I was in Montpellier last year for 5 months on an Erasmus exchange at the University of Montpellier, before I worked in Marseille for three months. This is more of a listicle of things to do and where to eat and drink in Montpellier. I’ll probably come up with even more things to add later! I also wish I had taken many more photos, but as so often when you are staying somewhere for a few months you think you’ll just take photos another day — and never do.
Free things to do:
Aside from the more obvious sights, like the Place de la Comédie and the windy alleys around there, I’ve listed a few things I liked most that are all free.
Take the tram to the beach or rent a city bike. If you take the tram, you’ll have to walk for about 20mins or you can wait for an occasional bus. The beach is nice even if it’s artificial. It’s nice and flat even when going into the water. Around it are big and ugly apartment blocks, but as long as you turn your back to them, you can enjoy the beach. I was going to write down the different ways to get to the beach, but I found a blog post on it, so I’ll just link to it here.
The way to the beach is pretty as the sun sets
Place Royale du Peyru
Aside from being a nice little park, a lot of Montpellier hangs out there on summer nights. They lock the gates after 10 or 12pm, but you can just climb over the fence. People play outdoor games and sometimes street musicians perform.
On the way to the park, you’ll come by the Arc de Triumph of Montpellier.
The whole area around the park (or really all of Montpellier) is so pretty.
After you’ve finished walking around the small Peyru park, you should walk downhill on Boulevard Henry IV. On the left you have the Jardin de Plantes de Montpellier and on the right the universtity’s old medical faculty building. The Cathedrale de St. Pierre is right next to the faculty. It’s got high ceilings and large, colourful windows. The big archway on the pic below is quite interesting to see, as it seems like a pointlessly large archway built that way because someone didn’t read the blueprints right.
The Roof of Le Corum
From the Place de la Comédie you walk through Charles De Gaulle Park to reach the Corum. Once there, you can climb up to the roof (via the stairs – you don’t actually have to climb) and have a lovely view of the city.
Places to eat:
Now, I have to admit that I didn’t go to very many restaurants in my time in Montpellier. I was a poor student and couldn’t afford to eat out; I think I only went to one real restaurant the entire four months I was there. I ordered what I thought was a pizza for 12€, but then it turned out to be a salad! But I’ve written down three places I went to frequently that are affordable. As I said in the beginning, the best thing to do on a budget is to make your own food, or just eat a baguette and cheese from a supermarket.
If you are trying to find nice restaurants you can’t go wrong by just walking through the little side-streets leading off from the Place de la Comédie. There are so many pretty looking restaurants, you can just take your pick.
I can’t name the markers on my maps in the free version, so I’ve described which marker they are.
Thai to Box:
It’s got a great choice and you can build your box from scratch. You choose which noodle or rice type you want, then which veg, meat, seafood and sauce. It’s then fried up right in front of you in huge woks. It can be really cheap, or more and more expensive depending on what you put in.
Also, around that area are most of the take-aways or cheaper restaurants. You can get a kebab, curry, chips, pizza and hamburgers all in a 50m radius. There is also an all-you-can-eat Chinese if you’re really hungry.
La Crêperie Jean Molin:
This is on Jean Molin street and right next to a columned Romanesque building, that you can’t go into – it’s just nice to look at. The Rue Molin is also a pretty shopping street, so it’s best to get a table outside. They have heaters in wintertime. The crêpes are large, cheap and delicious. I had a cheese mozzarella crêpe there, mostly because I was sick of Emmentaler on everything. There was so much cheese it felt like a stone in my stomach afterwards – but worth it.
This place offers lots of different foods, but especially 2€ Nutella crêpes. What more do you want.
This is the best coffee shop in Montpellier, IMO. The coffee tastes roasted not bitter, if you get what I mean (I don’t know how to describe coffee tastes), which is lovely. The key-lime pie there is amazing. The guy running it is American, so if you don’t speak any French you’ll still be able to order your coffee. They put on poetry readings and live music sometimes, too. The shop is tiny though, so you might not get a table inside.
This is around the corner from Coffee Club, so if that is full you can go here. It’s on the Rue de L’Ancien Courrier, which is a cool old windy passage leading you into the heart of the criss-crossed alleys to the east of the Comèdie.
La Panacée – Contemporary art centre
Aside from being an art centre with great modern exhibitions, it’s got a lovely courtyard and architectural bar on the inside.
Firstly, you need to accept that beers are 5€ a pint in most cities in France. In Montpellier especially. But if you go at happy hour or to bars not directly in the centre, you’ll get it a lot cheaper. Also, in Montpellier all bars have to close at 1am and they usually start kicking you out around 12:30. Here is a list of places:
Bar Al Andalus
They do 1L sangria and longdrinks. It’s a tiny bar, but it’s always packed with students, mostly Spanish students in my experience.
I went to this bar innumerable times. The owners live just above and will often pour you a shot to go with whatever drink you bought. They have a long list of caipirinhas & mojitos for 5€ – the best one is the black mojito made with black vodka. Downstairs they sometimes have live music or DJ’s. I don’t think I ever had a bad night in Sound Station!
Microbrasserie La Barbote
La Barbote is just across the road from Sound Station. It’s got a huge selection of beers and some good food, too. It’s not the cheapest place there is, but it’s a cool modern bar.
The Temple Bar and Charlie’s Beer
These two bars are directly next to each other and you can go from one to the other through a passage in the back. Charlie’s Beer has pool tables. Otherwise, they’re just nice bars with a slightly run-down eccentric decor.
This place is great, mostly because they have a deal where you can get a beer and a pizza (that they order from a shop around the corner) for 10€ during happy hour. They get some bands in for live music, too.
Le Royale Occupé
Across from LaFabrik there is an old cinema that’s been taken over (in a legal dispute, I think) by an activist group. They have clothes-swap flea markets, cinema nights showcasing alternative movies and documentaries and lots of live gigs. Check out their facebook page, but if you go in they usually have a flyer telling you what’s on that month. Alternatively you can just go and see what’s happening.
Le Rebuffy et al
This bar is on a corner with three other bars and most of the seats are outside. They’ve got board games in case you get bored and cheap wine. It’s a really pretty square as well, so I went there many times.
This is close to the bar, not quite where it is
Ol’ Dirty Bar
If you like Hip Hop, go here. I only went a couple of times, but this bar is well-known in Montpellier. This one time, we were just sitting in the bar area listening to the gig happening in the room behind (5€ just seemed too expensive), when the clock struck 1am and everyone was kicked out. The rapper decided to continue on the street.
The whole road “Rue des Ecoles Laiques” the Ol’ Dirty Bar is on is one bar after the other.
I am pretty ashamed that the list of bars is much longer than the other ones! And I could think of even more!
Thank you for reading! If you have any other questions about Montpellier, just ask! 🙂