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7 Things to Know About Montpellier, France

©istockphoto/GoranMihajlovski

©istockphoto/GoranMihajlovski

The problem with France is that there are too many glorious places to visit. Marvels like Paris and Provence take the spotlight, but there are so many other extraordinary regions and cities to see.

Or maybe that’s one of France’s advantages—those who wander are rewarded with lively, historical, and culturally rich cities that quickly earn a spot on a person’s favorite cities list.

Montpellier is such a place. The capital of the Languedoc-Roussillon region, Montpellier is a city situated in Southern France that deserves a visit on your next trip to France. Here’s why.

The 411
With a population of about 265,000, Montpellier is France’s 8th largest city. Unlike many of France’s other large cities, Montpellier’s roots aren’t Roman nor Greek. Throughout Montpellier’s rich history, the city has been known for many things: as a trading center in the 12th century, as a cultural hot spot where people of many different religions could co-exist peacefully, and as an industrial center. As you can imagine, this makes for lots of fun exploring.

Things are Happening in Montpellier
It might yet not have the buzz of some of France’s other cities, but Montpellier is well on its way to becoming an internationally renown hot spot. It is currently France’s fastest growing city and there are so many ambitious projects and plans along the way that it’s hard to keep up. Montpellier represents the perfect fusion between the old and the modern.

A Young, Vibrant City
Montpellier is not actually young—it was founded in the 10th century—but it certainly has a youthful energy. That could be because students make up more than a third of the population. It’s home to three universities: University of Montpellier, Montpellier 2 University, and Paul Valéry University, Montpellier III.

Education has played a significant role on Montpellier’s history: the University of Montpellier was founded in 1160, making it one of the oldest in the world.

Calling All Art Lovers
There is no shortage of spectacular art museums in France, but if you love art, you must not miss out on the Musée Fabre. This recently renovated museum features stunning European pieces spanning the last six centuries. Keep your eye out on feature exhibits, and plan your trip accordingly.

Get to Know the Tram
In any large city, good transportation is crucial. In New York City, it’s the subway. In Paris, it’s the metro. In Montpellier, it’s the tram. The tram is the most efficient way to zoom around the city, and the cars for different lines are designed with specific themes (for instance, Line 1 is decorated in blue and white swallows).

The Place de la Comédie
If you had to pick one “pièce de resistance” in Montpellier, it would probably be the Place de la Comédie. Don’t forget your camera when you visit this stunning plaza, whether it’s to sit around the gorgeous Three Graces statue or to check out a show at the opera house.

Get Your Shop On
Half the fun of shopping in Montpellier’s downtown area is wandering up and down narrow little alleys and discovering what amazing shops, cafes, and bakeries and tucked away. You can also hit up the local markets to find one of a kind souvenirs—there are markets throughout every district, and you could literally attend a different one every day of the week.

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