Those boots were made for walking … in Montpellier

When I first arrived in Montpellier I was, well, awestruck. I’m a hiker but I swear I put in more miles exploring the town than scaling the Catskill mountains. Of course frequent wrong turns in the winding streets of the old town only added to the mileage! Should have brought my hiking boots! At least in Montpellier there’s always a convivial spot around the corner to provide relief for the footsore traveler!

That’s why I always warn my visitors to bring comfortable shoes because Montpellier is best explored on foot. To capture the essence of the town’s history we begin in Écusson, one of the world’s largest pedestrian districts.  From its centrepiece, the magnificent Place de la Comedie, a stroll along the tree-lined Esplanade Charles de Gaulle with the fabulous Musée Fabre and the modern Corum concert hall.  

Get a whiff of Fifth Avenue browsing the high-end boutiques on Rue Foch, before the Arc-de-Triomphe honouring  Louis XIV, and the Peyrou Promenade for panoramic views. That’s a lot of walking and we haven’t seen half! Time to hop on one of Montpellier’s famous trams, claimed by the New York Times to be the sexiest in the world for their Christian LaCroix designs. Had enough of walking and ready for a glass of wine? Then back to one of the lively bars in Place de la Comédie to watch the world go by.

ARCHITECTURALLY SPEAKING

Montpellier boasts an awesome range of architecture – including Renaissance, Haussmannian, Greek neo-classic, art nouveau, art deco, ultra-modern and the frankly absurd. The mixture really works. Fancy living in a tree? Me neither, unless…it’s the Arbre Blanc – the White Tree building overlooking the River Lez, bristling with balconies.  Exit Polygone from the old town and enter the Greek world of the Antigone district where a central plaza of huge neo-classical buildings, trees and Greek gods bathing in fountains leads to the banks of the river Lez.

BEST TIME TO VISIT MONTPELLIER?

The answer is any time! It’s a town for all seasons with summer festivals and nearby beaches; Autumn is a perfect time for vineyard tours when the leaves turn golden; and spring when the parks and gardens burst into bloom with the promise of summer.

FACTS ABOUT MONTPELLIER

  • It’s an important gateway to the south with an efficient airport, TGV service to Paris and major French cities, while Barcelona is only two hours away
  • The University of Montpellier is one of the world’s oldest Universities, established in 1289 by William VII of Montpellier
  • Montpellier is thought to house the world’s oldest medical faculty
  • It is the 8th largest city in France, and the fastest-growing
  • Montpellier’s botanical gardens are the oldest in France, founded in 1593.
  • Montpellier was named the administrative capital of the Languedoc region by Louis XIV, who ruled between 1643 to 1715.
  • Montpellier’s main industries include Metallurgy, Electronics, Food Processing, textile weaving and Pharmaceuticals.

MY FAVOURITE MUSEUMS AND GALLERIES

  • The Musée Fabre:  houses one of Europe’s most expansive art collections and includes many local artists of repute
  • MOCO Montpellier Contemporain: a relative newcomer to the contemporary arts scene spanning three locations
  • Pavilon Populaire for free exhibitions of well-known photographers’ works
  • Carré Sainte Anne, a 19th century church for free contemporary art exhibitions

MY FAVOURITE PLACES

  • La Place de la Comédie, named for the 18th century opera house at its head, for people watching
  • Arc de Triomphe, the city’s oldest monument and, beyond, le Promenade de Peyrou with sweeping panoramas of the town and beyond
  • Le Jardin des Plantes – botanical gardens  – with free admission
  • Cathédrale Saint-Pierre, especially for an organ concert

MARKET DAYS 

The link below provides information on Montpellier’s markets. The most central are:

  • Antigone: Summer 1st April to 30 September : Wednesdays 7am to 1.30pm
    Winter 1st October to 31 March : Wednesdays from 7am to 2pm
  • Comédie: Monday to Saturday 9am to 4pm
  • Boulevard des Arceaux – one of my favourites and just a short walk from Comédie. It is beneath the historic aqueduct, close to the Promenade de Peyrou and Arc de Triomphe
    Tuesdays, Saturdays from 7am to 1.30pm

Most French markets sell goods ranging from food to clothing to household goods to antiques

FOOD AND DRINK

Bread, Cheese… Where to Shop for Life’s Necessities  

Bread: Des reves et du pain : Winner of France’s Best Baker award     https://www.desrevesetdupain.com/fr

Cheese ; La cloche à fromage   https://www.fromagerie-tourrette.com/boutiques/montpellier/

Ice Cream: Cabiron caterer and award winning ice cream with sheep’s milk   https://www.gerardcabiron.com/

Chocolates: Thierry Papereux   https://www.chocolats-thierry-papereux.com/

HOW ABOUT A DRINK?

Montpellier buzzes with bars, coffee and tea shops. Some favourites:

Le Parfum  trendy, great cocktails and dim sung  https://barleparfum.com/

Le Clandestin  tucked away in the old town, a piano bar with good wine and tapas list, friendly atmosphere    https://www.leclandestin.fr/

The English Book Shop for tea   https://www.lebookshop.com/

L’heure Bleu tea parlour and concept bric à brac shop.  https://www.facebook.com/heurebleuemontpellier/

HOW ABOUT DINNER OR A BITE TO EAT?

L’insée chic brasserie next to Fabre Museum https://www.restaurant-insense.com/

Terminal Tapas Bar by Pourcel brothers   http://www.terminalpourcel.com/en/la-carte/

La Réserve, Rimbaud Michelin starred chef   http://reserve-rimbaud.com/accueil

Faune, hotspot in new Mo/Co musuem   https://www.moco.art/fr/restaurant-de-lhotel-des-collections

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