Montpellier is France’s southern success story of the past 30 years. It has grown to be the eighth biggest city in the country with a booming population of 250,000, nearly a third of which are students, lending the town its young, energetic atmosphere.
You could spend your time here admiring the botanical gardens founded in 1593, the 800m Aqueduc St-Clément, or the ancient cathedral of Saint-Pierre. But Montpellier is a city to be jump into, to become a part of, to share in – the inhabitants here always seem to be busy enjoying themselves.
The swaths of people that cross the main square, Place de la Comédie, bear testimony to that. The pedestrianised town centre is a maze of old streets, hiding an array of fashionable boutiques, cheap restaurants serving fantastic local dishes, and an assortment of bars to suit every taste.
Meanwhile, the Antigone area provides a stark architectural contrast to the east. Whether it’s the youthful population, the 300 sunny days a year, or the duck salads and rosé at lunch, Montpellier brings out the creative side in people. While there are increasing numbers of tourists, the city is not reliant on them, and so visitors aren’t exploited.
Montpellier is like the pastis you are likely to end up sipping in the cafes here - a pungent, refreshing, taste that takes just a day to acquire, but remains proudly southern, and slightly addictive.