Montpellier is a cozy old city full of students and local French tourists. Perfect place to spend summer weekend or visit while in south France. For broke travelers like me, all the free attractions and museums are like a heaven. If you are on a budget but still want to do something fun in Montpellier France, this travel guide is like made for you. Here are the best attractions for those who want to experience Montpellier without a lot of money (or just want to see some pics from my trip…)
1. Office de Tourisme Montpellier
Start your Montpellier trip from here. Check out what free event will be held in Montpellier and decide where you would love to visit. The staff is very helpful and you can get many good tips from them. Locals working in Office de Tourisme are the perfect resource for the current most popular free things to do in Montpellier. And don’t forget to take the free map!
2. Place de la Comedie
The key place of Montpellier. This plaza never sleeps and even at bad weather people walk through this main point of the city. Different performers from clowns to break dancers entertain tourists on weekends. However, Place de la Comedie is still must to visit in Montpellier on not as busy weekdays. Take pictures of the beautiful fountain or relax in any of the countless cafes, bars, and restaurants circling Place de la Comedie. Perfect for people watching and getting to know the local life. It’s also one of the things locals do in Montpellier. (They just happen to people watch the tourists while tourists keep their attention in locals!)
3. Esplanade Charles de-Gaulle
Starting from Place de la Comedie and ending up to Le Corum (the new opera house) goes boulevard totally worth of your time. Three major Montpellier attractions are situated on this road: Musée Fabre, Le Pavillon Populaire photography museum, and the Office de Tourisme. If you’re on a day trip in Montpellier and don’t want to learn how to use the Montpellier trams, this is a perfect place to start.
In addition to these tourist attractions of Montpellier, funny artsy playgrounds, interesting old sculpture (painted in bright colors), and cute small cafes/shops make this street one of the must-see places in Montpellier and South France. Don’t miss the cool graffiti that are visible after you walk down the Le Corum’s stairs. Like we later tell you, one of the free and funny things to do in Montpellier is going graffiti hunting!
4. Le Pavillon Populaire
Free photography museum. Do I have to say anything else? When I went to Montpellier it wasn’t open so I wish you good luck. Apparently, Le Pavillon Populaire is closed for long times between exhibitions. This is must place to go in Montpellier if it happens to be open. You can see exhibitions from local photographers but also from artists well-known all around the world. Those who love museums should visit this free attraction in Montpellier. Even if you don’t usually travel like an art freak, drop by Le Pavillon Populaire. It’s a totally free thing to do in Montpellier! Just walk in and that’s it.
5. Montpellier’s Old Town
In between Montpellier’s tram lines is the central part of this old city. Tiny alleys, cute gift shops, tasty cafes, and the newest fashion trends – that’s the old town of Montpellier for you. It’s like a mecca for free sights to see in Montpellier and even if you don’t want to visit anywhere just wandering around the streets is a cool experience. Locals, as well as tourists, love this area perfect for getting lost and doing some souvenir shopping in Montpellier.
Tram system in Montpellier is ridiculously easy to learn. Firstly, all the trams lines are designed in their own ways. Secondly, there are only 4 main lines and you can access all of them from Gare Saint Roch. The tram lines also make your day in the old center of Montpellier a lot easier. Why? Just don’t cross tram tracks and you won’t exit the old town. In case of getting lost just follow tram lines not crossing them or take a tram to the Gare Saint Roch station. Traveling using the beautifully designed trams is also one of the funny musts to do things in Montpellier. Not free but the day ticket for tram won’t cost you much!
6. Le Carre Sainte Anne
Changing contemporary art exhibits for free! As an environment for modern art, this former cathedral is perfect. The new art and old settings make a funny contrast that the artists often use as their advantage. Go to the tourist office and ask them what exhibition is currently on. Or just walk around the Montpellier’s old town until you can find the beautiful cathedral of Le Carre Sainte Anne. If free art isn’t enough for you, watch the video above to see what kind of exhibitions you can experience. Without questions one of the best free things I did in Montpellier.
Oh and don’t get lost while trying to find this cathedral!
7. Montpellier’s Antigone
I heard many rumors about locals hating this part of the city. For me, it looked massive and I took pictures in awe. I don’t know how to describe this Antigone for you. It’s a big building/buildings between Polygone shopping mall and Le Lez river. Ricardo Bofill was the architect for this neighborhood of Montpellier and apparently, he didn’t like normal straight houses (or at least Antigone is full of houses in circles!)
There are some fountains and restaurants. Maybe not one of the must see places in Montpellier but if you have some extra time, it’s a good place to take rest. And don’t forget to go to see the river (you can even cross it!)
8. La Panacee
Another free museum! Changing interesting exhibitions and cozy sun patio. The only negative side is how hard it’s to find (even when using map and GPS!) Worth of getting lost and maybe never finding your way out of Montpellier…
La Panacee was once – before its path as the Montpellier’s free contemporary art museum – the Royal College of Medicine. However, La Panacee isn’t just an art gallery but rather place for artists and art lovers to mingle. Their all you can eat lunch may not fit your budget but the patio area fits perfectly for having a small break from a long day exploring the free side of Montpellier.
Wander around shops or visit local French Ikea. And don’t miss the small plaza full of statues called the park for “great men of the 20th Century”. You can also get free postcards of famous people like Lenin, Nelson Mandela, and Gandhi. (This plaza is located in the opposite direction of Ikea and left side when coming out of the shopping mall.) Odysseum is one of the best places to go shopping in a more modern atmosphere during your stay in Montpellier. Even if you are on a budget trip in South France and don’t want to buy anything, the interesting restaurants and almost a theme park like settings make this one of the must to visit free places in Montpellier.
10. Place du Peyrou
Big plaza starting from Montpellier’s Arc de Triomphe and ending to the city’s old six kilometers long water pipe. A good place to take pretty photos and maybe snap a selfie with Louis XIV statue. They also hold big antique flea markets here every now and then! Most locals and visitors name Place du Peyrou as their favorite free spot in Montpellier. It’s not hard to understand why… This park with only a few trees and more sand and hard stone paths charms people with its idyllic atmosphere.
If you’re here trying to find free local things to do in Montpellier, I recommend buying some fine literature from the last century and reading it sitting under Louis XIV’s watching eyes. Or just enjoy the panoramic view to Montpellier from Place du Peyrou like every tourist in Montpellier should!
11. Montpellier Zoo
Go and see animals for free. Who wouldn’t love that? Montpellier Zoo may not be one of the must-see places if time is an issue but it’s still a great place to visit for totally free of the charge. Over 140 species and thousands of animals will keep you occupied for a whole day. Most of the zoo area is totally free and so you can see local or foreigner animals.
12. Trip to see the sea
What would be a better way to spend a sunny day than a trip to see the sea? At summer you can blend in with people spending their holidays and at winter time just walk around the deserted seaside of Montpellier. Maybe gather beautiful seashells to souvenirs and build sand castles on the long white sanded beach. Montpellier is a well-known summer holiday destination amongst French and maybe that’s one of the reasons why the city hasn’t found its way on global bucket lists.
13. Graffiti in Montpellier
Montpellier is the capital city of street art. Just remember to look up and there will be graffiti in the walls wherever you go in this idyllic city. And don’t forget to look down because there is graffiti painted to the ground. Even in Montpellier’s tourist map (get it free from the tourist office) they have marked the most amazing street art spots. Whatever you love or hate art, seeing at least some of the most popular street art pieces is a must do free thing in Montpellier. Well, I guess even if you didn’t want it would be impossible to leave Montpellier without seeing at least one of these wild masterpieces!
There are not many cities in this world where you can find amateurs and professionals making street art side by side. Every street and neighborhood has street art to brighten the day of locals and tourists alike! Combining street art and ancient ruins Montpellier truly places itself on the list of places everyone should visit in Europe. Don’t forget to add this forgotten gem on your own bucket list.
Have you ever visited Montpellier or France?
What are your thoughts on this country of love and pastries?
I hope you enjoyed my post and like always all comments are more than welcome!