What to visit in Montpellier ?

View of Montpellier © edulink.com.co

Montpellier is a city in southern France, located a few kilometers away from the Mediterranean sea. Capital of the Languedoc Roussillon region, it has various beautiful landscapes in its surroundings such as mountains, beach, sea and vineyards, and this city is now listed as one of the top places to live in France. There are many reasons to visit Montpellier. With its rich historical heritage, Montpellier will undoubtedly seduce you. Actually, you will discover in its historical center old medieval alleys, classified monuments, various parks and churches … You will also be able to see modern districts designed by the greatest international architects, illustrating the dynamism of the city. Combining history and modernity, Montpellier has become today one of the top tourist destinations, that can be visited in one day on foot, or in 2 or 3 days to also enjoy its surroundings (villages, cities and vineyards near Montpellier). Last but not least, Montpellier is a perfect wine tourism destination to discover the Languedoc wine culture with various wine appellations in the area : Grès de Montpellier, Pic Saint Loup …

If you are wondering if you should visit Montpellier or if Montpellier is worth visiting, you will find below the top things to do and places to visit in Montpellier and its region.

Montpellier city map

District of the Ecusson

To begin your discovery of Montpellier, go to the district of Ecusson (its name comes from its particular shape). Historical heart of the city, you can have a walk through the many busy shopping streets, discover its squares and unusual buildings, and enjoy a nice walk around the medieval houses.

Montpellier old town © montpellier.fr

Main square of the city, the “Place de la comédie” is undoubtedly the top place to visit in the city. Built in 1755, this oval shaped square, often called “the egg square”, is one of the largest pedestrian areas in Europe. You can contemplate the impressive 19th century buildings, the city theater called “Comedie” (which explains the current name of the square), or the beautiful fountain “Fontaine des Trois Graces” built in the 13th century, a symbol of the town representing three Greek divinities. Don’t hesitate to enjoy the sun at one of the many terraces, bars and restaurants of the square. But the Place de la Comédie is also the starting point for a walk in the medieval streets of the city and for shopping lovers.

Place de la Comédie © routard.com

Place de la Comédie © weekendesk.com

The Place de la Canourge is the most romantic and oldest square of the Ecusson district. Surrounded by hackberry trees (deciduous tree, typical of the region), you will discover many town houses and the former town hall. A nice little park is also settled there, with the Fountain of the Unicorns in its center. From this beautiful square, you will be able to have a look at a breathtaking view of the cathedral…

Place de la Canourgue © lesudmakesmehappy.com

A little further in the northwest part of the district, you will find the cathedral Saint-Pierre of Montpellier. Its architecture seems like a medieval fortress. It actually has a magnificent porch supported by two columns with a height of more than 4 meters each. Two towers also overlook the heart and the nave of the cathedral. Inside, you will be amazed by the beautiful stained glasses as well as the impressive organ. This cathedral is the biggest monument in the city and one of the only churches to have survived to the religious wars.

Cathédrale Saint-Pierre of Montpellier © commons.wikimedia.org

In the west part of the Ecusson district, you will find the “Place royale du Peyrou” or “promenade du Peyrou”. Built in the late 17th century, this square was built to host an equestrian statue of the king Louis XIV. You will discover there a magnificent triumphal arch on the extension of the street “rue Foch”. On the other side, you will contemplate a pretty water tower, as well as an aqueduct overlooking the valley. This square is a really nice place to enjoy an exceptional view of the Pic Saint Loup mountain.

Promenade du Peyrou © helpmycandidature.com

Promenade du Peyrou © jactiv.ouest-france.fr

Saint Clément aqueduct, promenade du Peyrou © 321lux.com

Continue your walk in the heart of the old town to discover the Saint Roch church. This modern church was built in the 19th century on the remains of the former Saint Paul church and is dedicated to the Patron Saint of the city. You will be able to see the 2 beautiful stained glasses as well as trompe l’oeil on the facade of the church. It is located on a charming square called “Place Saint Roch”, both quiet and shaded. Saint Roch Church is also a location where pilgrims use to stop during their way to Santiago de Compostela.

Church Saint-Roch of Montpellier © travelblog.org

The botanical garden of Montpellier, called “Jardin des Plantes but also “Royal Garden of Montpellier”, is one of the oldest in France. Built in 1593 under Henri IV, it was formerly used for scientific purposes to improve research on medicinal plants. Today, it is a part of the medical university of Montpellier and is still a place where many botanists and pharmacists do research. This beautiful park is an ideal place to come to enjoy a walk surrounded by nature.

Jardin des plantes © housebuy.org

Built in 1641, the “couvent des Ursulines” had different roles in the history. It was originally a place dedicated to the girl’s education and to provide care to people in need. It was then turned into a prison for women and then a barrack. Bought in 1980 by the city of Montpellier, the “couvent des Ursulines”, now called the “Agora”, hosts the National Choreographic center and Montpellier Danse. Many shows and conferences take place in this former convent.

Couvent des Ursulines © montpellier.fr

District of Antigone

After your walk in the historic center of the city, come to discover the Antigone district a little further to the east for a radical change of time and culture. Designed by the Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill in 1978, the district is organized around several squares such as the “Place du Nombre d’Or”, the “Esplanade de l’Europe” and the “Place de Thessaly”. Inspired by ancient Greece, this district is home to impressive and neoclassical buildings, spreading over 36 hectares of the city, from the Polygone shopping center to the Lez river. The district perfectly sums up the spirit of Montpellier : a modern and growing city. Copies of famous statues, fluted columns or beige concretes, everything is linked to Greco-Roman antiquity. This dynamic and well-equipped district also hosts  an olympic swimming pool, a media library and a large shopping center for shopping enthusiasts, markets, restaurants and other businesses. Antigone is also known for social housing, high end apartments, or offices. An harmonious place with a strong social mix to discover …

Antigone district © vicedi.com

Market in the Antigone district © vicedi.com

The cultural life in Montpellier

Built in the 19th century and desecrated in the late 1980s, the Sainte Anne church now hosts the Carré Sainte Anne. Turned into a 600 square meters space dedicated to culture, this former church welcomes 3 exhibitions each year. Internationally renowned artists such as Gérard Garouste, Robert Combas and many others took part in these exhibits. Open from Tuesday to Sunday, don’t hesitate to discover the different contemporary art exhibition in an outstanding place, where requirement and excellence are the key words.

Carré Saint Anne © flickr.com

To continue your cultural discovery of Montpellier, come to discover la Panacée (Panacea), located in the former Royal College of Medicine in the old Montpellier. Center of Contemporary Culture of the City of Montpellier, the Panacea is part of the MoCo (“Montpellier Contemporain”). This art center hosts exhibitions of various arts (paintings, sculptures …), and is a nice place to talk with others, meet and share experiences. It also houses a restaurant called “Le café”, an auditorium and a patio. A dormitory is even located upstairs. Come to the Panacée for a unique discovery.

The Panacée © montpellier.fr

Main fine arts museum in Montpellier, the Fabre museum (“Musée Fabre”) was inaugurated in 1828 and is one of the most important museums in Europe (ranked 6th in the annual ranking of 126 museums in France). It is located in the former Jesuit College dating from the 17th century, which makes it an exceptional monument. The museum gathers more than 700 works, from Dutch to Flemish and Italian paintings, dating from the Renaissance period. It is therefore a unique 9200 square meters space that will make you travel around the world, arts and time. The Fabre museum is open every day from 10 am to 6 pm.

Fabre museum © tropisme.coop

Located on the Charles de Gaulle esplanade, the “Pavillon Populaire” is a place dedicated to photo exhibitions and located close to the “Place de la Comédie”. Built in 1891 by architect Leopold Carlier, it offers 3 exhibitions per year. It is today considered as one of the most beautiful photo exhibition sites in Europe. It is open for free from Tuesday to Sunday …

The pavillon populaire  © e-metropolitain.fr

The surroundings of Montpellier

The Languedoc is one of the largest wine regions in France in terms of area, extending over three administrative departments: Hérault, Aude and Gard. You will find close to Montpellier very qualitative wine areas such as Pic Saint Loup, Languedoc Grès de Montpellier or Terrasses du Larzac …
Take the opportunity, during your visit to Montpellier, to discover local wineries and meet local winemakers …

Map of the Montpellier surroundings

In the north of the city, just 30 minutes by car from Montpellier, discover the domaine Haut-Lirou winery, located in the heart of the Pic Saint-Loup wine appellation. 5 generations have succeeded in this family owned winery that offers many activities to make you discover the local vineyard : guided tours in the vat house, barrel ageing cellars, commented tasting of their wines (3 colors) … You can also enjoy an SUV tour, starting from the estate or the center of Montpellier, to go into the vineyards of the estate. Moreover, the winery offers wine tasting courses but also a wine and food pairing experience “wines and chocolates” … You will for sure find there the right activity for you !

Domaine Haut Lirou, Pic Saint Loup

The Pic Saint Loup is not only a famous French wine appellation but also a beautiful mountain located between the Cévennes and Montpellier. You will be able there to breath fresh air. Many trails and paths are marked and easily accessible to discover the terroir of Languedoc. Through the vineyards, you will be able to climb the paths leading to the Pic Saint Loup. A very wonderful experience !

Pic Saint Loup mountain

The Clos de l’Amandaie winery is also located 30 minutes by car from Montpellier, in the west side of the city. The estate has been making quality wines for 6 generations, with a great respect for its soils. Philippe and Stéphanie Peytavy, a couple of independent winemakers, will make you discover their job during a free visit of their winery, a tour in their vineyards, followed by a commented tasting of all the wines of the Clos de l’Amandaie. You will be able to discover the different white, red and rosé wines in Grès de Montpellier appellation and IGP Pays d’Oc. A friendly moment of sharing guaranteed. The winemaker’s work will no longer have secrets for you !

Clos de l’amandaie winery, Aumelas

Located about thirty kilometers from Montpellier, in the heart of the Gassac valley, the Château Capion is a lovely wine estate located in the vineyards of Terrasses du Larzac. It has a 45 hectares vineyard and Frédéric Kast, director of the Château since 2002, is taking great care to make quality wines through minutious cluster selection.  The visit of the winery combines pleasure and relaxation. You can indeed discover its beautiful gardens, walk through the vineyards, and finally discover the different wines of Château Capion in IGP Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert and Terrasses du Larzac wine appellation …

Château Capion winery, Aniane (Terrasses du Larzac)

In Sommières, 40 km from Montpellier, immerse yourself in the heart of a preserved terroir and discover the manufacture of organic wines without sulphites at the Costes-Cirgues winery. In this family-owned winery surrounded by vineyards, each plot is harvested by hand. The owners, passionate and fascinating, will explain you the necessary work to develop their organic wines without sulphites. Following the visit of the vineyards and of the vat house, they will adapt the wines to taste according to your preferences.

Domaine Costes-Cirgues

To finish, only 10 kilometers away from the city, you can enjoy the many Languedoc beaches in the surrounding small towns on the Mediterranean coast. Many public transport are available to reach Palavas les Flots, Carnon or Villeneuve lès Maguelone. In the summer, a shuttle bus from Montpellier city center will take you directly to La Grande Motte, where you will discover the charming Grand Travers beach …

La grande motte © cap-voyage.com

We wish you a nice discovery of Montpellier and its region !

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