Hérault

 

 

The department of Hérault is nestled between the Mediterranean sea and the Cevennes mountains halfway between Spain and Italy. Montpellier is its capital town. It is less overcrowded, less famous and cheaper than Provence but offers a similar, if not more genuine experience of the South of France

 

It mingles a joyful lifestyle made of lively urban activity in Montpellier, one of the biggest student town in France, with the pleasures of nature easily at hand: the biggest and oldest wine growing area in the world, miles of golden sand along the coastline and landscapes of limestone hills, planted in Mediterranean vegetation in the Cevennes Mountains.

 

To top it access to the region is easy from the UK thanks to Montpellier Airport and Montpellier TGV line.

Given the growing attraction towards southern regions, this part of Languedoc has all the potential to become a serious alternative to Provence, Côte d’Azur, Lubéron and the likes.

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Joyful and relaxed life style in a rich cultural and historic setting

 

Montpellier, capital of Languedoc-Roussillon, just 7 miles from the sea, is halfway between Spain and Italy. An ideal stopover for summer holidays or to settle for long.
Located in the heart of a region rich in history and boasting many UNESCO World Heritage sites, Montpellier is a pleasure to explore. A town with an old university tradition, Montpellier is these days a meeting place for cultural, scientific and artistic exchanges. The town has kept and renovated much of its past, with narrow mediaeval streets, grand private houses, many charming squares and a noble XVII th century architecture, delights waiting to be discovered in the completely car-free city centre, ideal for wandering around and exploring. For the gastronomes, many restaurants await you as well as four covered food markets (6 days a week) and a dozen open markets with farmers produce.


 

 

The highlights of Montpellier are:

La Place de la Comédie – Square of the Opera house
This is now the symbol of Montpellier’s dynamic character. With its Opera House, La Comedie, built in 1888 in the same style as the Garnier Opera in Paris, and the statue of the Three Graces, this square, also called The Egg, due to its shape, is the nerve centre of Montpellier. The terraces of the many cafes and restaurants make it a lively place where both students and local residents meet up throughout the day.
La Faculté de Médecine – The Faculty of Medicine
Montpellier has the oldest, still active, school of medicine in the western world (dates from 1220). Illustrious students such as François Rabelais studied here. The school of surgery was founded by two Montpellier doctors, Barthez et Lapeyronnie, whose statues adorn the entrance.
La Cathédrale Saint Pierre – Cathedral of Saint Pierre
Adjoining the faculty of Medicine, Saint Pierre’s Cathedral was built as a church in 1364 at the wish of Pope Urbain V, a former Montpellier student, later to become in 1536 a cathedral. Its two monumental pillars which support the canopied porch, characteristic of the southern Gothic style, are very impressive and gives to the monument the effect of a medieval fortress.

La place  Royale du Peyrou – the Royal square of Peyrou
These French-style gardens were designed in the XVIII th century around an immense statue of Louis XIV facing the majestic Arc de Triomphe (Triumphal Arch). An elegant water tower, collects the waters of the Saint Clement Aquaduct called "Les Arceaux" (the Arches) and inspired by the famous roman "Pont du Gard". This high point offers a wonderful panoramic view of the north of the town and the Cevennes mountains which seem to be within arm’s reach.
Le Jardin des Plantes – the Botanical Garden
Designated among the most prestigious botanical gardens in the world, the Botanical Garden was created by Richer de Belleval in 1593 at the request of Henri IV. It is the oldest garden in France.
The "folies" of Montpellier
In the XVIII th century, a period of great prosperity, Montpellier hosted all the great administrative bodies (States of Languedoc, Court of the Accounts, Stock Exchange…). This allowed the nobility and gentry to build great town houses in Montpellier and what amounted to small chateaux in the surrounding areas: set in wooded gardens, these ‘follies’ competed with each other in refinement and architectural style. Usually rectangular in shape, the follies tended to be built along austere lines and embellished with carvings. From the house, gardens extended in terraces, adorned with statues and pools. The most original is the chateau de Flaugergues, but also worth seeing are the Mogère and Mosson chateaux. Successions of monumental fountains, aquaducts and gardens refresh the summer mornings.

The modern Montpellier
Antigone
This modern area of the town, built in the 1980's in neo-classic style revisited by the Catalan architect Ricardo Boffill, comprises living accommodation, offices and many businesses. Explore it on foot or by tram.
Along the Lez river
Lined with trees and enhanced by pedestrian bridges, the riverbanks offer an ideal place for promenades or bike rides. New sought after residential districts of Lironde or Port Mariane are booming along this precious green space created by the Lez river and its amenities, just a stone's throw from the city centre.
Montpellier has a lot more to entertain its visitors, a 160 acres zoologic parc with no less than 1300 animals, a giant aquarium, the largest greenhouses in France with its amazonian species, a planetarium with a huge hemispherical screen and last but not least, the Odysseum, a leisure center with movie theaters, karting, bowling...and over a hundred stores for your shopping spree.Lined with trees and enhanced by pedestrian bridges, the riverbanks offer an ideal place for promenades or bike rides.  

A wonderful nature and peaceful landscapes

 

Languedoc-Roussillon is a holiday destination that opens onto a mosaic of colours and an astonishing range of landscapes under a sunny climate counting at least 300 days of sunshine per year.

Carnon, Palavas or La Grande Motte offer Montpellier the seaside pleasures, including sandy beaches and beach restaurants. Montpellier has definitely the best of both worlds, city and seaside resorts, accessible by public transports.

In Camargue, wild herds of white horses run free. In the marshlands, pink flamingos fly overhead whilst herdsmen round up their nimble, black bulls. The lighthouses stand proud, taunting the sea-born formula ones sliding over the frothy waves of the deep blue sea. Giant catamarans leave Port Camargue, shooting forth into the horizon. 

In Sète, called the “singular island” with an air of Venice the fishing boats return to their ports trailing a cloud of seagulls in their wake. Along the quays the tourists wait and watch, keen for their sea bass and sea breams. The Bassin of Thau is almost an internal sea and with its famous oysters beds, it offers the picturesque impression of a cultivated sea.

Beach restaurants and clubs set in the sand just for summer, are found together with public beaches all along the coastline. They are of all type: exotic, trendy, glamorous or easy going and provide a perfect setting for a diner 'al fresco' watching the sea and sunset. Golf lovers are not left out with a few golf courses in Saint Cyprien, Le Cap d’Agde, Baillargues or La Grande Motte.