Chic, youthful and understated, Montpellier is one of France’s undiscovered wonders. Situated in the Languedoc Roussillon, Montpellier is a multicultural, ever-growing hive of activity. A winter city break to Montpellier will be filled with scenic walks and romantic aperitifs below heat lamps in the main square. A large university city, students make up a third of Montpellier’s residents. This youthful demographic keeps the city moving, with live music, art exhibitions and new architecture seemingly every day.
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Read our Montpellier guide and treat yourself to a winter city break in this most gorgeous of French cities.
With a car-free city centre, the heart of Montpellier is best explored by foot. As you flanneur – or wander – through the cityyou’ll be gratified with the stunning architecture of Montpellier. The Place de la Comedie is the main square of the city, where tables spill out from the many restaurants and bars. Grab a seat and an aperitif and enjoy the architecture, and watching the world go by
Montpellier has its own Arc de Triomphe. A 52m-tall structure, this arch was built in 1692, in dedication to Louis XIV. Climb up the Arc’s 103 inner steps on a tourist office guide, for panoramic views from the top.
For something entirely different, walk to Antigone – the city’s modern district. Built between 1979 and 2000, this part of the city was designed by Ricardo Bofill. The clash of modern and classic design makes for beautiful contrasts on the banks of the River Lez.
Sightseeing in Montpellier
Montpellier’s Cathedral St-Pierre is a must for any winter city break to Montpellier. With imposing towers at the entrance and a beautiful central arch, it looks more like a fairytale castle than a cathedral. Entrance is free, meaning you have no excuse not to take in the view.
The four line tram system of Montpellier isn’t just a simple way to navigate the city, it’s also another example of beauty around every corner in Montpellier. The artistic license of the lines system is a far cry from Paris or London. Opened in 2000, each line has it’s own colour system: line 1 = blue with white swallows, line 2 = red, yellow and green flowers, line 3 = maritime design, line 4 = gold and black liveries. Tickets cost €1.50 for a single, and €4 for an all day hop on-hop off.
The Montpellier Jardin des Plantes is the oldest botanical garden in France, having been designed in 1593. Created as the trial run for Paris’ Jardin des Plantes, these gardens include over 2500 species, including palms, medicinal plants, and rare trees. Grottoes and ponds, plus moss-covered steps and greek-esque arches give these gardens a secret appeal and a rustic personality.
Just to the north of the city centre is Montpellier’s majestic aqueduct. No standard water tower, the 1768 Chateau d’eau looks like a work of art. Simply a charming place to sit and while away an hour.
Montpellier things to do for families
Montpellier has its own zoo, just 4km from the city centre. The 60 hectares of the zoo are laid out like a safari, with the residents walking wild. Wander around the zoo and you can expect to see a white rhino, three leopard brothers, and even lions! The zoo is free to enter, with a rate of €3-€6.50 to enter the Amazonian greenhouse where the piranhas, alligators and reptiles lurk.
There’s also an aquarium in Montpellier. The aquarium is a part of the Odysseum shopping centre, and hosts 15 aquatic scenes. There are nearly 400 species within the aquarium, from sharks and rays in Ocean Balcony – the largest covered tank in France, holding 1.8 million litres of seawater – to penguins, and piranhas!
Montpellier restaurants and bars:
If small but busy family-run restaurants and bistros are your thing, then you’re in for a treat in Montpellier. The influx of students and tourists keeps Montpellier’s night time culture busy with chic wine bars, modern restaurants and pretty cafes.
As mentioned, the Place de la Comedie offers a good range of cafes for an early evening aperitif, but it will be more expensive here. Wander into the many streets of Montpellier and simply take your pick of delicious bistros. Post-dinner, the city bristles with bars playing music, from live jazz to rock clubs.
If your food cravings need to be satisfied during the day, head to the Marche de l’Esplanade-Comedie at Esplanade Charles-de-Gaulle. Open Monday-Thursday at 7am-1.30pm, this market usually consists of around 40 stalls hawking local produce – a treat for the senses!
This guide simply scratches the surface of a winter city break in Montpellier. Go to Montpellier for fantastic food, for buzzing bars, and historic sights alongside modern ones. All that, and the beach is a mere 30 minutes away if you’re looking for a wintery beach walk.