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A perfect weekend in Montpellier

Flanked by the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea to the south – and surrounded by numerous natural parks on all other sides – the bustling university city of Montpellier is the perfect home base for a variety of wine-loving vacation seekers.

Whether long days at the beach, hikes through the mountains, or days spent shopping on cobblestone streets in the city centre are what you’re seeking, Montpellier offers it all – and is perfectly situated for accessing a slew of Languedoc-based wineries, too.

In addition to its central location amongst numerous Languedoc appellations, Montpellier itself is home to a bustling wine scene. Although the city doesn’t necessarily boast tasting rooms like other wine-centric regional capitals, the culture surrounding viticulture and vinification is palpable throughout the city’s food and beverage scene. From bustling outdoor terraces to rowdy hole-in-the-wall wine bars to haute-cuisine dining options, the thread that weaves Montpellier’s food and drinks scene is immediately obvious: wine.

Perhaps one of Montpellier’s single best selling points is its highly desirable weather year-round. For those seeking to break their wine-drenched evenings up with days spent lounging beneath the sun, the summer months of June, July and August offer optimal weather for checking out the region’s breathtaking, and affordable, private beaches. Spring and autumn months offer pleasant daytime highs between 15 and 25 Celsius, with winter daytime temperatures rarely dipping below 11.

Nestled between the gastronomic areas of the Sud-Ouest (South West) and Provence, the cuisine of France’s Languedoc region beautifully meshes the best of its neighbours. Home to hearty, meat-heavy cassoulet, as well as garlicky fish stew (bourride) and briny oysters, the cuisine of this versatile region offers something for every palate preference out there – and the region’s wines are equally versatile.

Whether coming from abroad or simply shooting down for a weekend from Paris, Montpellier is one of France’s most easily-accessible cities, thanks to its robust public transportation system. In addition to its small airport, located just about 10 kilometres outside of the city centre, Montpellier is also home to a high-speed TGV station, ideally located in the centre of town. To navigate the city beyond exploring on foot, Montpellier’s tram system is incredibly easy to understand, and when in doubt, Uber and taxis are very easy to come by.

The Languedoc region is home to the largest number of organic wines in France, as well as the biggest number of appellation-designated rosé wines. Formerly known as the Languedoc-Roussillon, the region now falls under the overarching Occitanie name, of which the Languedoc makes up 90% (remaining 10% is Roussillon).

Friday

A guest room at Hotel Richer de Belleval. Credit: Hotel Richer de Belleval

Evening / Overnight

Arrive in Montpellier around 3pm and check into Hotel Richer de Belleval, the first – and only – five-star hotel in the city centre. After meticulous renovation and restoration, this luxurious property finally opened its doors in June of 2021. Situated on the lush Place de la Canourgue, this former 17th-century estate now boasts 20 expansive guest rooms, each adorned with signature classic and romantic touches. Rooms include large beds, sitting areas with stunning views of the city and luxurious bathrooms equipped with a free-standing tub and separate shower, with Diptyque bath products at guests’ disposal.

Settle in at the hotel, enjoy a cappuccino at one of the many exquisite accommodations – be it the outdoor garden area, front terrasse, or enchanting bar-breakfast room hybrid – and stroll over to La Panacée, a contemporary art space featuring rotating exhibits and an expansive outdoor garden bar.

Post art excursion, head for a glass (or bottle) at Les Canons, a hole-in-the-wall wine bar that’s simply not to be missed. Founded by Camille Lapierre of the famed Beaujolais-based Lapierre family, this cozy wine bar is best known for its well-curated natural wine selection and small plates, though the former is truly the star of the show.

For dinner, return to Hotel Richer de Belleval and experience a once-in-a-lifetime meal crafted at the hands of Jacques and Laurent Pourcel, the famed French brothers behind the hotel’s restaurant, Jardin des Sens. This one-Michelin star restaurant offers both à-la-carte and coursed dining options (we recommend springing for the 10-course tasting menu).

Menu items focus on fresh, seasonal produce and regional French recipes, meticulously executed at the hands of the talented kitchen team. Expect fresh blue lobster, candied beetroot, and a variety of amuse-bouches, as well as two dessert courses and an unforgettable cheese cart. The only thing that rivals the restaurant’s exquisite food? Its Bible-like wine list laden with well-priced gems, as well as the team’s joyful hospitality. Best of all, returning home simply requires walking (or rolling) up a flight or two of stairs.


Saturday

Soulenq offers a variety of creative Mediterranean dishes. Credit: Soulenq

Morning

Enjoy a slow-paced morning at Hotel Richer de Belleval over a complimentary breakfast of yogurt, coffee and pastries in the garden. Post-meal, head to the tourism office at Place de la Comédie and pick up your Montpellier City Card, available in 24h, 48h, or 72h options. The card offers free access to a number of city-wide museums, as well as complimentary use of the public transportation system.

Afternoon

Equipped with your City Card, head to the Musée Fabre, a well-curated (and well-sized) art museum founded by Montpellier-based painter François-Xavier Fabre back in 1825. Stroll the museum’s current exhibition and permanent collection for about 1-2 hours, then head to Tartine et sac à dos for – you guessed it – tartines, eggs, and a variety of healthy lunch options.

Once satiated, determine whether your Saturday will consist of venturing out through the region to visit local wineries (see a list of recommended places below) or whether staying central and enjoying the town’s many quaint boutiques and wine bars is what the day calls for. Should wine bar hopping be on the itinerary, be sure to hit Panka, a natural wine-focused cocktail bar with funky tapas, as well as Chez Pinot, an affordable wine-focused spot offering small plates.

Evening

For a wine-focused establishment beloved by locals (particularly wine professionals), head to Augusta. Founded by a Lyonnais owner, this quality-focused establishment offers a variety of French (and a small amount of international) wines by the bottle, all of which are incredibly well priced. Enjoy shareable meat and cheese boards, as well as a variety of tapas and pinchos – don’t sleep on the frittata. Corkage fee is just 10 euros per bottle, and the centralised location makes it super easy to find.

Overnight

For those still thirsty after dinner at Augusta, head to one of the city’s many late-night wine bars. Gloulglou keeps its doors opens until 1am and offers a variety of easy-drinking wines and small plates, and for those curious to discover something just outside of the city’s limits, Soulenque offers a vast selection of more classically-focused wines and simple-yet-refined seasonally-focused plates. Prefer to stay local? A nightcap at the stunning bar inside Hotel Richer de Belleval is always a good idea – especially when enjoyed with dessert.


Sunday

The Arc de Triomphe, Montpellier. Photo by Nathan Cima on Unsplash

Morning

Enjoy your morning at Hotel Richer de Belleval with coffee, pastries, and a complimentary copy of the New York Times. Stroll around the city and take in its beauty during the quiet hours of a Sunday morning. Head to the city’s Arc de Triomphe, or Porte du Peyrou, just five minutes away from the hotel, and walk through to the Promenade du Peyrou for breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding areas.

Afternoon

Post late-morning stroll, choose your seasonally-appropriate activity based on the time of year. Headed to Montpellier in summer and looking to enjoy the beach? Plunge into the Mediterranean from one of the many nearby plages privées, accessible by tram/navette, Uber, or rental car (about 25 minutes from the city centre). Pro tip: Reserve in advance online; lounge chairs (called transats) and large umbrellas generally go for around 20-25 euros per person, per day. Be sure to grab some pastries at Des Rêves et du Pain near the hotel prior to heading out.

Should the beach not be in the cards, wander around the city and check out a number of bustling terrasses on Place de la Comédie or Square Planchon, perfect for people watching. For adventurous wine lovers with rental cars, schedule some tasting appointments around the region and discover the nearby appellations of Pic Saint-Loup, Pézenas, Picpoul de Pinet, and Montpeyroux.

Evening

For a late lunch, early dinner, or apéro that turns into dinner, look no further than Trinque Fougasse. One of the early bar à vins/caviste hybrids in Montpellier, this newly-reopened spot offers a massive selection of wines, ranging from classic big names to smaller, boutique vignerons. After operating the joint for over thirty years, Dominique Boudet has passed the torch onto his son, Mathieu Boudet, whose passion for good food and great wine knows no limits – and best of all, the O’Sud location is open from 10am until midnight seven days a week (a rare find in France!).

For those staying an additional night – and looking for a late-night Sunday spot to continue to quench their thirst – head to Times, a no-frills wine bar with plenty of outdoor seating, open until 1am seven days per week. For something a bit stronger, Rhum Runner and Nectar Cocktail Club are open until 1am and midnight on Sundays, respectively.


Where to stay, eat and shop

Pompette Pérols. Credit: Pompette Pérols

Le Petit Moulu Torréfacteur Café
43 Rue de l’Université, 34000 Montpellier
Centrally-located café/coffee store hybrid with delicious brews and freshly roasted beans to go (whole or ground); delightful outdoor seating, tea and accessories also for sale.

Anga
10 Rue Saint-Firmin, 34000 Montpellier
Located in a historic, stone-walled building, this gastronomic restaurant offers a focus on seasonal food and creative plates, which pair perfectly with the spot’s extensive wine list.

Bouillon Maurel
3 Rue des Multipliants, 34000 Montpellier
This newly-opened restaurant in the heart of the city centre is capturing the hearts of local wine lovers day in and day out. Expect shared-plate style food and tons of local diners.

Juniper – The G&T Bar
4 Rue des Trésorier de la Bourse, 34000 Montpellier
This small and cozy pub-style bar specialises in – you guessed it, gin and tonics, with a plethora of other cocktails, beers, and wines by the glass available.

Microbrasserie La Barbotte
1 Rue des deux Ponts, 34000 Montpellier
For a break between wines, grab some local brews at Microbrasserie La Barbotte, located just around the corner from Gare Saint-Roch. In addition to artisanal beers, this casual spot also offers surprisingly delicious burgers, should the craving strike.

Pompette Pérols
31 Rue Gaston Bazille, 34470 Pérols
Located just outside the city centre, this newly-opened wine shop offers a selection of boutique wines from small producers – perfect for stopping by and grabbing a bottle after returning from the beach on your way back to the city.

Ermitage du Pic Saint-Loup (Pic Saint-Loup)
370 Cami de lou Castellas, 34270 Saint-Mathieu-de-Tréviers
Small-yet-serious organic/biodynamic winery in the heart of Pic Saint-Loup, founded in 1992 by brothers Xavier, Pierre, and Jean-Marc Ravaille.

Cháteau de Lascaux (Pic Saint-Loup)
Route du Brestalou, 34270 Vacquières
13th generation estate comprising 85 hectares of organically-farmed vines with a focus on GrenacheSyrah blends.

Domaine d’Aupilhac (Montpeyroux)
28 Rue du Plo, 34150 Montpeyroux
One of the region’s more prominent names, Domaine d’Aupilhac is home to 21+ hectares of organically-farmed vines, with a focus on Mourvèdre-dominant reds and local white blends.

Mas Gabriel (Pézenas)
9 Av. de Mougères, 34720 Caux
Small (6-hectare) winery based in Pézenas specialising in organic and biodynamic agriculture with an emphasis on local Mediterranean varieties.


How to get there

Main airport: Montpellier Airport (MPL)

TGV Station: Montpellier Saint-Roch TGV

Driving time: Lyon to Montpellier – approx. 3 hours (304 km)

Marseille to Montpellier – approx. 2 hours (170 km)

Toulouse to Montpellier – approx. 2.5 hours (242 km)


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