This elegant French city is an excellent base for a holiday in the south of France, as Peter Stewart discovers
I’ve heard the name. Where is it exactly?
Home to one of the oldest universities in France, Montpellier is the capital of the Languedoc-Roussillon region and is just a few kilometres from the Mediterranean coast.
So what’s there to see and do?
The historic centre, known as Écusson because of its shield-like shape, is known for its hôtels particuliers (18th-century mansions), many of which can be visited. The city’s focal point is Place de la Comédie (main picture), with its cafés and restaurants, It is also home to the Opéra Comédie, which opened in 1888 and continues to stage operas and orchestral concerts. Nearby you can view a large collection of European art at the Musée Fabre. Then wander through the narrow streets to the medieval Cathédrale Saint-Pierre before visiting the Jardin des Plantes, one of the oldest botanical gardens in France. For a lovely view over vieux-Montpellier head to Place Royale du Peyrou. This 17th-century square was built at the highest point of the old town centre and has a mini Arc de Triomphe at the entrance (pictured above).
Are there any good places to eat?
There are plenty. Dédée-Jacqueline (tel: (Fr) 4 67 57 35 03, mains from €11.50) in Rue du Plan d’Agde has a wonderful terrasse set against a colourful trompe l’oeil mural and serves Mediterranean dishes. Another great place for a bite to eat is Le Pré Vert (tel: (Fr) 4 67 02 72 81, www.restaurant-leprevert.fr, mains from €11) in Rue Sainte-Anne. Anyone with a sweet tooth should head for Chocolats Thierry Papereux in Rue Saint-Paul (tel: (Fr) 4 67 63 90 64, www.chocolats-thierry-papereux.com). Specialities include Le Montpéllierain, a liquorice-flavoured macaron. Enjoy a gourmet dinner at Le Duo in Place de la Chapelle Neuve (tel: (Fr) 4 67 66 39 44, www.restaurantduo.fr, mains from €16.50) where southern French dishes are matched with Languedoc wines.
Where should I stay?
Try Le Baudon de Mauny (tel: (Fr) 4 67 02 21 77, www.baudondemauny.com, doubles from €165). This stylish chambre d’hôte is housed in a hôtel particulier a few minutes’ walk from Place de la Comédie.
How do I get there?
Montpellier-Méditerranée airport is seven kilometres south-east of the city and is served by easyJet from London Gatwick and London Luton airports.
For more information visit www.ot-montpellier.fr