Difference between revisions of "Montpellier"
Revision as of 10:25, 21 April 2013
Montpellier Méditerranée Airport  (IATA: MPL), formerly Fréjorgues Airport, is situated on the outskirts, a bus service called Navette operates to the centre. Cost is €1.50 or €2.40 to add an etension bus / tramway ride.
The airport is fairly well connected by way of Air France's central hub in Paris. Ryanair  flies from Brussels-Charleroi (CRL), Frankfurt-Hahn (HHN), although on a reduced timetable over the winter months. There are also regular flights to Copenhagen with Sterling .
Beware that if you arrive in a busy period you may have to wait for up to 30 minutes for a taxi as they are often all taken when a flight arrives from Paris, also they only take up to four people so if you are a family of five or a small group you have to pay for two taxis.
There are chauffeured driven cars and vans available on the internet and if you book in advance you do not have to wait at the airport, they are less expensive than two taxis and there are several companies listed on the internet under chauffeur Montpellier. You can also request an english speaking chauffeur.
Montpellier's main train station is Montpellier St. Roch. It is serviced by a TGV connection from Paris, 3hr 15min, Lille, 4hr 50min and Lyon, 1hr 40 min, Valence 1h 45 min, Nice 4-5h. It is also serviced by the Talgo service to Barcelona. Most destinations in Southern France are also easily accessible by rail from Montpellier.
There is a coach station situated in the city centre, less than 500m from the main train station.
From the A9 motorway, take any of the 5 exits that serve Montpellier:
The A75 is free of charge between Clermont-Ferrand and Montpellier.
Park at a tramway station (eg Occitanie, Jacou) and take a tram: parking in the town centre can be hard, so be sure to have your licence.
Montpellier is a compact city and walking across the whole city center does not take long.
The tourist information office have a map Montpellier à vélo, which shows you where the best places to go by bike are and places where it is dangerous to cycle. The city has an extensive network of cycle paths, often separated from traffic for added safety. There is also a bike path running all the way to the beaches at Palavas-les-Flots and Carnon. The ride from the city to the beach takes about an hour.
Bikes may be rented at machines (VéloMagg) in various places in the city centre including Virgin, the tourist office on the place de la comedie and the main TAM velo office, located adjacent to the train station. The price is 2€ for one day. Just remember, if you are cycling in the old centre, that there are streets which are actually staircases and although they are a sight to behold (the rue du bras de fer), a glorified shopper bike will not tackle them as well as a fully suspended Cannondale.
Be advised that whereas a smart card allows a 24h/day use, only a small subset of the Velo Magg kiosks operate on Sundays, in which case it may be better to visit one of the manned offices, either adjacent to the train station or near l'Opéra.
Montpellier has a comprehensive public bus system. Many buses leave from stops in front of the train station. Buses use the same tickets as the tram; you can purchase tickets from the automatic machines located at each tram stop, or you may purchase tickets from the driver. If you purchase a ticket from a machine, be sure to validate it in the machine when boarding. One-way tickets cost 1.40€ and can be reused for transfers up to one hour from the first validation. Round-trip (aller-retour) tickets are 2.50€. Also, be warned that bus service is limited on weekends and the last buses run before 9:00 all week.
The most notable bus lines for visitors are line 28, which runs from the Port Marianne tram station to the beach at Palavas les Flots, and L'Amigo late night bus, which runs from the main bus stop in front of the train station to the nightclubs on the outskirts of town. Please note that the 28 is often crowded, and the last stop is actually a 20 min walk from the beach itself. Still, this is the best way to get to the beach if you do not have a car.
For more information, see the website for Montpellier Transport .
There are several parking lots in the city centre. However, it is inadvisable to travel in the city centre by car as it gets busy, you will get stuck in traffic, and it's not very well signposted. The city centre is also a traffic-free zone! Your best bet is to park by a tram station at the end of a line such as Odysseum on line 1 or Sabines on line 2, but if you do insist on driving, parking in the Polygone shopping centre will save you a lot of your precious spending money! Chauffeur driven minivans 7 passengers provide an alternative to taxis which are mostly saloon cars 3/4 passengers max. They are competitively priced and can be hired by the day or half day for tours of the region surrounding Montpellier. This also can be a solution if there are more than four in your group, for your airport transfers as a minivan is less expensive than two taxis. Often when you arrive at Montpellier airport there are no taxis available and you have to wait for up to thirthy minutes in the baking hot sun. I used Méditerranée Transfers for my transfer Montpellier to Marseille was very pleased with the service and price.
The Montpellier tram service features four lines: line 1 from West to East(Mosson<->Odysseum) line 2 from South-West to North-East(Saint-Jean-de-Vedas<->Jacou) line 3 from West to South-East (Juvignac<->Perols/Lattes) line 4 circle line (Albert 1er<->Saint-Denis). A fifth is currently being built.
The trams tend to be very pleasant way of travelling across the city, they are clean and comfortable, offering a better view of the city as a whole than traveling on buses. Trams arrive every 3-5min at peak hours but less frequently at night, once every 15min. One major advantage of the tram is that it operates until midnight, making much more of the city easily accessible after dark. Ticket prices are the same as for the buses and the tickets are interchangeable.
Purchase tickets before boarding - there are multi-lingual ticket machines at each tram stop. A day pass is available and is recommended for anyone who plans to see anything outside of the centre. Longer-term passes are available as well from the TaM office situated across from the train station. Be sure to validate your ticket in the machines, as being found without a valid ticket will result in an on-the-spot fine. Not speaking French or being a traveller will not be accepted as an excuse.
Of particular interest in the old centre
For upscale shoppers, the best bet is in centre-ville. There is an abundance of clothing stores, the most high-end being found on the main streets leading away from the Place de la Comedie and on the rue Foch. For those with a more modest budget, the Polygone shopping center, also near La Comedie, contains a large variety of stores, including major French chains such as Inno and FNAC. There is also a small area in the centre where most of the 'offbeat' shops have typically clustered together, along with plenty of kebab shops and sandwicheries.
If you like to haggle and want a different experience, there is an enormous flea market every Sunday morning. Take the blue line tram all the way to the last stop at Mosson, and then just follow the crowd of people. The market sells just about everything under the sun, including brand-name clothing, movies (mostly pirated), and the usual assortment of household odds and ends. Haggling is the norm but the prices are generally reasonable to start with. The market (marche aux puces) is particularly well-known as a place to buy bicycles, although be sure of the quality before you buy. There have been 'some' reports of stolen bikes turning up at the market as well.
Visit Sauramps bookstore (Le Triangle, at one end of la Comedie) and the Gibert Joseph bookstore (at the Place de la Prefecture). These independent bookstores are real treasure for the city and offer a wide variety of topics and languages.
Numerous specialized shops may be found in the vicinity of Rue Saint-Guilhem and Rue de l'Ancien Courrier, including comics (Azimuts), gaming (Excalibur, Lud'm, Games Workshop), japanese arcade and takoyaki in Rue de la Friperie, and medieval crafts and goods in Rue des Soeurs Noires (Le Prince de Saint Gilles).
Montpellier is very cosmopolitan for a city of its size and has a wide variety of ethnic cuisines available, in addition to traditional French food. The centre features a plethora of over-the-counter sandwich shops and similar places specializing in kebabs (nearly as many of these as there are hair salons and real estate agencies). If you're looking for the classic French cafe experience, try any one of the many bistros near La Place de la Comedie. For a good coffee in a more relaxed atmosphere, there's also a nice cafe near the Louis Blanc tramway stop.
Montpellier is dotted with eateries ranging from very touristy to truly authentic. Geography plays a large role here: the matrix of restaurants in the town square generally cater to visitors who are optimizing for convenience, but not for price or quality so much. Head away from the city center--north, south, west, but generally not east--for a more genuine experience.
France is the country for wine and the Languedoc Roussillon region produces more annually than the whole of Australia! There are too many varieties to name here (it deserves its own wiki) but as a pointer for red try a mid priced pic st loup The white for the local seafood and especially the oysters is picpoul de Pinet, no need for lemon juice! During the summer months many people stick to rose, but a lot of restaurants also serve chilled red wine. For sweet-tooths, the neighbouring towns of Lunel and Frontignan produce good quality muscat and have their own appelations.
The apéritif liquor of the south of France is Pastis, which, while not for everyone, is a definite part of the local culture. Pastis should normally be served onto a single ice cube and then diluted to taste. There are, however several bizarre permutations of this drink that can be concoted using grenadine, mint syrup and orgeat (almond and rose flower)
There are a few places to dance salsa, but you need to know when and where:
Minivan tours are available for groups of up to seven people. You can choose your own personal tour or pick from a selection of tours. The tour to Saint Guilhem le Desert incorporates time by the river herault where you can hire a canoe and go through the underwater caves and the gorges of herault, then take the free navette to the historic village of St Guilhem le Desert or cross by foot the famous devils bridge (pont de diable) and visit the pottery museum in the village of St Jean de Fos. There are several companies offering these tours on the internet under chauffeur driven minivans Montpellier.