I don’t know if he predicted it or not, but Nostradamus, a former resident of the French city of Montpelier probably wouldn’t be surprised that for the past 25 years it has been France’s fastest growing city, and looks set to have a rosy future.
It also has an interesting past. First established in the Middle Ages inland from the Mediterranean coast, Montpelier exists because pirates were prevalent in the area at the time and by building the town atop two hills, it was well protected from further pirate incursions.
Today, Montpelier is the capital of Languedoc-Roussillon and its growth over recent years may have much to do with the fact that it is a very liveable city.
With wide boulevards that are lined with striking plane trees and a car-less square in the city centre at Place de Comedie, it is the perfect place to stroll to enjoy the window shopping, or just to sit in a cafe and watch life pass by.
Montpelier has a student population numbering about 70,000, and they do like to party so it has an active nightlife with bars and clubs, particularly around Place Jean-Jaures, which can keep you entertained all night.
The student tradition is strong here, as has a strong tradition of taking an active interest in politics. In fact, it was Montpelier that gave France its national anthem La Marseillaise.
There is another side to the city as well, as it has a reputation for being one of the most chic places in the South of France, which is a big call when you consider the popularity of that whole region.
Apart from the Place de Comedie some of the best attractions in the city are the Musee Fabre, a major art gallery which features the work of Rubens and others. The botanical garden, Jardin des Plantes de Montpelier, was founded in 1593 and is the oldest botanical garden in France.
The Antigone District, which is not far from Place de Comedie near the River Lez has a reputation for being ultra chic and although very modern was built using Greek motifs and architectural
influences. It was designed by architect Ricardo Bofill whose aim was to create a stylistic unity in a district full of boulevards and plazas and parks in a major residential area.
Although it is delightful to walk around much of Montpelier, if you do wish to move around more quickly, then the city has one of the world’s most modern and efficient public transport services in the form of a tram which can whisk you around the city efficiently and quietly.