Montpellier, Herault: tourism & sightseeing
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Montpellier is in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, 10 kilometres inland from the Mediterranean. Montpellier has a reputable university, which has played a large part in the town itself, keeping it young and vibrant. It is quite a sizable town, with more than 250,000 inhabitants, and is said to be the fasting growing city in France.
A nice, clean, attractive city, there are several interesting tourist attractions to visit in Montpellier. There are numerous fountains, gardens, buildings and monuments to discover as you explore - many not in themselves especially important, but each contributing to the appeal of the city as a whole.
The focus of the city is around the beautiful Place de la Comedie and the adjoining large open, tree-lined areas of the Esplanade Charles de Gaulle, and in the narrow streets of the old town to the north and west of these boulevards. A large part of the city centre is pedestrianised, so try and park slightly outside and walk in.
Montpellier has been named as the New York Times 'French Place to Visit 2012', and rightly so. It is one of the most beautiful cities in France.
Place de la Comedie
A visit will usually start from Place de la Comédie, the so-called “egg” and the main square in Montpellier – it is ovoid in shape because it was built along the perimeter of the ancient city ramparts. In the centre of the Place stands the ‘Fountain of Graces’.
The square is dominated by the facade of the Theatre (late nineteenth century), artistically interesting and very spacious inside with a bell shape and a series of galleries with wide corridors. The theatre, which was inspired by the Paris Opera, is by Cassien Bernard (1848-1926).
Continuing towards the Esplanade you will find a beautiful street full of shady plane trees. To the west of the old city is the Promenade du Peyrou, where you can admire a triumphal arch, which in reality is not of Roman origin (Montpellier was not born until the early Middle Ages) but was was built by Louis XIV to exalt his kingdom.
Just down the street there is the Corum (1988), in concrete and red granite - a modern project by architect Claude Vasconi. Another building that stands out here is the Opera Berlioz, which can accommodate thousands of spectators.
Going along the Rue de la Loge and Rue J. Coeur, there are magnificent townhouses known as ‘Hotels’. Many deserve a mention but see in particular the Hotel de la Trésorerie, the origins of which date back to the fifteenth century; and which became the seat of the Treasurers of France in the eighteenth century.
The classical architecture combines successfully with the the modern in Montpellier - for the best example move east from the Place de la Comedie to the district called Antigone – an impressive modern work by Ricardo Bofill that unites modern materials (eg pressurised concrete) with the neoclassical style, giving the neighbourhood a truly monumental feel.
Montpellier Museums and Art
For art lovers, Montpellier also has some treasures, for example, the Museum of Languedoc has a wide range of artefacts: Romanesque, Gothic, Flemish tapestries, paintings and furnishings typical of the Languedoc, porcelains...
The artistic heart of the city is the Museum Fabre, which contains a remarkable number of paintings from the most varied artistic trends in Europe. These include (among many others) ‘Women of Algiers’ by Delacroix; ‘The meeting’ and ‘The Bathers’ by Gustave Courbet; a ‘View of the Country’ by Jean Frederic Bazille – also works by Paul Rubens, Edgar Degas Nicolas Poussin, and some important Italian painters (Paolo Caliari, Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, Alessandro Allori).
To learn more of the local traditions of Montpellier, we suggest visiting the magnificent ‘Palace of Varennes’, the ‘Musée des Vieux’ and the ‘Musée Fougou’, which contains folklore material of the nineteenth century and various objects of daily use.
See also the so-called Agropolis Museum (in the Agropolis Avenue), which is a veritable museum of nutrition, dedicated to international cuisine of which a very wide variety is presented.
Other places to visit around Montpellier
You can’t leave Montpellier without visiting the University district, with the Church of Saint Pierre (of Romanic-Gothic style) and the Museums of the Faculty of Medicine of which Montpellier is justly proud. Next door is the curious ‘International Academy of Music’, which celebrates some instrument makers from 18th century Montpellier.
Montpellier Gardens: Some other places to visit in Montpellier include the Park Zoo and Amazon Greenhouse. These are found to the north of Montpellier and are open every day except Mondays.
The botanical gardens are France's oldest botanical garden, dating from the 16th century, and are now a classified historic monument and very pleasant to visit. The gardens are open in the afternoons.
Garden enthusiasts will be pleased to find several other interesting gardens around Montpellier, including the Jardin de Poitiers - a recreated medieval garden around the ruins of an old church.
Montpellier's new Odysseum district is a vibrant mix of shopping centre and leisure activities with great shops, a planetarium, aquarium, ice-rink, bowling alley and lots more and all in a somewhat Florida style with palm trees and lots of bright colours.
There are a few places in Montpellier where you can see a mountain in the distance to the north of the city. This is called the Pic du Loup and is visible from much of the Herault department.
Montpellier cuisine, food and wine
It is perhaps inevitable that a city like Montpellier, traditionally a regional wine capital, has a particular focus on cuisine and local produce. Each morning the visitor can find various markets in the city – try the Esplanade Charles de Gaulle in the Antigone district with its farmers market for a good selection.
Note: every two years Montpellier holds a Fair called ‘Aux Origines du Goût’ (The Origins of Taste) to celebrate the typical products of exceptionally fertile land of the region.
In Montpellier and region you can enjoy local fish dishes such as the ‘Rouget’ or the ‘Dorade à la Provençale’, coquillages (shellfish), bouillabaisse (fish soup, a tasty traditional recipe), or the Seiches à l'Armoricaine’.
Of course your food should be accompanied by one of the wines of Montpellier, either the white (Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Viognier and Colombari) or red (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon), or perhaps other wines from the Herault (the region around Montpellier, and very productive and suitable for the cultivation of vines because of its volcanic soil).
Photos of Montpellier
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Map of Montpellier and places to visit
Visit near Montpellier with France This Way reviews
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Montpellier has received the following tourist classifications: historical protected town centre' (secteur sauvegardé);
Address: Montpellier, Herault, Languedoc-Roussillon, 34000, France || GPS: latitude 43.611944, longitude 3.877222
Plan your visit to Montpellier, Herault
Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby
- Parc zoologique de Lunaret: zoo or wildlife park (3 km)
- Mare Nostrum: aquarium (3 km)
- Parc et jardins du château de Flaugergues: remarkable garden (3 km)
- Étangs palavasiens: site of natural beauty (12 km)
- Pointe de l'Espiguette: site of natural beauty (23 km)
- Sommieres: secteur sauvegarde (25 km)
- Towers and fortifications of Aigues-Mortes: national monument (26 km)
- Saint Jean de Fos pont du diable (monuments on French pilgrim routes): heritage site (28 km)
- Grotte de la Clamouse: site of natural beauty (28 km)
- Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert / Gorges de l'Herault: grand site of france (30 km)
- St Guilhem le Desert ancienne abbaye (monuments on French pilgrim routes): heritage site (30 km)
- Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert: most beautiful village (30 km)
The French version of this page is at Montpellier (Francais)