Nestled in the heart of France’s Occitanie region, Montpelier boasts a magnetic charm that draws visitors from around the globe. With its origins dating back to the 10th century, this enchanting city offers a captivating blend of ancient architecture and modern flair.
Montpelier is best known for its vibrant university atmosphere, as it houses one of Europe’s oldest and most prestigious universities. As you stroll through its picturesque streets, you’ll encounter a dynamic mix of students, intellectuals, and artists, creating an ambiance of creativity and innovation.
Beyond these things to do in Montpelier, the city also offers a wealth of treasures to explore. The historic city center is adorned with elegant buildings, charming cafes, and lively markets, inviting you to indulge in the authentic French way of life. Moreover, the city’s proximity to the Mediterranean Sea makes it the perfect destination for those seeking sun-kissed relaxation.
Where to Stay
The best areas to stay in Montpellier, are the historic old town (l’Écusson) and the Antigone neighborhood. Both locations offer a mix of charm, convenience, and easy access to the city’s attractions, dining, and shopping options.
Hôtel Oceania Le Métropole, located in the heart of the old town, provides a luxurious stay with elegant rooms, attentive service, and a beautiful indoor pool. Its prime location allows easy exploration of the old town’s historical sites and vibrant atmosphere.
Hotel d’Aragon, situated in the Antigone neighborhood, offers a more intimate and boutique experience. Its cozy rooms, friendly staff, and lovely garden courtyard create a relaxed ambiance. The suburb’s modern architecture and proximity to the River Lez make it a picturesque area, with several cafes and restaurants nearby.
Both hotels offer a convenient base to explore the tourist attractions in Montpellier, ensuring a memorable stay in this captivating French city.
How to get there
To reach the French city of Montpelier, you have several transportation options.
If traveling by air, fly into Montpellier-Méditerranée Airport (MPL), which is well-connected to major European cities like London Gatwick, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Athens. You can then take a shuttle, taxi, or public transport from the airport to the city center, approximately 10 kilometers away.
Alternatively, Montpelier is easily accessible by train. The city boasts a well-developed rail network and the Montpellier Saint-Roch train station is a major hub for national and regional routes. High-speed trains (TGV) connect Montpelier to Paris and other major French cities.
For those driving, the A9 and A75 highways link Montpelier to the rest of France and neighboring countries. As the journey provides memorable views of the surrounding countryside, we recommend you hire a car to take it all in.
Map of Things to do in Montpellier, France
© OpenStreetMap © MapTiler © Touropia
16. Château de Flaugergues
The Château de Flaugergues is a magnificent 17th-century estate encapsulating the region’s rich history and architectural grandeur. Meticulously preserved, it reflects the elegant lifestyle of its past residents.
The château’s history traces back to the esteemed Bertrand de Flaugergues family, who commissioned its construction in 1696. As you wander through its opulent rooms adorned with period furnishings, exquisite tapestries, and impressive art collections, you’ll gain insight into the lavish lives of the French nobility.
The property also features stunning landscaped gardens adorned with sculptures, fountains, and rare plants, offering a serene escape from the bustling city. Strolling through the well-manicured gardens feels like stepping into a painting, as the panoramic views of the Montpelier skyline from the gardens are also breathtaking.
15. Place Edouard Adam
Located in the heart of the city, Place Edouard Adam is a captivating square brimming with history and charm. Named after Edouard Adam, a former mayor of Montpelier, this lively plaza holds a special place in the city’s cultural and social fabric.
Steeped in history, Place Edouard Adam dates back to the 18th century when it was established as a marketplace and a hub of commercial activity. Today, it continues to be a bustling center, lined with quaint cafes, boutiques, and shops, creating a vibrant ambiance that we found intoxicating.
The square’s centerpiece is a splendid fountain, exuding a sense of elegance and adding to the allure of the surroundings. The soothing sound of water complements the lively atmosphere, making it an ideal spot to relax and people-watch.
14. L’Arbre Blanc
Montpellier is known for its exceptional architecture and one of its most remarkable examples is L’Arbre Blanc.
Alternatively known as ‘The White Tree’, this stunning modern high-rise building was completed in 2019. Designed by Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto in collaboration with French architects Nicolas Laisné and Manal Rachdi, its avant-garde design drew inspiration from the unique and organic shapes of trees. This inspiration reflects in its spectacular branching structure and curvilinear balconies.
The iconic 17-storey landmark adds a touch of contemporary flair to Montpelier’s skyline and comprises apartments, offices, a restaurant, and a bar.
As you walk around the area, you can’t help but marvel at the ingenuity of its creators. The juxtaposition of modernity against the backdrop of the city’s historic charm is very impressive.
13. Montpellier Zoo
If you have a passion for animals, you should visit Montpellier Zoo. This extensive zoological park was established in 1964 and boasts a wide range of creatures from all over the globe.
The park’s layout mimics natural habitats, ensuring a comfortable and stimulating environment for its inhabitants. From graceful giraffes and magnificent lions to vibrantly colored birds and cheeky playful primates, Montpellier Zoo offers a fascinating insight into the world of animals.
One of the most impressive features of Montpellier Zoo is its dedication to conservation and education. Through various programs and exhibits, visitors can learn about the significance of protecting endangered species and wildlife preservation.
Subsequently, Montpellier Zoo is more than just a place to observe animals. It provides an opportunity to connect with nature and appreciate Earth’s stunning variety of life.
12. Day trip to Aigues-Mortes
If time permits during your stay in Montpellier, a day trip to Aigues-Mortes is a great things to do.
Located just a short drive away, Aigues-Mortes is a medieval walled town surrounded by picturesque marshlands and salt flats. It is worth going there as it offers a captivating glimpse into France’s rich history and natural beauty.
Once a prominent port city, Aigues-Mortes boasts well-preserved ramparts and narrow cobbled streets, inviting visitors to wander through its charming lanes and soak in the medieval ambiance. Explore the majestic Constance Tower, a historic fortress that affords panoramic views of the town and surrounding landscapes.
For a unique experience, take a boat trip through the serene Camargue region. You’ll encounter abundant wildlife amidst the sprawling salt pans and lagoons, including pink flamingos and wild horses whilst there.
11. Porte du Peyrou
One of the most prominent landmarks in Montpellier is the Porte du Peyrou.
This majestic triumphal arch, also known as the Peyrou Gate, was constructed in the late 17th century to honor King Louis XIV’s triumphal entry into the city.
Situated on a prominent hill, the Porte du Peyrou stands tall as an iconic symbol of Montpellier’s heritage. Its impressive neoclassical design, adorned with ornate sculptures and intricate detailing, captures the essence of French architectural elegance.
Beyond its historical significance, the gate offers breathtaking city views, making it a popular spot for locals and tourists. The adjacent Peyrou Promenade, a vast esplanade dotted with statues and a massive water tower, adds to the charm and grandeur of the area.
10. Go to the beach
Although Montpellier is a landlocked city, its location is just 10 km from the sun-kissed Mediterranean coastline, so you’ll have plenty of opportunity to top up your tan.
The closest and most accessible beach from Montpellier is Palavas-les-Flots, a vibrant seaside town. With its long sandy stretches, lively promenade, and numerous beachfront cafes and restaurants, Palavas-les-Flots offers a perfect blend of relaxation and entertainment.
If you’re seeking a more tranquil atmosphere, the beaches of La Grande Motte or Carnon, both a short drive away, are ideal. Their golden sands and clear waters provide a serene escape from the city’s hustle and bustle.
A day at the beach provides a welcome respite from sightseeing. So it is well worth taking the opportunity to soak up the sun or take a refreshing dip in the Mediterranean in Montpellier.
9. Quartier Saint-Roch
Montpelier has a rich history and bohemian charm; nowhere is this more evident than at Quartier Saint-Roch.
This vibrant neighborhood near the city center exudes a captivating mix of ancient architecture and contemporary creativity. With roots dating back to the Middle Ages, Quartier Saint-Roch has evolved into a melting pot of cultures, thanks to its proximity to the central train station, Gare Saint-Roch.
The area has lively cafes, art galleries, and boutique shops, making it a popular haunt for locals and tourists. As you wander through its narrow streets and soak in the bohemian atmosphere, you’ll discover hidden gems, ranging from street art to quaint bookstores full of character.
The neighborhood’s centerpiece is the Saint-Roch Church, a beautiful Gothic structure. Its richly adorned interior showcases splendid stained-glass windows and elaborate altarpieces.
8. Cathedrale St. Pierre
A visit to the Cathédrale St. Pierre provides a fascinating journey into the city’s religious and architectural heritage.
This majestic Gothic cathedral – also known as Saint Peter’s Cathedral – is a stunning masterpiece that has stood for centuries as a symbol of faith and artistic beauty.
The cathedral’s construction began in the 14th century and continued over several centuries, resulting in an amalgamation of architectural styles, from Gothic to Renaissance. Its impressive façade is adorned with intricate sculptures and delicate rose windows, while its interior boasts magnificent vaulted ceilings and ornate chapels, stunning stained-glass windows, and remarkable altarpieces.
We found our visit to Cathédrale St. Pierre a pretty humbling experience overall. Its towering presence and stunning craftsmanship evoked a sense of reverence and admiration for the human capacity to create beauty in devotion.
7. Jardin des Plantes
One of our favorite things to do in Montpellier is exploring the magnificent Jardin des Plantes.
This enchanting botanical garden opened in 1593 and is one of France’s oldest, encompassing lush greenery and a vast array of plant species. Initially created for medicinal plant cultivation, it has evolved into a serene oasis that delights visitors of all ages.
Strolling along its winding paths, you’ll discover themed gardens, exotic plants, and a charming pond where ducks and swans gracefully glide.
One of the garden’s highlights is the Promenade du Peyrou, offering panoramic views of Montpellier and the distant Cévennes mountains. Additionally, the greenhouse complex showcases a diverse collection of tropical and subtropical flora.
Overall, the garden’s historical significance and timeless beauty make it a must-visit attraction for anyone visiting Montpellier.
6. Day trip to Saint Guilhem-le-Désert
Located approximately 40 kilometers northwest of Montpellier, the medieval village of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert is another excellent destination for a day trip.
Nestled in the picturesque Gellone Valley, surrounded by stunning limestone cliffs, it is best known for its well-preserved medieval architecture and the majestic Abbey of Gellone. The abbey, founded in the 9th century, boasts remarkable Romanesque design and houses relics of Saint Guilhem, a revered local saint.
While strolling through the cobblestone streets and alleys, you will be captivated by the village’s historic charm and artistic ambiance. The Herault River, located nearby, provides opportunities for leisurely walks along its banks or refreshing dips in its clear waters.
A visit to Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert also enables you to try some delicious local cuisine. We found the local cheeses delightful when eaten with freshly baked bread.
5. Musee Fabre
Montpellier is not short on cultural attractions; undoubtedly, one of the best is the Musée Fabre.
This fantastic museum, housed in a beautiful neoclassical building, is named after François-Xavier Fabre, a renowned local painter and art collector. It launched in 1825 and features an extensive collection of works by artists such as Delacroix, Courbet, and Rubens. It also features an impressive selection of European paintings from the 17th to the 19th centuries.
Additionally, Musée Fabre exhibits exceptional examples of sculptures and decorative arts, providing visitors with a comprehensive artistic journey.
With its innovative temporary exhibitions and ongoing efforts to promote contemporary artists, the Musée Fabre remains a dynamic hub of artistic exploration and appreciation. Its thoughtfully curated exhibits and commitment to fostering creativity inspire plenty of people who visit it.
4. Promenade du Peyrou
Promenade du Peyrou is a splendid promenade on a raised platform offering incredible panoramic views of the city and surrounding areas. It was created in the late 17th century under the rule of King Louis XIV to commemorate his visit to Montpellier. Today its stands as a place where history, nature, and community converge.
The centerpiece of the Promenade du Peyrou is the regal statue of Louis XIV on horseback, surrounded by elegant balustrades and majestic arches. The grand Château d’Eau, an ornate water tower, adds to the area’s allure.
As you stroll along the tree-lined walkways, you’ll encounter locals enjoying picnics, playing petanque, and basking in the sun. The promenade’s relaxed ambiance and breathtaking vistas make it a favorite gathering spot for many residents.
3. Planet Ocean
One of the coolest attractions in Montpellier has to be Planet Ocean Montpellier.
Part aquarium, part interactive marine museum, two of its main drawcards are a 3D underwater and sea storm exploration simulator – the only ones in Europe. In addition, Planet Ocean boasts the biggest covered tank in France, measuring 10 meters high and 18 meters wide.
Visitors can explore nine different marine ecosystems, ranging from Arctic waters to tropical seas. The African penguin, coral reef, and colorful tropical fish are among the crowd favorites. While the aquarium also offers categorized attractions suitable for visitors of all ages, making it the perfect family-friendly destination.
Another neat feature of the complex is that it includes a restaurant surrounded by a lush tropical forest, a terrific backdrop to enjoy a meal.
2. Place de la Comedie
Another must-visit square in Montpellier is the Place de la Comédie.
Actually, ‘square’ might not be the most appropriate word because the ‘L’œuf’, as it is known, is oval-shaped! However, it has been the central hub of the city for centuries.
Its origins date back to the 18th century. Impressive Haussmannian-style buildings, upscale shops, and charming cafes surround Place de la Comédie. At its center stands the striking Three Graces fountain, a popular meeting point for locals and visitors alike.
The square is bustling with activity throughout the day, from street performers and musicians to lively markets and cultural events. It is a gateway to Montpellier’s historic old town and is within walking distance of many of Montpellier’s main attractions.
1. Explore the Old Town
You’ll want to spend plenty of time in Montpellier’s old town. This charming district, known as ‘l’Écusson’, is a maze of narrow cobblestone streets, medieval buildings, and hidden courtyards, exuding a captivating blend of architectural styles and cultural influences.
The old town’s history dates back to the Middle Ages and has been meticulously preserved, offering visitors a glimpse into Montpellier’s rich past. The iconic Saint-Pierre Cathedral, with its stunning Gothic facade, and the historical Mikvé, are two of many architectural gems in the old town’s labyrinthine alleys. The latter is one of the few remaining Jewish ritual baths in Europe.
As you explore the old town, you’ll encounter bustling markets, charming boutiques, and a plethora of cafes and restaurants where you can savor traditional French cuisine. The medieval architecture and vibrant atmosphere create a sense of timelessness, and every corner has a unique story.