You can’t beat Paris but if you’re after a mini version of the French capital then head to Montpellier in Southern France. It has its own l’Arc de Triomphe, a small art gallery in its version of The Lourve, botanical gardens and an aqueduct. We had one full day in which to explore the university city where students account for a third of its inhabitants. Here’s what we did in one day in Montpellier with our two daughters (4 and 1). Be sure to check out my vlog below to get the full Montpellier experience.


We arrived in Montpellier late Saturday afternoon in early August. We’d travelled from the Dordogne where we’d spent a week with friends. It took around four hours to get there and with empty bellies, we ate at Burger et Blanquette (the burgers were very good). As it was already getting late, we went back to our hotel, put the kids to bed and got an early night ahead of a full day of exploring the next day.


Waking up early we headed to Cold Drip Food and Coffee. I spotted it the previous day and after a week in France, I was desperate for a decent cappuccino!

Cold Drip Coffee, Montpellier, France

Cold Drip delivered. Run by a French/Kiwi couple Katy and Steven, they know how to make good coffee – and food. We enjoyed a very substantial breakfast which kept us going until mid afternoon. I had smashed avocado on toast, the hubby enjoyed eggs benedict and the girls devoured pancakes. We were fuelled up and ready to go.

Place de la Comédie

Our next stop was to the Place de la Comédie. It’s the largest pedestrianised square in Europe and is also know as l’Oeuf (the egg) due to its oval shape. The space is a hive of activity, particularly in the evenings. It’s surrounded by cafes and restaurants while street artists perform in the square.

Place de la Comedie, Montpelllier, France

If you’ve after some high brow entertainment though, the space has two opera houses. The square is named after the main theatre, L’Opera Comedie, which was built in the 18th century and rebuilt in the 19th after being damaged by fire. Outside the front is a statue of Three Graces, Montpellier’s emblematic goddesses.
L'Opera Comédie, Montpellier

Arc de Triomphe

We headed through the shopping district and walked up Rue Roch towards Montpellier’s version of the Arc de Triomphe. It was constructed towards the end of the 17th century to celebrate Louis XXIV’s triumphs. He wanted Montpellier to become the capital of the Languedoc region so the famous arch from Paris was reproduced.

Arc de Triumph, Montpellier, France
Under the arch you come to the Place Royale du Peyron. Taking centre stage is a statue of Louis XXIV on his horse. At the top is the 18th century Saint-Clement aqueduct which has great views to the east of the city and an octagonal water tower.

Saint-Clement Aqueduct, Montpellier, France

As we were looking around I was struck by how much it reminded me of Paris. Turns out the was designer was inspired by none other than the Place de la Concorde in Paris.

Arc de Triumph, Montpellier, France

Market stalls were set up on the Sunday morning we were there selling antiques and clothing between lines of trees, giving it a more local feel.

Royal Square, Montpellier, France

We headed towards Montpellier cathedral which looks more like a fairytale castle than a religious building with two large conical turrets at each side.

Montpellier Cathedral, France

We didn’t go inside but admired its exterior for a while. It was founded in 1364 but suffered severe damage during the wars of religion (the protestants and catholics) in the 16th century. It was rebuilt to create today’s structure in the 17th century.

Jardin des Plants

Around the corner from the cathedral is Montpellier’s Jardin des Plantes. Dating back to 1593, it is the oldest botanical gardens in France. On this occasion it was Montpellier which was the inspiration behind Paris’ own botanical gardens.

Wander Mum at the Botanical Gardens, Montpellier

The shady, quiet gardens provided some respite for us all. Southern Europe was in the midst of a heatwave so it was good to get out of the sun and slow down the pace. The gardens are free to enter and fairly compact (nothing on the scale of London’s Kew Gardens). It has a glass house there too.

Botanical Gardens, Montpellier

We made our way through the old town to the art gallery, Musée Fabre, soaking up the medieval streets. I was struck by a common occurrence. Trainers hanging off chains across the street. Student high jinks perhaps? If anyone knows the significance, do let me know!

Shoes on wires, Montpellier, France

Musée Fabre

Paris has the Louvre but Montpellier has Musée Fabre. The art gallery is one of Montpellier’s most popular attractions and has a large collection of European art with some big names such as Renoir and Courbet.

Mrs T at Musée Fabre, Montpellier

There were a couple of interactive touch exhibits which the girls enjoyed sampling.

Musee fabre, Montpellier with kids

We spent around an hour there before leaving to get some food which we enjoyed on the terrace of Restaurant l’Insense next to the museum. It was very good! My daughter spied the playground opposite so afterwards we headed there.

Petit Train tour

Having seen the ‘Petit Train’ driving around the city, we thought it would be fun to go aboard. Departing from the Place de la Comédie, we bought the tickets and waited in a nearby cafe. The train took us on a similar route to the one we’d done that morning. It drove through the Arc de Triomphe and around its medieval streets in a 40 -minute tour.

Royal Square, Montpellier, France

With audio commentary it was helpful to get some extra context. The girls had fun and we finished it off with the standard bad family selfie.

Family photo in Montpellier

There ended our day exploring Montpellier. As we wandered back to our hotel, we glanced into the vintage toy shop, la Pomme de Reinette – which is worth a look.

If we had stayed another day, we’d have headed down to the beach. It’s just 13km from the centre of Montpellier. That’s something you don’t get in Paris now, is it?

Where we stayed

We spent two nights at the boutique hotel Baudon de Mauny. An 18th century mansion in the centre of Montpellier, it was in a perfect position for our exploring.

Hotel Baudon de Mauny, Montpellier The room had a main bedroom with beautiful butterfly wallpaper and a living room where the girls slept. It was roomy enough for us. There was also a separate kitchenette which we had breakfast in on Monday morning. There were several flights of stairs to access the hotel – so we left the buggy at the bottom and carried Cheeky up.

A mini Paris?

Montpellier is a compact alternative to the capital Paris and we thoroughly enjoyed the sights, food and atmosphere. There are plenty of nods to the French capital but Montpellier is far quieter than Paris – and sunnier for more months of the year. It’s worth visiting for a long weekend or as part of a road trip around southern France.

Have you been to Montpellier before? Would you like to visit?

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Montpellier in one day with kids



21 Comments on Montpellier In One Day: Is It A Mini Paris?

    • Wander Mum
      December 5, 2017 at 9:25 am (3 months ago)

      Thank you so much Cathy! Had fun doing the video and exploring the gorgeous city!

  1. Phoebe | Lou Messugo
    December 5, 2017 at 9:34 am (3 months ago)

    I’ve spent about the same time as you in Montpellier (actually a weekend), and did almost exactly the same things as you except we also went to the beach and the zoo (as it was next to the sports area where my son was playing in a match – the reason we went to Montpellier in the first place!) I love the sound of the breakfast place. We found an excellent cupcake café. It seems that with its student population comes an interesting café culture too, slightly different from the standard French fare. #citytripping
    Phoebe | Lou Messugo recently posted…A flying visit to MilanMy Profile

    • Wander Mum
      December 5, 2017 at 10:48 pm (3 months ago)

      Yes true! I was certainly glad to find somewhere that sold a decent coffee. It felt fairly international but still with the traditional French vibe. I’d have liked to have made it to the beach!

    • Wander Mum
      December 5, 2017 at 10:45 pm (3 months ago)

      Hehe – me too!

  2. Elizabeth
    December 5, 2017 at 3:06 pm (3 months ago)

    This looks like a lovely day trip! We always have a nice time in France so I need to find a chance to check this out. My boys would love to run around in that garden. #citytripping
    Elizabeth recently posted…Budapest, Hungary with KidsMy Profile

    • Wander Mum
      December 5, 2017 at 10:46 pm (3 months ago)

      Oh you should! The whole area around Montpellier is stunning too.

  3. Alex - My Life Long Holiday
    December 5, 2017 at 3:16 pm (3 months ago)

    What a beautiful city to go to University in, and I’m guessing it has a young sassy vibe because of it? You can’t beat a good Botanical Garden in that kinda heat. Love the Vlog Elizabeth, it really gives you a feel for a place! #CityTripping

    • Wander Mum
      December 5, 2017 at 10:45 pm (3 months ago)

      Thanks for watching it Alex! Yes, I wouldn’t have minded going to uni there. It’s a beautiful city.

  4. Annabel
    December 5, 2017 at 5:07 pm (3 months ago)

    What a brilliant city! I’ve never been to Montpellier but would definitely like to go now!

    • Wander Mum
      December 5, 2017 at 10:44 pm (3 months ago)

      It was a great trip!

  5. Baby Loves Travel
    December 6, 2017 at 10:41 am (3 months ago)

    This sounds like a brilliant city to visit with kids. I love that it is close to the beach too. #citytripping

    • Wander Mum
      January 1, 2018 at 1:43 pm (3 months ago)

      I know, can’t beat a beach city.

  6. Vicky
    December 7, 2017 at 10:02 am (3 months ago)

    I’ve heard great things about Montpellier, and this confirms them! Looks like the perfect city for a weekend break. Definitely book marking this in case I go – I’ll be having breakfast at Cold Drip thats for sure! #citytripping

    • Wander Mum
      January 1, 2018 at 1:41 pm (3 months ago)

      It was great for a weekend break. Cold Drip is a must!

  7. Elizabeth
    December 8, 2017 at 1:30 pm (3 months ago)

    That looks like a nice little pit-stop! I think the cathedral is really stunning–how completely unique compared to other cathedrals I’ve seen in Europe. #citytripping

    • Wander Mum
      December 9, 2017 at 7:49 am (3 months ago)

      I know! Incredibly unique.

    • Wander Mum
      January 1, 2018 at 1:40 pm (3 months ago)

      Isn’t it fab!


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