Cheap flights to Montpellier
Understated, classy and rich in regional cuisine and winemaking, Montpellier is the holiday destination for those who like the good things in life.
With a university that dates back to the 12th century, wide tree-lined boulevards, a cute little old town and plenty of bustling squares full of coffee-drinking students, Montpellier is definitely one of the prettiest cities on France’s southern coast. Lacking the pretence of the Côte d’Azure, this city attracts holidaymakers looking for substance over style, for chic boutiques, trendy wine bars and nearby seaside resorts where it’s the beauty of the beaches and not the people that counts.
And, as the capital of the Languedoc Roussillon region of southwest France, you can expect plenty of top quality plonk and a regional cuisine that is one of the best in Europe. Anyone for a creamy duck cassoulet washed down with a nice glass of Cabernet Sauvignon? This really is France at its most traditional.
The Lunaret Zoo opens for the summer season on 1 April. Visit the brown bears, big cats, giraffes, rhinos, wolves, monkeys, ostriches and reptiles. zoo.montpellier.fr
Get your skates on at the city's ice rink, which is designed to be fun rather than purely sporting. Activities abound and there are evening sessions with music. If you want to practise alone, go in the daytime when all the kids are at school (Quartier Odysseum, Avenue Pierre Mendès-France, ot-montpellier.fr).
The Foire Internationale de Montpellier (10-20 October) is a massive fair offering food stands and music, plus halls dedicated to beauty and wellbeing, household equipment and international lifestyles. foire-montpellier.com
The Radio France Festival, on 13-26 July, includes more than 200 events, almost all of them free. Originally a classical music festival it now encompasses opera, symphony, jazz, electronic and world music, as well as conferences, magazines and master-classes. festivalradiofrancemontpellier.com
A trip to any of the beach resorts, just a 20-minute drive out of town, is fabulous in the winter. Enjoy a bracing walk along the deserted shore, a warm drink in the only cafe open, perhaps even lunch if you're there at midday. ot-montpellier.fr
Espiguette beach features miles of soft sand dunes. The further you go from the car park, the more acceptable skinny dipping becomes. Take a picnic because there are no bars. ot-montpellier.fr/en
On the outskirts of Montpellier is the Chateau de la Mogère (only open bank holidays and weekends during the winter), which is fully furnished and full of history and curiosities. It also has wonderful gardens (2235 Route de Vauguières, lamogere.fr).
Forget beaches at Carnon and Palavas (overcrowded and tacky). At Maguelone the sand is clean and there is free parking if you are prepared to walk. The beach bar is pricey but worth it. Popular with nude bathers and gay men.