Things to Do in Montpellier, France
The South of France is lined with sunny, beautiful Mediterranean cities that make the perfect day trip and weekend destinations. I spent one of my most memorable trips traveling west along the Cote D’Azur via bus and train with my best friend. We made a two day stop in Montpellier, and although I wasn’t expecting to, I fell in love with this French destination. Planning for a day in this gem of a city? Read on for the best things to do in Montpellier…
A Gem in the South
Vibrancy and Splendor to Be Discovered...
Montpellier is a lively and well-kept city. It’s also a wonderful place to escape the flocks of tourists that fill many of France’s southern destinations like nearby Nice and Cannes. An added plus – Montpellier has an excellent tram system that makes getting around a breeze, but the city center is also small enough to easily access on foot.
But despite its more laid-back demeanor, Montpellier is full of things to do and see. The city has a huge student population and the vibrancy of a university city. The blend of historical and contemporary architecture makes Montpellier a cultural gem.
Discover the Ins and Outs of the City
Getting into the Center
The city center’s compactness makes getting around on foot effortless. To get to the center of town hop on the tram. The system is very clean and incredibly efficient. When I was there in the summer 2019, they were renovating many of the stations. There are stops near major bus drop off points and right by the main train station.
Explore, explore, explore
Of the best things to do in Montpellier, wandering the beautiful city fabric is the way to experience the sights and splendors of this town. You could spend an entire day exploring the city on a self-guided walking tour, but these are some spots you won’t want to miss.
Place de La Comedie
This is the perfect place to hop off the tram and soak in the upbeat vibe of the city. Place de la Comedie is a bustling plaza with beautiful Beaux Art architecture, including an Opera house, fountain, and a wide array of cafes to people watch from. There is also a Monoprix here – a convenient location to pick up any necessities before starting a day of exploring.
My favorite part of any city is discovering historic Old Town. L’Ecusson is Montpellier’s historic city center and it is filled with beautiful pedestrian streets. Find the Place des Martyrs-de-la-Resistance. This node in the historic center is a great place to stop before breaking off into the network of charming side streets. Beautiful storefronts, boutiques, and cafes line these narrow walkways. From my two days in this city, walking these polished stone streets was the most memorable experience for me.
Right in the heart of old town, the Church of Saint-Roch is a beautiful example of French Gothic Revival architecture. Moreover, by night this area comes to life and is brimming with lively bars.
Take in the Food
Les Halles Castellanes is a lovely covered market to explore for a glimpse of the local life and regional food. And I should mention, eating and drinking is certainly a notable thing to do in Montpellier! Particularly in L’Ecusson, you will certainly not go hungry. It is filled with Michelin star restaurants amongst other more casual eats.
It’s nearly impossible to not certainly stumble upon several excellent restaurants just by wandering the streets. I remember vividly wanting to eat at about ten different places we walked by! I am not typically one for expensive meals, but exploring the gourmet culinary scene is high on the list of notable things to do in Montpellier. And of course, be sure to try the regional Languedoc and Gres de Montpellier wines!
A Special (Un-Sponsored) Shoutout
And speaking of eats I have to mention Empanadas Club. While yes, this is an Argentine specialty – this restaurant has created a wonderful Latin and French fusion. If caprese or Nutella and bananas empanadas don’t sound like France wrapped in pastry dough, then I don’t know what does….
Revel in Rich Arts and Culture
When it comes to cultural things to do in Montpellier, there is no shortage of wonderful museums and historical landmarks. Montepellier’s Pavilion Populaire is a modern photography museum that is free to the public. It is absolutely worth a stop in (if only to escape the heat!) There are rotating exhibitions of artists from France, and around the world.
The Fabre Museum is one of France’s biggest art museums. The collection features some of Europe’s best paintings and sculptures from the Renaissance and Enlightenment eras, as well as impressionism, fauvism, and the Beaux-Arts style. Renoir and Delacroix, two of my favorite painters are featured here. And for a dose of modern art, be sure to visit La Panacee.
And if architectural history is right up your alley, then Montpellier cathedral, the Saint-Clement Aqueduct, the Chateau d’Eau and La Tour de la Babote are wonderful glimpses into Montpellier’s past as a fortified city. Not to mention, if you find yourself craving some greenery amidst the hardscape of the city – visit Jardin des Plantes de Montpellier, the city’s botanical garden.
Explore the City By Night
For those in search of after-hours things to do in Montpellier, come visit the Promenade du Peyrou once the sun goes down. The Aqueduc Saint-Clement is a beautiful 18th-century aqueduct here, and the Chateau d’Eau is the park’s crown jewel. Why come at night? The landmarks are lit up blue! Bonus thing to do if you visit on a Sunday: visit the flea market that takes place at the promenade!
I found the beauty of this city to be even more moving by night. It is certainly worth a stroll through Montpellier after the sun has set. There is something about the lights and the glowing outdoor restaurant seating on every street, big or small, that makes for a vibrant pulse of life.
These Streets Are Waiting For You...
Although mere photos and words certainly don’t do it justice, I hope you get a glimpse of Montpellier’s rich history and wonderfully eclectic urban fabric. Come with an appetite for adventure. Montpellier’s streets are begging to be explored!