TO SEE | TOWN
If you could be in love with a city, it would be Montpellier for me. I could write an entire blog just about Montpellier if I lived there. The instant Mediterranean vibe, the historical centre with its narrow streets, the numerous, cosy squares hosting the best terraces, the countless cool restaurants and bars, and so much more. I love it!
Somehow I always enter Montpellier via the majestic Arc de Triomphe. Not a bad way to start your Montpellier visit. The Arc de Triomphe dates back to 1691 when it was built to honour the Sun King Louis XIV. The arch is an extension of the Peyrou Promenade with its remarkable water tower and statue of Louis XIV mounted on a horse. The terraces of Peyrou are well-known for the gorgeous view of the region. Coming from the Arc de Triomphe, I automatically continue on the Rue Foch, the royal lane of Montpellier. After passing the Palais de Justice, another historic monument, you will find lots of high-end shops in Haussmannian style buildings.
No shopping for me today, I prefer to start the day with a cup of tea on one of the lovely terraces in my favourite square “Place de la Canourgue”. This is the oldest square in Montpellier, and, as such, this beautiful haven of peace and tranquillity is picture-perfect. It is exactly how I picture living in France: sipping my tea and eating a croissant under the rustle of the leaves, while listening to the French surroundings. Aaaah, c’est beau la vie! Continuing my way on the Place de la Canourgue, I pass the Fountain of the Unicorns (Fontaine des Licornes). My 11-year-old girl is completely into unicorns. So whenever she is with me, this is a must-see.
Clear blue sky
The fountain also gives me a gorgeous view of my next destination: Saint-Pierre Cathedral. Walking to the cathedral always makes me feel like the clocks have stopped ticking. All of a sudden the impressive cathedral rises in front of me. Saint-Pierre became a cathedral in 1536, after being the chapel of Saint Benedict’s monastery. It is the only medieval church that survived the Wars of Religion between 1562 and 1598. Two gigantic cylindrical pillars with a diameter of 4.5 meters mark the impressive portal at the main entrance. The facade goes very well with the clear blue sky in the background!
One of the things I like so much about Montpellier is that you can get lost in the historical centre, also known as L’Ecusson. I have visited the city countless times, but I still don’t know my way through the labyrinth of little streets. I don’t mind though, as I always come across new things. This is also how I discovered “Le Quartier de l’Ancien Courrier”. Situated between Place Martyrs de la Résistance and Place Saint-Roch, this labyrinth within a labyrinth will lead you to unique little shops and restaurants with teeny tiny terraces.
Even though Montpellier is quite a big city, the 7th biggest in France, you will still find plenty of places where the crowds don’t go. Walking through these quiet old streets in the historical centre always calms me down. If you take the time to look up, you will see beautiful buildings. Now and then I see a BMX bike popping out of a wall. Rather curious about what these could be, I soon enough discovered that they are the work of artist Monsieur BMX. Drawn to street art and graffiti, he decided to actually hang real BMX bikes on the old city walls instead of spray painting them. Once you’ve noticed one, you’ll see them everywhere in the city.
Finally, I arrive at Montpellier’s central meeting point: la Place de la Comédie. One of the most eye-catching buildings in the square is the municipal theatre with its monumental façade. Hence the name of the square. If you’re not busy looking at people or watching the street artists, you might want to take a look around you. The square is surrounded by the most beautiful 19th-century buildings. The great thing about this square is that no cars are allowed, which is the true for the whole historical centre. So you can stroll around all you like, absorbing the bustling city life. Yeah, life is good in the South of France. And even better in Montpellier!