A quick guide to living in…l’Écusson

CC Image courtesy of etnobofin on Flickr

L’Écusson is the name for the old, historic centre of Montpellier. It’s also many peoples first choice when looking for housing and accommodation in Montpellier. Dating back to the Middle Ages, the centre of Montpellier is a maze of narrow, winding streets that open out onto a handful of major arteries slicing through the centre of the city. With its beautiful old architecture, charm, and scores of bars and restaurants l’Écusson is a glorious place, particularly in the long, languid summers. For many expats and locals alike the opportunity to live in an old building, with their blue-grey wooden shutters, is simply too romantic a notion to resist.

 

But  there are downsides to life in the old centre of Montpellier. Rent is a little more expensive than on the outskirts where, for example, €600 a month goes a lot further. Many apartments are small, poky, and lacking the modern comforts common in the UK. Washing machines are rare and dishwashers are like hens teeth. Kitchens in general are very small, often just a couple of hobs shoved into the corner of a living room. Heating is an issue too. Many places lack central heating and, believe it or not, Montpellier gets seriously cold in winter. This leaves people with the unenviable choice of resorting to inefficient electric heaters provided by landlords or putting on yet another jumper.

 

For many, particularly young professionals and students, it’s all worth it though. Having everything on your doorstep is incredibly liberating and allows you to pop out on a sunny afternoon for a beer, ice cream, or just a meander through the winding backstreets. It’s also a fairly safe part of town. While there’s plenty of late night drinking on weekends – and during the week – it rarely spills over into the violence associated with British city centres. Young women should be careful though as it’s sadly not uncommon for them to attract unwanted attention when walking alone late at night. A lot of this might be relatively harmless but is nonetheless an uncomfortable, unpleasant experience.

 

None of this should put you off though. If you love the look, feel, and vibrancy of the old town you’ll still be smiling even as you lug your clothes to the laundrette or attempt to cook dinner for six using two slightly ropey electric hobs. Nice, furnished one-bed apartments or studios can be found for €600 a month, give or take, but you’ll pay less if you find a flat share, called a colocation or coloc, through a site like Appartager.

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