Montpellier turned out to be a good choice for my little city break. Tucked away in the south of France, it’s not quite as warm and toasty as its glitzy neighbours on the cote d’Azure (which are protected by the mountains in their own little eco-bubble), but nevertheless bright and sunny in February. It was eating outside weather, but only just.
Montpellier Old Town
It is a nice little city to wander around. The old town is very photogenic and a great space to just walk and see what you find.
There is also a bit of street art, dotted here and there.
One of the prettiest streets for pictures, with old buildings, coloured steps and a bit of street art is Rue de Bras de Fer. However, be warned: instagrammers are active in this street and you may well find yourself delayed whilst someone in a floral dress and large sunhat poses for their 17th identical photo.
There is an efficient tram network. It costs €1.60 a ticket or €4.50 for unlimited journeys in a day. There are easy to use machines at the stations and you simply validate your ticket using the machine onboard.
Once you have your ticket a great thing to do is to take the tram towards the river bank and you can find some wonderful architecture that you will either love or hate.
There are some organised walks, but you can do what I did and take the tram to Port Marianne and then wander along from there. The area is still very much a work in progress, so you never quite know what you’ll find.
Buildings to look out for include the Cloud…
… and the white tree
If you’re looking to get lunch in the area you can follow the river to the Marche du Lez, a complex of small eateries and food trucks, interspersed with the odd vintage fashion stall and a designer homewares store. It got very busy on Saturday, but during the week I had the run of the place.
Montpellier isn’t actually on the coast but a little inland. However the city is expanding further and further out and so it’s probably just a matter of time.
To get to the beach from the city you need to take tramline three to the end stop (Perols Etang de l’Or). From there, there is a bus or you can cycle or walk. I walked; it wasn’t too far but it was further than it looked on the map.
Your reward is a long stretch of unspoilt coastline.
Obviously no swimming going on, as it was far too cold. I did manage to find a couple of shells and a small piece of sea glass to add to my little collection though.
Food and drink
There are plenty of restaurants dotted around the city. Everywhere I tried was ok; I have no complaints to make and prices were ok by French standards (€15-20 for a meal and soft drink). Certainly it’s better value for money than Nice or Cannes. If I wasn’t that hungry I would just grab a slice of pizza or a sandwich and go eat in one of the many green spaces. I’m not a great foodie and I often opt to just grab something and then get on with my day, rather than linger in a restaurant with wait-staff fussing over me.
Montpellier is in the Languedoc wine-producing region. This one region of France is responsible for a third of France’s wine output; for scale, it produces more wine than the whole of Australia or the US.
Montpellier wasn’t my first choice for this little trip. Actually my first choice was Lucerne, however despite stalking the weather channel for days there seemed to be no sign of any improvement to the weather for Lucerne (ok I know it isn’t the Caribbean, but one day without rain would be nice).
Montpellier was on my radar last year; my plan had been to spend a few months in France learning French and I had earmarked Montpellier as a likely spot to do this. Not too big, not too small with a mild climate and a bustling university population, it seemed like a good spot to stop for a while and pick up a new skill.
Then my health deteriorated further and I became very tired, developing an overwhelming need to spring my shoes and pen holders out of their storage prison and go live with them instead. So France got cancelled and I ended up living on the south coast of England.
Whether that was a good or bad choice remains to be seen.
Finally, as a reward for reading/scrolling down this far, here are some more gratuitous pictures of Montpellier….