20 Montpellier sights recommended to visit
Montpellier – the pride of the south of France. It is a dynamic French city that is literally overflowing with beautiful landscapes 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 painting 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. Here you will find 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.
Montpellier is the administrative center of the Herault department in the Occitania region of southern France. The settlement of Montpellier as a point of spice trade is known since the X century. In the middle of the XII century it was given city status. The next century saw the opening of the local university.
The city is located in the valley of the river Lez, 10 km from the Mediterranean coast. Its advantageous geographical position on the route between Italy and Spain helped Montpellier develop as a commercial center. Montpellier was also one of the points on the pilgrimage route to the tomb of St. James in the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela. The Jewish and Arab physicians who were expelled from Spain found refuge in Montpellier. XIII-XIV centuries. – The heyday of the city was interrupted first by the plague and then by sectarian strife.
It ended in favor of the Catholics with the help of King Louis VIII. The 17th and 18th centuries were followed by a period of renewed growth of the city. A number of beautiful mansions were built at that time, some of which have been preserved (see below). In the mid-twentieth century, many residents of newly independent Algeria migrated to Montpellier, which required non-standard urban planning solutions.
Montpellier is one of the centers of French winemaking and a place of traditional wine festival. In Montpellier there is the only monument to Lenin in France, established at the initiative of the former mayor of the city, the convinced socialist Georges Fréche.
|Date of Montpellier foundation||985 г.|
|Population of the city:||275318 people (2014).|
|Area of the city:||56.88 km².|
St. Peter’s Cathedral
Built in the 14th century, the church of the existing Saint-Benoit monastery two centuries later became the Cathedrale Saint-Pierrede Montpellier. In the second half of the 16th century, it was seized and looted by Protestants. At the beginning of the next century the cathedral was restored, and in the XVIII century it was reconstructed, having acquired a modern look.
Facade of the Cathedral of St Pierre
When looking at the facade, the first thing that catches your eye is the unusual portico with its two powerful columns. The building of the cathedral in the Southeastern style generally resembles a fortress. This peculiarity of the construction was not superfluous during the religious wars.
Church of Saint Roch
Little-known in Russia, the Catholic saint Roch was born into the family of the governor of Montpellier at the end of the XIII century. At the age of 20, having lost his parents, he gave away his possessions to the poor and went on pilgrimage to Italy. The plague was raging there at the time. Roch began wandering through the country, praying for the sick and caring for them. He managed to heal many of them, but in Piacenza he became infected himself. Sick and dying of starvation, Roch was saved by a dog that brought him bread.
After his recovery, Roch returned incognito to Montpellier, where he was arrested as a spy on the orders of his uncle and died in prison five years later. Only after his death was he identified by the red cross known to his relatives on his chest.The popular veneration of Roch began immediately after his death, and not only in Montpellier. At the end of the 15th century, the Venetians, who often suffered from the plague, even stole the relics of Rochas and buried them in the church of San Rocco. The official canonization of St. Roch took place in 1629. He is considered the patron saint of several Italian cities and, of course, Montpellier.
The Eglise Saint Roch was built in the 1960s in the neo-Gothic style.
The interior is famous for its collection of vases and bowls. In 1980, stained glass windows appeared next to the altar. One of them depicts a saint with the same dog.
The 70-meter spire of the former Carré Sainte Anne church dominates the surrounding buildings and is clearly visible from various parts of the city.
Church of St. Anne
The interior of the church is known for its beautiful stained glass windows. Since 1980, the church has been the property of the state. It found nothing better to do than to hold exhibitions and installations of modern art inside.
Inside St. Anne’s Church
Place Royale du Peyroux
In the center of the spacious Place Royale du Peyroux there is an equestrian monument to Louis XIV. The original seventeenth-century monument was overthrown and melted down for cannons during the Revolution. The current monument is a smaller copy of the original, erected in 1838.
The Arc de Triomphe is visible in the background. Other notable structures behind the square are the water tower and aqueduct. The square was originally conceived as a space for walking among the now centuries-old plane trees: there are no stores or restaurants.The fountains of the green area, called Promenade du Peyroux, are supplied with water from the Saint-Clément Aqueduct.
Royal Place du Peyroux
The Arcde Triomphe, designed by the architect François d’Orbey, was erected at the end of the 17th century in honor of King Louis XIV. The central archway serves as a kind of frame for his equestrian monument on the Royal Square. Above the main arch is the town’s coat of arms. Above the side imitations of the arches are medallions depicting royal deeds. The top of the arch can be climbed by climbing 103 steps.
Water Tower and Aqueduct
The hexagonal water tower of the Châteaud’eau, 19 meters long, was built in 1768. It looks more like a park pavilion than an engineering structure.
Just beyond the tower is the 820m long, arched, 14km long Aqueduc Saint-Clément, built by order of Cardinal Richelieu. Designed by Henri Piteau during the second half of the 18th century to supply the city with drinking water, it remained in use until 1983.
Place de la Comédie
Montpellier’s central square takes its rather unusual name from the Opera and Comedy Theatre. Its history is no laughing matter: the first two buildings were lost in a fire. The current building was built in 1888 to a design by the architect Bernard.
The pedestrian Placedela Comedie is located in the Eccusson quarter, between the ancient and modern parts of Montpellier. Its pavement is made of cream marble. The center of the square is adorned by the “Three Graces” fountain, a sculptural group of which depicts the daughters of Zeus. The composition is a copy of the original in the foyer of the theater, created by sculptor Antoine Etienne.
The Three Graces Fountain
Charles de Gaulle esplanade
The Place de la Comédie is a broad street with plane-tree walkways, flowerbeds and fountains. The park of the Champ de Mars is part of it. Esplanade Charles-de-Gaulle used to be a military maneuvering ground in front of the citadel that existed on the site. The building was converted into the Imperial Lyceum, which opened in 1804. At the end of the century a new building was built for the Lyceum, and in the next century it was named after Marshal Joseph Joffre – the hero of the Franco-Prussian War. This lyceum operates to this day.
Charles de Gaulle esplanade
Not far from Place de la Comédie there is a large shopping center called Polygon. Opposite it begins the postmodern le quartier d’Antigon, named after Antigone from an ancient Greek myth. The neoclassical quarter was designed by Catalan architect Ricardo Bofill. The antique forms of the buildings of the quarter are realized through modern building materials – concrete, glass and steel.
The squares and streets of the Antigona quarter are named after Dionysus, Thessaly, the Golden Section and other names borrowed from the ancient Greeks. And the streets and boulevards are lined with copies of ancient sculptures – Zeus, Venus, Diana, Nika of Samothrace and others.
In the quarter of Antigone
Near the Place de la Comédie there is the Musée Fabre, which was founded in 1825 by the local artist François-Xavier Fabre. The artist himself lived in the mansion, which was given by the city for the collection received as a gift, until his death.
The museum’s collection was also enriched by other private donors. The Louvre and Orsay museums in Paris also donated a number of their paintings to the Musée Fabre. As a result, a first-class museum appeared in Montpellier, which was given the status of a national museum. Its collection includes more than 1,800 paintings, 1,500 prints, 4,000 drawings and 300 sculptures.
In addition to Fabre’s own works, the collection includes works by many prominent masters. The classical paintings on display include three paintings by Rubens, a painting of Venus and Adonis by Poussin, and paintings by Veronese, Caravaggio and Bernini. Later paintings are represented by 15 works by Gustave Courbet, works by Monet, Manet, Delacroix, Matisse and others.
Fabre Museum exhibition hall
Also on display are paintings by local artists, an extensive collection of graphics, sculptures, furniture and Greek ceramics. The arts and crafts that belonged to the local aristocrats Monsieur and Madame Sabatier d’Espeyran were bequeathed by them to their hometown. They are concentrated in the branch of the museum located in the nearby Hôtel de Cabrières-Sabatier d’Espeyran. Its interiors, with exquisite furniture, sculptures and objects of art, are strikingly beautiful.
One of the rooms of the Sabatier d’Espeyran Mansion
Address: 39, Boulevard Bonne Nouvelle. The museum is open daily, except Mondays, from 10 (from 11 on Saturday and 13 on Wednesday) to 18 (until 21 on Wednesday).
In addition to the Cabrières-Sabatier d’Espeyran, part of the Musée Fabre, there are several other mansions in Montpellier worth seeing.
The Saint-Côme, designed by the architect Girard, was built in the mid-18th century for the court surgeon Lapeyron. It now houses the Hôtel Saint-Côme.
Another 17th-century mansion, the Trésoriers de France, is famous for being the residence of King Louis XIII in 1632. Today the Hôtel de Girard operates in this ancient building.
The Trésoriers de France Mansion
The Vieille Intendance was built during the reign of the monarch for his queen mother and granddaughter, Marie Louise of Orleans. It was then the residence of the governors (intendants), hence its name. And later famous people lived here – the philosopher Auguste Comte and the poet Paul Valéry.
Mansion Vieille Intendance
The Mansion Varennes is interesting with its well-preserved medieval interior passages and halls. They house a small historical museum.
The Castle and Park of Flaugergues
At the end of the seventeenth century, Etienne Flaugergues, advisor to the Chamber of Accounts of Montpellier, initiated the construction of his own estate, which lasted about half a century. The mansion, surrounded by a beautiful park, became known as the Château de Flaugergues. The façade is modelled on 17th century Italian villas and the interiors feature a collection of 17th century Flemish tapestries, 18th century furniture and a pottery collection.
The green space consists of a French adobe park, an English park with vineyards, bamboo groves, a greenhouse, flowerbeds and an olive alley leading to a belvedere with a panorama of the Mediterranean coast.
Chateau Flaugergues is a private property. However, tourists are offered several options to visit: – park only with possible lunch in the restaurant or wine tasting in the cellar from 9:30 (weekends and holidays from 13) to 18-19 hours for 4-7 EUR; – the same with an additional visit to the castle interiors in June, July and September on Tuesday – Sunday from 13 to 19 hours for 7-10 EUR.
The University of Montpellier, founded in 1289, is one of the oldest in the world. The medical school was founded in VIII century. Michel Nostradamus and François Rabelais studied and taught at the medical faculty of the University of Montpellier. Several future court physicians were also its students. Medical education at the University of Montpelier is still considered elite. It also trains specialists in economics and management, natural and social sciences and history.
In the middle of last century the University of Montpellier was divided into three educational institutions, designated by Roman numerals I, II and III. Montpellier I teaches medicine, pharmacy, law, economics and administration. Montpellier II has departments of electronics and electrical engineering, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology. Montpellier III has profiles in linguistics, literature, philosophy, social sciences and fine arts. Studying at the public university is free: students (of course, if they speak French) pay only the registration fee.
One of the buildings of the University of Montpellier
The Jardindes Plantes, the oldest botanical garden in France, was founded in the late 16th century by botanist Pierre Richet de Belleval on the orders of King Henry IV. Originally it was a vegetable garden of medicinal plants – a training ground for future pharmacists trained at the local university. The religious wars didn’t spare only temples: in the early 17th century, the garden was completely destroyed. It had to be restored virtually from scratch.
Today, the garden of more than 4 hectares grows more than 2.5 thousand plants, among which – nine varieties of palms and 260 species of medicinal plants. The most valuable flora is in the arboretum and greenhouse, built in the mid XIX century. A special attraction of the garden is a tree with a trunk, in which visitors leave a note with wishes. The alleys of the Botanical Garden bear the names of explorers and scientists, starting with the founder of the garden. In addition, there are their busts on the grounds.
In the Botanical Garden
Montpellier is a notable university city in the south of France, with modern urban planning juxtaposed with medieval churches and mansions.