Things to see and do - Montpellier
Old Montpellier :
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Old MontpellierPedestrian, 4 km, 1 day
You’ll love the old Montpellier, its mansions, its medieval winding streets and its aromas, as well as the classical splendour of the Place de la Canourgue and the Peyrou...Customise this route and add it to My travel book
Between Place de la Comédie and the Peyrou Triumphal Arch, the old quarters of Montpellier have kept their winding, narrow streets, the vestiges of the town's medieval layout. Since the 17 and 18C, the streets have been lined with superb private residences with remarkable façades and staircases concealed in interior courtyards.
Currrently the headquarters of Montpellier's chamber or commerce, it was built in the 18C by Jean-Antoine Giral, thanks to a donation from François Gigot de Lapeyronie, surgeon to Louis XV, who bequeathed part of his fortune to the Montpellier guild of surgeons to enable them to build an anatomy amphitheatre on a par with the one in Paris.
Formerly the street where the post-houses were located, it is now lined with art galleries, elegant boutiques and antique shops.
Designed by the architect Jean Giral, it has a sloped staircase encased behind rising arches. Delightful cupids on the courtyard façade. There is a large garden in the second courtyard, an unexpected haven of peace in the heart of the city.
An archway leads to several Gothic rooms with crossed rib vaulting. One of them contains Roman columns and capitals from the Church of Notre Dame des Tables. The 14C salle Pétrarque is used by the Montpellier local authority as a reception hall. The musée du Vieux Montpellier and musée Fougau are based here.
Built in the 19C, the church is crowned by a tall bell-tower and is now used for temporary exhibitions. The vestiges of the small 17C building opposite the porch were brought here and rebuilt.
The narrow streets of this quarter, the oldest in Montpellier, have now been colonised by art galleries and luxury shops.
This street is lined with 17C private residences: the hôtel de Roquemaure (n°1), the hôtel d'Avèze (n°3), the hôtel de Beaulac (n°6) and, at n°8, the hôtel Deydé with its flattened arch, also termed a "davilerte" (named after the architect d'Aviler).
Some of the shops in this old tradesmen's street still retain their 14C-15C vaulting.
The square was the centre of Montpellier in the 17C and a number of old houses remain standing around the garden with its unicorn fountain: the hôtel Richer de Belleval, its courtyard decorated with balusters and balustrades, the hôtel de Cambacérès, with its extremely rich 18C decoration and the hôtel du Sarret, also called the "Shell House".
Erected in the late 17C, the arch is decorated with bas-reliefs commemorating the victories of Louis XIV and the major events of his reign, such as the linking of the two seas by the Canal du Midi and the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The present statue of the Sun King dates from 1838. The original statue, cast in Paris in 1626, took 26 years to reach Montpellier in a series of incredible adventures. It was unfortunately destroyed during the Revolution.
At Montpellier's highest point and designed in 1688 by Charles d'Aviler, the promenade is crossed by the St Clement aqueduct which served to carry water from the Lez springs to the water tower. Inspiration for the two rows of 22m arcades was drawn from the Pont du Gard. A flea market is held under the arches on Saturdays. From the upper terrace of the promenade there is a fine view over the Garrigue, the Cevennes, the sea, and, in fine weather, the Canigou.
The massive façade of this fortified cathedral is a continuation of that of the Faculty of Medicine. It is the only church in the city to have been spared during the Wars of Religion and, despite its Gothic style, is reminiscent of the Romanesque churches on the coast with only one nave. Its porch is in the form of two small towers, preceded by an arch supported by the façade. The austere 14C nave contrasts with the chancel and transept rebuilt in the 19C