8 Secrets of Montpellier
I’d expected Montpellier to be a small, quiet town, but it was cheerful and full of energy. I explored the beautiful streets of old town, shopped at lovely French boutiques, and ate an amazing veggie burger. There were gobs of people and fountains and restaurants and shoe stores and flowers and clothing shops and ice cream – Wheeeeeeee!!!! 🎉🎉🎉🎉 Below, you’ll find the eight most irresistible, fascinating and delicious secrets of Montpellier!
1. “It’s so big!”
All ‘that’s what she said’ jokes aside, Montpellier is huge! There were bright colors and smiling people and so much life – probably because it’s the seventh most populated city in France. The main square, the Place de la Comédie, is only two hundred meters, or about two blocks, from the main train station. Full of people, cafes and little tents with clothes and jewelry, this bustling square is the beating heart of Montpellier. The statuesque opera house, Opéra Comédie (b. 1888), sits right in the center, directly across from the Tourist Center. There is a charming merry-go-round, a petite train for tourists and the enchanting Fontaine des trois Grâces, the town’s most popular meeting point. This is where I met up with the Montpellier Free Walking Tour.
2. Free Walking Tour
I’m always a fan of the Free Walking Tours
, but this one was extra special. Our guide, Philippe, spoke French, English and Spanish and explained all his knowledge about Montpellier in all three languages – so impressive! I loved having the bits of extra time to snap pictures as he switched between languages. He spoke with everyone in the group individually and had some great stories. He told us that Montpellier has one of the biggest old towns in all of France, with the rich character and creativity to go with it. We saw churches, fountains, restaurants, small quiet boutiques, loud open squares, multiple shirtless French men, and Polygone
, a mall known for shopping, located next to the Place de la Comédie. On the walk there, we found vendors selling hats, jewelry, colorful sarongs and beautiful dresses.
3. Tasty Goodies
I visited a traditional Greek shop with tasty hummus, olive tapenade and spiced artichokes. Although not a local specialty, this Greek place has been around for years, and the owner knows most of the locals who come in. He thanked everyone in Greek, and enthusiastically waved goodbye to each of us with charmingly Greek familiarity and warmth.
I ate at this delicious vegan restaurant, Mezzanine
, in the old part of the city, with gazpacho and a veggie burger with hummus for 8eu. The place had a very chill vibe – a talented piano player, WiFi, and adorable tables and couches. The food was delicious. My veggie burger stuffed with whole grain bread, hearty humus and piles of vegetables, and the gazpacho was full of salt and crunch. I was very happy.
1 Euro Ice Cream
I found the smallest ice cream shop with one euro cones – they weren’t large, but they were delicious. I got the passion fruit and coconut flavor swirl and slurped it all up even before it got drippy – or the bees smelled it – I wasn’t taking any chances 😉
4. Mounted Bicycles
Philippe told us about a street artist, Monsieur BMX, whose drawings of choice used to be bicycles – pictures of bikes, wheels of bikes, skid marks of bikes. However, he apparently wasn’t very good at street artist-ing, because his group told him that he could no longer use their signature when he painted in old town, so in retaliation to this insult, he simply mounted half of an actual bike to the wall….PEOPLE LOVED IT. He is now widely revered throughout the city. You can be sure that, if you see half of a bike on the wall, the other half is somewhere close by. He is one of Montpellier’s favorite artists.
5. Des Rêves et du Pain
If you have been to the Boulangerie: Des Rêves et du Pain
(Dreams and Bread), you will smell it before you see it. Enticing smells of rising dough and french bread waft out of the doors, luring in passers by for just a nibble of, literally, an award winning baguette. The shop was awarded the 2018 Best Bread Shop in all of France and boyyyy this prize was well deserved. SO GOOD.
6. Porte du Peyrou and Peyrou Park
Our guide told us that if we ever got lost in the center of Montpellier, we should head up the hill, because the center of old town is on the top of the hill. The city’s widely recognized landmark, the Porte du Peyrou, is a large triumphal arch, erected in 1693 in honor of Louis IX. This “arc de triomphe” was based off of the Porte Saint-Denis in Paris. The Peyrou Park sits directly behind the arch, a bit past the old town, and has rows of trees, a water fountain and imposing statues. Right past the spacious park, you can see the enchanting aqueducts that extend beyond the horizon.
7. Saint Clément Aqueduct
The antiquated 18th Century Saint Clément aqueduct runs from its local spring (14km outside of town) to the Peyrou water tower. The highest point in the whole city, this viewpoint next to the aqueduct enchants visitors because you can see for miles, looking out onto the beautiful red roofed houses, vintage churches and a vast wash of green trees. These areas surrounding the aqueduct are known as Les Arches (the arches) thanks to the beautiful, swooping shape of the mighty structure.
8. Montpellier Cathedral
Be sure to check out Montpellier’s Cathedral
, the Roman Catholic seat of the Archdiocese of Montpellier. Built in 1364, it was once attached to a monastery, but both buildings were gravely damaged during the War of Religions in the 16th Century. The archway is quite famous, found on all the postcards and calendars. Visitors admire the beautiful organ inside, the exquisite stained glass windows and the enchanting bell tower. It’s one of the biggest cathedrals in the Languedoc region and a well worth a visit.
Obligatory happy selfie. You will also be able to take this same happy selfie after following our eight secrets of Montpellier. Thanks for a grand time, Montpellier! I can’t wait to come back. After you visit, make sure you tell us what you enjoyed the most!
Have you already been to Montpellier? What was your favorite part? Leave your comments below!
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