Montpellier has a rich and varied cultural heritage due in part to its large international student population from one of the oldest universities in France. Unlike many of the surrounding settlements, Montpellier has no Roman background but is home to numerous historic buildings and green parks which, combined with its proximity to the Mediterranean beaches, make the City popular with visitors. The city also has an impressive nightlife and choice of restaurants and bars.
The heart of the city is the pedestrianised Place de la Comédie with the impressive Opera House at one end and the Charles de Gaulle Esplanade with its popular morning markets at the other. This is the place to sit and watch the world go by or, as the locals say “Faire l’Oeuf”.
From here, the Rue de la Loge, popular for a spot of serious shopping, leads down into the Old Town where you will discover elegant mansions and hidden courtyards dating back to the 15th century.
Follow the Rue Foch out of the old town to the Promenade de Peyrou for spectacular views of the Cevennes and the Mediterranean. Once the site of a busy guillotine during the Revolution, the Peyrou is now a peaceful retreat from the busy city.
Montpellier also has its own aqueduct, modelled on the nearby Pont Du Gard and built in the 17th century to supply water from the St Clement Spring (14 km away) to the water tower beneath the Promenade de Peyrou.
The Jardin des Plantes is one of Europe’s oldest botanical gardens, designed initially as a scientific garden with medicinal plants. The gardens, managed by the University’s Faculty of Medicine, are still renowned for their educative value but are now open to the public and contain a variety of indigenous and exotic species to create a serene haven in the centre of urban development.
Montpellier has recently undertaken an extensive redevelopment programme to take the title of France’s fastest growing city. There is a new tramway, a modern concert and conference complex and a futuristic Antigone quarter.
Other sites of interest in Montpellier include:
Arc de Triomphe - erected in 1691 in the Place de la Comedie, this monument is not as large as the Parisien version but worth a photo none the less.
Palais du Justice - on the Rue Foch, built on the site of many previous institutions of power from the Castle of Guilhem VI to the Imperial Court during the Revolution
Fabre Museum - re-opened in February 2007 and dedicated to the local artist François-Xavier Fabre, this museum is widely praised for its public collections
Agropolis Museum - an educative museum about food and agriculture around the world
Hiring a car in Montpellier with Carhire3000 allows you to fully explore the city and the surrounding Languedoc countryside. Hire a car in Montpellier itself or from the nearby airports of Marseille, Avignon or Nimes and explore the scenic Languedoc region or head for the coast and the beaches of the Mediterranean. A hire car will allow easy access to the nearby tourist resorts of La Grande Motte, Sete, Agde and Beziers. Or explore the Camargue in search of bright flamingos, wild bulls and Camargue stallions.
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