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Medieval architecture and stylish streets. A Mediterranean atmosphere and the beach at the door: Montpellier is France’s best-kept secret. iFly reporter, Mike Raanhuis, went to discover the city with 300 hours of sun per year.

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Lose your way in Montpellier: getting lost in a city has never been so much fun! Stroll past the Medieval, Renaissance and 19th-century buildings that are now home to trendy shops or visit one of the 800 bars and restaurants. After four days in Southern France I am without any further doubts that Montpellier is indeed the place to visit!

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Exploring the city

Staying uptown

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Montpellier, located in the South of France only 10 km from the Mediterranean Sea, exceeds all my expectations. It boasts a pleasant climate, friendly locals and a gem of a historical (car-free!) city centre. I explore the city on foot, by bike, bus or tram.

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I decide not to stay in the centre of town but rather in a B&B, just a 12-minute bus ride from downtown. Called Clos de l'Herminier, my oasis in the city is run by Maurice and Véronique and is an absolute hidden treasure. Four beautiful guest rooms, outstanding breakfasts, 6,000 m2 of land with old trees and a secluded private swimming pool give a whole new meaning to the term ‘home away from home’.

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Shopping and strolling

Quirky facades

In Montpellier you can shop until you drop. The modern Odysseum is perfect if you are looking for chain stores, however I prefer the charm of L'Écusson, the old city centre with its mix of marble facades with beautiful brands, art dealers, boutiques and vintage stores. My favourite is Absolute Vintage, a 30-year journey back in time.

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The meandering alleys around the St Roch Church are also beautiful. The quirky trompe-l'oeils are especially fascinating: here and there you will come across gigantic painted facades depicting a manufactured reality that is indistinguishable from the real thing!

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A lavish lunch

The beauty of Place du Peyrou

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A local recommended Le Pré Vert, which is hidden behind an enormous church wall far from the crowds, and I take a seat on the terrace. The house specialty? Extravagant salads! It is pretty amazing how all those flavours explode in your mouth. My recommendation is La Tulipe, packed with tomatoes, chicken pesto, courgette, aubergine, marinated peppers and delicious polenta.

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Although it’s not exactly a hidden gem, Place du Peyrou is perfect for a walk after lunch. Give yourself an hour to stroll along the elegant shopping street Rue Foch and enjoy the view of the 18th-century water tower and the Arc de Triomphe (of Montpellier).

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Tenth-generation wine tasting

Enjoy fresh produce

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Visit the market located under the nearby arches of the Roman St Clément Aqueduct and shop for fresh quail eggs, artichokes, organic bread and homemade sausage. The smells and scenes alone are worth the visit.

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Also be sure to see the Chateau des Flaugergues Pierre de Colbert, now in the hands of the tenth generation of winegrowers. Once located on the outskirts of Montpellier, the estate is now embraced by the city. Stop by the vineyard for a tour, wine tasting and lunch!

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Violins and craftsmanship

Arty part of town

Another impressive part of the city is the St Anne district. Here you’ll find workshops where violin makers still practice their craft. As the pièce de résistance, I meet with violin maker Frédéric Chaudière, whose 17th-century workshop is located at the foot of the St Anne Church.

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This is where Chaudière builds the instruments that he sells to the greatest violinists in the world and you can watch how much love goes into making a violin. There is so much to see and enjoy in Montpellier: it really is the ideal place to visit for a city break.

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