Read about the city
Montpellier is one of the beautiful cities of southern France with its many nice churches, buildings, streets and squares. A city center lined with cafes, where the cuisine is tasty and where there are many and very varied things to look at in the mild Mediterranean climate.
The long and exciting history of the city has given it a number of interesting buildings and monuments, which are scattered in the city center and outside the heart of the picturesque old town. In many places, the oldest neighborhoods are like a maze, that you just have to explore.
Place de la Comédie is the center of modern and vibrant Montpellier. Here, inhabitants, trams, culture and shopping meet, and from here there is easy access to Place Royale du Peyrou, Montpellier's Cathedral, the city's two preserved medieval towers from the former fortifications and the Musée Fabre art museum, where works of great masters can be enjoyed.
The area around Place Royale du Peyrou is a special area. Here you will find elegant architecture and a beautiful city plan, where the square itself and the triumphal arch to the east are a few of the city's gems. The equestrian statue of king Louis XIV is at the center of the square, and from here you can see the water tower Château d'Eau to the west.
A visit to Montpellier is an experience that combines the metropolis with the French Mediterranean atmosphere in a lovely climate. From the city center, there are just a few kilometers to the Mediterranean waves, many golf courses, varied and fascinating landscapes and other major cultural cities such as Nîmes, Arles and Avignon.
- St Clément Aqueduct/Aqueduc de Saint-Clément: This is an aqueduct built as part of the water pipeline that supplied the water tower at Place Royale du Peyrou with water from the Saint-Clément spring.
- Batonical Garden/Le Jardin des Plantes: Montpellier's Botanical Garden was founded in 1593 and it is the oldest in France and among the oldest in Europe. It offers many large and beautiful plants, trees and greenhouses that have inspired other gardens around the world.
- Pharmacy and Chapel of Mercy//Pharmacie et Chapelle de la Miséricorde: This is an old pharmacy and a beautiful church. The on-site museum consists of two rooms displaying 18th-century and 19th-century pharmacies.
- Montpellier History Museum/Musée de l'histoire de Montpellier: This museum is housed in the now historic church, Notre Dame de Table, and you can see an exciting exhibition about the city's development from its founding to today at the museum.
- Montpellier National Opera/Opéra National de Montpellier: The National Opera is Montpellier's old opera building from 1888. The building was built in richly ornamented Italian style with a beautiful decor.
- Babote Tower/Tour de la Babote: The Tour de la Babote is one of the two preserved towers from the city wall that enclosed Montpellier with walls and 25 towers in the Middle Ages. The city wall was built in the 12th century.
- Charles de Gaulle Esplanade & Mars Field Park/Esplanade Charles de Gaulle & Jardin du Champ de Mars: The esplanade park, together with the former military area Champ de Mars, is a favorite place to stroll in the city. Here are many trees that form a lovely oasis in the heart of Montpellier.
- Antigone: The Antigone district was developed in the 1980s by Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill. Streets, squares, activities, transport, etc. were created with the idea of creating a modern neighborhood in Montpellier just a few minutes walk from the old town center.
[expand title="Read about city history" id="historie2" swaptitle="Hide content"]
In the late 900s, only a few people lived in the area between ancient Via Domitia and the Mosson area. It was during this time that Knight Guilhem was entrusted with the present area around Montpellier in recognition of his loyalty and general efforts to the regent.
Over the following decades, the Guilhem family built a smaller dwelling, and they built, among other things, a fortress and a church.
Guilhem's ambitious plan for the city attracted people, and the city grew over the years in both population and prosperity.
Merchants, Growth and Marketplace Rights
The first thoughts of independence for the city spread in Montpellier around 1100, but the thoughts came to an abrupt end when Count Guilhem IV in 1143 stopped a revolt from Montpellier's knights. Guilhem also had Pope Alexander III's support for this use of power.
The events were the starting point for renewed economic growth in the city, and foreign traders settled in increasing numbers here. Montpellier, among other things, exported textiles to large parts of the Mediterranean.
With the financial success of the merchants, the demands for increased freedom and rights increased. They got that in 1204 after a marriage between Aragon's Pedro II and Marie of Montpellier. Pedro II received Montpellier as a dowry.
The wedding ended the Guilhem family's dominance in Montpellier and a new and very Republican form of government was established. The city gained significantly more rights, which meant, for example, that the city itself could elect twelve reigning consuls each year.
New and expanded city walls were also constructed so that the entire city could be assembled within the same area. The construction gave Montpellier's old town the egg shape that can be recognized on map today. Back then, there were both walls and defense towers around the city.
New knowledge and development
Montpellier's trade flourished, and not least spices brought prosperity. For these goods, the city was the market place for the entire French kingdom.
As a trading town, Montpellier introduced a new currency, and culturally and intellectually, the city developed tremendously with, among other things, several new institutions and a population that numbered about 40,000 people before the plague.
In 1180, Guilhem VIII of Montpellier had allowed everyone to teach medicine, and it marked the beginning of a great recovery in knowledge that has ever benefited the city.
Around 1220, Montpellier's medical and legal faculties were established by Cardinal Konrad von Urach, and with this further build-up in the field of knowledge, prosperity continued to rise, and the city eventually became particularly interesting for the region's rulers to control.
Montpellier became French
King Philippe le Bel bought the Montpellier area in 1293 by the Bishop of Maguelone, and he then established a number of regional administrative institutions in the city, and the city's prosperity continued. Formally, however, the city and area were still under the crown of Aragon.
It didn't take many years before the plague ravaged the area. It happened in the mid-1300s, and King Aragon of Jaime III of Mallorca sold the city and area to France's King Philippe VI for 120,000 gold crowns.
France's takeover of Montpellier marked the beginning of an almost uninterrupted 200-year decline in the city, which had hitherto been one of the absolute leading French cities.
However, there were also some bright spots for the city. Religiously, Pope Urban VIII gave the city a monastery dedicated to St. Peter in the 1300s. The monastery became significant and it ended in 1536 when the diocese seat was moved from Maguelone to Montpellier. On that occasion the church of the monastery was made a new cathedral.
Economically, there had also been bright spots; not least when Jacques Cœur came to town in 1432. He was a merchant, and during his time some flourishing was to be traced, but partly the power of the merchants in favor of office and legal scholars declined over the decades, and partly in the end of the century Marseille took over the role of the region's economic center.
A Protestant Sanctuary
The Reformation rippled through Europe in the 16th century, and in Montpellier many of the citizens became Protestant. In this way, the city became a religious stronghold in opposition to Catholic France led by the French kings.
There was growing unrest between Catholics and Protestants in several parts of the country, and in Montpellier it ended with a siege over two months by King Louis XIII's troops. The siege ended with the king's victory, and after the victory the king let the great citadel of the city erect. This was done to ensure military control of the previously unruly city.
New urban plan and growth
With the active counter-reform came new thoughts and thus the renewal of the once run-down city. Modern planning came into being and, among other things, Promenade du Peyrou was built. The city's many elegant private mansions also shot up in the city, which in this time seriously cast off the Middle Ages. Montpellier had also achieved the status of Languedoc's capital.
The economy flourished again and a growing production of textiles, leather, agricultural products and wine significantly increased the city's revenue. In 1764, the aqueduct for the city center was erected. It brought water to Montpellier, which was a necessity for the city's further development and modernization.
19th Century to Today
Railways were built in the 19th century, and the economy continued its positive development with some industrialization alongside large agricultural production. The upheaval lasted until the crisis in wine production, culminating in 1907. On that occasion, about 500,000 wine farmers demonstrated in the city's streets.
Production progressed after some time, and today's Montpellier took its final shape with the construction of central squares such as Comédie and many of the city's new neighborhoods and green spaces.
In the 1960s, the city's population rose sharply in connection with the resettlement of Frenchmen who, after Algeria's independence, moved back to France.
In recent decades there has again been a great development in Montpellier. Among the biggest projects are the city's modern tram network, Corum and the large city of Antigone. Antigone has significantly increased the city center, and the neighborhood has extended the city toward the river.
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