Which city is for you? Lyon or Montpellier
Are you planning a trip to France but find yourself torn between Lyon or Montpellier? In this blog post, we’ll highlight the pros and cons of each city, their cost of living and the best things to do. Hopefully, by the end, it will have helped you decide which one is for you. Will it be the Gastronomic gem that is Lyon? Or will it be the laid-back sunkissed streets of Montpellier? Let’s find out.
A beautiful city located in the Rhône-Alpes region of France, Lyon is the third largest city in France. Once known for its role in the production and weaving of silk. It is known as the gastronomic capital of France.
Located in southern France, this city is known for its rich history and vibrant culture. With a beautiful old town, lively nightlife and stunning beaches nearby, this city has got plenty to offer. It’s the perfect destination for those looking for a mix of history, relaxation and culture.
Pros and Cons of Lyon and Montpellier
- Gastronomy – Lyon is known for its world-renowned cuisine, with many Michelin-starred restaurants and local specialities like sausages and quenelles.
- Cultural attractions – Lyon is home to a number of museums, galleries, and historic landmarks, including the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière and the Vieux Lyon neighbourhood.
- Festivals and events – Lyon hosts a number of festivals throughout the year, including the Festival of Lights, which attracts millions of visitors.
- Proximity to the Alps – Lyon is located near the French Alps, making it an ideal base for skiing and other outdoor activities.
- Not a tourist hotspot – Considering it’s Frances’s third biggest city, Lyon isn’t visited as much as other places Like Paris or Nice. Giving it a much more relaxed vibe.
- No beach – Unlike Montpellier, Lyon is a landlocked city, so there are no beaches or seaside activities.
- Weather – Lyon has a continental climate, which can be quite hot in the summer and cold in the winter.
- Limited nightlife – While Lyon does have some nightlife options, it’s not as vibrant as in other French cities like Paris or Marseille.
Best for: Lyon is best for foodies and culture lovers, as well as those looking to explore the French Alps.
- Beaches – Montpellier is located near the Mediterranean coast, with several beautiful beaches in easy reach.
- Cultural attractions – Montpellier is home to several museums and historic landmarks, including the Saint-Pierre Cathedral and the Musée Fabre.
- University town – Montpellier is a university town, so it has a lively and youthful atmosphere with plenty of bars, cafes, and nightlife options.
- Great weather – Montpellier enjoys a warm Mediterranean climate with plenty of sunshine throughout the year.
- Proximity to other destinations – Montpellier is an ideal base for exploring other parts of the South of France, with easy access to nearby towns like Nimes, Arles, and Avignon.
- Crowded in peak season – Like many beach destinations, Montpellier can get very crowded with tourists in the summer months.
- Limited outdoor activities – While Montpellier is located near the coast, there are fewer opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking or skiing compared to Lyon.
- Language – While English is widely spoken in tourist areas, French is the main language in Montpellier and some locals may not speak English fluently.
Best for: Montpellier is best for travellers looking for a beach destination with a mix of cultural attractions, nightlife, and a youthful atmosphere. It’s a great choice for those looking to explore the South of France.
How long to stay in Lyon
With Lyon being the third largest city in France, there’s plenty to see and do. We’d recommend staying for at least two to three days, but you wouldn’t get bored if you stayed for a bit longer. There are plenty of museums, parks and landmarks to see. There are also plenty of interesting places to visit nearby. You could even visit Geneva, which is only two hours away by train.
How long to stay in Montpellier
Montpellier is a relatively small city, you could easily see most of the attractions in two to three days. But, if you were planning on a longer break there are plenty of interesting towns and cities nearby. Béziers and Nîmes are just a short drive away and well worth a visit.
How much is food and drink in Lyon or Montpellier?
|Beer||€5 – €7||€4 – €6|
|Glass of wine||€3 – €10||€3 – €8|
|Coffee||€1.50 – €3||€1.50 – €3|
|Meal at a midrange restaurant||€20 – €40||€18 – €35|
How much is it to stay in Lyon or Montpellier?
|Luxury hotel||€150 – €500 per night||€120 – €400 per night|
|Midrange hotel||€70 – €150 per night||€60 – €120 per night|
|Budget hotel||€40 – €70 per night||€40 – €70 per night|
|Hostel||€20 – €40 per night||€18 – €35 per night|
When is the best time to visit Lyon?
Lyon has mild weather year-round, making it a great destination to visit at any time of the year. Here are some things to consider:
Weather: The weather in Lyon is pretty mild throughout the year. Summers can be dry and hot, luckily there’s plenty of outdoor space to enjoy the weather. Lyon does get colder in winter than other French cities like Bordeaux or Toulouse. It regularly drops below freezing and does snow on occasion. Luckily Lyon is famous for hot chocolate so make sure you warm up with one on a cold day.
Festivals: Lyon hosts a variety of festivals and events throughout the year, including the Festival of Lights in December, which is a must-see. The locals light candles in their windows in homage to the Virgin Mary and there are light installations throughout the city, it’s pretty spectacular.
Crowds: As with most European cities peak time in Lyon is during the summer. But it doesn’t suffer from over-tourism as much as other better-known European cities like Paris or Barcelona. Spring is a good time to visit, as the weather is nice but the city isn’t too busy.
When is the best time to visit Montpellier?
Montpellier is great to visit all year round. But it gets extremely busy during summer, especially in August when many French people are on vacation. Here are a few things to consider before booking:
Weather: Montpellier has a Mediterranean climate with mild winters and hot summers, you’ll rarely see freezing temperatures here. It can get very hot in summer, so don’t forget your sun cream. Nobody likes getting burnt!
Festivals: Montpellier hosts plenty of festivals throughout the year. Make sure you check the festival calendar before visiting. The Montpellier Danse Festival in June is very popular, along with the Montpellier International Guitar Festival in July. There’s an extreme sports festival helped in May for those who fancy seeing something a little different.
Crowds: Like most destinations, Montpellier gets very busy during the summer months. If you want to avoid the crowds go in spring or autumn. Winter might also be a good option if you’re not too bothered about the weather being colder.
Average Monthly Temperatures
Here’s a table with the average monthly temperatures and rainfall for Lyon and Montpellier:
|Month||Lyon Temp (°C)||Lyon Rainfall (mm)||Montpellier Temp (°C)||Montpellier Rainfall (mm)|
Getting around Lyon:
Lyon has a great public transport system. With buses, trams and a metro system it’s very easy to get around the city. If you’re planning on making the most of the public transport here, make sure you get a City Card they’re great for saving money. Walking is always a good option, it is a big city but it doesn’t take hours to walk between attractions like Paris can do.
Taxis are readily available but not particularly cheap.
Getting around Montpellier:
Being a compact city, Montpellier is very walkable. But for those that prefer to use public transport, the tram system covers most of the city and is very easy to use.
Buses are also a good option, there’s an extensive bus network that covers the entire city that is cheap and easy to use. Tickets are time-based so if you needed to get a bus then a tram you could use the same ticket provided it’s within the time limit.
Top things to do in Lyon
Visit the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière: This hilltop basilica is very impressive, and the unique architecture is very beautiful. Due to its location at the top of a hill, it offers amazing views of the city and river.
Explore the historic Vieux Lyon: Wander through the narrow streets of Vieux Lyon, the city’s beautiful old town. This area is full of charming old houses, traditional restaurants and secret passageways called (les Traboules).
Check out the Musée des Beaux-Arts: This art museum in a former 17th century Abbey features an expansive collection of paintings, sculptures and decorative arts. It’s definitely worth visiting!
Visit the Parc de la Tête d’Or: With an area of approximately 117 hectares, this is Lyon’s largest urban park and a great place to relax and unwind on a nice day. There’s a botanical garden, a boating lake and even a zoo. Take a picnic on a warm day, you won’t regret it!
Taste the local cuisine: World-renowned for its cuisine, there are more restaurants per head here than anywhere in France! Ensure you allow plenty of time to try local specialities like quenelle de brochet or poulet de Bresse.
See the Hôtel de Ville: This Renaissance building is the third building that has stood there, the last building was burned down in 1871. The current building played an important role during the liberation of the city from German occupation in 1944
Take a river tour: There are plenty of tour operators on the river, tours generally take about an hour and are an interesting way to see the city and learn about its history.
Visit the Musée des Confluences: This modern science and anthropology museum is located at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers. It features interactive exhibits and a stunning architectural design.
Wander around the Croix-Rousse district: Formerly the location of Lyon’s silk industry, this area is now known for its street art and lively nightlife.
See the Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste: Home to Lyon’s own astronomical clock, this cathedral is located in Vieux Lyon and is famous for its stunning architecture. Built on the ruins of a 6th-century church, it was finished in 1476.
Top things to do in Montpellier
Jardin des Plantes de Montpellier: Established in 1593, the Jardin des Plantes de Montpellier is one of the oldest botanical gardens in Europe! It feels like a quiet oasis in the heart of the city. There’s a huge amount of plants, flowers and trees to see here.
Le Corum: Le Corum is a large convention centre in Montpellier that hosts concerts and exhibitions throughout the year. The architecture is really impressive and definitely worth looking at even if you don’t go to see a show.
Place de la Comédie: Known as the egg for its shape, Place de la Comédie is Montpellier’s biggest square. It’s always full of life and a great place to sit down with a coffee and people-watch.
Musée Fabre: The Musée Fabre is an art gallery that houses an extensive collection of paintings and sculptures. With works from artists such as Rubens, Delacroix and Courbet, it’s a must-visit for art lovers.
Château de Flaugergues: Located just outside of Montpellier, this 18th-century château is surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. The château and its grounds are beautiful and look like something you’d see in a film. There are tours and wine-tasting sessions available.
Antigone District: This modern neighbourhood on the banks of the Lez River is known for its unique architecture. Built in the 1980s, it’s a great place for a relaxing walk.
Cathedral Saint-Pierre: This imposing cathedral was built in the 15th century, and is definitely worth a visit. The stained glass windows and rocket-like pillars at the front are particularly cool!
Promenade du Peyrou: This beautiful park offers amazing views of the city. It’s got its own Arc De Triomphe and a huge statue of Louis XIV in the centre.
Maison de la nature: Translated to the house of nature, these protected wetlands make a great day out. It is completely free to visit and offers a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. There’s stunning scenery to look at and plenty of local wildlife.
How to spend three days in Lyon
Morning: Begin the day with a coffee and a croissant in Lyon’s beautiful old town, Vieux Lyon. Spend the morning wandering around admiring medieval architecture whilst the city wakes up. Stop off and see Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste which has its own astronomical clock.
Afternoon: Take the funicular to the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière to see the amazing views of the city. Have a look inside the Basilique for an interesting mix of Byzantine, Gothic and Romanesque inspiration. The stained glass windows are especially impressive.
Evening: Try some typical Lyonnaise dishes at a local restaurant make sure you try some local wines too. After dinner take a walk along the Rhône River and enjoy the beautiful views of the city and its skyline.
Morning: Visit the Musée des Beaux-Arts, one of the country’s most impressive art museums. You can see works by world-renowned artists such as Rubens, Monet and Picasso.
Afternoon: Spend a relaxing afternoon at Parc de la Tête d’Or. Take in the scenery and see the botanical gardens, you could even rent a boat out on the boating lake!
Evening: Spend the evening getting a feel for the Croix-Rousse, this trendy district used to be known for its silk production but now it’s full of great restaurants and cool bars. It’s a bit hilly, so take some comfortable shoes!
Morning: One for the history buffs. Visit the Musée Gallo-Romain, this museum shows Lyon’s Roman past. Entry is pretty cheap and there’s plenty of mosaics, sculptures and other artefacts to see.
Afternoon: Take a guided tour of the city’s traboules. There are as many as 400 of these hidden passageways throughout the city. A guided tour is definitely the best way to find and learn about them!
Evening: End your trip with dinner in the old town, this beautiful area is fantastic to visit at night. Make sure you go and try some local wines afterwards at a bar.
How to spend three days in Montpellier
Morning: Start the trip off with a visit to the Jardin des Plantes de Montpellier, one of the oldest botanical gardens in Europe. Wander through its beautiful gardens admiring the thousands of different plants.
Afternoon: After getting some lovely food at a local restaurant for lunch, head to the Antigone District for a relaxing afternoon seeing the modern architecture. Stop off at a cafe overlooking the river Lez for a quick coffee or glass of wine.
Evening: Head to Le Corum, a large convention centre that hosts concerts and exhibitions throughout the year. Double-check to see if there are any shows on beforehand. There might be something good to watch! If not, go and look at the architecture, it’s very impressive.
Morning: Start your day by exploring the historic centre of Montpellier. Wander through the narrow streets and alleyways, stopping off for a coffee at a Place de la Comédie. Head over to the Saint-Pierre Cathedral and enjoy its impressive architecture.
Afternoon: Visit the Musée Fabre, this art museum has a vast collection of art from the 15th-18th centuries. Bound to keep any art lover occupied all afternoon.
Evening: Head to Château de Flaugergues for a tour of the mansion and its grounds. Maybe even book a wine-tasting session for afterwards.
Morning: Have an early start and head to Maison de la Nature, these protected wetlands and just outside of the city and offer amazing scenery. A great way to unwind on your last day.
Afternoon: Located on the outskirts of Montpellier, Montpellier Zoo is home to over 120 species of animals. There’s plenty to see and do, it’s actually free to get in which is different to most zoos which cost a fortune.
Evening: Head over to the Promenade du Peyrou, this park has fantastic views over the city and is definitely worth a visit. There are plenty of opportunities for great photos with the Arc De Triomphe, gardens and the statue of Louis XIV. It’s especially beautiful as the sun is going down.
Ratings for Lyon and Montpellier
|Food and drink||9||9|
|Culture and history||9||7|