Montpellier is a beautiful spot to visit and even if you’ve just a day to spare, you can still enjoy plenty of what the area has to offer. Located in the Southwest region of France, Montpellier is a mecca of museums, gardens and shopping. In fact, there’s something for everyone, as you might expect, as it’s the eighth largest city in France.
Where to stay
Of course, even if you’re just in town for 24 hours, you’ll still need somewhere to spend the night. A good starting point is the neo-classical Antigone district, which offers some of France’s most traditionally beautiful hotels:
Hotel Kyriad Montpellier Centre - A three star hotel in Antigone, that seems to attract mostly English, French, Spanish, and German visitors.
Le Jardin des Sens
– A little outside the centre on Avenue Saint Lazare, but worth the trek for its charming atmosphere and reasonable rates. Includes an outdoor pool and spa and serves excellent food.
Hôtel des Arceaux – This is another small but elegant hostelry, just two minutes stroll from the heart of Montpellier.
Newhotel du Midi – Located in the centre of the city opposite the Opera House and just five minutes from the railway station, the Newhotel du Midi is a great base for exploring the city.
Historic Shopping and Eating
Once in the centre, you have a host of dining and shopping opportunities among some of the oldest architecture in the world. Many buildings date back as far as the early fourteenth century. What’s more, the city is full of gardens, which also rate among the oldest known public parks Europe, and all are superbly maintained. The old city centre is the perfect place to start your day with a coffee or to enjoy an aperitif before dinner in one of the many restaurants located here. There are many stunning locations to discover, many of them decorated with carved stone balustrades and other unique architectural features.
Place de la Comedie – The main focal point of the city in the south-east of the city, ideal for people-watching. Don’t miss the Three Graces fountain, the centrepiece of this huge square. The best shopping can be found between here and Antigone.
La Place Royale du Peyrou – Also known as the Esplanade, this outdoor market is lined with trees and caters to tourists and locals with plenty of good outdoor eateries from where you can enjoy views of Montpellier’s very own Arc de Triomphe.
Jardin des Plantes
- Featuring an Amazon rainforest, complete with artificial rain, the Jardin des Plantes is one of many botanical gardens that features on tours organised by travel agencies throughout Montpellier. Inside, there are no fewer than four museum galleries, as well as a botanical school, with over 4,500 different plants. One could easily spend a whole day at the garden and do nothing else.
However, that would be a shame, since you cannot spend a day in Montpellier without enjoying some of the fine traditional French food on offer and there’s no shortage of choice with all manner of eateries from sandwich shops to bistros. For the most authentic eating experience stick with the restaurants to the north, south, and west of the city centre.
For budget food, try Place Jean-Jaurès, a favourite haunt of the city’s students. There are also a multitude of wine bars throughout the city, giving you plenty of opportunities to try the local appellations. Café de la Mer is a gay-friendly and long established establishment on Place Marché aux Fleurs, while Les Caves de Trinques Fougasse on Route de Monde is a wine bar-cum-brasserie where you taste wines before making your selection. It often has live guitar music.