In the Occitanie region, just ten kilometres or so from the Mediterranean, lies Montpellier, the capital of Languedoc. Its rich heritage earned it the Town and Land of Art and History label in 2019.
To start exploring the city, head to Montpellier's highest point on the famous Promenade du Peyrou, a haven of peace cherished by the locals. Terraced gardens, an ideal place for a leisurely stroll, were created there at the end of the 17th century, offering visitors incredible views. From the upper terrace, which features a very fine water tower and an equestrian statue of Louis XIV, you will have a stunning view over the city rooftops, the garrigue scrubland all around, the Pic Saint-Loup, the Cévennes and even the Pyrenees on a clear day!
Next, head to L'Écusson, Montpellier's historic centre, thus named due to its outline shaped like an old French écu coin. Keep your eyes peeled to admire the traces of medieval Montpellier. One of the most striking examples is the Gayon mansion, built in the 13th and 15th centuries. In one of its former bedrooms is a magnificent medieval fresco depicting the life of St. Eustace, patron saint of drapers. Continue your exploration of past times with a visit to Place de la Comédie, created in the 18th century. This is one of Europe's biggest pedestrianised areas, at 230 metres long and 50 metres wide! It is a very pleasant place for a stroll between the attractive Haussmannian buildings, the magnificent Montpellier Opera House with its carved stone façade, and the sunny café terraces, not forgetting the elegant Three Graces fountain. The latter is an architectural marvel: admire the cluster of rocks resting on a circular platform, from which the group of the Three Graces emerges. They stand back to back, and seem to be watching the passers-by...
A 5-minute walk from the square, you can visit one of Montpellier's most renowned cultural attractions: the prestigious Fabre Museum. Its collections of old, modern and contemporary paintings make it one of Europe's most important museums. Stay awhile in the Columns Gallery, undoubtedly one of the most majestic rooms housing the exhibition of older art, offering a remarkable overview of 18th-century historical painting through its large-format works. In the modern exhibition, don't miss the Soulages collection, comprising some twenty paintings by the famous contemporary artist.
Further east, heading towards the banks of the Lez, you will reach a modern neighbourhood characterised by its Neo-Classical style: the Antigone district, designed by the Catalan architect Ricardo Bofill. Seen from the sky, the shape of this unusual, 900 metre-long complex resembles that of a key. Explore its futuristic world and discover its finest city squares, like Place du Nombre d'Or with its water jets, Place de Thessalie with its magnificent fountain inspired by ancient Greece, or Place de l'Europe with its arc of buildings and inviting lawns for a spot of relaxation.