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Montpellier is the capital of the Languedoc-Roussillon Region in southern France. It is not well known as a tourist attraction but that is undeserved as Montpellier has a beautiful historic center with narrow, winding streets and charming squares. Some people even feel that Montpellier is France's most beautiful city. It is also a lively student city. Already in 1289 they founded a university here, which makes it one of the oldest in Europe. One in five inhabitants of Montpellier is a student, ensuring a vibrant nightlife.
La Place de la Comédie, between the medieval higher part of the city and the modern Antigone neighborhood, forms the heart of the city. The square got its name from the Opéra Comédie, which is situated on the square, but also from the dozens of street artists and musicians who show their skills here, especially in summer months. At the center of the square lies La Fontaine de Trois Grâces (Three Graces Fountain). Around the square there are many cafés and terraces and the surrounding neighborhood is a large shopping and entertainment area that is largely pedestrianized.
Montpellier's old center is full of old mansions with intimate courtyards. You can visit two of these historic houses, the Hôtel de Manse and the Hôtel des Trésoriers de la Bourse. The historic center also houses old stores, although they increasingly give way to trendy stores and boutiques.
The Promenade du Peyrou is a fine example of eighteenth century town planning. On this promenade you'll find the Arc de Triomphe Le Peyrou, which was built to celebrate the opening of the Canal du Midi, which connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Mediterranean. From the terrace you have a beautiful view of the triumphal arch, a statue of Louis XIV, a water tower and the aqueduct.
Garden lovers can indulge in Le Garden des Plantes, one of Europe's oldest botanical gardens.
Montpellier has a large number of restaurants, but in all fairness you do have to make an effort to find a memorable place for dinner. Around the Place de la Comédie you'll find French bistros that charge fairly high prices for simple meals. If you want to enjoy a better and more authentic meal, we recommend looking for a restaurant further away from the center. Connoisseurs who don't have to track every single penny can go to Le Jardin des Sens, a restaurant with three Michelin stars on Avenue St Lazare. Make sure to book well in advance!
There is a lot to do in the vicinity of Montpellier: you can climb mountains, roam through caves, visit nature reserves, check out cute villages, and last but not least go to the beach, as Montpellier lies at only seven kilometers from the Mediterranean. The coast between the Spanish border (Côte Vermeille) until the Camargue is fabulous and a lot less busy than the Côte d'Azur, further east. The villages on the coast are truly picturesque. The beauty of this coast inspired major artists, such as Picasso and Matisse. The village of Collioure in particular, became a meeting point for artists at the beginning of the twentieth century, and you can still see why: Collioure has a beautiful castle, a picturesque center right on the Mediterranean and a lovely church, the Notre-Dame-des-Anges.
One of the Languedoc's most famous seaside resorts is Cap d'Agde. This seaside resort has an Aquarium with thirty basins, where you can see marine life of the Mediterranean, from squid and sharks to moray eel and coral.
Directly south of Montpellier lies the beach of Maguelone. This seven-kilometer-long beach lies along the Vic Lagoon and is one of the most beautiful beaches in the south of France. On the west and east side it may get busy at times, but if you walk to the central part you will come across very few or no other visitors. There is also a beautiful cathedral, which was originally built in the sixth century but rebuilt in the eleventh century.
Just northeast of Montpellier lies Nîmes, which was founded by the Romans. Two gates of the Roman city walls were preserved: The Porte Auguste and the Porte de France. There are many other relics from those days, such as the amphitheater Les Arènes, temples like the Maison Carrée, and the aqueduct across the Gard River (Pont du Gard).
One of the region's main attractions is the Cévennes National Park, with the Corniche des Cévennes, a highway running along the highest villages. The Cirque de Navacelles is a spectacular road that runs steeply downhill to a hamlet on the edge of a dried up, horseshoe-shaped lake. Drive extremely carefully around here: This is a road for experienced drivers!
Montpellier offers a fair range of accommodations ranging from a youth hostel up to a three-star hotel. In the vicinity, you will find various campsites or you can stay at a holiday farm.
Montpellier's center can be fairly busy. Also keep in mind that the heart of the city is a pedestrian zone. There are various parking garages in and around the center, but rates vary significantly. The cheapest garage is the one at the modern shopping mall Polygone, but this garage as well as others in the center are often full. Alternatively you can park your rental car on one of the P+R lots at the end of a streetcar route and use public transportation to continue your journey.
The city's airport, Montpellier Airport, is located seven kilometers southeast of the city. You can easily reach the airport by rental car. The airport is situated along the freeway A9 (Nîmes-Barcelona) and can be reached by taking exit 29 (Montpellier-Est).