The charming Montpellier inspires in the south of France with historic buildings, impressive nature and a very lively culture. Not far from the Mediterranean coast, Montpellier offers a pleasant climate with many sunny days. Perfect to hike through the nearby hills or take a trip to the beach. Small markets invite you to stroll and sample the culinary delights. Culture fans will be impressed by the fascinating squares of the city as well as the medieval alleys. Beautiful courtyards and small palaces will amaze you. Numerous nice cafes, exciting exhibitions, individual stores and boutiques will also keep you in a good mood. With its diversity, Montpellier is an all-round destination worth seeing – discover it for yourself!
Tip 1: Place de la Comédie
This large oval square is the heart of the city. That is why the inhabitants like to call it l’œuf (the egg). Every Montpelliérain (as the inhabitants of Montpellier call themselves) passes through this square at least once a day.
The square with the opera from 1888, the fountain with the three graces, the magnificent classicist large buildings next to typical southern French town houses is perfect for a leisurely snack and subsequent café gourmand, where you can watch the hustle and bustle calmly. From here, it is best to start your tour through the medieval maze of streets of the old town Écusson (coat of arms). It gets its name from its shape.
Tip 2: Cathedral of Montpellier
The roots of Montpellier Cathedral go back to 1364, when Pope Urban V founded the monastery of Saint-Benoit in the southern French city. The associated chapel is considered the predecessor building for the cathedral, in which the archbishop of the archdiocese has his seat today.
The monastery chapel was finally elevated to the status of a cathedral in 1536. The reason for this was the transfer of the seat of the bishopric of Maguelone. Later in the 16th century, the cathedral was severely damaged during the Huguenot wars. As a result, the church was rebuilt several times from then on. For example, in the middle of the 19th century the cathedral was considerably enlarged, for which Henri Antoine Revoil was responsible as architect. As early as 1847, the then Pope Pius IX awarded the cathedral the title of Basilica Minor.
In the west tower of the Montpellier Cathedral there are four bells, which were hung in 1870. The largest of these bells weighs almost four tons and has a diameter of 1.71 meters. This makes it the largest church bell in the region.
In addition to these four main bells, Montpellier Cathedral also has three clock bells. These are also located in the west tower, or more precisely, at its top. There they are in a metal belfry. These bells were cast in 1730 by Pierre and Jacques Gor. The organ of the Montpellier Cathedral was built by Jean-Francois Lépine. It was inaugurated in 1778.
Tip 3: Promenade du Peyrou
At the highest point of the city is the “Promenade du Peyrou”, which consists of two levels and offers a beautiful view over the city and the surrounding area. On the upper level is a colossal equestrian statue of King Louis XIV, and behind it is the Arc de Triomphe.
The Saint-Clément aqueduct forms part of the promenade, and there is also the original water reservoir “Chateau d’Eau” in the form of a small columned temple.
Tip 4: Fabre Museum
The museum was founded in 1825 thanks to the generosity of the Montpellier-born painter Francois-Xavier Fabre (1766-1837). A disciple of David, he spent many years in Italy, where he inherited the magnificent collection of the Countess of Albany, which she in turn had received from the poet Vittorio Alfieri.
Fabre left the books, paintings, drawings and prints to the city of Montpellier. To this collection was added in 1836 the Antoine Valedeau Foundation, consisting of Flemish and Dutch works, and in 1868 the Alfred Bruyas Collection.
Bruyas, a banker’s son and a friend of Courbet and numerous other painters of that generation, owned a large number of contemporary works.
Originally housed in the 19th-century Hotel de Massilian, the museum was joined in 1878 by a wing on rue Montpellieret and in 1981 by rooms in the neighboring former Jesuit College. The collections include Greek and European ceramics (including 17th- and 18th-century Montpellier apothecary pots), as well as works of the English (Reynolds), Spanish (Ribera, Zurbaran), Italian (Veronese, Allori, Guercino, Domenichino. Cagnacci), Dutch and Flemish schools (Ruysdael. Rubens. David Teniers the Younger, Jan Steen).
The museum also contains a particularly large number of French paintings from the first half of the 19th century. The large Bruyas Gallery exhibits works by the so-called Iuminophiles (nickname of the painters of Languedoc), who strove to reproduce the magnificent light of the region in their works.
Tip 5: Saint Anne Square
Around the former 18th century church of Sainte Anne, now used as the “Carré Sainte Anne” (Saint Anne Square) for temporary exhibitions with free admission, is the neighborhood of violin makers. Next to Crémone in Italy, it is the largest center of violin making in the world. There are now over 14 workshops in the city (there are 25 in the metropolitan region), supplying customers from all over the world. It speaks for the quality of the violins and violas that the entry prices are around 17,000 euros – and are also paid far above that.
Around the church you will find numerous good restaurants, for example the highly recommended cheese bistro “la fine mouche” (roughly “smart ass”). In the evenings, the area fills with students who talk shop about their fields of study in the many bars and bistros in the neighborhood or simply stare into each other’s eyes in love.
In the immediately adjacent Saint-Roch neighborhood, artisans show off their creations in their workshops and boutiques, based on ancestral knowledge and skills: Stylists, jewelry dealers and jewelers, fur traders, ceramists, glassmakers, porcelain makers and many more.