Just inland from the Mediterranean coast in southern France lays the city of Montpellier. Though it is just the 8th largest city in France, it has seen the largest growth percentage overall in the past 25 years. With nearly 1/3 of the total population of students, you can imagine that Montpellier is teeming with fresh energy, great nightlife and new and exciting places to see.
Thus far, I had the opportunity to spend just a short amount of time in Montpellier. We arrived in the city center (Place de la Comédie), walked around a bit and had a coffee at the Café de l’Esplanade restaurant. The small streets bustling with people, tree lined promenade and overall golden glow of the warm summer sun reflecting off the tan buildings gave me an inviting feeling, leaving me with the first impression that I have to return soon enough to take full advantage of what Montpellier has to offer.
Lucky for me, however, a friend spent some time living in Montpellier and gave me some advice on the top five things to do on a proper visit.
- Have drinks at Place Jean Juarés
Also known as the “La Plaine”, Place Jean Juarés is a hotspot for hanging out and relaxing with a drink. Ample greenery shades from the summer sun and there are tons of bars and restaurants to choose from. When to go: Brunch to Late night.
- Les Estivales on the Esplanade Charles de Gaulle
Every Friday night during the summer from July 10th to August 21st, 2015, visitors and residents alike can enjoy a night out with music, wine and food (is there anything better?). Local wineries bring their finest offerings for wine tastings as well as there is a night time market with over 150 merchants, artists, bookshops and food items.
- Walk around the old city center (L’Ecusson)
The old city center, referred to as L’Ecusson, is one of the largest pedestrian zones in France. The small winding streets features architecture from medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and 19th-century styles and are home to trendy shops, restaurants and cafés.
- Picnic at Promenade de Peyrou
Just off L’Ecusson, the Promenade de Peyrou is a top chill out spot of the locals. There are various sites such as the statue of Louis XIV on horseback, the Arc de Triomphe and the Water Tower (Chateau d’Eau) are all located in this area. Head to the closest Carrefour supermarket and load up on baguette and French cheese for a picnic here.
- Go swimming in the River Lez under the Pont du Diable
Due to its Mediterranean climate, Montpellier enjoys mostly sunny, warm weather. Just a short 20 minute drive from the city center is the Pont du Diable. Under this bridge the river forms a small lake with a few beaches perfect for cooling off and relaxing on a hot day. Also, you can visit St. Guilhem le Desert, a small very old town with Roman architecture just a short distance from this area.
Main photo: (Place de la Comédie) in Montpellier. Taken by Marc Meynadie via Flickr.