venues in the city with an interior based on the effects of semi-transparency which is accompanied by glass furniture and punctuated by piping.
A calm cafe off the beaten track somewhat, Café Latitude sits just off the pretty Place Canourgue in Montpellier with tables and chairs both under the trees and in the natural, wooden-clad interior. Contemporary African art adorns the walls of this cafe, adding to its already zen vibe.
Insider Tip: If a piece of art takes your fancy, then you’re in luck as they’re all for sale.
Café Latitude, 1 Rue Sainte-Croix, Montpellier, France, +33 467 577 247
Le Pavillon Populaire
Centrally located on the Esplanade Charles de Gaulle, Le Pavillon Populaire is a photographic art space open to the public free of charge. It features works by internationally renowned artists and a changing programme of exhibitions are held here around three times a year. This is what Montpellier does best when it comes to art: attractive spaces with digestible art open to the public for free.
Insider Tip: Make sure you visit at a time when one of the free guided tours takes place. Friday at 4 pm and Saturday at 11 am, 2 pm and 4 pm.
En Traits Libres
This is an art-filled space used by artists to create and sell their works. There is an ever-changing collection of paintings, illustrations, drawings and more. A gallery and art shop all in one.
En Traits Libres, 2 Rue du Bayle, Montpellier, France, +33 434 113 843
Galerie AL/MA is a fresh contemporary art gallery in the centre of Montpellier. It was founded in 2002 by four friends and since has played host to relatively unknown names in the art world, making it an important stop for art lovers wishing to see the ‘up and comers’. Once again it’s an art space that’s free to enter, and, on the mezzanine level, you can browse a small selection of the artists’ books.
Galerie AL/MA, 5 rue Plan du Palais, 34000 Montpellier, France, +33 951 302 701
There is a street art buzz in this southern city and, probably before you’re even aware of it, you’re bound to spot one of the many pieces scattered about the city. With murals and graffiti, amateur or professional, Montpellier is a canvas for a variety of artistic flourishes.
To the north of the old town, in the Verdanson district, you’ll find the ‘graffiti canal’ and in Place Rondelet, street artist Mist has left his colourful mark on a building’s facade. You’ll see “half-bikes” popping out from facades here and there and artist Space Invader has made a huge contribution to the city’s street art collection.
La Cachette du Marché du Lez
La Cachette du Marché du Lez is practically its own village within the city of Montpellier, perching on the banks of the River Lez on former industrial/agricultural land. It is a creative hotspot, bringing together exhibitions, second-hand markets, events and, most importantly for the end of an art-filled day, a restaurant. Under strings of fairy lights, with what feels like the city’s most forward-thinking folk, you can tuck into their delicious menu and enjoy the creative vibe.
La Grange is colourful restaurant filled to the brim with art and paintings and general knick-knacks. It is situated in the heart of the city, perfect for your final stop. You’ll get traditional, seasonal French food here and the place simply oozes charm and personality. A real find amongst the winding streets.
La Grange, 30 Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau, Montpellier, France, +33 467 546 880