the best period
Spend a long weekend soaking up the Languedoc capital's electric cosmopolitan atmosphere in a modern medium-sized city with personality in a prime location, a stone's throw from the Mediterranean shores. Dive headlong into its exciting history. Gain ground, escape into its quirky architecture and indulge in its Southern French lifestyle. This is a car-free holiday so walk or use public transport
Once you've settled into Hôtel Océania Le Métropole, a local institution (the stars have stayed here), make a beeline for the little lanes in Ecusson (Montpellier's old town) and stop off at one of the many welcoming wine bars for a pre-dinner drink. Another equally good option is to join locals celebrating the end of the week with an al fresco drink on Place Jean Jaurès.
At dinnertime, make your way to Le Petit Jardin, a stylish restaurant with a garden and terrace where you can tuck into fantastic bistronomy dishes made using local and seasonal produce in a haven of peace.
Hop on Les Hirondelles tram (line 1) outside your hotel and stop at Port Marianne. Join a fascinating Tourist Information (booking required) guided tour about the city's contemporary architecture exploring the most iconic futuristic buildings in this unique neighbourhood.
Port Marianne is basically an outdoor lab for the biggest architects of our time. This staggering forest in the city is a feast for the eyes where the likes of Starck, Nouvel and Fujimoto (L'Arbre Blanc) have made their mark!
Visit J.Nouvel's temple of design, the RBC Design Center, then Le Nuage by P. Starck followed by the water mirror. Cross the rambla to see La Mantilla by J. Ferrier, a nod to the "Belles de Castille", and R. Ricciotti's super-sleek Pont André-Lévy bridge. Watch the light bounce off the Koh I Noor B. Bühler before ending on a high along the Lez, a green path where nature reigns supreme. You'll find yourself in front of a cherry blossom: L'Arbre Blanc by S. Fujimoto. This is more than a tour; it's an architectural adventure!
The 2 hour tour works up an appetite. You're just a few hundred metres from Lez Market. Just follow the current along the river (towards the sea!). Lez Market is a creative hotspot that opened in October 2016 on the Lez riverbanks and is packed with shops, antiques dealers, restaurants and start-ups. The "village in the city" is the ultimate hipster hangout where the city's bohemians and youngsters get together in a heady and happy cosmopolitan cocktail.
The street art interior is home to a food market, restaurants, food trucks, a second-hand store, cool boutiques, spa, DJ school and start-ups. There's a flea market on the second Saturday of the month if you like bargain hunting.
Take your pick from the food trucks for lunch on the go or tuck into a meal at one of the many restaurants on-site. Bon appétit!
Tantalise your tastebuds with the best street food
8 food trucks set up shop in Jardin du Lez in June 2018 to bring you unique flavours showcasing good ingredients. They're open all week and all year around a main square with 250 seats, deckchairs to unwind and 2 pétanque pitches.
Once you've had your fill, hop back on the tram (line 3: Pablo Picasso stop 0.5km away) to hire an e-bike from Ebike Premium for an easy ride to the beaches. You can go it alone or join a guide: the choice is yours.
Put pedal to the metal for a 28km return journey lasting around 4 hours (take things slow on the coast, just enjoy yourself). Ride along the Lez and Étang de l'Arnel, surrounded by water mirrors glittering in the sun, reach Palavas-les-Flots and continue (you'll kick yourself if you don't) onto Maguelonne, an organic winery with vineyards growing around a romantic ruin nicknamed the "cathedral of the sands" that emerges from a stunning pine forest amidst wetlands.
Back in Montpellier, you'll only have eyes for L'Arbre Blanc's rooftop bar for an aperitif as you drink in views over 50 metres above the city rooftops. It's a sight for sore eyes: the big blue Mediterranean Sea to one side and Pic St Loup and the seemingly nearby Cévennes foothills on the other.
Have you fallen for this modern and vibrant neighbourhood too? That's lucky because our experts recommend having dinner here at La Factory. This trendy restaurant seeps you in an industrial New York vibe. La Factory is designed by the famous interior designer Pierre Chaduc, the brains behind the best restaurants in Lyon including Le Gabion and Brasserie Georges, with a smart blend of Art Deco and carefully-selected industrial pieces.
Get a good night's sleep at your hotel after your jam-packed day. You've earned it.
Locals flock to Les Dimanches du Peyrou market every Sunday to browse the many antiques dealers' wares on Place Royale, better known as Promenade du Peyrou. Wander among collector's items, gaze at the incredible all-round views and take a peek at the stunning 1774 statue of Louis XIV on horseback or the 18th century water tower.
There's only a step between antiques and contemporary art (maybe a few hundred metres actually) so join us at MOCO, a multi-site museum devoted to contemporary art. True to its roots, approachable and innovative, MOCO (Montpellier Contemporain) boosts the city's cultural appeal making it a temple to contemporary art and a world-renowned destination for culture.
You'll love the peaceful Panacée (a MOCO site) and its restaurant's prime location with views of leafy grounds. Join the local hipsters for its Sunday brunch.
The spacious and design-led space is flooded with light and soothes you as soon as you walk in. Get here early to get a seat among the young diners and tuck into the "all you can eat" brunch from 11.30am. It serves sweet and savoury classics alongside original dishes that change with the seasons and chef Guilhem Blanc-Brude's mood.
It's time for a change of scene come afternoon. A tour of the city's fine art museum, Musée Fabre, is a must-do too! The exceptional landmark brings classical and contemporary architecture together and is packed with fantastic collections including mammoth paintings by Pierre Soulages, the master of Outrenoir, who's living his best life (he's over 100!) in his villa-studio in nearby Sète.
If you have some free time then head opposite the Musée Fabre to Pavillon Populaire.
The photography museum is free to visit with a first class exhibition showcasing work by famous French and international artists. It hosts around three exhibitions every year.
How to get there?
By car: Take the A9, A709 and A75 motorways to reach Montpellier.
By bus: Flixbus, Ouibus and Linebus connections from European cities and towns.
By plane: Montpellier-Méditerranée Airport has 31 direct flights in France and Europe, with additional flights during summer.
By train: TGV high-speed rail means Montpellier is just 3 hrs 15 from Paris.
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