Young and dynamic, Montpellier is booming. Almost 1 new inhabitants come each month to taste its unparalleled quality of life. This large city on a human scale combines the charm of an entirely pedestrianized historic center and the architectural daring of the new districts. Its cultural life is active and its nights are intense. Treat yourself to a Montpellier weekend.
On foot, through the alleys
There was a time, not so long ago, when on the Comedy Square (photo), the heart of the city, we drove by car. Gradually, the vehicles were pushed out of the historic center, Escutcheon, until today transforming it into the largest pedestrian zone in France. On the vast Place de la Comédie, framed by Haussmann buildings, there are café terraces, privileged places to see and be seen, observe the bustle of the city, and street performances. In its center, the meeting point par excellence, the Fountain of the Three Graces make an eyeOpera, one of the largest in the province, designed by Charles Garnier. The three beauties are only a replica, the original being jealously guarded inside the Opera.
Leaving the square that we nicknamed “the egg” when it was oval, we enter the rue de la Loge, a shopping gap that storms the center to the stalls of halls Castellane. Continuing on the middle-class rue Foch, one reaches, passing under thetriumphal arch dedicated to Louis XIV, the Peyrou promenade where sits a statue of the Sun King. Summit of the hill constituting the medieval center, this large space planted with tall trees embraces the view over the whole city. From the tank built at its end flies with great strides the Arceaux, an aqueduct which once linked the city to the sources of Lez.
But let's take a step back. Let us leave this major axis which cuts the center in two to lose ourselves at random in alleys, mansions, numerous squares always furnished with restaurants, cafes, terraces lying in the shade of a church. Places Saint-Roch, Sainte-Anne, Saint-Côme, Candolle, de la Canourgue… all invite you to relax.
Bold new town
At the gates of the historic center begins the new town. At the end of the Place de la Comédie, theCharles-de Gaulle esplanade. Fountains, a merry-go-round, glaciers and, on the left, the Fabre museum, magnificently renovated, housing over 9 m² a huge collection of works ranging from the classical age to the contemporary.
Further on, the liner of Corum moored at the esplanade hosts congresses, numerous festivals and the Opéra Berlioz. Crossing the seventies shopping arcade Polygon, we then discover the architectural madness offered by Montpellier. The Antigone district, a neo-Greek utopia imagined by Ricardo Bofill according to the arduous rules of the golden ratio, comes to die on the banks of the Lez in an immense half-moon esplanade opening its arms to the pompous building of the Hôtel de Région.
Further on, on the outskirts of the city, by taking the tramway with white swallows on a blue background, we reach the new shopping-entertainment complex ofOdysseum. Cinema, ice rink, planetarium, bowling, karting and superb aquarium Mare Nostrum are scattered between chain restaurants and numerous shops. The Disneyland of Montpellier in a way…
Pub, rum and wine bars
In the evening, this is not where it happens. The historic center increases volume, cools or heats its terraces according to the seasons, to absorb young and old alike eager for outings. The city has more than 70 students for 000 inhabitants. While in the Saint-Roch district small restaurants and wine bars fill up, trendy people order a cocktail Jean-Jaurès square floor arranged like a galleon hold.
For a good-natured atmosphere, some turn to Irish pubs, watch a table at the Rebuffy Pub between beer and board games. The others barely grow outside the limits of the center, in search of the village atmosphere of the Fine Arts district or that, popular and multiethnic, of Figuerolles. At one o'clock in the morning, the revelers take the road to the beaches to go to a nightclub, or reach the Rockstore, the legendary rock club in the city center.
Nature in the city
Between sea and scrubland, Montpellier has long developed according to an airy plan, giving its place to unspoiled nature. On the edge of the historic center, a stone's throw from the Romanesque cathedral of Saint-Pierre, the Garden of plants, founded by Henri IV, is still managed by a renowned medical faculty since the Middle Ages.
Further on, in the suburbs, the lunaret zoo offers free 80 hectares of stroll on superb hills of scrubland and pine forest where we will, of course, come across some animals that are often not Mediterranean. Crocodiles and anteaters can be seen in the very recent (and paying) Amazonian greenhouse. Finally, at the foot of the Lunaret flows the Lez. Engulfed in tall trees, we follow for miles its strange emerald green stream where a strange fish as large as a man was recently caught. Who will believe when we are still in town?
Consult our Montpellier and Languedoc-Roussillon fact sheets.
How to get there ?
The easiest way is to reach Montpellier by train. The station is located in the city center.
If you come by car, be aware that traffic quickly becomes a puzzle for neophytes. The easiest way is to leave your vehicle in the large Odysseum car park at the eastern entrance to the city and then take the tram, or park in one of the centre's covered car parks. That of the Polygon is cheaper.
We will then take public transport, or its feet ...
Where to sleep ?
- Youth Hostel: Impasse de la Petite Corraterie. Phone. : 04 67 60 32 22. Night in dormitory 15,90 euros / person. In a building with old character flanked by a beautiful shaded terrace.
- Hôtel du Palais: 3, rue du Palais. Phone. : 04 67 60 47 38. Double room 72-85 euros according to comfort (shower or bath). Comfortably wedged on the edge of the pleasant Place de la Canourgue, this charming little hotel offers pretty rooms in Provencal tones.
Find your hotel in Montpellier.
Where to eat ?
The historic center is full of restaurants (and bars). Two addresses among many others:
- La Pita Grecque: 6, rue Vieille. Tel .: 04 67 60 51 45. A stone's throw from the Castellane market halls. The dining room and its terrace don't look pretty, but you can feast on excellent kebabs, undoubtedly the best in town with their sesame sauce, and, at the table, beautiful plates for ten euros garnished with greco specialties. - Nicely turned Turkish.
- Le Chat Perché: rue du Collège Duvergier (at the corner with rue des Écoles Laïques). Phone. : 04 67 60 88 50. Menus 21-26 euros. A small room, a few tables on the street and above all a pretty terrace on the roofs to enjoy classic cuisine reinvented with finesse. The salmon steak is served with shrimps, the crispy goat cheese is spiced up with figs, as for the piece of beef it goes well with both fat and gingerbread ...
- City of Montpellier
- Montpellier Tourist Office
- Fabre Museum
- Mare Nostrum Aquarium
- La Gazette de Montpellier (schedule of outings)