Pretty at the University Level
Don't know much about Montpellier? Overshadowed by other neighboring cities in Provence, it is worthy of a full visit, and not just a half-day stopover before continuing your journey further into France. The Montpellier St. Roch train station is a major hub for transfers to other cities, and many travelers just stop to stretch their legs. Don't just loosen your joints – get walking – as there is much to see right out of the station.
Montpellier is the capital of the lower Languedoc region, and has a population of nearly 400,000! Notably famous is the city's 13th century medical school, which boasts famous alumni like forward-thinking Nostradamus.
Exit the station and find beautiful boulevards lined with boutiques and sidewalk cafes and lovely hotels like the ones on Rue de la Loge should you decide to stay. This is a city for wandering – especially at night. In the many magnificent squares, find street performers dancing, singing, working for their tips. This is a city of "life." Adults and children stay out enjoying themselves and their overlooked city.
Montpellier's heart is the Place de la Comedie. Named perhaps because it's funny you're there, when you had no plan to be. It actually derives its name from the first theater built in the 18 th century on the site of what is now the Opera. Laugh with delight, shop in sweet boutiques, eat at a cute café and make a new friend. On Saturdays you'll find a fresh food market, and at Christmas, stalls are set up with holiday knickknacks. At the center of the square, beneath the handsome facades of the surrounding 19th century buildings, is the fountain of the Three Graces. Kids can ride the old-fashioned carousel or take their own train ride on the "Petit Train" – a little white and blue tram that goes in a loop around the city.
Away from the city's bustle, the Promenade Royale du Peyrou is a park and oasis, and next to Montpellier's replica of the Arc de Triomphe (because every city should have one.) Here's where locals come to get away from the "Comedie" circus.
Now you've seen a little of Languedoc, and decide to postpone your journey to Cote d'Azur. Just about 25 minutes away from Montpellier is the town of Sète. Known as the Venice of Languedoc, this seaside port right on the Mediterranean Sea has canals, daily markets and a beautiful beach.
When you're ready, get back on the train with your France Rail Pass and continue to your destination – be in Strasbourg, Nice or somewhere decidedly more glamorous. You'll always have memories of Montpellier, a city where real people live, play and always laugh.
To learn more about preparing your trip to France, visit Atout France by clicking here if you’re a US resident or here if you’re a Canadian resident
Contributed by: Frederick, a manager at Rail Europe, born and raised in Europe and has traveled extensively on the continent.