I’ve been basing myself in Montpellier for 5 months now and have come to really love the city. I thought I’d share my top reasons for living here. Some exist perhaps because of my background, having come from London.
In no particular order, here are some reasons to visit or to choose it as a base for your freelance work.
1. 300+ days of sunshine per year
This is an obvious bonus. In the summer months Montpellier is hot, in the high 30s (~95F). It can stay around 20C (68F) well into November. Sunshine is a cure for any bad mood and the buildings here absorb the sunshine. A sunny city always makes me smile :).
2. Calm but very much alive
Montpellier is a city where its people take their time. The pace of life here is very different than a large city like London or Paris. This was something I welcomed when I first arrived and something I profit from every day. I feel healthier and happier somewhere less hectic.
3. The best bakery in France
This is not my opinion but the opinion of France itself. Voted the best boulangerie in the country (in French), Des Rêves et Du Pain (Dreams and Bread) is located on a side street very close to Montpellier’s Arc de Triomphe.
4. Great location on the south coast
Montpellier is a couple of hours from the Spanish border to the west, Marseille, Nice and Monaco to the east. It’s around 10km from numerous beaches of the Mediterranean Sea which is accessible by public transport. There is an abundance of great little towns and villages such as Sète and Pézenas as well as cities like Nîmes very close by and accessible affordably.
5. Wide squares, small shopping streets
Ah, the charming style of French drinking and dining is found in its open squares. Glass of wine for 2€? You got it. Outdoor seating watching the world go by? Easy. Just be sure to at least say “Bonjour” and “Merci” to guarantee polite service. As it should be really. Small alleyways (known as “ruelles”) offer many an independent shop to wander in to. Be careful on the smooth stone that lines the streets in flip-flops. I’ve slipped many a time.
You can’t move very far around the city centre without seeing some impressive monument. From La Fontaine de Trois Graces, to the Prefecture, west towards the Arc de Triomphe it’s all spectacular. La Rue De La Loge that leads along to the Arc De Triomphe is like a small version of the Champs-Élysées in Paris. In my opinion this is a win as the Champs-Élysées is SO long. I’d have a picture in front of Montpellier’s any day!
All this and I haven’t even mentioned the fantastic Place De La Comédie. The centre of tourist activity in Montpellier.
The Saint Clément Aqueduct at the far end of the Promenade du Peyrou used to bring fresh spring water to the people of Montpellier. Now it acts as a spectacular reminder of the skill of architects. It is in fantastic condition and its position at the westernmost point of the old city centre brings me to my next point.
7. Beautiful sunsets
Ah my favourite part of Montpellier. The colours are so varied, and with a lack of high buildings in the city centre more of the sky can be seen. The Promenade du Peyrou and the aqueduct provide beautiful foreground scenery for sunset photography. I’ll let the photos do the talking. You can see regular photos of the Montpellier sky on my Instagram.
8. Great, cheap public transport
At the time of writing there are 4 tram routes, with the 4th being extended to form a ring around the city centre. Perfect for lazy tourists, those in a rush, or those who have trouble walking. The city centre is very small and perfect for a stroll. Single tickets are 1€50, and if you need to change tram or bus and you are continuing in the same direction you do not need to pay again. Perhaps the most affordable ticket is the 10 single journeys for 10€.
9. Lots of language students
I’ve read that after Paris, Montpellier is the most popular city to attend language school in France. I am choosing to go it alone after giving it a try but you might be different. Here are a couple of schools to get you started: Accent Française and LSF France.
10. Cheap, direct flights from London
EasyJet flies regularly between London Gatwick and Montpellier. The airport in Montpellier is about 20 minutes away from the city by bus. It’s 1€60 each way. Bargain! Taxis will set you back around 80€ between the same 2 points.
11. Lots of festivals, especially in summer
During June and July it seems like there’s something on every weekend. In fact for 6 consecutive Fridays there is Les Estivales: a wine and food tasting festival. Local producers bring their produce to the esplanade. You can buy a ticket for 5€, receive a tasting glass along with 3 tasting vouchers. Often (read: always) your glass is filled up. 3 glasses of wine for 5€, sitting on the grass with live music, and good conversation (unless you have no mates), pretty good I’d say.
There are also music festivals such as Festival Fanfares, a weekend of brass/jazz bands playing outdoors on the corners of the Beaux Arts neighbourhood. This, as well as the Fête des Vignes (wine festival) in November are part of make Montpellier a very alive city.
12. Street art
Home to Monsieur BMX and other artists you can find lots of odd pieces adorning the walls of the streets. Even to the unobservant like myself, they stand out.
I’m sure I’ve missed some things. Let me know what you love about Montpellier in the comments below!