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Montpellier is a city of two halves, or maybe more. There is the beautiful historic centre, weaving its way through cobbled streets, hidden squares and unassuming shop fronts. Then, there are the city’s newer quarters, bold and sparkling, majestically etched on the Mediterranean landscape. In both cases, there are some places that locals might just want to keep to themselves.
The Domaine de Méric is a beautiful pink farmhouse and the former summer residence of painter Frédéric Bazille on the banks of the River Lez. Adorned with landscaped gardens, today, its green spaces are open to the public looking to enjoy a stroll, a picnic and everything in between. It’s a really special spot in Montpellier, even if it’s a bit more off the beaten track and therefore, not often discovered by non-locals.
Espace Saint-Ravy is a municipal exhibition space dedicated to emerging local and regional artists, free of charge to the public. Although it’s located in the heart of the old town, it can be easy to miss this gem, so make sure to stop by to see what’s hot on the Montpellier art scene. This space is sometimes used for private soirées and exhibitions as well.
Espace Saint-Ravy, Rue Saint-Ravy, Montpellier, France, +33 467 606 166
Montpellier is home to a host of attractive squares. Its largest, Place de la Comédie, greets you as soon as you approach the old town from the train station, but others are a little more tricky to find unless you know where to look. Once such square is Place de la Canourgue and the highlight of this pretty place is surely its view. On a clear day, you can see Montpellier’s neighbouring mountain Pic Saint-Loup (a great day trip from the city). Of course, here is where you’ll also find sprawling cafes and general Mediterranean merriment almost all year round.
The Antigone district, even today, feels futuristic, and if you are visiting Montpellier only briefly, it would be easy to miss this alluring quarter by heading straight to the historic centre. Make sure you walk right down (through Place de Thessalie) to the River Lez from the Le Polygone shopping centre to get the best views. Sit and watch the world go by at one of the cafes lining this walk to the river, or if visiting on a Wednesday, head to the Place du Nombre d’Or for the weekly market and pick up some local goods.
Beaux-Arts is one of the most sought-after neighbourhoods in Montpellier. Only just out of the centre, but retaining the buzz of the Mediterranean city, this quarter is a favourite among families and working professionals that aren’t strapped for cash. One restaurant here, L’Ecailler des Beaux Arts, is a real delight and if you’re a seafood fan, it’s a must. Its great atmosphere and stylish navy, wood and ceramic tile interior make it the perfect place to visit.
The secret is definitely out about Marché du Lez but thanks to its position slightly west from the centre of Montpellier, it might only be ‘out’ on the local scene. Marché du Lez is an artsy, trendy space on the River Lez, almost like a little world within Montpellier itself. Here, you’ll find places to eat, places to browse antiques and places to shop for modern design pieces. It’s really a unique spot in the city, showing off the locals’ creative spirit.
This is the second square in Montpellier to have made the cut – and you’ll see why in an instant. Place Ravy is what Montpellier is all about; sun-drenched, small and atmospheric surrounded by beautiful buildings. Come and linger for an apéritif or two.
Located on the attractive Boulevard Ledru Rollin, Pâtisserie du Menzel is just the kind of place you’ll be thankful someone told you about. Otherwise, giving that it is just one out of hundreds of food choices in Montpellier, you’d easily not give it a second glance. Tunisian delights are the name of the game here and as you can see from the picture below, everything looks too good to eat.
This is one of the best regional organic markets and its setting is unparalleled. Every Tuesday and Saturday from 7 am to 1:30 pm, locals gather under the archways of the Arceaux, baskets in hand, to collect their weekly groceries. Markets are such a way of life in the South of France, so don’t miss out on this gem if you can.
La Panacée is a modern art museum and contemporary exhibition space. Its cafe will make you feel like you are part of an exhibition, as you dine under a wooden canopy in a crisp white backdrop. In warmer months, diners sprawl out onto the central leafy terrace after seeing the newest exhibition. Don’t let the unassuming entrance put you off, there’s a lot to see inside.
La Panacée, 14 Rue de l’École de Pharmacie, Montpellier, France, +33 434 887 979