Montpellier in the South of France offers an exhilarating combination of the old and the new. The city is located just a mere 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) from the Mediterranean Sea, and has a lovely mild climate. Montpellier is a great base to make day trips across the region, but the city itself also has some amazing attractions to keep you occupied for days.
Montpellier has a city center filled with cozy small cobblestoned streets and sun-filled squares, while it also features sprawling parks. The city houses one of the oldest universities in Europe, and almost a fourth of the city’s 250 thousand inhabitants are students. This great presence of young people also explains the fantastic selection of shops and cafes present in the city, and of course the bustling nightlife!
In recent years, the focus of the city has been on renewal and innovation, which can be seen in projects such as the new city hall and a new tram, which was designed by Christian Lacroix.
In this article, we’ll take you on a tour of Montpellier, and show you just how much you can see and do in 48 hours!
10 am – Start your exploration of Montpellier by visiting the center point of the city: Place de la Comédie.
This historical square is surrounded by shops and cafes and will immediately give you a feeling of the city’s vibe. In the center of the historical square you’ll find the Three Graces fountain, which was sculpted in 1790. The Opéra Comedie is located at the southwest corner of the square, where you can see an opera in the evening. At the northeast corner of the square you’ll find one of Montpellier’s many parks: Esplanade de Charles de Gaulle.
After seeing the square and the park, get ready to do some shopping and see the city at the same time. To the east of the Place de la Comédie lies a huge modern shopping mall called Polygone, which contains several small boutiques as well as various French chain stores. After seeing Polygone and the Antigone complex, make your way west to explore the cobblestoned streets of Montpellier’s city center and to shop at the quirky little stores you’ll find all around. Have lunch in one of the many great cafes you can find in the alleys around the Place de Martyrs de la Résistance.
2 pm – After lunch, walk west from the Place de Martyrs de la Résistance along Rue Foch for some more French shopping.
At the end of the Rue Foch you’ll see the Arc de Triomphe towering over the road. This Arc was built on the site of one of the city’s old ramparts. You can take a guided tour to the top of the Arc to get a great view of Montpellier and the countryside surrounding the city.
Alternatively, you can also cross the Boulevard Professeur Louis Vialleton to the Promenade Peyrou, which is the highest point of Montpellier. The Promenade is crossed by a former aqueduct, which used to carry water to the city. The Chateau de Eau at the western end of the Promenade gives you an amazing view of the aqueduct’s arches, and you can even climb to the top to get a view of the Mediterranean Sea on a clear day!
5 pm – Like many of the Mediterranean cities, Montpellier is known for its farmers markets with fresh ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, bread, cheeses, meats, fishes and more.
At the end of the afternoon, make your way back to the city center and look for Les Halles Castellane, which is a local market that is open Monday to Saturday from 7:30 am to 7:30 pm. Here you can pick up ingredients to prepare your own Southern French dinner. If you need some inspiration on what to prepare, check out this article on Southern French ingredients and cuisine.
To prepare a French dinner for friends or family, of course you’ll need to have access to a proper kitchen. By renting an apartment in Montpellier, you’ll not only be able to cook in a real French kitchen, but you’ll also have enough space to invite people to your home for a dinner party. We have vacation rental apartments available in Montpellier that offer a perfect vacation accommodation to explore the city from, while providing you with a real Southern French experience.
10 am – Start the day with a cultural experience at the Musée Fabre, one of the most impressive Fine Arts museums in Europe. The recently renovated museum displays a collection of paintings ranging from the 17th to the 20th century.
Make your way through the museum and get lost in the amazing art from different periods in history. Make sure not to miss the new modern gallery displaying works by Pierre Soulages, as it is a completely different space from that of the other galleries.
For lunch make your way south from the museum along the Place de la Comédie to the Michelin-rated Les Bains on Rue Richelieu. The restaurant offers amazing Mediterranean cuisine, and even has an outdoor garden where you can enjoy lunch in the summer months.
2 pm – Spend the afternoon exploring the amazing seaside close to Montpellier!
Catch a tram to the Port Marianne stop in Montpellier, and from here you can hop on the 131 bus to Palavas-les-Flots, a small seaside resort just 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) south of the city.
The town has white sandy beaches stretching kilometers along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Bring your bathing suit, a towel and some sunscreen lotion for a great afternoon on the beach. The beach is popular with families and young people alike, and you’ll also see many amateur wind surfers and kite-surfers trying their skills on the bright blue waters of the Mediterranean.
In the winter, a good indoor alternative to the beach is the shopping center Odysseum, which you can find on the outskirts of Montpellier. The Odysseum complex has a very interesting urban design, and also includes an aquarium, planetarium and an ice-skating rink!
6 pm – End the day in Palavas-les-Flots by trying a fish dish at one of the local restaurants.
The town started out as a fishermen village, so you can be sure the quality of the dishes is excellent! A great activity to do with kids before dinner is to take the Transcanal, which is the world’s smallest chair lift, across the canal that separates the west side from the east side of the town. Take the bus back to Montpellier after dinner, and if you still have some energy left you can check out the city’s nightlife after a quick wash-up at your apartment. You’ll find cafes and bars all over the city center, and Montpellier also boasts two great Irish pubs: O’Caralan’s and Fitzpatrick’s.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our little tour of bustling Montpellier! What’s your favorite city in France?
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