Montpellier, Languedoc-Roussillon, France – An Undiscovered Gem

Agora Open Air Theatre. Photo credit: Paul Allen

By Joanne Shurvell

The southern French city of Montpellier is not as obvious a destination as Cannes or St Tropez but it has much to recommend it with its excellent food, art, music and lovely beaches. A good time to visit is mid-late July during Le Festival de Radio France et Montpellier, an excellent annual international music event. The festival, now in its 25th year, provides an eclectic mix of classical, jazz, world and electronic music, with over 100 free world-class concerts in open-air theatres, squares, cathedrals and festival halls. This year’s festival featured exceptional performances by Detroit techno pioneer Derrick May and Primal Scream producer and DJ, Andrew Weatherall, alongside gigs by up and coming French jazz trios and Canadian jazz vocalist Sienna Dahlen.

Cathedral St. Pierre. Photo credit: Paul Allen

In addition to the brilliant Radio France festival, other cultural highlights include Place de la Comédie, an expansive square that takes its name from the 18th-century theatre built on the site of today’s Opera. Nearby, the Musée Fabre houses one of France’s best collections of 16th-18th – century paintings. Also worth a look is the grand Cathédrale St-Pierre with its immense 15th-century porch and gorgeous stained glass windows.

Le Petit Travers

Montpellier’s closest nice beaches are along Le Petit Travers, a long narrow strip of sand dunes situated between La Grande Motte and Carnon. The beaches are easily accessible by car (free parking) or by Bus 106 from the Place de l’Europe tram stop. On arrival, it’s possible to venture to a less crowded beach in a free navette (minibus) or by caléche (horse drawn carriage). In addition to the public beaches, there are several private beaches. Chic choices include Le Bikini and La Voile Bleue.

Place de la Comédie. Photo credit: Paul Allen

The main shopping street, Rue de la Loge, running from the Place de la Comédie to the centre of the old town, has an abundance of book and clothing stores plus Halles Castellane, a market featuring regional delicacies. Slightly farther afield are lovely boutiques like Moda Lisa on Rue des Soeurs Noires and chock full of 80s disco gear, hats and sunglasses is I Love Vintage on Rue de l’Université, a street packed with vintage and second hand shops.

Place de la Chapelle Neuve. Photo credit: Paul Allen

With restaurants and cafes in numerous squares and cobbled streets, Montpellier offers a superb al fresco dining experience. One of the most charming of these squares is Place de la Chapelle Neuve with the superb Le Grillardin. A few streets away, the female chef and staff at Morceau de Lune provide attentive service and an inventive menu ranging from a delicious duck carpaccio starter to creatively named desserts like L’Electro-punk underground. For a change from French food, further up the street is Bombay, a decent Indian restaurant with tasty and reasonably priced food. Or Pizza Pizzetta serves tasty and inexpensive pizza and salads late into the night in a funky outdoor setting.

Friendly and charming Hotel du Parc and Hotel des Arceaux are both inexpensive and close to the historic centre. A more luxurious stay can be found at Le Jardin du Sens, which also houses a 2 Michelin-starred restaurant.


Le Festival de Radio France et Montpellier.

Tourist office.

Le Grillardin
3 Place de la Chapelle Neuve
T: +33 (0)4 67 66 24 33

Morceau de Lune
14, rue du Pila Saint Gely
T: +33 (0)4 67 52 80 59

6, rue du Pila-Saint-Gély
T: +33 (0)4 67 02 78 07

Le Jardins du Sens
11-15 Avenue Saint-Lazare
T: +33(0) 4 99 58 38 38

Hotel du Parc
8, rue Achille Bege
T: +33 (0)4 67 41 16 49

Hotel des Arceaux
33 – 35 bd des Arceaux
T: +33(0) 4 67 92 03 03

Moda Lisa 4bis, rue des Soeurs Noires
T: +33 (0)4 67 56 85 99

I Love Vintage
6, rue de l’Universite

Cathedrale St-Pierre
6 bis, rue Abbé-Marcel-Montels
Tel: +33 4 67 66 04 12

Musee Fabre
39, boulevard Bonne Nouvelle
04 67 14 83 00