Montpellier has become one of Europe’s newest holiday destinations. This is due to the combination of its proximity to the Mediterranean, its beautiful medieval city core and a vibrant nightlife (a quarter of its citizens are students). It is also a good destination for adventure seekers – the mountains of Cévennes are only an hour’s drive away.
Most stores in Montpellier are open 9am-5pm.
Montpellier – originally called Monte Pestalario – is one of only a few larger cities in southern France that does not have Roman roots. The city was not founded until the 10th century, and came to be one of the most important cities for its Aragonese (Spanish) rulers. At the same time, the city’s reputation as a seat of learning was growing, as it welcomed Jewish and Arab intellectuals. In 1289, Montpellier’s school of medicine and law gained university status. Its roster of famous alumni includes the creator of prophecies, Nostradamus, and the author Rabelais. The open-minded and liberal Montpellier was faced with several challenges over the next centuries. It was struck by the plague in the 1300s, and later became a stronghold for the French Protestants, the Huguenots. Until the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, they fought a losing battle against the Catholic Church and the French crown. By the time these religious wars ended, all surviving Huguenots had either surrendered or fled to England, Ireland or America. Today, Montpellier is known for its university and a quarter of its citizens are students. The beautiful medieval area, “centre historique,” is a pedestrian haven with marbled alleys like L’Ancien Courrier. Low-set medieval buildings and churches adorn the area’s 16 squares, including the one in the city centre, Place de la Comédie.
There is plenty to do in the way of culture and entertainment, as well as exciting tours to go on - from regional vineyards and wineries to hiking up Pic St-Loup. Visit the city's many cathedrals (Carre Sainte-Anne is one that stands out with its refurbished interior turned into an art space), walk down the windy streets of the old town, and plan a field trip to the nearby seaside villages.
Cafe culture is alive in Montpellier, with quite a few establishments serving coffee of the highest quality. Brunch is very much a thing, and finding a suitable location in the vicinity should not present much difficulty.