Stylish yet easy-going, historical and vibrant, Montpellier, on France’s Mediterranean coast, is a top city break destination. Getting to Montpellier by train is simple because the capital of the Languedoc-Roussillon region is served by high-speed, intercity, night and regional services. Lyon to Montpellier by rail takes just 1h45mins via TGV, with the French capital 3h30mins away. The journey time from Barcelona is around 3h00mins and from Toulouse it’s 2h09mins. The main train station, Montpellier-Saint-Roch, is close to the city centre, meaning the grand boulevards, shops and plethora of sites (in what is currently France’s fastest-growing city) are all accessible moments after arriving by train to Montpellier.
When passengers get off the train to Montpellier, they have a couple of options: either to jump on a tram and head straight to the white-sand beaches that are the city’s playground, or to venture towards the historic centre on foot. Taking Rue de la République, just a 5-minute walk from the station, the 12th-century Tour de la Babotte is the notable first site — a tower that remains from the city’s fortifications. Turning west past the 19th-century Opéra Comédie, contemporary art lovers will want to stop at the Carré Sainte Anne, a modern gallery in a converted Gothic church. Those more interested in classical art will instead be pulled east to the renowned Musée Fabre, where many of the old masters are represented.
The immense Cathédrale Saint-Pierre is around a 10-minute stroll from here, but that’s if the tempting restaurants and cafes that line the streets between them don’t give rise to a pause! If they do, the epicurious will be pleased with the range of gastronomic influences that this multicultural city boasts. France’s oldest botanical gardens, Jardin des Plantes, lie just beyond the cathedral, with a huge range of species and an immense glass greenhouse. The Arc du Triumph marks the entrance to the tree-lined Promenade du Peyrou, which has gorgeous views of the surrounding coast and hinterland. Before heading back to Montpellier train station, the local aperitif, the anise-flavoured Pastis, should be tried by those wanting the full authentic experience!