Really, more time than a long weekend is required to savour all Montpellier has to offer, from the cobbled streets, to culture, to architecture and history, so although we only scratched the surface, we would like to share our experience.
Like many locations in France, the charming medieval city of Montpellier and its surrounding Languedoc region, is known for its excellent wines. In fact, Languedoc wines are often described amongst the world’s best, particularly their reds and rosés, although picpoul is a very popular white from the region. There is also an abundance of organic wines produced in this area.
Hours can be spent exploring the narrow, winding cobble stoned pedestrianised streets filled with cafes, restaurants and unique shops, whilst encountering impressive and imposing gothic structures such as the towering Sainte Anne’s Church. The historic part of the town is easily walkable and venturing outside is accessible via the tram system.
Jardin Des Plantes
Well worth a visit and of particular interest to me as a herbalist, is the Jardin des Plantes, the oldest botanical garden in France maintained by the University. It is another place to while away hours exploring an array of intriguing pathways, exotic and medicinal plants and a dedicated permaculture area, featuring education on the importance of organic gardening and showcasing the ecologically balanced blend of growing edible flowers, herbs, vegetables and fruits together. This garden was established as a Royal Garden in 1593, when Henri IV commissioned a botany and anatomy teacher, Pierre Richer de Belleval, to create and develop “health through plants”, inspired by the Italian counterpart “the medical garden” of Padua.
Food, of course, is always important on our travels, looking for a balance of traditional local cuisine and healthy, which was very easy in Montpellier. Although there was a myriad of cafes to choose from, after visiting ‘Coldrip’, tucked away in a quiet back street on the first day it was hard to go anywhere else. The menu was small but included freshly pressed juices, breakfast bowls with home baked granola and fresh fruit and possibly the best avocado toast I’ve ever had. The coffee was also excellent and nondairy milks are offered.
Also highly recommended was the terrace of ‘Brasserie du Theatre’, a quintessentially French brasserie full of ambiance, where we enjoyed excellent poke bowls and pasta dishes.
A day at the seaside is also a pleasure not to be missed. There are a number of restaurants typical of the French Riviera with attached private beaches where mattresses and umbrellas can be rented. We chose CarreMer, an easy place to spend a day with a book under the shade of an umbrella when needed, a few steps from the clear blue sea and drinks, tapas brought to your mattress or enjoyed in the restaurant. Remember to bring a towel! An unexpected but much appreciated touch was an offering of skewed fresh fruit brought to all patrons in the late afternoon.
As far as accommodation goes, again there is a wide range available to suit a range of budgets, from Relais & Chateau Hotel Richer de Belleval, on a delightful square called Place de la Canourgue, to airbnb’s in the city of by the sea, to chain hotels and restored residences providing old world charm. We chose Grand Hotel du Midi, a very charming and reasonably priced air conditioned hotel, very friendly and helpful staff, located right on the edge of Place de la Comedie, where you will find the Montpellier opulent Opera house, many cafes and the tourist office. It is also close to St Roch train station, should you have enough time to venture further afield… Beziers in only an hour away for example.
For those with a car, there are many medieval sites, vineyards and nearby villages to explore.For example, Domaine de Verchant, just 12 minutes from the city centre, is a luxury spa hotel set amongst the vines, it is possible to stay or just visit for the day to enjoy the spa facilities, the infinity pool and one of the two restaurants, another Relais and Chateau establishment, also recommended by Mr&MrsSmith, always a great place to start looking for accommodation which is a little bit different and captures the essence of the location.
Although we have spent glorious time in the many beautiful French Riviera towns, including Villefranche-sur-mer, Nice, St Tropez, Cap d’Antibes, St Paul de Vence, Eze, we had never been to Montpellier…
The reason for choosing it this time was based around a breathwork training up in the hills, around 30 minutes from the centre of Montpellier, at a venue called Hameau de l’etoile, which was in a truly *breathtaking* setting amongst the mountains, with a lovely terrace and large swimming pool. This venue hosted multiple workshops at the same time. The wild beauty, cicada and bird song added to the ambience and ideal location for wellbeing workshops and seminars. The accommodation is a little on the rustic side, however should you require more comfort and a private bathroom we recommend the cassines.
A return to Montpellier is highly likely! For more travel tips and ideas, check out previous reviews we’ve shared, always with a strong focus on food.