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12 Fabulous Things to Do with Kids in Montpellier ~ France’s Most Youthful City

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Montpellier is the best city in France that most North Americans have never heard of. This vibrant capital of the Languedoc-Rousillon region in Southern France bustles with fashionable college students and is home to the youngest population in all of France. I was once one of those students. It's been over 20 years since I lived and studied in Montpellier. (I'm not sure how this happened since I still feel like a youthful college student!) Recently I returned with my two kids to show off my former temporary hometown, where the weather is warmer and everything is more affordable than Paris. Let me convince you to visit Montpellier with kids with these 12 fabulous things to do!

The carousel and opera house on La Place de la Comedie in Montpellier with kids

The carousel and opera house on La Place de la Comedie (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

1. Enjoy La Place de la Comedie, Montpellier's central plaza.

Any visit to Montpellier should start with a visit to the city's beautiful pedestrain-only central square, La Place de la Comedie. Lined with cafes, it's the perfect place to pull up a chair and people watch while sipping something tasty. For the kids, choose a chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) or Orangina (a bubbly beverage that's similar to orange juice mixed with lemon-lime soda).

Les Trois Graces fountain in Montpellier, France

That's me, posing in front of Les Trois Graces fountain (Photo credit: Travel Mamas)

Kids will enjoy a spin on the carousel in the Comedie. This merry-go-round only made an appearance at Christmastime when I lived in Montpellier. Thankfully for families, it's now a permanent fixture.

Be sure to take a photo of Les Trois Graces fountain (The Three Graces). This focal point features Zeus's daughters: Aglae, Euphrosine and Thalie. The original Three Graces statue resides in the hall of the Comedie Opera House, which sits at one end of the oval-shaped plaza.

The beautiful Esplanade Charles de Gaulle is a beautiful place for a stroll in Montpellier with kids

The Esplanade Charles de Gaulle provides a beautiful place for a stroll (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

2. Stroll and play along Esplanade Charles de Gaulle.

Esplanade Charles de Gaulle is a regal tree-lined path that connects La Place de la Comedie with the city's new opera house, Opera Berlioz, at the Corum conference center. This wide walkway and public space was built in 1988 to match the style of its original fountains, which were installed here in the 1700s.

Le Corum conference center blends old and new in Montpellier

Le Corum conference center blends old and new in Montpellier (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Look for a flower market on the Esplanade, Mondays through Saturdays, and a second-hand book fair on Saturdays. Best for children is Jardin du Champs de Mars, a grassy park with a pond and playground with Dr. Seuss-like flair. Ice cream shops beckon to visitors in this area when the weather is warm.

Jardin Champs de Mars is a playground with a Dr. Seuss-like feel in Montpellier, France

Jardin Champs de Mars is a playground with a Dr. Seuss-like feel (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

3. Admire European fine art at Musee Fabre.

Located off the Esplanade Charles de Gaulle, Musee Fabre is a fine arts museum featuring a collection of French, Dutch, Italian, and Spanish masters. It was founded in 1825 by Montpellier painter Francois-Xavier Fabre. Expect works by such artists as Rubens, Courbet, Monet and Degas. True art lovers should plan to spend at least two to three hours viewing the 800 works, 900 engravings and 3,500 drawings housed here. Of course, families with young children may not last that long. The museum is closed on Mondays.

Musee Fabre lit up at night

Musee Fabre lit up at night (Photo credit: GBP27, Depositphotos.com)

4. Shop and wander Montpellier's downtown.

One of the great joys of visiting Montpellier is wandering through its very walkable downtown. Wee, winding streets beg to be explored. You'll find darling clothing boutiques, chocolate shops, florists, stationery stores and more. From La Place de la Comedie, take main street Rue de la Loge up the hill and into Ecusson, the medieval city's old town.

Flower market on Esplanade Charles de Gaulle in Montpellier, France

Treat your family to a bouquet from the flower market on Esplanade Charles de Gaulle (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Halles Castellane is a must-shop enclosed market at the top of Rue de la Loge. This is a wonderful place to pick up picnic provisions. One TripAdvisor reviewer says, “If you are staying in Montpellier's old city, and doing your own cooking even just once, Les Halles Castellane is the keep place for all your food. It has shops selling all manner of cheese, bread, pastry, fresh cut meats, preserved meats, poultry, fish, fruits and vegetables, wines, dried fruits and nuts, flowers, and more, all under one roof, all eager to serve and advise.”

Le Polygone is the town's shopping mall featuring a Galleries Lafayette department store and my favorite, Monoprix. Some Monoprix stores (like the one directly off the Comedie) sell only groceries but the one in Polygone is like a French version of Target. Here you can buy not only groceries (get some butter cookies!), but also affordably priced clothing, beauty products and household goods.

Post card shop in Montpellier, France

You'll find all sorts of treasures hidden in Montpellier's small avenues (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

5. View Montpellier's history at Place Royale du Peyrou.

At one end of Place Royale du Peyrou is Montpellier's own Arc de Triomphe, which is impressive if smaller than Paris's famous arch. Porte du Peyrou was erected in the 17th century to honor Louis XIV where the gates of the ancient ramparts once were. When I was a student living here, I felt like pinching myself every time I passed this spectacle aboard the city bus.

Montpellier's Porte du Peyrou with kids

I loved showing off Montpellier's Porte du Peyrou to my kids (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Across the street from the arch is the Palais de Justice, Montpellier's courthouse. It was built in 1853 in a neoclassical style.

Montpellier's courthouse

Montpellier's courthouse (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Place Royale du Peyrou's centerpiece is a statue of King Louis XIV on horseback. Further down is the Chateau d'Eau, a water tower built in 1754 to hold the city's water reserves. During my family's recent visit, the park was closed one day while helicopters dipped into the water table to gather water to extinguish a nearby forest fire.

Chateau d-Eau is Aqueduc Saint-Clement in Montpellier, France

Chateau d-Eau is Aqueduc Saint-Clement (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Behind the Chateau d-Eau is Aquaduc Saint-Clement (also called Les Arceaux or The Arcs). Inspired by the famous Pont du Gard of Nimes, this was built in 1754. It supplied water to Montpellier's residents from the springs in the nearby town of Saint-Clement.

Aquaduc Saint-Clement in Montpellier, France was inspired by the famous Pont du Gard aquaduct

Aquaduc Saint-Clement was inspired by the famous Pont du Gard aquaduct (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

6. Feel small standing in front of Cathedrale Saint-Pierre.

Cathédrale Saint-Pierre is the seat of the Archdiocese of Montpellier. Once a monastery, this imposing gothic Catholic church was built in 1364. You'll want to take a photo of your kids standing in front of the two massive circular columns to show just how big this cathedral is. The cathedral was closed for restoration when we visited in March 2018.

I remember coming here to listen to the Vienna Boys Choir sing at Christmastime when I was a foreign exchange student living in Montpellier. Afterwards some of the older boys came over to hit on my girlfriends and me. We were flattered but at age 20, we were too old for those teenagers.

Adjacent to the cathedral is the Faculte de Medicine, one of Europe's oldest operating medical schools. Tours of the school and an anatomy museum (not for the squeemish!) can be arranged through the Montpellier Tourism Office.

Kids look tiny posing in front of the massive Cathedrale Saint-Pierre columns

My kids look tiny posing in front of the massive Cathedrale Saint-Pierre columns (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

7. Visit the oldest botanical garden in France, Jardin des Plantes.

Across from the busy Boulevard Henri IV and Faculte de Medecine is Jardin des Plantes. Originally used for the study of medicinal plants, this green space is the oldest botanical garden in France. Escape the lively ambiance of the city for a bit to wander this garden's tranquil paths. The garden is closed on Mondays.

Montpellier's Jardin des Plantes

Montpellier's Jardin des Plantes is the oldest botanical garden in France (Photo credit: Montpellier Tourist Office)

8. Check out the modern architectural marvel, Antigone.

After exploring all things old in Montpellier's downtown, check out the impressively modern Antigone district. It's located just east of Le Polygone shopping center. This stunning multi-use neighborhood was built in a neo-classical style. Given the area's posh feel, you might be surprised to learn that many of the buildings here are used for low-income housing. In addition to apartments, offices, shops, fountains and restaurants — the impressive arch-shaped, glass bedecked Hotel de Region (Conseil Regional building) is located here.

fountain in the modern Antigone district in Montpellier, France

A fountain in the modern Antigone district (Photo credit: Leonid_Andronov, Depositphotos.com)

Also within the Antigone neighborhood, you'll find an olympic-sized indoor swimming pool, Piscine Olympique d'Antigone. Kids will love the lazy river and giant waterslide. Parents with sore muscles from lugging suitcases will appreciate the whirlpool spas. If your brood gets hungry from all that splash time, there's an onsite cafeteria.

A copy of the Winged Victory of Samothrace sits in front of Montpellier's unusual arch-shaped City Hall

A copy of the Winged Victory of Samothrace sits in front of Montpellier's unusual arch-shaped Conseil Regional building (Photo credit: Leonid_Andronov, Depositphotos.com)

9. Visit animals at Montpellier Parc Zoologique.

Montpellier's zoo was called Parc Zoologique Henri de Lunaret back when I lived here as a foreign exchange student. It was one of the only places open on Sundays AND there was no entry fee. The name has changed, the zoo has grown, and those aged 6+ must now pay a nominal fee to wander the grounds. This zoo is home to around 130 species of animals including lions, giraffes, birds, lemurs, wallabies and much more. It's located north of city center, very near my former school, Universite de Paul Valery. Nowadays Montpellier Parc Zoologique is indeed still open on Sundays but note that it is closed on Mondays.

To reach the zoo, MontpellierLife advises, “If you have a car it’s easily and accessible and parking is available. Getting to the zoo by public transport is also straightforward. Take tram line 1 to St Eloi and then hop on the number 13 bus marked ‘Universités’ from the nearby stop.”

Fray bamboo lemur at Montpellier Zoo

How cute is this gray bamboo lemur at Montpellier Parc Zoologique?! (Photo from zoo.montpellier.fr)

10. Spend a day at the beach.

Did you know Montpellier is only about nine miles from the beach? The French Riviera is renowned for its beaches, high prices and swanky resort towns. French tourists, however, know that the beaches near Montpellier are lovely and more affordable. What's more, while many beaches in Cannes and Nice sport pebble bottoms, the beaches here boast soft sand.

Choose Palavas Les Flots (an older beach town where my college friends and I used to hang), La Grand Motte (furthest away but nicest), and Carnon Plage (least appealing, but closest). And, yes, it is true that French beaches are typically topless-optional but it's not nearly as lurid as puritan Americans might think. Some ladies simply untie their bikini tops once laying down on the sand. If you want to read more about the beaches near Montpellier, including a nudist beach, check out this post by Rear View Mirror.

One of the sandy beaches near Montpellier

One of the sandy beaches near Montpellier (Photo credit: clodio, purchased from iStockphoto.com)

11. Skate, climb, play and shop at Odysseum.

I wish Odysseum had been around back when I lived in Montpellier! It's a huge leisure and shopping complex with nearly 100 stores, a multiplex cinema, an ice skating rink, climbing wall and even an aquarium/planetarium. One TripAdvisor reviewer calls it, “The Disneyland of Montpellier.”

Admittedly, my family did not make it to Odysseum. I wanted to focus on exploring Montpellier's city center and showing off my former school campus and dormitory. Odysseum, however, surely would make a good choice for families visiting Montpellier for five days or longer. Take Tram 1 to reach Odysseum's bounty of fun for the whole family.

Odysseum tram station in Montpellier

Your family can reach Odysseum by tram (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

12. Explore the sky and sea at PlanetOcean World.

The primary reason to visit Odysseum during your visit to Montpellier with kids is probably PlanetOcean World. Galileo Planetarium and Mare Nostrum Aquarium merged into one unique place to explore both sky and sea. Here your family can embark on a two-hour tour of marine life and then learn about the universe's planets and stars under a 50-foot-diameter dome screen.

PlanetOcean Montpellier allows families to explore both sky and sea

PlanetOcean World allows families to explore both sky and sea (Photo from www.planetoceanworld.fr)

Montpellier Self-Guided Walking Tour

Starting at La Place de la Comedie, I've listed these things to do in Montpellier with kids in a logical, geographic progression so that you can really use it as a walking tour. I suggest doing the first four or five items one day, and doing the next four or five another day. Everything mentioned in this post is located in downtown Montpellier except for the last four activities, which require more effort to reach. Still, it's a very walkable city and renting a car is not a necessity since easy-to-use public transportation is readily available.

To do everything on this list without rushing, you will need probably at least five full days in Montpellier with kids. If you want to stick to downtown activities, schedule three full days, or four days with travel. You can download a map of Montpellier here. If you'd rather take a tour with an expert guide, check out this Private Montpellier Walking Tour.

Book a suite at Oceania Le Metropole Montpellier for a suite with two beds for the kids plus a separate room for mom and dad

Book a suite at Oceania Le Metropole Montpellier for a suite with two beds for the kids plus a separate room for mom and dad (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Where to Stay in Montpellier with Kids

I have stayed at Hotel Le Metropole in Montpellier three different times, under three different owners. The first time was when I was living in Montpellier and my parents came for a visit. Rather than staying all alone in my dormitory during their stay, they booked a suite at this hotel so I could have my own bedroom but we could spend lots of time in the city together. Ten years later when I returned with my husband (before kids), we booked the same hotel, at the time owned by Holiday Inn. Today, Le Metropole Montpellier is owned by Oceania Hotels.

antique elevator at Oceania Le Metropole Montpellier

This antique elevator at Oceania Le Metropole Montpellier was operating when I first visited but today it houses a little desk and computer (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Nostalgia is just one reason I booked this hotel during my recent family visit. It's also because I knew the location was perfectly situated to explore the city. The hotel is just a few minutes by foot from Montpellier's train station and mere steps from La Place de la Comedie. Thick, insulated windows keep street noise out so travelers can stay close to the action but still enjoy quiet, restful nights. Plus, I knew this hotel offers suites with a separate door so parents can sleep soundly away from children.

Oceania Le Metropole Montpellier features a palm-lined pool

Oceania Le Metropole Montpellier features a palm-lined pool (Photo credit: Oceania Hotels)

Although the new owners have revamped the entire hotel with decidedly modern flair, the old world French touches, crown molding, and chandeliers are still there. A bonus new addition is a palm-lined outdoor pool! It's open for guests April through early October. Read more about Oceania Le Metropole Montpellier and other hotels for families in Montpellier via TripAdvisor.

The beautiful Place de la Comedie in Montpellier, France

The beautiful Place de la Comedie (Photo credit: GBP27, Depositphotos.com)

Explore More in France with Kids

For additional France travel tips, read about the best destinations in France for families, recommended by travel experts. Paris sparked my love of France years before I studied in Montpellier and I have returned to the City of Lights numerous times since then. Check out my tips for exploring Paris with kids. You might also want to take a peek at my tips on visiting Disneyland Paris with kids.

12 Reasons to visit Montpellier, France with kids

Save these Tips for Visiting Montpellier with Kids

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Had you ever heard of Montpellier, France before? Are you planning a trip to the Languedoc-Rouissillon capital? Let us know your questions and comments below!

A Note from The Travel Mama: I did not receive any media discounts, comps or money related to this blog post. This story includes affiliate links for which Travel Mamas receives a small commission for clicks and purchases at no additional charge to readers. All opinions are mine, as always!

About Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments

  1. Montpellier is truly a kid-friendly place. Lots of beautiful attractions!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      I hope more families will realize how fabulous Montpellier is for kids and take them for a visit!

  2. Ellen Lanin says:

    So much to see and do in Montpellier! For anyone considering studying abroad it is ideal. Not big and busy like Paris but not a quaint village with limited experiences.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      I really was very lucky to get to study here. I don’t think I appreciated Montpellier enough when I was there!

  3. I’ve never been to Montpellier (and to be honest, I’m not really sure whether I’ve heard of it or not) but you’ve convinced me to check this out! Thanks for posting this great article!

  4. Montpellier looks SO beautiful! I’d love to check it out someday. Love that there’s a little something for everyone, including the kids!

  5. Kim Croisant says:

    Wow so different than my Texas town. I must get out more often to these wonderful places like France. I’m intrigued for sure.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      The world is so big and diverse! I hope a trip to France is in your future!

  6. This is a great city and we always just think of going to Paris if we go to France. It has everything a city could offer including the beach. I would go there with kids who seem to be enjoying it.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      And it’s just a 3.5-hour train ride via the speedy TGV from Paris. I hope you’ll add Montpellier to your itinerary when you visit France!

  7. I LOVE Montpellier. We visited when we took our last trip to France, and we had so much fun. We all loved the fun vibe of the city. It was really energetic.

  8. I think it would be a great trip with the kids to Montpellier. So many attractions and the hotel looks kid-friendly.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      I LOVE the Oceania Hotel Metropole Montpellier – such friendly staff, beautiful decor & incredible location!

  9. Montpellier looks absolutely stunning! My husband lived in France for quite some time so I’ll have to ask him if he’s ever been.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      I wonder too! If he’s visited Montpellier, I hope he had a wonderful time there!

  10. Reesa Lewandowski says:

    What a beautiful city!!! I love cities that are kid friendly too!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Agreed! And kids make friends so easily wherever they go, too. Bring them to a park in Montpellier and they’ll have friends in no time!

  11. There is so much to do in Montpelier, I love the architecture. I could stare at these photos all day long. They’re just lovely!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Thank you, Dina! Montpellier really is a wonderful city. I think I appreciate it even more now than I did as a college student living there.

  12. Montpellier looks so charming! So much to see and do, I’d definitely need to plan a week or two to pack it all in.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      You could probably see it all in 5 or 6 days but a week or two is always better!

  13. This is really an amazing guide! Lots of fun things ti do with kids!

  14. What a lovely place to take the kids to. I’m sure they’re going to have loads of fun here! It’s so nice to see how much Montpellier has to offer.

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