Even when you’ve not got two centimes to rub together Montpellier is a great city. Here we round up six of the best free things to do in Montpellier.
Roof with a view
Just a few minutes from the Comedie is one of Montpellier’s hidden gems. Wander down the esplanade – a beautiful, free experience in itself – and you’ll come to Montpellier’s new opera house, the Corum. The building itself is nothing special, and you have to pay to see most of the shows, but climb the steps and you’ll find one of the best free things to do in Montpellier. From the vantage point on the roof you can look out over houses in the old town, see the distant countryside, and enjoy a quite, relaxing moment in the sun. Sadly the gates to the roof are closed in the evening, normally around 8pm, so sunset watching is restricted to the Spring. It’s well worth it if you’re in town at that time of year though.
On your way to the Corum along the esplanade, just past the tourist office, is the Pavillon Populaire. The building is setback from the main path along the esplanade, where you’ll see photographs from the latest exhibition. Each exhibition is based around a theme – Pittsburgh in the late 50s, for example – and while the quality is sometimes a little mixed, it’s always an enjoyable, thought-provoking way to while away an hour or so. And if you don’t like the current exhibition, a completely new set of photos will be on display within a few months.
At the bottom of the garden
On the outskirts of the historical centre, but still just 10 minutes from the Comedie, lies the botanical gardens. Free and open all year round the botanical garden allows you to escape the city to one of Montpellier’s few green spaces. Cacti, bamboo, and other plants grow and a small pond provides a home for some carp. But the main attraction is just having an amiable amble through the scenery, or sitting to read in a secluded corner of the gardens. The garden closes in the evening, at which time a man with a bell rides round (yes, really) to let everyone know to leave.
Fancy a cooling, freshwater swim? It’s closer than you think. Le Crès lies just outside Montpellier on the line 2 line (the flowery one). Jump on a tram heading to Jacou and get off two stops before the end at Via Domitia. A 15 minute walk (see map) brings you to the lake, a lovely place to escape the city for a paddle, swim, or just a sit.
Head to the end of two of the other tramlines on a Sunday morning and you’ll find something completely different. Every Sunday morning at Mosson, reachable on lines one and three, a big flea market selling, well, pretty much anything you can imagine is held. Bikes, clothes, books, meat cutting equipment, broken (and working) electrical products, individual shoes, and a microwave door are just a small selection of the things seen on sale. Even if nothing takes your fancy, it’s an entertaining, free way to pass a couple of hours. Just be wary of the sun in summer, there’s little shade so pack a hat. Or buy one at Mosson, there’s no shortage of choice.
Take the first street that looks interesting, turn down the next alleyway that takes your fancy, get lost. Montpellier is small, safe, and largely pedestrianised. If you start hitting busy main roads it’s a sign you may have wandered too far, although there’s lots of wonderful places on the outskirts too. Go on, get lost.