Montpellier Guide

About Montpellier, France

Montpellier began in the Middle Ages. It was first the town of Maguelone, right up along the coastline, but due to incessant raids by pirates, the entire town moved about 10 kilometers inward to what is known as Montpellier. It was first documented in 985AD and quickly became the gem of 10th century trade, as it traded across the Mediterranean and established a rich Jewish heritage because of it. Montpellier's tolerance made it a favorite of many religious groups including Muslims, Jews, Cathars and later Protestants. Around 1180 its medicine center was blessed by Pope Nicholas IV and by 1120 its medical college was to be one of the best and it remains so today too. It is also one of the oldest colleges in the world.

Because of its long love affair with trade, the city jumped at the chance to join the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century. It grew dramatically then and today has seen a similar resurgence. Since the beginning of the new millennium, the population has nearly doubled due to its attractive redevelopment project that has so far crossed the Corum and Antigone districts of Montpellier. It is a culture filled city and abounds in museums, operas, gardens, architecture and festivals annually.

Things to do in Montpellier

Our mini-guide to what's on in Montpellier lists the top 10 events and attractions in the city. If you take your short break in Montpellier, France when these events are taking place, add them to your list of things to do in Montpellier.

1. Saperlipopette Voila Enfantillages Children's Festival: This May event is devoted entirely to children and features entertaining theatre, artists, acrobats, jugglers, marionettists, musicians, clowns and dancers all for the little ones. The Children's Festival takes place at the Chateau d'O. Admission is roughly €1.50 and shows are at an additional cost.

2. Musee Fabre: Massively refurbished as recently as 2007, the Musee Fabre offers one of the best art collections in France. It includes works by local painter Francois Fabre (after which it was named) as well as Delacroix, Raphael, Jan van Steen and Veronese. The museum is open Tuesday - Sunday from 10am. Admission is approximately €5.

3. Montpellier Dance Festival: One of the best dance events in France, the Montpellier Dance Festival takes over nearly every venue in the city and includes performances by top notch troupes like the Ballet Atlantique, Ballet du Grand Theatre du Geneve and special events by some of the best choreographers in the world. The dance festival takes place for approximately two weeks from the end of June into July annually. Hours and admission varies.

4. Radio France and Montpellier Festival: This giant event is organized by Radio France and features a colossal variety of dance and music. Nearly 100 performances go off including plays, operas, symphonies and jazz concerts. And with a dedication to youth and vitality, the festival is bursting at the seams with action. The main venues are L'Opera Berlioz, L'Opera Comedie, La Cour des Ursulines, L'Espace Radio France and the Odysseum. Hours and admission varies.

5. Jardin des Plantes: A lovely garden was placed in Montpellier at the request of King Henry IV in 1593. It is the oldest, the most varied and beautiful in France. It includes a tropical greenhouse, an English garden and 19th century Orangerie among other things. You can often catch locals sunning on their break, tourists pursuing the sites and artists capturing the essence of the gardens daily. The Jardin des Plantes is open Tuesday - Sunday from 12am - 8pm (June 1 - September 30) and closes at 6pm October 1 - May 31.

6. Musee du Vieux Montpellier: This fascinating museum traces the history of the ancient southern France city from the Middle Ages onward. It includes furnishings, fashions and interior design from each century. There is also an additional museum located about the Museum of Old Montpellier, titled Musee Fougau that focuses on the region's folk history and language known as Occitan. Opening hours varies but admission is free.

7. Quartiers Libres Festival: Located in the pounding heart of Montpellier's cultural scene, the Quartiers Libres Festival brings out the best concerts, dance, exhibits and theatre of the year. The festival takes place in October. Hours vary. Admission is free.

8. Mediterranean Film Festival: Films from Portugal to the Black Sea are introduced and entered into the running of nearly €45,000 in prizes. The festival also aims at introducing many of these documentaries, experimental films, and shorts to mainstream European markets. The film festival takes place from October - November at various locations around Montpellier. Hours and admission varies.

9. Montpellier Wine Festival: In November and December, Place de la Comedie clears out its theatre audience and draws in nearly 40 wine produces and thousands of wine lovers from all over France. Of course there is the usual taste testing but the festival goes above and beyond with extras like a wine making course, book stands, other gastronomy samples and a third day blow out when nearby vineyards open up their secret cellars for even more tasting sessions. All proceeds benefit an AIDS charity. Hours vary. Admission is free.

10. Chateau du Flaugergues: This well groomed 17th century chateau provides a great place to amble the spacious gardens, enjoy a historic home and sample fine wine from the local vineyard. It has been handed down generation after generation in the Montpellier aristocrat family, the Flaugergues and also gives a great look at high society life in Montpellier through the years. The chateau is open daily except Sunday from 9:00am - 12:30pm and 2:30pm - 7:00pm. It is open for a handful of weekends in July and August from 2:30pm - 7pm.

Montpellier Airport

The Montpellier-Mediterranean Airport, also known as Frejorgues Airport, provides air access to Montpellier by way of several carries including Air France and easyJet.

From there the center of Montpellier is 15 minutes away. It can be reached by a prearranged airport shuttle or car along motorway A9 exiting at the Montpellier-Est Exit 29. The airport is linked with several rental car companies including Ada, Avis, National Citer, Europcar, Sixt and Hertz.

The airport also provides shuttles for €4.90 to the bus station in the Antigone quarter of Montpellier. There are also taxis at the Arrivals Hall at Gate A.


Montpellier Web Sites

In our travels around the web, we found these Montpellier web pages useful:

Two “Maison du Village” fully renovated to the exacting standards of the New Zealand owners. Close to the Mediterranean beaches in the midst of endless vineyards and wineries.
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