Montpellier

Montpellier is the principal city in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in southwest France. It's been the fastest growing city in France over the past 25 years and, as a result, it has very modern regions on the outskirts that are in stark contrast to the old winding roads of the city centre. The town is home to a lot of students due to the presence of the University of Montpellier which has the oldest medical school in Europe, and, as such, Montpellier has a very young feel to it.

One of the principal attractions of Montpellier is the climate. It has a dry Mediterranean summer and a mild winter. The city itself isn't on the beach but it is easily accessible via public transport and there are also several beautiful villages that are accessible via bus as a day trip.

Get in

By plane

Montpellier Méditerranée Airport (IATA: MPL), formerly Fréjorgues Airport, is situated on the outskirts. The route 120 is a shuttle bus service operated by Hérault Transport that goes to Place de l’Europe. At the airport the signs will point to Navette which is French for shuttle. It costs €1.60 or €2.40 to add an extension bus / tramway ride. The tram stop is easily spotted from where the bus arrives. Place de l'Europe is in Antigone, to get closer to the middle of town, take the blue tram (Line 1) to Place de la Comédie.

The airport is fairly well connected by way of Air France's central hub in Paris. Ryanair flies from Brussels-Charleroi (CRL), Frankfurt-Hahn (HHN), although on a reduced timetable over the winter months. There are also regular flights to Copenhagen with Sterling.

EasyJet runs a service from London Gatwick and seasonal departures from London Luton. Transavia.com also offers direct flights Amsterdam - Montpellier.

By train

Montpellier's main train station is Montpellier St. Roch. It is serviced by a TGV connection from Paris, 3h 15min, Lille, 4h 50min and Lyon, 1h 40min, Valence 1h 45min, Nice 4-5h. It is also serviced by the Talgo service to Barcelona. Most destinations in Southern France are also easily accessible by rail from Montpellier.

By bus

There is a coach station situated in the city centre, less than 500m from the main train station.

By car

From the A9 motorway, take any of the 5 exits that serve Montpellier:

The A75 is free of charge between Clermont-Ferrand and Montpellier.

Park at a tramway station (e.g. Occitanie, Jacou) and take a tram: parking in the town centre can be hard, so be sure to have your licence.

By boat

The nearest sea port, situated in Sète has ferry crossings to the Balearic Islands, Mahgreb and Corsica.

Get around

Montpellier is a compact city and walking across the whole city centre does not take long.

By bike

VéloMagg

The tourist information office have a map Montpellier à vélo, which shows you where the best places to go by bike are and places where it is dangerous to cycle. The city has an extensive network of cycle paths, often separated from traffic for added safety. There is also a bike path running all the way to the beaches at Palavas-les-Flots and Carnon. The ride from the city to the beach takes about an hour.

Bikes may be rented at machines (VéloMagg) in various places in the city centre including Virgin, the tourist office on the place de la comedie and the main TAM velo office, located adjacent to the train station. The price is €2 for one day.

Just remember, if you are cycling in the old centre, that there are streets which are actually staircases and although they are a sight to behold (the rue du bras de fer), a glorified shopper bike will not tackle them as well as a fully suspended Cannondale.

Be advised that whereas a smart card allows a 24h/day use, only a small subset of the Velo Magg kiosks operate on Sundays, in which case it may be better to visit one of the manned offices, either adjacent to the train station or near l'Opéra.

By bus

Montpellier has a comprehensive public bus system. Many buses leave from stops in front of the train station. Buses use the same tickets as the tram; you can purchase tickets from the automatic machines located at each tram stop, or you may purchase tickets from the driver. If you purchase a ticket from a machine, be sure to validate it in the machine when boarding. One-way tickets cost €1.40 and can be reused for transfers up to one hour from the first validation. Round-trip (aller-retour) tickets are €2.50. Also, be warned that bus service is limited on weekends and the last buses run before 09:00 all week.

The most notable bus lines for visitors are line 28, which runs from the Port Marianne tram station to the beach at Palavas les Flots, and L'Amigo late night bus, which runs from the main bus stop in front of the train station to the nightclubs on the outskirts of town. Please note that the 28 is often crowded, and the last stop is actually a 20min walk from the beach itself. Still, this is the best way to get to the beach if you do not have a car.

For more information, see the website for Montpellier Transport.

By car

There are several parking lots in the city centre. However, it is inadvisable to travel in the city centre by car as it gets busy, you will get stuck in traffic, and it's not very well signposted. The city centre is also a traffic-free zone! Your best bet is to park by a tram station at the end of a line such as Odysseum on line 1 or Sabines on line 2, but if you do insist on driving, parking in the Polygone shopping centre will save you a lot of your precious spending money!

By tram

One of the Montpellier trams

The Montpellier tram service features four lines: line 1 from West to East(Mosson<->Odysseum) line 2 from South-West to North-East(Saint-Jean-de-Vedas<->Jacou) line 3 from West to South-East (Juvignac<->Perols/Lattes) line 4 circle line (Albert 1er<->Saint-Denis). A fifth is currently being built.

The trams tend to be very pleasant way of travelling across the city, they are clean and comfortable, offering a better view of the city as a whole than travelling on buses. Trams arrive every 3-5min at peak hours but less frequently at night, once every 15min. One major advantage of the tram is that it operates until midnight, making much more of the city easily accessible after dark. Ticket prices are the same as for the buses and the tickets are interchangeable.

Purchase tickets before boarding - there are multi-lingual ticket machines at each tram stop. A day pass is available and is recommended for anyone who plans to see anything outside of the centre. Longer-term passes are available as well from the TaM office situated across from the train station. Be sure to validate your ticket in the machines on board the trams (just by the doors), as being found without a valid ticket will result in an on-the-spot fine. Not speaking French or being a traveller will not be accepted as an excuse.

See

The Arc de Triomphe du Peyrou

Of particular interest in the old centre

Do

The little tourist train that drives around Montpellier

Buy

Château d'eau du Peyrou (Peyrou Water Tower), constructed in 1689

For upmarket shoppers, the best bet is in centre-ville. There is an abundance of clothing stores, the most high-end being found on the main streets leading away from the Place de la Comedie and on the rue Foch. For those with a more modest budget, the Polygone shopping centre, also near La Comedie, contains a large variety of stores, including major French chains such as Inno and FNAC. There is also a small area in the centre where most of the 'offbeat' shops have typically clustered together, along with plenty of kebab shops and sandwicheries.

If you like to haggle and want a different experience, there is an enormous flea market every Sunday morning. Take the blue line tram all the way to the last stop at Mosson, and then just follow the crowd of people. The market sells just about everything under the sun, including brand-name clothing, movies (mostly pirated), and the usual assortment of household odds and ends. Haggling is the norm but the prices are generally reasonable to start with. The market (marche aux puces) is particularly well known as a place to buy bicycles, although be sure of the quality before you buy. There have been 'some' reports of stolen bikes turning up at the market as well.

Visit Sauramps bookstore (Le Triangle, at one end of la Comedie) and the Gibert Joseph book store (at the Place de la Prefecture). These independent book stores are real treasure for the city and offer a wide variety of topics and languages.

Numerous specialized shops may be found in the vicinity of Rue Saint-Guilhem and Rue de l'Ancien Courrier, including comics (Azimuts), gaming (Excalibur, Lud'm, Games Workshop), Japanese arcade and takoyaki in Rue de la Friperie, and medieval crafts and goods in Rue des Soeurs Noires (Le Prince de Saint Gilles).

The Savon de Marseille would make a good present to take home. It's a kind of soap that is made exclusively in Marseille, has a good reputation and a long history. It's not made by any particular company, instead it has a composition and style common to the area (in the same way that French wines and cheeses have localised styles). It comes in all sorts of colours and perfumes. Obviously it would be more appropriate to buy it in Marseille, but if you're not going that way you can find it in Montpellier.

Eat

The righthand statue of the eastern entrance of the Place royale du Peyrou

Montpellier is very cosmopolitan for a city of its size and has a wide variety of ethnic cuisines available, in addition to traditional French food. The centre features a plethora of over-the-counter sandwich shops and similar places specializing in kebabs (nearly as many of these as there are hair salons and real estate agencies). If you're looking for the classic French cafe experience, try any one of the many bistros near La Place de la Comedie. For a good coffee in a more relaxed atmosphere, there's also a nice café near the Louis Blanc tramway stop.

Montpellier is dotted with eateries ranging from very touristy to truly authentic. Geography plays a large role here: the matrix of restaurants in the town square generally cater to visitors who are optimizing for convenience, but not for price or quality so much. Head away from the city centre—north, south, west, but generally not east—for a more genuine experience. Place St Roch, Place Jean Jaurès and a more sprawling area in the north-east of the city (near Basilique Notre Dame des Tables) seem to be areas with a high concentration of restaurants.

Drink

France is the country for wine and the Languedoc Roussillon region produces more annually than the whole of Australia! There are too many varieties to name here (it deserves its own wiki) but as a pointer for red try a mid priced pic st loup. The white for the local seafood and especially the oysters is picpoul de Pinet, no need for lemon juice! During the summer months many people stick to rose, but a lot of restaurants also serve chilled red wine. For sweet-tooths, the neighbouring towns of Lunel and Frontignan produce good quality muscat and have their own appelations.

The apéritif liquor of the south of France is Pastis, which, while not for everyone, is a definite part of the local culture. Pastis should normally be served onto a single ice cube and then diluted to taste. There are, however several bizarre permutations of this drink that can be concocted using grenadine, mint syrup and orgeat (almond and rose flower)

Bars

Salsa Clubs

There are a few places to dance salsa, but you need to know when and where:

Mondays

Tuesdays

Wednesdays

Thursdays

Fridays

Saturdays

Sundays

Cafés

If you're looking for French espresso, the world is your oyster! You'll find a good espresso on almost every corner. On the other hand, if you're looking for a good latte they are few and far between and most of the time they're made with a push-button machine rather than a genuine espresso. But a good latte can be found. Here's a couple of places that do it right.

Clubs

Sleep

Stay safe

As in any other large city, tourists and locals alike are the targets of scammers in Montpellier. As a general rule, beware of people putting their hand out for money. But specifically, Montpellier has a bit of a problem with foreigners who have come to the city to beg. There are several common places you see them:

Go next


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, September 26, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.