Montpellier is the capital of Languedoc-Roussillon region in southwestern France. The city lies in the hills 10 km from the Mediterranean Sea (and 2,000 years ago the sea splashed at the foot of the city). Montpellier has a relaxed, southern feel to it, with palm trees growing in the streets and locals spending their evenings at sidewalk café tables.
According to the 2012 edition of The New York Times, Montpellier was named one of the 45 best places on Earth to visit. And it is no coincidence, because there are beautiful museums, art galleries and monuments of antiquity, excellent local cuisine, many amazing corners of nature and sandy beaches with warm sea.
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Historically, Montpellier has been home to many different peoples and faiths: Jews, Arabs, Aragonese, Saracens, Italians and French. The Jewish community played an important role in commerce, the great men of science and medicine included many Arabs, and Montpellier was formally owned by the King of Aragon until 1349. Today, the local population also includes a wide range of nationalities. Since the second half of the twentieth century, Algerian migrants have had a significant share of the population.
Montpellier currently has more than 20,000 businesses and other economic activities. The most important sectors of the economy are winemaking, tourism, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and multimedia. An important place in the life of the city is occupied by the three local universities, one of which is the oldest Medical School in Europe, founded in 1220. Nostradamus, the famous soothsayer, studied and taught here.
Everyone who arrives in Montpellier, regardless of age, marital status, social status or temperament, finds an ideal holiday here: sightseeing, beach, active, gastronomic, etc.
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Climate and weather
Montpellier has a Mediterranean climate with hot and dry summers, often with temperatures in excess of 30 °C. In August, there are thunderstorms accompanied by heavy downpours, which result in flooding in low parts of the city. The rainfall is heaviest in autumn, but the weather is still warm with daytime temperatures averaging a comfortable 17ºC to 19ºC. Winters in Montpellier are mild, windless and snow-free. The heat can come back as early as April or the beginning of May, so you can visit Montpelier at almost any time of year.
The city of Montpellier sits on hills between two rivers, the Lez to the east and the Mosson to the west.
At a relatively short distance from Montpellier there are wonderful natural areas such as the Pyrenees, the Cevennes mountains and the Camargue swamps, famous for their populations of pink flamingos.
Montpellier has more than 50 gardens, the most famous of which is the oldest botanical garden in France, created in 1593 and for a long time served as a model for the creation of botanical gardens across Europe. The botanical garden is open every day except Monday.
In the suburb of Montpellier Generargues you can visit a real bamboo forest Bambouseraie. There are many flower greenhouses and a Japanese garden Vellon du Dragon. The cost of an adult ticket is 8 €, children’s ticket – 4,5 €. Everyone can use a free audioguide service available in 6 languages.
Architecture of Montpellier is a remarkable symbiosis of ancient buildings from X-XIII centuries, and modern quarters with buildings of glass, plastic and concrete.
As a rule, all excursions in the city begin on Place de la Comédie (Comedy Square), named after the theater that burned down at the end of the XIX century. In the center of the square in front of the Opera House (L’Opéra Comédie) stands a sculpture of the Three Graces, the symbols of Montpellier.
To admire the ancient architecture of Montpellier, go to the L’Ecusson quarter. In the Middle Ages Montpellier was surrounded by fortress walls, protecting the rich city from the enemy. Today only two towers remain: la Tour des Pins and la Tour de la Babote. On the site of one of the ancient gates of the city wall in 1692 a magnificent Arc de Triomphe was erected in honor of Louis XIV. Walking through the historical center of the city you will see the former convent of Ursuline women, ritual Jewish mikveh, St. Peter’s Cathedral (La Cathédrale St. Pierre), etc. Due to the acute shortage of drinking water in the city, an elegant aqueduct was built in 1754 to carry fresh water to Montpellier from the nearby town of Saint Clément, on the site of the former fortress walls.
Museums and galleries of Montpellier will tell you about the city, will help you plunge into the world of painting and sculpture of the greatest French and European masters of old and modern times. The most popular museum of the city is considered to be the Musée Fabre.
Traditional Montpellier cuisine is based on typical Mediterranean produce, such as olive oil, tomatoes, herbs, garlic, onions, truffles and asparagus. There is also an Arab influence, which can be seen in the frequent use of pulses, cinnamon and saffron. The proximity of the sea, which only 2,000 years ago came close to the city walls, is evidenced by the abundance of seafood dishes.
Being in the heart of the Languedoc region, don’t forget that this part of France is the home of the famous blue mold sheep cheese, Roquefort. If Roquefort is too pungent for you, try the more delicate Bleu des Causses. Among the soft cheeses, Pelardon goat cheese is a popular choice.
To accompany all dishes you will be offered a number of wonderful local wines. The red wines (Sarignan, Cinçacult, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah) have a spicy deep taste, the white ones (Massabets, Grenache blanc, Piquepoul, Bourboulenc, Сlairette) are fresh, aromatic and delicate. It is said that the department of Languedoc-Roussillon produces more wine per year than all the winemakers in Australia. Among non-alcoholic drinks, choose Perrier and Quezac mineral waters.
All restaurants of Montpellier can be divided into traditional, restaurants specializing in the cuisine of a particular country (Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Indian, etc.) and gastronomic, which serve unique exquisite dishes invented by the chef of the particular establishment.
There are several hundreds of hotels, family-run hotels, motels, campsites, hostels, villas for rent, and other places to stay in Montpellier, the surrounding city, and nearby seaside resorts. Your choice will depend only on financial possibilities and personal preferences, but you should consider booking a room for the “hot season” (from May to September) at least 3-4 months before your date of arrival to Montpellier.
Average cost of accommodation in 3 to 4-star hotels in the city is about 100 € for a double room, but this only applies to standard rooms. Deluxe will cost at least twice as much. “Doubles” Montpellier offer their services for 52-80 €. For a room at the five-star Chateau Hotel Domaine De Verchant you have to pay from 300 to 800 €. A place in a youth hostel (Auberge de Jeunesse) will cost 16.7 €.
You can rent a private apartment in Montpellier for €430-750 per week, a small house for €650-700, a luxury villa for €1,600-2,200.
Entertainment and Recreation
Don’t miss out on the best wine estates around Montpellier: Caves de Saint Georges d’Orques, Château de Flaugergues, Clos Sorian, Les Côteaux de Montpellier, etc.
For family entertainment there is the Odysseum which has the Mare Nostrum Aquarium, the Galileo Planetarium and the Végapolis ice rink. The Mare Nostrum Aquarium is a unique modern facility of 5,000 m², with 24 pools housing about 3,500 fish, molluscs and marine animals of more than 300 species. The entrance fee for adults is 15,5 €, for children from 7 to 12 years – 11,5 €, from 3 to 6 years – 7,5 €.
Little travelers and their parents will be pleased to go also to the zoo of Montpellier, where it is certainly worth visiting the Amazonian greenhouse, designed in such a way that the visitors feel 100% not in France, but in the jungle of South America. This is facilitated by the noise of water, the screams of tropical birds and even a specially created hot humid climate. In one day you can visit the mangrove swamps and see piranhas and caimans living there; in the flooded rainforest, where tamarins monkeys and terrible anaconda live; in the thick jungle, where you can meet the most beautiful of the representatives of the cat – ocelot, as well as an amazing anteater and a giant spider. The cost of adult admission ticket is 6.5 €, children’s (from 6 to 18 years) – 3 €.
Among other things, Montpellier is famous for its magnificent beaches. Some distance from the city and its hustle and bustle, they give their guests a wonderful holiday in peace and quiet. The public beaches near Montpellier are Grand Travers, Petit Travers, Palavas les Flots, Aresquiers, Espiguette and Villeneuve-lès-Maguelone. It takes about an hour to reach the beaches by bicycle on bicycle paths with excellent pavement. The resorts offer all kinds of water sports such as sailing, windsurfing, water skiing, beach volleyball, etc.
If you go to Montpellier, you can not only enjoy strolling through the old narrow streets of the city and beach vacation, but also visit numerous cultural events. Every year Montpellier hosts one of the largest wine fairs in France, which brings together wine makers and sommeliers from all over Europe. The fair is accompanied by tastings, colorful shows, folklore performances, etc. The most important cultural event in the life of the city is the Festival de Radio France, which is held in mid-July. Each year, several major themes are chosen for the festival. In 2013, the Festival de Radio France focuses on the themes “America” and “Napoleon”. Only the Mediterranean theme remains unchanged from year to year. There are a number of film festivals in Montpellier: Cinemed, dedicated to Mediterranean cinema, Christmas Film Festival, etc.
Montpellier’s center, especially Place de la Comédie and the surrounding streets, as far as the Antigone district, is full of expensive boutiques of internationally known brands as well as the Le Polygone and Galeries Lafayette shopping centers. Multi-brand stores such as Inno and FNAC offer more affordable prices. The largest shopping and entertainment center in the city is the Odysseum, where you can spend a day shopping (more than 100 boutiques), dining (16 restaurants) or visiting entertainment venues.
Buy a unique book at the Book Fair on Boulevard Charles de Gaulle, held every 4th Saturday of the month. There’s a Sunday flea market (Espace Mosson) with lots of interesting things and vintage trinkets, and an original collectors’ market on Saturdays on Boulevard des Arceaux.
Violinists from all corners of the world dream of instruments created by Montpellier masters, which are recognized as the best in the world. To see professionals in action and purchase violins, book in advance at the Montpellier Tourist Office or the Académie Internationale de Musique de Montpellier (AIMM).
On the outskirts of Montpellier is the Méditerranée airport, which has regular flights to Paris. There are also TGV trains from Paris, Lille, Nice and Lyon, as well as TER commuter trains from many towns in the south of France.
The city public transport is represented by buses (30 routes) and streetcars (4 lines). The most convenient way to travel around the city over long distances is the streetcar, as cars and buses can stand in traffic jams for a long time, especially in the summer. Buses and streetcars have the same ticket price of 1.4€ per trip. There are also tickets for 10 rides – 12 €, 1 day – 3.8 €, 1 week – 15 €. It is impossible not to notice the streetcars of Montpellier because they were designed by the best designers of our time: Elizabeth Garouste, Mattia Bonetti and Christian Lacroix.
The historical part of Montpellier is very small, so you can easily get around on foot or by bike. You can rent a bike from Vélomagg rental outlets. The cost of 1 hour of use is 0,5 €.
You can make calls from Montpellier using a payphone or cell phone service. All hotels, cafés and restaurants in the city offer free wireless internet access, as do many streetcar stops, the town hall, universities, train stations, conference halls and other public areas.
While in Montpellier, do not walk unaccompanied in the outlying districts of the city, inhabited mainly by people from Algeria and other northern African countries. This warning does not apply to the central part of the city, whose streets are quiet and safe, even somewhat serene.
Montpellier is one of the most popular cities in France for all kinds of business events. About 500 exhibitions and conferences are held there every year with over 1.5 million participants and visitors. Most of the important events of the business world are held in such major conference centers like Corum, Arena-Park & Suites, Zenith Sud and Parc des Expositions. If the number of participants is not so high, the best hotels of the city with excellent, equipped with the latest technology conference halls offer their services for business meetings and negotiations.
The city authorities support companies working in the field of tourism, biotechnology, information technology, environmental protection, health and Mediterranean agriculture.
Buying property in Montpellier is a sound investment, as the town is just 15 minutes from the Mediterranean coast and the weather is warm and sunny all year round.
The average cost of 1 m² of housing ranges from 2 500 to 4 000 €. Utility bills are on average about 100 € per month.
If you are attracted to the property costing less than 2 000 € per 1 m2, carefully check whether the apartment is not in the quarter where migrants from Africa, not flooded during the summer and autumn floods.
A beautiful villa on the outskirts of Montpellier can be purchased for 1,300,000-6,000,000 €.
Tips for the tourist
A number of opportunities and discounts are available to holders of City Card Montpellier Tourist Card, valid for 24, 48 or 72 hours. These cards entitle you to:
- free travel on public urban and suburban transport in Montpellier;
- a guided tour of the historic center (must be reserved in advance);
- A visit to a number of museums (Château de l’Engarran, Musée de l’Histoire de Montpellier, Musée du Vieux Montpellier, Pharmacie et Chapelle de la Miséricorde, Pharmacie et Chapelle, Jardins du château de Flaugergues, Serre Amazonienne zoo du Zoo du Lunaret.
- City Card holders will also receive discounts on admission to the Musée des Moulages, the city’s Archaeological Museums, the Villa-Loupian Gallo-Roman Museum, the Mare Nostrum Aquarium, the Jean Vilar and Le Point Com theaters, as well as some souvenir stores and gastronomic stores in Montpellier.
Cards for 1 day range from €13 to €19 depending on the number of services included; 2 days from €21 to €27; 3 days from €27 to €33. Children have a 50% discount.
Cards can be purchased at the Tourist Office located at 30, allée Jean de Lattre de Tassigny in the immediate vicinity of Place de la Comédie.
20 Montpellier attractions recommended to visit
Montpellier is the pride of the south of France. It is a dynamic French city that is literally overflowing with beautiful scenery and interesting places. Here’s an overview of the 20 most popular attractions in Montpellier, France.
Musée Fabre | Photo: Damien / Flickr.
The Musée Fabre was founded in 1825 by the artist François-Xavier Fabre. This unique art museum has one of the richest collections of European art in France. Its galleries display works of European art from the last 600 years, with most of the works belonging to internationally renowned masters.
In the Old Masters sector, three canvases by Rubens, a beautiful painting of Venus and Adonis by Nicolas Poussin, and a collection of works by Jacques-Louis David attract particular attention. The Romanticism sector is rich in works by French artists, especially Delacroix, Géricault and Corot, while the later sector features paintings by such great artists as Courbet, Monet, Degas and Delaunay.
Of great interest are the works of Montpellier-born artist Frédéric Basil (1841-1870), a peer and close acquaintance of Monet, Sisley and Manet. An entire room is devoted to Basil’s paintings: take a look at his portrait of Renoir sitting on a chair with his legs tucked in, as well as a somber portrait of the artist himself, painted by a young Monet.
The other two rooms display works by the French painter and sculptor Pierre Soulages, born in 1919 in Rhodes.
Address: Musée Fabre, Boulevard Bonne Nouvelle, Montpellier, France.
Cabrières-Sabatier d’Espeyran Mansion
Mansion Cabrières-Sabatier d’Espeyran.
Hôtel de Cabrières-Sabatier d’Espeyran is part of the Musée Fabre. It is a luxurious mansion in Montpellier that belonged to a noble local lady, Madame Frédéric Sabatier d’Espeyran. The interior of the house is filled with incredibly beautiful ceramics, furniture and art objects – a reminder of the fabulous wealth in which Montpellier’s elite bathed at the end of the 19th century.
Address: Musée des arts décoratifs Sabatier d’Espeyran, Rue Montpelliéret, Montpellier, France.
Jardin des Plantes Botanical Garden
Jardin des Plantes botanical gardens. | Photo: Julien / Flickr.
One of the hidden gems of Montpellier is Jardin des Plantes, the oldest botanical garden in France. It was founded in 1593, and almost 30 years later a more famous botanical garden in Paris was modeled after it.
Walking along the shady paths of the park you will see more than 2500 species of plants, including 9 varieties of palms, 260 species of medicinal plants and an arboretum with rare species and a unique greenhouse built in 1860.
Address: Jardin des plantses de Montpellier, Boulevard Henri IV, Montpellier, France.
Peyroux Triumphal Gate
Peyroux Triumphal Gate | Photo: Salvatore Freni Jr / Flickr.
The Arch of Montpellier – Arc de Triomphe – was built in 1693 in honor of Louis XIV. Before sunset, the entire arch glows with golden light when viewed from Place Royale du Peyrou.
Address: Arc de Triomphe, Rue Foch, Montpellier, France.
Place Royale du Peyroux
Place Royale du Peyroux. | Photo: stefano Merli / Flickr.
The broad, tree-lined Place Royale du Peyrou forms an interesting ensemble of monuments including the 1695 Arc de Triomphe at the eastern end, the intricately shaped Château d’Eau water tower at the western border and the Aqueduc de St-Clément, spectacularly illuminated at night and in the evening.
Address: La Promenade du Peyrou, Montpellier, France.
The Planet Ocean Aquarium is located in the Odysseum shopping center. Nine different aquatic habitats, from polar waters to rainforests, have been recreated here. Children will love the entertaining interactive displays, such as a simulation of a cargo ship making its way through the waves in a storm. There is also an interesting planetarium to visit.
Address: Planet Ocean World, Allée Ulysse, Montpellier, France.
St. Peter’s Cathedral
St. Peter’s Cathedral | Photo: stefano Merli / Flickr.
Famous for its monumental portico, the massive Cathédrale St-Pierre was once the church of the 14th-century monastery of St-Benoît, which only received the status of Montpellier Cathedral in 1536. After the destruction caused by the religious wars, the cathedral was thoroughly restored and now serves as the seat of the city’s archbishops.
Address: Cathédrale Saint-Pierre, Rue Saint-Pierre, Montpellier, France.
Church of Saint Anne.
The historic Neo-Gothic church with magnificent stained glass windows, Carré Sainte-Anne, passed into state ownership in the 1980s. It is now used as a beautiful space for contemporary art exhibitions and installations. In 2018, work was carried out to renovate the church.
Address: Carré Sainte Anne, Rue Philippy, Montpellier, France.
Pointe de l’Espiguet beach
Pointe de l’Espiguet beach.
The attractive Plage de l’Espiguette beach is located a few kilometers southeast of La Grande-Motte. It is a natural dune sanctuary where strong winds often blow, making this beach popular with kitesurfers.
The address is Pointe de l’Espiguette 30240 Le Gros du Roi France.
Plage du Pilou is a beautiful and quiet beach near the small town of Villeneuve-lès-Maguelone, located west of Montpellier. It is a beach for nature lovers. There are pristine, unspoiled areas, birds and landscapes full of emotions.
Address: Passerelle du Pilou, 34750 Villeneuve-lès-Maguelone, France.
Zoo of Montpellier
Montpellier Zoo | Photo: Bernard Lacotte / Flickr.
Montpellier Parc Zoologique is located 4 km north of the city center. Covering an area of 60 hectares, it is the second largest zoo in France. There are a huge number of species of wild animals inhabiting different parts of the world. Montpellier Zoo was created as a safari park, so most of its inhabitants walk in open enclosures.
Address: Parc Zoologique de Montpellier, Avenue Agropolis, Montpellier, France.
Museum of old Montpellier
Museum of old Montpellier.
The Municipal Museum Musée du Vieux Montpellier has a rather prosaic collection of exhibits related to local culture and life, from furniture to paintings to antique weapons. It is still worth a visit, if only for the fact that it is one of the few private mansions (hôtels particuliers) open to the public.
Rare exhibits include a 15th-century tabernacle housing the Black Madonna, a 13th-century wooden statue; a gilded clock on the wall and an amazing ivory cabinet.
Address: Musée du Vieux Montpellier, Place Pétrarque, Montpellier, France.
Mansion Vieille Intendance
Mansion Vieille Intendance. | Photo: Matthieu OLIVIER / Flicrk.
The Hôtel de la Vieille Intendance was built in the 17th century, during the reign of Louis XIII for the Queen Mother and his granddaughter Marie Louise of Orleans (known as “Grande Mademoiselle”). The mansion later served as the residence of the city’s governors (intendant). It was also home to the philosopher Auguste Comte and the poet Paul Valéry, a native of Sete.
Address: Appartement Vieille Intendance, 6 Rue de la Vieille Intendance, 34000 Montpellier, France.
The Varennes Mansion.
The Hôtel de Varennes is a harmonious medieval structure from the 18th century, which now houses a small historical museum of the city, the Musée du Vieux Montpellier.
Address: Salle Pétrarque – Hôtel de Varennes, Place Pétrarque, Montpellier, France.
The Saint-Côme Mansion
Mansion Saint-Côme. | Photo: Christophe ALARY / Flickr.
The Hôtel St-Côme was built between 1752 and 1756 to the plans of architect Jean-Antoine Girard at the expense of the great surgeon Lapeyron, celebrated as Louis XV’s surgeon.
It consists of two buildings separated by a courtyard. One is in the shape of an octagon and houses a lecture hall for demonstrations of anatomy (now Salle Lapeyronie). The second building originally housed the rooms used by the surgeons.
Today you can admire only the exterior architecture and the pretty little courtyard.
Address: Hôtel Saint-Côme, 32 Grand Rue Jean Moulin, 34000 Montpellier, France.
The Trésoriers de France Mansion
Mansion Trésoriers de France.
The Hôtel des Trésoriers de France was built in the 17th century. In 1632 it was the residence of King Louis XIII.
Address: Hôtel de Girard, Rue de la Salle l’Évêque, Montpellier, France.
The Chateau de Flaugergues.
To the east of the center of Montpellier is the Château de Flaugergues. It is one of the typical country mansions (follies) built by wealthy merchants. The beautiful gardens are particularly admired here.
Address: Château de Flaugergues, Avenue Albert Einstein, Montpellier, France.
Antigone. | Photo: Isen Majennt / Flickr.
The most fascinating district of Montpellier is the Antigone quarter, located between the historic center and the river Lez. It represents a whole complex of architectural structures of the ancient style.
Address: Antigone 34000 Montpellier France.
The Castries Aqueduct
Aqueduc de Castries hydraulic structure. | Photo: Marcel Musil / Flickr.
The Aqueduc de Castries is the largest hydraulic structure ever built for a private individual.
Address: Aqueduc de Castries, Castries, France.
Food market Castellane
Food market Castellane.| Photo: Clopin clopant / Flickr.
Halles Castellane is one of Montpellier’s traditional indoor markets. Here you can immerse yourself in the atmosphere of French city life and buy everything from seafood to local wines.
Address: Halles Castellane, Place Castellane, Montpellier, France.