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Cities of France - Montpellier

Montpellier is one of the most seductive cities in the south of France – elegant, cultured and tolerant, with Mediterranean blood coursing through its veins.

Capital of the Languedoc-Roussillon region, as well as the Hérault department, this bustling metropolis is one of France's fastest-growing cities. Montpellier has a handsome core, with tree-flanked promenades, broad avenues, and historic monuments.

With students making up 25% of its population and nearly 40% of the inhabitants under 25 years old, the medieval quarters of Montpellier vibrate with fun-loving, youthful energy. An invigorating melange of activity bring the streets alive, with musicians, artists and performers showcasing their talents.

During the day, narrow and surprisingly quiet streets entice visitors into the vieille ville with its wealth of elegant private mansions and courtyards dating from the 15th and 18th centuries. Venture to the east of the city and you'll find the stunning Postmodern Antigone complex which proves Montpellier is certainly not stuck in the past.

Come nightfall and the city bursts into life as the bars and cafes buzz with students letting their hair down and people enjoying themselves.

Although it may lack significant industry, in recent years, many high-tech corporations, including IBM, have opened offices in Montpellier. What it misses out on with industry, it makes up for with brains. The city has a proud academic history. Founded in 1160, the University of Montpellier is one of the oldest in the world. Renowned for its medical school, Nostradamus was a student at the University and qualified as a doctor there.

For those keen to improve their French, there are over 40 language schools in Montpellier.

Montpellier has a certain magnetism and world-class architects are forever turning up to add showpieces. The trams – designed recently by Christian Lacroix as moving tableaux – have been called "the sexiest in the world". It takes a startling city to make trams sexy!

So what should you visit if you decide to go?

  • Take a trip on Le Petit Train. Yes, very touristy, but perfect for an overview of everything the city has to offer.
  • The main focal point of the city, the Place de la Comédie, with the Opera Comédie built in 1888.
  • The Musée Fabre for one of France's finest collections of European art.
  • The car-free historic centre with bars, bistros and family-run restaurants spilling out onto the tiny streets.
  • Rue du Bras de Fer (Iron Arm Street) is one of the oldest streets and typical of the medieval Montpellier.
  • The mikve, ritual Jewish bath, dates back to the 12th century and is one of very few in Europe.
  • The Jardin des plantes de Montpellier – oldest botanical garden in France, founded in 1593
  • The La Serre Amazonienne, an Amazon greenhouse
  • The 14th-century Saint Pierre Cathedral
  • The Porte du Peyrou, a triumphal arch and the Place Royal du Peyrou, both built in the 17th century.
  • The Saint Clément Aqueduct, built in the 18th century.
  • The Tour des Pins, the only remaining of 25 towers of the city medieval walls, built around 1200.
  • The Tour de la Babotte, a medieval tower which was modified in the 18th century to welcome an observatory.
  • The historic Medical school.
  • A number of châteaux, so-called follies, built by wealthy merchants surround the city.
  • The Antigone district is Montpellier at it's most modern.

Montpellier is a cosmopolitan city and when it's time to eat, you will be well catered for with delicious local regional specialties as well as cuisine from many ethnic cultures.

And for drinks .. you can't go past the apéritif liquor of the south of France .. Pastis. This anise-flavoured liqueur is not for everyone, but is a definite part of the local culture. Pastis should normally be served onto a single ice cube and then diluted to taste. A votre santé ..