Montpellier & Sète
The coast between Sète and Montpellier is dotted with small seaside villages, nearly all of which are dedicated to the dual arts of wine-making and fishing. The biggest village is possibly Frontignan which is famous for its sweet Muscat wines. Another feature of this coastline are the impressive lagoons with their famous birdlife, particularly the pink flamingos which are such an iconic feature of this part of the south of France.
The vibrant metropolis of Montpellier is a lively student city. At its heart lies the famous Place de la Comédie from where it is easy to get lost in the web of 'ruelles' and little cobble-stoned streets. Architecture, popular shops and typical French bars fight for your attention.
From the city centre many Mediterranean resorts are within easy reach, each with its own special flavour. These resorts were established in the 60s and early 70s, after President de Gaulle decided that France needed to have a tourist industry to match that of Spain. Consequently, some of them can look a little faded but the best one to visit is Palavas-les-Flots, which is bounded by lagoon and sea. La Grande Motte is also interesting to visit, if only for its famous pyramid-style architecture.
Things to Do In and Around Montpellier and Sète
Beaches and Lakes
The best beach in this area is undoubetdly the Plage de l’Espiguette. Unlike many of the main beaches in this area, Plage de l’Espiguette is 20km of golden sand, crystal clear shallow water, and sand dunes.
Cities and Villages
The hub of the Haut Languedoc is Montpellier, the eighth largest in France. Outside of the city, with it's pedestrianised squares and busy shopping areas, you'll find quieter villages and towns with interesting histories of their own.
- Bouzigues is a small town famous for its seafood, notably the oyster beds situated on the Etang de Thau.
- Marseillan is known for it's wine and it's food and is the home to the famous Noilly Prat factory. It is really a town in two parts, with the old village centre and a newer resort area, with a beach that was built in the 1960s. You'll find many quaint restaurants and bars here along with regular flea and food markets.
- Sète is a picturesque Mediterranean port town known for it's fine food and wine. The network of canals that run through the town earn it the name of "The Venice of the Languedoc". The best way to explore is by foot on one of the many guided tours that are on offer.
Events and Festivals
The main event in this area is Les Estivales, which is actually a series of food and music festivals in the main towns of Montpellier, Pézenas, Narbonne and Sommières. At these events, usually accompanied by a night market, you are invited to sample the flavours of the region, paying a small fee in exchange for sampling some of the best local wines.
Outdoors & Activities for Families
- Gaumont Cinema Montpellier is a beautiful old-style building in the popular main square of Montpellier, the Place de la Comédie. It shows the newest releases as well as many films in English.
- Go Karting is popular in this area and great fun for all ages - but the Montpellier track, tucked away behind the Odysseum shopping centre, is not easy to find unless you know that it's there! All your equipment is provided so just turn up and off you go.
- Laser Game Evolution is also found close to the Odysseum shopping centre and offers more family fun away from the tourist centres.
- Mare Nostrum Aquarium is easily accessed by car or by taking the tram to/from the centre of Montpellier. There are interactive displays as well as the main attraction: an aquarium that is home to house stingrays and SHARKS!
- The Végapolis ice skating rink in Montpellier is a great place to watch the pros practise their routines as well as improve your own skills. There are two rinks side by side (one for the public and another used by the pros) and both rinks are in close proximity to the other activities to be found around the Odysseum shopping centre.
Museums and Markets
The Fabre Museum is a wonderful art museum located right in the centre of Montpellier. Gifted to the city in 1828, the Museum now houses a magnificent collection of paintings and sculptures by Gustave Courbet, Eugène Delacroix and Alexandre Cabanel alongside many lesser known artists from the region. It is just 2 minutes' walk away from the Place de la Comèdie, the huge pedestrianised square that forms the heart of Montpellier and a must visit for art lovers.
For shopping, we recommend the Polygone Shopping Mall, which is easily accessible by car or tram.
If you're looking for something more traditional shopping, Sète, with it's indoor food market in the Halles de Sete and the outdoor textile market, is the place to be.
Restaurants and Bars
There are so many wonderful restaurants in this area, but our personal recommendations are:
L'Escale on the port at Marseillan for a no-frills and thoroughly delicious lunch. A typical lunch menu might be beautifully-made onion quiche with a multi-leaf salad, and fresh goat's cheese served with toasted bread and a bacon salad. A jug of iced water and fresh bread accompany the meal within the 9.50€ Formule - great value. Good food, friendly staff, lovely seating area, super location, reasonable prices and spotless toilets!