Planning a trip to Europe? Montpellier, France is a worthy addition to any itinerary. Located in the south of France, Montpellier is the eighth largest city in the country and the third largest on the French Mediterranean coast.
Montpellier is booming these days– it’s the fastest growing city in France. While its name may not carry the same luster as nearby Nice or Marseille, the cozy city is full of charms that shouldn’t be overlooked. Here’s five reasons why you should add a stopover in this Mediterranean city on your next trip.
Five Reasons to Visit Montpellier
1. Location, location, location
Weather you are planning a trip to France or a more extensive “euro-trip,” Montpellier’s location makes it a strategic place to stop for at least a few days.
In southern France, Montpellier is located halfway between Spain and Italy. The city is only a little more than three hours from Paris by high speed train and is less than two hours from Marseille, a popular port city on the French Riviera. Oh, and its also a short tram ride away from the beach!
2. It’s a great place to practice your language skills
Whoever says the French are rude clearly hasn’t paid a visit to Montpellier. With 300 sunny days each year, the city isn’t just full of sunshine; it’s also full of friendly locals.
I have to admit, I didn’t speak a lick of French before visiting Montpellier, but during my first day everyone was so welcomingly friendly with my “merci” and “bonjours,” that I felt compelled to pick up a dictionary and attempt to speak this beautiful language more.
It comes as no surprise then that Montpellier is the 2nd leading French destination for learning French as a second language. If you are looking for a non-threatening environment to practice French, the shops, cafes and bars of Montpellier are definitely it.
3. Compact historic city center
In Montpellier’s compact city center, cute medieval streets are perfect for meandering and lead to historical monuments galore. Spend a day discovering Saint-Pierre Cathedral, a massive gothic cathedral, Mikve, a Jewish ritual bath from the 12th century and an 18th century aqueduct. The city even has its own Arc de Triomphe, much less crowded than its more famous sister in Paris.
Stop by the office of tourism for an English audioguide that gives background information on the city’s 14 most important sites or to take a guided tour. The best part – you can discover everything on foot.
4. Place de la Comédie
One of the largest pedestrian areas in Europe, this oval-shaped Plaza is the heart of Montpellier. The Place de la Comédie is dominated by the Comédie opera house and fountain of the three graces, the city’s goddesses. Full of shops, outdoor cafes and sweet shops, this is the best place to soak up the city’s vibrant atmosphere and pretend to be oh-so French, if only for a day.
In the summer months the plaza plays host to outdoor events such as food festivals and football match viewings. I got lucky and got to watch the final of the World Cup here during my visit.
5. Crepes and wine
Montpellier has some seriously good food –especially the crepes! Sweet or savory, good luck stopping after just one.
My personal favorite discovery was La Petite Crêperie. The staff was super friendly, and, even after trying crepes in a few more French cities, the chicken and mushroom option here remained my favorite.
After a crepe (or two) here, head across the street to Le Saint Roch, a fun local bar with an affordable selection of wine. The rose wine from this region is a must-try.
For more ideas of things to do in Montpellier, visit www.montpellier-france.com.
Where to Stay in Montpellier
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And there you have it – five reasons you shouldn’t overlook Montpellier on your next trip to France. Have you been to Montpellier? What is your favorite part of this exciting city?