Are you once again planning your trip to France?
Excited to be visiting Paris with the idea of exploring further.
Because France offers an abundance of beautiful countryside, quiet villages and historic places.
No wonder the hardest thing is trying to decide where to spend your time.
But if you have decided to head south away from Paris, make a detour to Montpellier, a city often overlooked.
Because people are discovering Montpellier is:
- a vibrant city for a weekend break
- a stopover between Barcelona and Paris
- a city to relax and savour excellent French cuisine
Is Montpellier worth visiting?
Heck yes. Montpellier is a pedestrian-friendly city.
The main square, Palace de la Comedie, is always busy and vibrant.
Popular for conversation and coffee, watching buskers trying to win you with a smile, or just sitting near the fountain to watch people enjoying their day.
Palace de la Comedie is a starting point to see more of Montepellier.
From here, you can also take a tram to the nearby beaches to see flamingoes. Or hire a cycle to explore away from the city centre. And check out the local tourist office for day trips to Barcelona, Avignon or Carcassone.
And if you get lucky enough to spend seven weeks in this vibrant city with housesitting, you will be singing the praises of Montpellier.
How to See Montpellier with House Sitting
We got to spend seven weeks in Montpellier with housesitting and loved every minute of living like a local.
House sitting is one of the best ways we’ve found to reduce our travel budget, allowing us to stay longer at a fraction of the price of a hotel or Airbnb accommodation.
But first, let’s get to know Montpellier before you visit.
Guide to the Best of Montpellier
- A Little History of Montpellier
- Visit the Tourist Information Centre
- 20 Best Things to See in Montpellier
- Walking Guide to Montpellier
- How to Get Around Montpellier
- Shopping in Montpellier
- Restaurants, Bars and Cafes in Montpellier
- How to Get to Montpellier
- Where to Stay in Montpellier
- Day Trips from Montpellier
A Little History of Montpellier
Montpellier is the second-largest city in the Occitania region of southern France.
In the 10th century, the Guilhem family of Toulouse built defensive walls to enclose their castle and rule the people.
But when Montpellier was ruled by the Kings of Aragon, the city became an important centre for the spice trade; the Mediterranean coast is only 12km away.
After the War of Religions in the 16th century, Montpellier became the royal capital of Languedoc. In this period, the city was rebuilt with a style of architecture unique to the city. And from the 17th to the 19th century, over 80 private mansions were built.
What is Montpellier Famous for?
Most cities have a university, but the University of Montpellier is one of the oldest institutions in the world. It was established in the 13th century; The School of Medicine faculty was founded in 1221, and the School of Law dates from 1160.
And their most famous student was Nostradamus, who studied medicine.
When you have a third of the population as university students, your city is alive with chatter, music, and festivals. And evenings are abuzz with young people enjoying many outdoor bars and restaurants.
But there is more to Montpellier than its universities.
A visit to Montpellier Tourism Centre will give you the latest information on “What is on in Montpellier.”
20 Things to See and Do in Montpellier
Montpellier’s old town is best explored on foot to discover the small narrow lanes and quaint cafes in tiny squares and see up close the detailed sculpturing of the 18th-century buildings.
And you’ll find plenty of free things to do in Montpellier, so you get to spend more of your travel budget sampling delicious French cuisine.
You need 48 hours in Montpellier to experience the best of Montpellier.
1. PLACE DE LA COMEDIE
When the main railway station was built in the mid-19th century (only 200m away), Palace de la Comedie became the main focal point of the city. It is named after a theatre that burned down in 1785 and 1855.
With the tram line running along one side and bars and cafes on the other, the Palace de la Comedie is a vibrant place to observe many people coming and going.
2. OPÉRA ORCHESTRE NATIONAL MONTPELLIER OCCITANIE
The Opéra Comédie is a superb Italian-style theatre built in the 18th century. Its current appearance is from the late 19th century, after the theatre was damaged several times by fire.
3. FOUNTAIN OF THE THREE GRACES
The Three Graces Fountain can be found in Palace de la Comedie and is a meeting point for many.
The fountain is based on Greek Mythology’s Aglaea (the grace for beauty), Thalia (the grace for good cheer) and Euphrosyne (the grace of mirth).
4. MUSÉE FABRE
The Museum was founded by François-Xavier Fabre, a famous painter in 1825 who wanted to retain paintings from the 15th to 20th century from a wide variety of European painters.
Musee Fabre has free entry on the first Sunday of the month.
For opening times and prices, you can read more here ⇒ Musee Fabre.
5. ESPLANADE CHARLES-DE-GAULLE
If you are looking for a place to relax or walk off delicious French cuisine, a walk along the tree-lined Esplanade Charles de Gaulle is ideal.
Place de la Comedie at one end, the Musee Fabre nearby, fountains and a children’s play area make it an ideal place to sit and enjoy the beauty of Montpellier.
6. PAVILLON POPULAIRE
Located behind the Tourist Information Centre is the modern photography museum Pavillon Populaire, offering changing exhibitions of current national and international artists.
7. MONTPELLIER CATHEDRAL
The Montpellier Cathedral is a majestic gothic church and was originally attached to the monastery of Saint-Benoît.
The Cathedral suffered extensive damage during the Wars of Religion between Catholics and Protestants in the 16th century. It was rebuilt in the 17th century.
8. MUSEE ET CONSERVATOIRE D’ANATOMIE
Next to the Cathedral is the Museum and Conservatory of Anatomy, created in the late eighteenth century with nearly 5,600 anatomical pieces and waxes for teaching.
The Tourist Information Centre offers a guided tour of the Faculty of Medicine in the former cloister of Saint-Benoît.
9. MONTPELLIER BOTANICAL GARDEN
The Montpellier Botanical Garden is one of the oldest in Europe, created by order of Henri IV in 1593.
Originally the garden was one hectare until it grew to include a systems school, an arboretum, and a landscaped park.
10. PLACE ROYALE DU PEYROU
Promenade du Peyrou is one of the favourite places of Montpellier. The promenade displays a statue of Louis XIV on horseback in its centre.
11. CHATEAU D’EAU
At the far end of the promenade is the Chateau d’Eau water tower supplying the fountains of Montpellier with water fed by the Saint-Clement Aqueduct from the River Lez.
12. SAINT-CLÉMENT AQUEDUCT
The Saint-Clement Aqueduct was built in 1766 to bring water from Saint-Clement to Montpellier, a distance of 14km. The water tower distributes water to the city’s many fountains.
13. ARC DE TRIOMPHE
The Arc de Triomphe of Montpellier (Port de Peyrou) was built in 1692, replacing one of the doors of the old rampart.
The Tourist Information Centre offers a guided tour to climb 90 steps of the arch for great views of Montpellier.
14. COURT OF APPEAL OF MONTPELLIER
This imposing building with large columns on Rue Foch highlights some of the stunning architecture you will find in Montpellier.
15. CATHÉDRALE SAINT ANNE
St. Anne’s Cathedral was built in the nineteenth century during the economic boom of the city, driven by the wine trade. Its majestic bell tower is visible from all parts of the city of Montpellier.
The Cathedral was converted into a cultural space in 1991 and now hosts exhibitions and festivals all year round.
Nearby the cathedral, there are many cafes to sit and relax.
16. EGLISE SAINT-ROCH
The construction of this church started in the 19th century and is yet to be finished.
The church is named after Saint Roch, who was a native of Montpellier and a healer of plague victims and pilgrims.
Saint Roch area is a good place to enjoy the evening, with plenty of bars, restaurants, and cafes in the area.
17. LE COUVENT DES URSULINES
The Ursuline Convent was built in 1641 by the Ursuline congregation for the education of girls and care of the sick and needy.
During the revolution, it became a prison for women, and during the German occupation, it was used as an interrogation centre.
Today you can visit and enjoy performances of the International City of Dance. And nearby you can visit the Ancienne Chapelle de la Visitation, an exhibition centre for artists.
While in Montpellier, a walk along the River Lez will find you in the area called Antigone.
This impressive architecture of buildings, fountains and large squares was built on a former army barracks.
19. HOTEL DE REGION
As you approach the River Lez from Antigone, the impressive Hôtel de Région will hold your attention.
Designed as a glass triumphal arch built in 1989, it is the work of Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill and highlights the modern city of Montpellier.
20. RIVER LEZ PROMENADE
The River Lez Promenade is designed to be enjoyed by everyone, whether for a morning walk or run or simply relaxing with a book.
Cafes and restaurants, and a modern shopping mall nearby enhance the attraction of living in Montpellier.
How to Get Around Montpellier
Trams of Montpellier
The modern trams of Montpellier provide an easy option to get around the city or to nearby beaches. There are four tram lines, each assigned its own distinctive colour and design.
Rent a Bicycle
Near the tram lines, you will find bikes for rent at a very low cost for the day.
Use your credit card for payment.
Best suggestion: take the cycle path to the beach and find the flamingoes.
Shopping in Montpellier
1. RUE DE L’ANCIEN COURRIER
Old Courier street is a lovely narrow lane with many boutique stores.
It was once a connecting street for the residence of King Jacques of Aragon 1st.
2. MARCHÉ DE MONTPELLIER / HALLES CASTELLANE
For fresh fish, fruit, flowers, and vegetables, the Montpellier Market has it all. Here you will find exotic products, decorative objects, fabrics, costume jewellery, clothes, and old and second-hand books.
The Market is open every day from 7:00 to 20:00 except Sunday from 7:00 to 13:30.
3. RUE DE L’ARGENTERIE
Boutique shops for browsing and buying are one of the major routes in Montpellier.
4. GRAND RUE JEAN MOULIN
Shopping, cafes or tasty crepes, Grand Rue Jean Moulin has a rich heritage. It is a popular street to browse and shop.
Restaurants, Bars and Cafes in Montpellier
One of the things we love about Europe, and France in particular, are the small squares surrounded by cafes and restaurants.
They always seem popular, encouraging you to enjoy lunch with a bottle of French wine.
1. THE EGG (11 Rue du Plan d’Agde)
If in the Saint-Roch district and need a beer, then The Egg has a good atmosphere and food to enjoy.
2. LE PETIT MOULU (43 Rue de l’ Université)
On Rue de la Universite, you will find this wonderful small cafe where the coffee and tea are freshly brewed for you. Make sure you try one of the delicious croissants too.
And while you sip your coffee, you can admire La Vielle Porte, one of the city gates from the seventeenth century.
3. CREPERIE LE KREISKER (3 Passage Bruyas, 34000 Montpellier)
Galettes would have to be one of our favourite dishes, both savoury and sweet. If you want to try something different but delicious, Creperie le Kreisker is the restaurant to visit
4. LES BAINS DE MONTPELLIER (6 Rue Richelieu 34000, Montpellier)
This very good French restaurant was formerly the Public Baths, founded in 1770 and abandoned for over 40 years.
It was renovated in 1998 to become the place for trendy meals.
If you are looking for some small squares to enjoy a coffee, you have:
- Rue Joubert
- Rue Saint-Paul
- Place Jean Jaures
- Place des Martyrs, with its beautiful fountain
How to Get to Montpellier
Where is Montpellier in France?
Montpellier is found in the new region of Occitanie, previously Languedoc–Roussillon in southwest France. The city is only 10km inland from the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
Whether looking for flights to Montpellier, Barcelona to Montpellier by train or Paris to Montpellier by bus, we suggest using the free app Rome to Rio to locate times and prices.
You can learn more by clicking on our page, Resources.
Trains, Flights, Buses or Car
Flights are daily from the main cities of Europe like Paris, Lyon, and London.
Montpellier airport, only a 15-minute drive to the city centre, makes it an easy option.
Trains are daily into Montpellier, with the TGV station located within the city. Popular train connections to Madrid, Barcelona (3 hours), Paris and Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (3-4 hours).
Buses are always a cheaper option for travel, and we can recommend Flixbus.
Rental Car or travelling in your own car or with BlablaCar allows you more flexibility to explore nearby must-see places of southern France.
Where to Stay in Montpellier
When choosing accommodation for your stay, we have a few favourite sites.
But for us, we love the lower prices of Hotels.com, where after your 10th night is booked, your next night is free based on your average stay rate. Always great to get a bonus night.
And when staying longer and needing the use of a kitchen, we use Airbnb.
Day Trips from Montpellier
- Hiking in Cévennes and its National Park
- Beaches at Sete
- Vineyards of regional wines
- Historical landmarks
MUST-SEE PLACES OF SOUTHERN FRANCE
Pont du Gard
The Pont du Gard is just 80km from Montpellier or 26km from Avignon. This incredible aqueduct built in 1AD is 49m high and 275m in length and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Narbonne was an ancient Roman town in 118AD and only an hour from Montpellier. The River Aude runs through the city with the famous Merchant Bridge for shopping.
Visiting Perpignan in the region of Occitanie has the best of it all. Spain to the south, the Mediterranean sea 13kms away, and it’s only an hour to the nearest skifield.
Just under 2 hours from Montpellier, this beautiful medieval fortress is the highlight as you approach the city.
Finding Flamingoes at Palavas Les Flots, only a 6km tram ride from Montpellier, was an unexpected highlight.
If you have a rental car, you can also explore the Camargue for bird watching, horses and bulls.
Visit Montpellier when you travel to France
Montpellier is a city to add to your travel France itinerary.
When looking for new places to visit in France or Europe, away from the big tourist cities, Montpellier has plenty to offer.
With amazing architecture, French cuisine and day trips to nearby historical landmarks, villages, and cities, Montpellier is a great city to base yourself on to explore the region of Occitane.
Only five hours from Paris and three hours to Barcelona, Montpellier, for your next travel vacation.