Did you know that Montpellier is one of the French people’s favorite cities to live in? Have you ever seen the university of Montpellier’s postcard which pictures the sandy Mediterranean beaches? Did you know that you can arrive by train in Montpellier and head out on foot to explore the city without the need for a taxi transfer? Are you looking for a perfect spot to run away from the big city and relax at the seaside? Close enough to the beach but also with something more to offer? Then you should start packing and head to Montpellier, one of the best French cities in my opinion!
Only 3.5 hours by TGV from Paris, 3 hours by car from Barcelona. Montpellier has its own airport, but you can also fly to Nîmes (55km), Béziers (80km), or Marseille Provence Airport (150km). Situated in the Occitanie region (formerly known as Languedoc-Roussillon), it may be lesser known than Provence or Côte d’Azur, but not less interesting. People claim there are 300 sunny days a year here which means you definitely don’t have to worry about the weather during the trip.
I was lucky to study and live there for a half year in 2014 but I’ve already fallen in love with Montpellier even earlier, during my one-day trip, so believe me – even one day can be satisfying and totally worth experiencing. To convince you, I gathered a list of things that you can do there to have a taste of life in this amazing city.
1. Have a morning coffee at Jean Jaurès square (Place Jean Jaurès)
What better way to start the day than grabbing a pain au chocolat or croissant and having a long morning coffee at a charming square? Even if you’re there on your own, you can join other people reading their newspapers, books, or just sitting and slowly waking up. It’s one of the things I always do when I visit a new city.
2. Buy a postcard at a little amazing shop
When you are at the Jean Jaures square, take one of these medieval alleys, rue de l’Argenterie, and then turn right into rue de la Vieille where you will find the best little shop in Montpellier (Image de Demain) – a paradise for postcard fans. A choice is huge – stands with them start already at the street, encouraging you to enter before you even see the actual entrance. You can buy traditional ones with Montpellier views, but also black and white, vintage, cartons, with Little Prince and a lot more.
3. Grab a book from Gibert Joseph
A little bit further, in the direction of Parc Peyrou, you have 5-floor heaven for booklovers. Great books, new and used ones, very good prices. Plenty of French, English, novels, cookbooks, books for learning foreign languages, for kids, travel guides, everything! I can spend hours there and I never leave without something new for my collection.
4. Take a bike from the city center and go to the beach
A must-do, definitely! Tourist or not, it takes only 5 minutes to grab a bike from one of the 56 Vélomagg libre-service stations. After inserting your credit card into the machine, it gives you a 7-day valid code which you use to take a bike from wherever you want. Only 0,50€ for each hour. Quick grocery shopping, a fresh baguette from la boulangerie and you’re ready to go! When you will be leaving the city center by bike, go the way next to the Antigone, passing the Piscine Olympique and Place de l’Europe. A little bit further, you will be also able to see the modern and eco-friendly building of Hôtel de Ville.
How to get to the beach by bike?
Option 1 (better road, but less interesting beach): you can take away just along the river, passing beautiful horses and it will take you to the Palavas. Option 2: go the way of tram line 3, pass the end stop (Pérols) and head to the Carnon beach or, put just a little bit more effort, turn left and go to the Petit and Grand Travers. Wondering if it’s worth it? Yes, it is!
5. Buy something for home at Maisons du Monde
On the way back from the beach (if I take the tram line 3), I often stop at Maisons du Monde. I find it a nice place to buy something for the home or even as a little souvenir for family and friends. Nice, French style. You can check them out here.
6. Eat ice cream at Amorino
Located at Jean Jaures square as well, delicious and lovely looking ice-cream parlor. When you see them, it’s just too tempting to refuse. If you choose a couple of flavors, they will look like a colorful flowers. Mango’s perfect.
7. Have another coffee (or tea) in the most beautiful street just in the front of a bookshop
Because one per day is not enough! 8, Rue du Bras de Fer – the place simply called Le Bookshop (nice English books collection).
8. Put the map away and get lost among these medieval alleys
Simply wander. Observe the stylish windows of small boutiques, and feel the atmosphere. If it’s the evening, you should stop somewhere for an apéro. Try a glass of kir!
9. Enjoy the view from the Corum rooftop
When you are in the heart of Montpellier, at Place de la Comedie, you should walk along with Esplanade de Charles de Gaulle and check the view from the rooftop of Corum, a conference center and an opera house.
10. Enjoy the food
You definitely won’t complain about the choice you have in Montpellier. One of my favorite ones is Il Pizzaiolo or Empanadas Club which cooperates with La Raffinerie (sorry, it is not French cuisine) but, as I’m a huge picnic lover, you could have met me often in Parc Peyrou, just sitting with friends on a blanket and enjoying simple things prepared at home.
More great food options in Montpellier:
Napoleon Dynamite – French brunch spot
Omija – Korean bistro (yummy)
Terminal #1 – French cuisine
Folia – Chateau de Flaugergues (French, Mediterranean, vineyards and restaurant)
L’Artichaut – French
Ban Thai – Thai
Additional places worth visiting:
- Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Montpellier connected with Faculté de Médecine and the Anatomy Museum,
- Jardin des Plantes (the European oldest botanic garden),
- Church of Saint Anne (neo-gothic church turned into a contemporary art gallery called Carré Sainte-Anne),
- Saint Roch Church,
- La Panacee (contemporary culture center),
- Musee Fabre,
- Pomme de Reinette (one of the most amazing toys shops I’ve seen).
Okay, it’s enough – writing this post made me wanna pack and go there again as soon as possible!
Original blog post by Paulina from Poland.