The capital of the Languedoc-Roussillon region is Montpellier, the eighth largest and fastest growing metropolis in France, and only a few minutes drive from the Mediterranean. It is one of the oldest University cities in the world, dating back to medieval times. There are two major rugby teams residence in Montpellier. The city accommodates an annual Operatic festival, as well as housing one of France's greatest collections of art outside Paris.
Place de la Comedie is the hud of the city, boasting delightful architecture, like the Saint Clement Aqueduct, Saint Pierre Cathedral and the Tour de La Babote.
Lets explore some of the key points of Montpellier.
A Hilly, Hot & Medieval City
The steeps and slopes of Montpellier's landscape derive from being constructed between two hills. At its highest point, Place du Peyrou, the altitude is 57 meters above sea level.
Montpellier is only 10km from the Mediterranean sea, and has a climate you would expect from the Med, with mild winters, and hot summers. Temperatures ranging from 7°C in January, to an average of 24°C in July.
Many of the towns and cities of Languedoc, for example, Beziers and Nimes, have Roman origins. Montpellier however only dates back to the 10th century. But it didn't take long for the settlement to swell, thanks to trade coming in from the Med. The growth is still continuing today, making it one of France's fastest growing cities.
The University City
The universities in Montpellier are said to be one of the oldest in the world, dating back to 1289, after being confirmed by Pope Nicholas IV. Although the area had been a hub of higher education since 1160. One of its medieval medical students was Nostradamus.
During the French Revolution, the University was suspended, and it wasn't until 1896 it was re-established. Then student riots in the late sixties, brought about another reconstruction. The government split the faculty into three institutions, University of Montpellier 1, teaching medicine, law and economy, University of Montpellier 2, for learning science and technology, and finally Paul Valery University, or also known as Montpellier III, for the education of social sciences, humanities and liberal arts. In 2015 there was another reorganisation and the Universities One and two re-merged back in one unit.
Today, the University has over 40,000 students, helping to bring the average age of the local population to below 30. That maybe one of the reasons for the city's great night life.
Faculty of Medicine, University of Montpellier 1
The Festival City
Every July since 1985, Montpellier has been the home to Festival de Radio France et Montpellier, an operatic music festival. Promoting not only Opera, but also classical, Jazz and other in-numerous kinds of music. The festival is hosted at various venues with over 150 events, some of which are free, but the main venue is the modern concert halls of Le Corum, formally opened in 1988. There are three auditoriums, the grandest of which is The Opera Berlioz, a 2000 seater named after Hector Berlioz. The building is covered with slabs of marble, and was designed by Claude Vasconi.
Festival de Radio
The Rugby City
Sport is another primary attraction to the city, housing two rugby clubs, Montpellier Herault Rugby club and Red Devils, and furthermore is home to an associate football club, Montpellier HSC, and is also a major segment of the Tour de France.
The white and blue wearing professional rugby team, Montpellier Hérault Rugby plays in the top level of the France's rugby league. They moved venue to Altrad Stadium, in 2007.
Montpellier Diables Rouges Rugby a XIII or simply the Red Devils, play in the Elite One Championship. Their home stadium is Stade Sabathé.
The local football club, Montpellier HSC, plays in France's top division, Ligue 1, and their home matches are played at Stade de la Mosson.
Museum, Landmark, Cathedrale City
Musee Fabre [Museum]
François-Xavier Fabre, a local painter from Montpellier, founded the museum in 1825. It houses collections from both classic and contemporary art.
The gallery has assembled over 800 paintings, including hundreds of engravings and thousands of drawings, and the museum is split into three main sections, Old, Modern and Decorative Arts. The Old Masters category comprises of works by Rubens, Poussin and Jacques-Louis David. The Modern Movements section have pieces from Manet, Degas and Delanunay.
Fréderic Bazille,a Marseille-born artist and Monet contemporary has an entire room devoted to his Impressionist paintings.
The Museum that is located near the city's main square, is now recognised by the France's Ministry of Culture as one of the Musée de France.
Place de la Comedie [Landmark]
The Place de la Comedie is the main focal point of the city, for shopping and sightseeing. The whole area is surrounded by shops, bars and cafés. At the centre of the square stands the symbolic goddess-like figures of the Three Graces.
From the north-side lies the Esplanade de Charles de Gaulle, a small park, and on the south side is Lycée Joffre, the former Citadel of Montpellier.
Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Montpellier [Cathedral]
The site of the Roman Catholic cathedral, currently the seat of the Archbishop of Montpellier, dates back to 1364, when it was simply a church attached to the monastery of Saint-Benoît, and would be later awarded cathedral status in 1535, when the diocese of Maguelone was transferred to Montpellier, under the rule of King Francois I. The original building was unfortunately damaged in a religious war, and was re-built during the 17th century.
Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Montpellier
Montpellier is separated from the Mediterranean by Etang de L’Or, a huge 3000 hectares lake of freshwater and salt-water; Just one of a series of lakes that covers a large percentage of the under-belly of Languedoc, which disconnects the coastal regions from the main land. One of the best examples of these long narrow strips of beach is La Corniche beach near Sete, which stretches over 10 km. But not all of these strips are remote. Palavas, Carnon and Maguelone, are beaches who border the town of Palavas-les-flots,they are all built up with flats, bars and restaurants. The biggest beach in the region, just 24 km east of Montpellier, is the Espiguette beach, which is both massive and remote.
A Great City
A youthful city, a medieval city, a living city. Montpellier must be one of the best locations to visit, work and play in the south of France. It has got to be equal to Marseille and Nice. It is near the Med sea, with lively night-life, shops, arts, rugby and beautiful architecture.