FOCUS ON …
Le quartier de l’Ecusson in Montpellier
Nestled in the very heart of Montpellier’s historic centre is the area known locally as ‘le quartier de l’Ecusson’. Why not spend a few hours wandering through its winding alleyways or ‘profiter du soleil’ in one of the many bustling squares? The best restaurants, boutiques and bars can all be found in this most elegant of city centres. What is more, visitors can wander peacefully in this sunshine-strewn pocket of the Mediterranean town, as the area is accessible by tram, but otherwise completely pedestrianised!
The focal point of the city is undoubtedly the ‘Place de la Comédie’, a large square which lies at the south-east point of the city centre and sits in front of the stunning 19th century Opéra house. ‘La Fontaine des Trois Grâces’ is a common meeting point at any given time of day, and whilst the cafés and restaurants spilling out over the square have plenty to offer in terms of food and drink, it is definitely worth exploring the streets a little more before you decide on your watering hole of choice!
COBBLED SIDE STREETS AND ELEGANT ARCHITECTURE
It might take several attempts before you begin to get your bearings in this maze of a neighbourhood, but the best way to explore Ecusson is definitely without a map – getting lost is part of the fun! It will feel all the more rewarding when you stumble across such gems as Rue de l’Ancien Courrier, a centuries-old street lined with trendy boutiques and paved in white marble. During the summer months, you will find a wonderful sunshine trap on the steps of the neo-Gothic church in Place de Saint-Roch. Opposite the church is Dedée Jacqueline, a popular local restaurant serving strictly French cuisine – hard to miss with its chequered red tablecloths spilling out over the square and neon fairly lights nestled in the trees up above!
AN OLD CITY WITH A YOUNG HEART
Being home to one of the oldest universities in France, you will be hard placed to find a bar that is not bustling with students at any time of year in Montpellier! Whilst the city itself was founded in the Middle Ages, over half of the population is under 35. If you are longing for a bit of peace and quiet in amongst the liveliness of the town, towards the northern end of Ecusson you will find France’s oldest botanical garden, the Jardin des Plantes, nestled in the grounds of the university medical faculty. Curated in 1593, there are over 2000 different types of plants and the garden is open to the public on every day except Mondays. And do not forget to visit la Promenade du Peyrou, where an antiques and flea market is held every Sunday! At one end sits Montpellier’s very own Arc de Triomphe and from the opposite terrace you can catch a glimpse of the Cévennes and Pyrénées mountain ranges.