Which city is for you? Montpellier or Lille
Choosing between Montpellier or Lille for your next trip to France? Will it be Montpellier with its sun-kissed squares or Lille with its unique northern charm? Each city promises an authentic French experience, rich in history, culture, and gastronomy, but they differ significantly in their character.
Montpellier is where youthful energy meets Mediterranean charm. This beautiful city blends remnants of its past with modern highlights. Nestled between the mountains and the sea, its vibrant squares hum with the melodies of street musicians. With a strong emphasis on arts and academia, Montpellier offers a unique blend of cultural depth, a thriving nightlife, and the quintessential warmth of the south.
Lille is known for its friendly residents, impressive Flemish architectural gems, and hearty cuisine. It embodies Northern France at its best. Its lively old town is filled with independent boutiques nestled amidst vibrantly colored vintage houses. The renowned museums and thriving arts scene never fail to surprise and captivate visitors.
Whether you’re drawn to the sun-soaked aura of the south or the cozy allure of the north, the energetic streets of Montpellier or the charming squares of Lille, we’re here to guide you towards your dream French destination.
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.
Located in northern France, Lille has a great mix of French and Flemish cultures. Its unique character gives it real charm. It’s probably a bit underrated in comparison to other cities in France if we’re being honest.
Pros and Cons of Montpellier and Lille
- Vibrant Atmosphere: With a significant student population, Montpellier has a youthful and lively feel that sets it apart.
- Mediterranean Climate: Compared to Lille, Montpellier enjoys warmer and sunnier weather, thanks to its location near the Mediterranean Sea.
- Proximity to Nature: Located close to both the Mediterranean Sea and the mountains of the Massif Central, Montpellier offers a wider range of outdoor activities than Lille.
- Cultural Hub: Home to several universities, Montpellier is a hub for arts and academia.
- Food and Wine: Located in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, known for its wine production, Montpellier offers excellent culinary experiences, especially for wine lovers.
- Less Historic Charm: While Montpellier has its own historical sites, it might not match up to Lille’s rich Flemish history and architecture.
- Fewer Cultural Institutions: Montpellier has fewer large-scale cultural institutions compared to Lille’s Palais des Beaux-Arts and other renowned museums.
- Summers: While the Mediterranean climate is a draw for many, the summers in Montpellier can be quite hot and might not be comfortable for everyone.
Best for: Students, sun-seekers, and outdoor enthusiasts.
- Rich History and Architecture: Lille’s blend of French and Flemish culture and architecture offers a unique experience that is different from Montpellier’s Mediterranean vibe.
- Vibrant Art Scene: Home to France’s second-largest general-interest museum, the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Lille offers a more extensive art scene than Montpellier.
- Great Transport Links: Lille is well-connected with other European cities by train, making it an ideal base for further travel.
- Geographical Location: Located near France’s border with Belgium, Lille offers a unique cultural blend and easy access to both countries.
- Friendly Atmosphere: Known for the friendliness of its inhabitants, the city offers a warm, welcoming atmosphere to visitors.
- Weather: Compared to Montpellier’s Mediterranean climate, Lille’s weather can be cooler and rainier.
- Fewer Outdoor Activities: Lille offers fewer opportunities for outdoor activities like beach visits or mountain hiking that Montpellier offers.
- Smaller City: While this can also be a positive, as a smaller city, Lille might lack some of the amenities and attractions of larger cities.
Best for: History buffs, art lovers, and those looking for easy access to other European cities.
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 long to stay in Lille
Lille is the fourth largest city in France so there’s plenty to do. Three days are probably enough to see everything it has to offer. But, if you wanted to extend your break and do some city hopping, Brussels, Ghent, Bruges and Dunkirk aren’t far at all!
How much is food and drink in Montpellier and Lille?
Here’s a table summarizing the information on food and drink prices in Montpellier and Lille:
|Beer||€5 to €7||€5 to €7|
|Glass of wine||€4 to €9||€3 to €10|
|Coffee||€2 to €4||€1.50 to €3|
|Meal (midrange)||€20 to €40 per person||€20 to €40 per person|
How much is it to stay in Montpellier or Lille ?
|Luxury hotel||€200 to €600+ per night||€150 to €500+ per night|
|Midrange hotel||€80 to €150 per night||€70 to €150 per night|
|Budget hotel||€50 to €80 per night||€40 to €70 per night|
|Hostel||€20 to €40 per night||€20 to €40 per night|
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.
When is the best time to visit Lille?
Lille’s location means the weather is never too extreme, so it’s definitely a year-round destination. Here are a few things to consider before booking.
Weather: Lille’s climate can be pretty unpredictable, it’s prone to rain all year round. Summers are warm and sunny. Winters can get very cold with temperatures as low as -5°C. If you want to avoid rain and crowds, visiting in April would be a good happy medium.
Festivals: Lille has plenty of festivals to attend throughout the year. But its biggest festival is the Braderie de Lille, a huge festival held every September. For the first week in November, the city turns into the biggest flea market in Europe. If you like shopping for antiques and other random things, this may be for you! Lille’s Christmas Markets are also worth a visit in the lead upto Christmas.
Crowds: Lille can get busy during the summer and during Braderie de Lille. If you want to avoid the crowds don’t travel in the summer months or the first week in September.
Average Monthly Temperatures in Montpellier and Lille
|Month||Montpellier Temperature (°C)||Montpellier Rainfall (mm)||Lille Temperature (°C)||Lille Rainfall (mm)|
|January||8°C||46 mm||3°C||54 mm|
|February||9°C||32 mm||4°C||40 mm|
|March||11°C||32 mm||6°C||41 mm|
|April||14°C||47 mm||8°C||40 mm|
|May||17°C||44 mm||11°C||55 mm|
|June||21°C||20 mm||14°C||57 mm|
|July||24°C||13 mm||16°C||62 mm|
|August||24°C||25 mm||16°C||57 mm|
|September||21°C||56 mm||13°C||46 mm|
|October||16°C||79 mm||10°C||56 mm|
|November||11°C||52 mm||6°C||57 mm|
|December||8°C||55 mm||4°C||58 mm|
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 the 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.
Getting around Lille:
Lille is easy to get around due to its buses, trams and metro system. City passes are a good way to save money if you plan on making the most of public transport. Lille’s city centre is quite compact so it’s very walkable. You could hire a bike too if you wanted.
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 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.
Top things to do in Lille
Visit the Palais des Beaux-Arts: One of the largest art museums in France, there’s an impressive collection from artists like Rubens, Delacroix and Monet. It’s definitely worth going if you’re an art lover.
Stroll through Vieux-Lille: Lille’s old town, Vieux-Lille is filled with colourful buildings and cobbled streets. There are lots of boutique shops, great restaurants and nice cafes if you fancy a coffee whilst people watching.
Explore La Citadelle de Lille: The shape of this 17th-century pentagonal fortress is fascinating. It’s still a working military base so you can’t enter but you can walk around its walls and the surrounding grounds.
Visit the Lille Cathedral: In comparison to most European cathedrals Lille’s feels very different. It was built between 1856 and 1975, so there are parts of it that don’t have the same old-weathered look you expect with cathedrals. It’s still impressive though.
Check out the Wazemmes Market: Open every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday there’s loads of fresh produce like cheese, vegetables and sausages sold. It’s a must-visit for foodies. There are even little food stalls so you can get a pizza or some oysters if you’re hungry!
Take a Chocolate Tour: Lille has a reputation for its chocolate. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, a chocolate tour might be a good idea. The tours take you around some of the city’s best chocolatiers, learning about the history of chocolate along the way.
Explore the Hospice Comtesse Museum: Housed in a 17th-century hospital, this museum is only small but has exhibits of art and artefacts from the 16th to the 20th century. Entry is free on the first Sunday of every month.
Check out the Saint Maurice Church: This 14th-century Gothic church is definitely worth a visit. It’s quite an unusual shape and is seriously impressive from all angles. The stained glass windows are really beautiful too.
Take a Beer Tasting Tour: Beer-tasting tours are a fantastic way to sample some local beers and learn more about the city. The tours last about 3 hours and make a fun afternoon!
Visit Lille Zoo: Home to over 450 animals, this zoo is relatively compact but it’s worth a visit. It’s quite cheap so it’s good if you’re wanting a low-cost activity.
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.
How to spend three days in Lille
Morning: Begin your trip with a visit to Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille. Allocate about three hours for this huge art gallery, there are over 72,430 sculptures, paintings and ceramics!
Afternoon: Have a wander around Lille’s beautiful old town. It’s a great place to just get lost and explore all the little shops and cafes. Make sure you try some good local food like Carbonnade Flamande or la tarte au Maroilles.
Evening: Go and see a show at Opéra de Lille. This building is spectacular inside and out. Plus tickets to the shows are very reasonable!
Morning: Get an early start and head to the Citadel of Lille. This impressive fortress looks amazing in the early morning light. It’s lovely to stroll around its grounds too.
Afternoon: Head over to La Piscine, a museum housed in a former art deco swimming pool! It’s a very cool building, I can imagine it would have been really cool to swim here when it was still a pool. There’s a great art collection of paintings, sculptures and textiles.
Evening: Spend your evening at the Rue de Gand. This famous street is filled with bars and restaurants so make sure you take an appetite and make the most of the amazing local foods.
Morning: Start your day with a visit to Wazemmes Market, there is loads of regional produce to try and buy. You could even get lunch at one of the stalls.
Afternoon: Make a choice between visiting Lille Cathedral or Saint Maurice Church. Saint Maurice Church is a little bit further out of the centre but is really beautiful. Lille Cathedral is very centrally located, it’s not quite as pretty as Saint Maurice but its size is very impressive.
Evening: Find a beer tour to go on before dinner then spend the evening sampling local foods.
Montpellier and Lille Ratings
|Category||Montpellier Rating||Lille Rating|
|Food and drink||9||9|
|Culture and history||7||9|