10 Things to Do in Montpellier
Montpellier is a vibrant city based in the South of France just 10km from the azure blue waters of the Mediterranean coastline. Fantastically situated you could be in Italy or Spain within a few hours.
Often referred to as the ‘Real South of France’ it encapsulates traditional French culture with a nod to the class of the glamorous resorts on the French Riviera.
In Montpellier you can be guaranteed a young, cool and current vibe with over 50% of the population being under the age of 35. A great place to study and with the 7th largest population in France, Montpellier has so much to admire.
Read on for my top ten picks of must-do activities in this often-overlooked city!
- Explore the winding streets
Getting lost in this gorgeous city is something I would definitely encourage. Masses of narrow paths leading to exciting and hidden gems all across the municipality will give you a unique and personal experience that will allow you to unwind, discover and wonder at the sights you will see such as quaint little boutique shops and patisseries to sit and sip a coffee, eat some French delights and watch the world go by.
- See the sights!
If you have a passion for history and architecture, then there is plenty to relish in culture packed Montpellier. You of course have the option to pick and choose which sights to see but alternatively you could opt for Le Petit Train de Montpellier experience and for a small fee you can rest your body and be driven round the attractions on the adorable tourist train that offers audio guides in 8 different languages.
The best of the sights includes Porte & Promenade du Peyrou, an arc de triomphe standing proudly in the Jardin de Peyrou, an outstanding park in the very heart of the city. Or head to the Saint Clément Aqueduct, an impressive aqueduct dating back to 1766 which still supplies the water to the cities fountains today. Furthermore, make sure you visit Cathédrale Saint-Pierre, the glorious Gothic Roman Catholic Church which is a national monument. For a jaw dropping sight and offering plenty of picture-perfect opportunities is the Esplanade de l’Europe, a plaza of impressive buildings that include some fabulous neo-classical examples. The City Hall makes quite an impact as a domineering glass cube emerging from the concrete leaving many feeling stunned and delighted at its brutal architecture. Contrast this with the central square of the Place de la Comédie, a huge oval shaped pedestrian area encircling the statue of the Three Graces. Finally have a slow meander around Boulevard du Jeu de Paume, a boulevard that circles the old town and is dotted with palm trees and older apartment buildings.
Montpellier has a packed schedule, there is always an event taking part in the city depending on the time of the year. Do plan your break according to your passions which could include sampling food and wine. In the summer, Montpellier has Estivales, every Friday the Esplanade Charles-de-Gaulle becomes a hub of activity as local food stalls set up, musicians descend onto the streets and wine makers arrive culminating in a hive of activity and excitement where you can sample the Languedoc wines and savour the mouth-watering street food for sale.
For those who thrive on sport, in the month of May Montpellier hosts the Festival International Sports Extreme and the Battle of the Year breakdancing competition which attracts competitors and spectators from around the globe.
In July, the annual Pride parade marches through the city lighting up the streets with rainbow flags and glitz.
- Street Entertainment
The Place de la Comédie is a beacon for the creatives of Montpellier to come together. Everyday there is something fresh and engaging being performed in the beautiful square. Whether it be singing, magic, music or dancing of all genres from samba to breakdancing you can be sure to be dazzled and entertained for free in the buzzing heart.
- Breathe in the Nature
Nature is on the doorstep of Montpellier and is readily accessible within minutes of the city centre. Lac du Crès is a breath-taking lake 15 metres deep and covering a staggering 6 hectares. Bursting with water activities it is open all year round to all and is located in a 27-hectare space easily reached by a pleasant walk or bike ride from the tram line. A haven away from the city and a chance to immerse yourself in the surrounding tranquillity of this lush green paradise.
If you are looking for something a little more challenging then pop in the car to Pic Saint-Loup Mountain, take your pick from two different trail options and hike to the summit on this family friendly nature loving excursion.
- Marvellous Museums
Montpellier is home to a stupendous collection of museums with over 10 in the city centre. The most well known and visited is the Musée Fabre founded in 1825 which underwent a whopping 61.2 million euro update between 2003 and 2007. It displays a broad and rich range of Europe’s art including 3,500 drawings, 800 works and 900 engravings.
In Montpellier you will find museums to captivate a whole scope of interests so choose your historical love and enjoy!
- Promenade Du Peyrou
A great place to gather friends and family to relax together is at the Promenade Du Peyrou, a beautiful space to unwind whether to be sprawled on the large grassy areas for a picnic, to take a seat on the park benches, to breathe in the old trees or to take in the grand historical statues.
There is always so much to see here with groups playing games, street musicians strumming instruments, dancers performing and runners taking their daily exercise.
The views here are crystal clear at sunset and you can watch the vast sky melt into an array of colours before the sun descends over Montpellier.
- Montpellier’s Markets
Flea markets are still rife across France, also known as brocantes. Check out Marché Du Lez, the super cool market hotspot in an industrial chic setting on the Lez River. Rustic and charming with fantastic local food stalls and bargains galore to be found, this trendy hangout is wonderful for soaking up the culture of Montpellier. Look out for special events that go into the evening when the walkways become a hive of electric activity.
- Glorious Cuisine and Decadent Drinks
Montpellier is a town with an abundance of places to sample the mouth-watering food on offer in this region of France and will suit a whole range of budgets. I recommend getting lost in the narrow streets and opting for any one of the eateries or bars that you see but if you want something a little bit special then here is my selection of the best places to visit:
Le Parfum is expensive, but their cocktails have the wow factor packed into every drink. Quirky and guaranteed to bring a smile to your lips look out for fishbowl cocktails served on glowing ice.
If you enjoy French patisserie then make a beeline for Gabriel, Créateur de Gourmandises. Luxurious and sculpted bites of heaven that tantalise your tastebuds with every mouthful. Not one to be missed!
As Montpellier is so close to the borders of Spain, many of its restaurants are dedicated to Latino cuisine. El Chivito is affordable and cooks a range of hearty delicious food from tacos to succulent steak.
For vegetarians who are watching their bank balance the Green Lab is the place to go. Located near the University, the Lebanese cuisine is hearty and healthy, try the falafel wrap with your choice of sauce.
Comptoir de l’Arc is a modern and charming bar that does the best happy hour deals. Drinking in Montpellier can be pricey so looking out for Happy Hours make it more appealing and affordable. The leafy terrace comes alive later in the day and you can get involved in the bustling atmosphere, have a glass of bubbly and nibble on the tapas.
- Hot Hotels
The place where you stay can often set the tone for your entire break so it’s worth doing your research before you book.
If you are on a budget consider the Hotel de la Comédie, a 2* hotel in a great location. Clean and no frills this is a great option if you are looking for somewhere just to rest your head while you explore your surroundings.
If you are looking for something more on the higher end of the budget scale, then have a closer look at the modern Pullman Hotel and laze in the rooftop pool as you gaze out onto the landscape beyond. Alternatively, the Courtyard Marriott Hotel stands next door to the amazing City Hall.