When it comes to famous French cities, Montpellier France is right up there. It’s the most elegant metropolis of France best known for its stylish architecture, grandiose stately homes, quaint backstreets, and white sandy beaches. Backpackers visiting have a number of interesting places to visit in the city including museums, the old town, excellent restaurants, historical monuments, medieval streets and even hiking.
However, visitors might just want to settle for a drink in this beautifully stylish city and just soak up the atmosphere. Here are the top 10 things to see and do for backpackers in Montpellier, France.
L’ Écusson (Old Town MontpellierFrance)
Backpackers can wander the medieval streets of Old Town Montpellier and get lost in the shady backstreets. Here you will discover some of the oldest buildings in the city, boutique hotels, quintessential French cafes, and fantastic little restaurants.
Interestingly, most of the buildings in this area date back to the 17th and 18th centuries with old wooden doors on medieval streets that will make you feel like you have stepped back in time. Don’t miss the sublime covered market that happens here, it goes by the name of Les Halles Castellane and you can expect to find lots of local goodies including Languedoc wines and local seafood that is fresh from the Sète and Agde ports.
In summer, the streets that surround the markets are flooded with outside seating for the local restaurants serving authentic French cuisine.
Place de la Comédie
If you are looking for cafes, bars, and restaurants there is no better place in the city than Place de la Comédie, also known as l’OEuf (the Egg) because of its oval shape. There is a great atmosphere here with locals and visitors alike enjoying the finer things in life all under the warm French sun. Small cafes serve coffee and a plethora of French sweet treats such as croissants.
Additionally, on the streets, you will see artists at work and people selling all types of goods. At night this place really comes alive with the surroundings lit up and people flooding the bars which a great place to meet other backpackers.
The exquisite Three Graces Fountain, built in the year 1790, sits in the middle of the square adorning the emblems of Montpellier. Place de la Comédie is the place to be for anyone wanting a taste of the stylish Montpellier nightlife.
Montpellier France Triumphal Arch
Completed in 1963, the impressive Triumphal Arch was modeled on the Porte Saint-Denis in Paris. On closer inspection, you will find a number of inscriptions and reliefs that tell the story of Louis XIV and his activities in France.
Also, look out for the Canal des Deux Mers which details its construction; one of the largest engineering projects in French history during the 1600s. The Triumphal arch was designed by the architect François d’Orbay who was a pupil of François Mansart, the most famous architects in world history who was integral for establishing classicism in Baroque architecture in mid-17th-century.
There is a guided tour on offer for backpackers that will take you to the top of the 88 steps for one of the most spectacular views of Montpellier. The tour costs around €10 ($11).
Montpellier France Fabre Museum
The stunning Fabre Museum was founded by French painter François-Xavier Fabre in 1825. In 2003, the museum went under huge renovations to make the building more accessible to the public. Originally when first founded by François-Xavier Fabre it was done using the help of local Montpellier artists who gave the museum pieces of their work.
Today, the Fabre Museum has an extensive collection of fantastic art on display for visitors to discover. Some notable artists include Frédéric Bazille and Pierre Soulages. Backpackers can find The Fabre Museum close to the main square and Place de la Comédie.
It is open daily from 10 am – 6 pm (except Mondays) and the entry fee depends on how much you want to see. It’s also worth visiting the website beforehand to plan your visit and check prices.
Promenade de Peyrou
This stunning monument dates back to the 1700s. It stands proudly on the highest point in Montpellier just west of the old walls. The monument was built during Louis XIV’s reign in France. So, you will notice the statue of the man himself riding a horse and pointing his arm towards Spain.
This is one of Montpellier locals’ favorite spots in the city with an amazing panoramic view of the city. If you visit the monument on a Sunday you will be treated to a local flea market under the arches of the aqueduct. Here, you will find lots of local goodies include food and crafts.
Fancy getting out of the city and seeing some French countryside? One of the best things to do in France is to hike and there is no better place than Pic Saint-Loup, just 20km north of Montpellier. This mountainous area is home to some of the most stunning landscapes in France and you can hike around it. The hike will take you through some quintessential French countryside including sunflower fields, vineyards, and limestone cliffs.
Also, the peak of Pic Saint-Loup reaches an impressive 658 meters and is visible from most of the Hérault department (region). There is a wonderful 6km hike here for keen backpackers to conquer the peak. However, make sure you take appropriate hiking gear and the summer months are the best time to tackle it.
The area itself is a wine region so don’t miss the opportunity to taste Languedoc wines in the area after a hard day’s hike.
Wine Tour – The Essential Pic Saint-Loup
Wine tasting is one of the best things to do in France. This is due to its high-quality winemaking skills and epic vineyards. As mentioned above, the region of Hérault is famous for its vineyards so take the opportunity to learn about (and taste!) the fine wines produced here.
France is very proud of its winemaking abilities and for good reason, wines produced in this country are world-famous. This fantastic half day wine tour allows you to visit two wine estates in the Languedoc terroirs. Additionally, you will get the chance to taste some of the best Languedoc wines along the way.
Also, take in the beautiful surrounding landscapes whilst learning all about the growing methods, harvesting, and production. The tour also teaches you exactly how to judge fine wine using methods that have been around for hundreds of years; certainly, something to impress your friends with when you get home.
The tour is provided by Montpellier Wine Tours and costs €65 ($70) per person. Backpackers on a budget should be able to find cheaper wine tasting tours whilst in the city.
Officially known as the Cathédrale de Saint-Pierre, this stunning cathedral managed to survive the devastating French Wars of Religion. You can find the cathedral in the backstreets of Old Town. Here, you can find a number of people surrounding as they take photos of the magnificent portal with twin towers.
The cathedral was commissioned by Pope Urban V in 1364 when it was once a monastery chapel but was switched during the reign of Francis I in the 16th century. You can visit the cathedral any day of the week for free. Also, guided tours are available should any backpackers want to learn more about the city.
There are many fascinating mansions to be discovered in the city of Montpellier. Most date back to the 17th and 18th century adding some real class and elegance to the place. Most of these mansions were built during the time when Montpellier was the capital of Languedoc. This then would have been during Louis XIV’s reign.
They were built for government officials and court personnel plus other people of great importance at the time. Today there are 80 private mansions for you discover spread across the city. However, the most notable being the Hôtel Particulier Saint-Côme à Montpellier (pictured above).
Backpackers that are interested can book a tour of the city which will include the best of these mansions for about €9 ($10).
Go To The Beach In Montpellier France
There is a huge choice of beautiful white sandy beaches in the city of Montpellier. Most of the beaches are also blue flag beaches. In fact, there are 19 beaches within 40 minutes of each other. Some notable beaches to discover include Plage de L’Espiguette which covers 18km of rural beach backed by natural sand dunes.
Plage de la Grande Conque is a black sand beach tucked behind a volcanic rock cove with stunning views. Carnon Plage is a seaside resort great for backpackers to hang out; it has a good vibe, crystal blue waters, and white sands. Plage de La Plagette is a much smaller beach than the others but is beautiful, tranquil and a great place to escape the crowds.
A good idea is to rent a car so you can best explore all the beaches of Montpellier with ease. If a car is not possible due to a tight budget, you can get a bus or taxi to any of the beaches. Don’t forget your swimming trunks when visiting Montpellier, there is a beach for everyone!