Which city is for you? Montpellier or Strasbourg
Finding it hard to pick between Montpellier or Strasbourg for your upcoming French getaway? Both cities, each with its unique cultural vibe and charm, make a strong case for being your next destination.
Montpellier, basking in the warmth of France’s southern coast, is a splendid fusion of historical magnificence and youthful dynamism. Its medieval lanes, pulsating arts culture, and the irresistible draw of southern French cuisine is further amplified by the golden beaches of the nearby Mediterranean.
Strasbourg, however, is a city where French finesse and German robustness merge to create a uniquely enchanting atmosphere. The city is a picture postcard brought to life with quaint half-timbered houses, the globally celebrated Christmas market, and the awe-inspiring Strasbourg Cathedral adding to its inimitable charm.
This blog post aims to balance the scales between Montpellier and Strasbourg, guiding you towards the city that aligns best with your dream French holiday.
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 near the German border, Strasbourg is a beautiful city that has a unique blend of French and German cultures. Mostly due to the fact that both countries have been in control of the city at multiple points throughout history. Known for its unique architecture and pretty canals there’s plenty to see in this unique city.
Pros and Cons of Montpellier and Strasbourg
- Mediterranean Climate: With its warm, dry summers and mild winters, Montpellier’s has a much milder climate than Strasbourg
- Cultural Hub: Montpellier is a vibrant city known for its music festivals, student population, and lively arts scene.
- Proximity to the Beach: Montpellier is close to the Mediterranean Sea, offering easier access to beach activities than Strasbourg.
- Vibrant Arts Scene: The city is a hub for arts and culture, boasting numerous art galleries, museums, and music festivals. The Montpellier Danse and Radio France festivals are renowned events that attract global audiences.
- Great Food and Wine: Located in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, Montpellier offers delicious Southern French cuisine and is surrounded by some of France’s largest vineyards.
- Less Historic Architecture: Compared to Strasbourg, Montpellier has fewer historical buildings and UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
- Less Diverse Food Scene: The food scene in Montpellier is largely Mediterranean, with fewer international cuisine options compared to Strasbourg.
- Busy in Summer: Just like most other destinations in the south of France, Montpellier can get very busy in the summer.
Best for: Those who prefer a warmer climate, beach lovers, and fans of Mediterranean cuisine.
- UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Strasbourg boasts a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including its entire city center (Grande Île).
- Culinary Diversity: Strasbourg is famous for its unique Alsatian cuisine and offers a wide variety of food options, including German-inspired dishes.
- Christmas Market: Strasbourg hosts one of the oldest and largest Christmas markets in Europe, making it a magical destination during the holiday season.
- Canal Tours: Some people might find the city’s canals and canal tours a big attraction over Montpellier.
- Unique location: Strasbourg’s location on the German border gives visitors the opportunity to visit both France and Germany in one trip!
- Colder Climate: Strasbourg experiences colder winters and less overall warmth throughout the year compared to Montpellier.
- Far from the Beach: Unlike Montpellier, Strasbourg is landlocked, so there’s no easy access to beaches.
- Tourist Crowds: Strasbourg is a popular tourist destination, particularly during the Christmas season, which can make the city centre very busy and crowded!
Best for: History and architecture enthusiasts, foodies, and those who enjoy a mix of French and German cultures.
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 Strasbourg
Strasbourg may not be a huge city, but due to its history and unique location, we recommend staying for at least two to three days. If you have more time, its location on the German border means you can have lots of fun exploring both countries. The beautiful town of Colmar is worth a trip and Freiburg isn’t too far either.
How much is food and drink in Montpellier and Strasbourg?
Here’s a table summarizing the information on food and drink prices in Montpellier and Strasbourg:
|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 Strasbourg?
Here’s a table summarizing the information on accommodation prices in Montpellier and Strasbourg:
|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 Strasbourg?
Strasbourg is a city that can be enjoyed year-round, but the best time to visit depends on what you want to experience. Here are some things to consider:
Weather: Strasbourg’s mild climate can be enjoyed all year round, but pay attention to the weather forecast before visiting. Summers are warm and sunny but winters can get very cold. Snow isn’t uncommon. Spring and autumn are the best times to be visiting for milder weather and smaller crowds.
Festivals: Strasbourg Christmas markets are a must-see if you’re visiting over the Christmas period. They’re the oldest markets in France and have been going since 1570! With over 300 Christmas chalets in various squares around the city, there’s plenty of food and drink to try. The mulled wine is especially good to warm up on a cold day! There are plenty of festivals during the summer months too including the Strasbourg Music Festival, which is held every June.
Crowds: Strasbourg can get crowded during peak travel seasons, especially during the Christmas markets. To avoid the crowds, visit in spring and autumn or during weekdays instead of weekends.
Average Monthly Temperatures in Montpellier and Strasbourg
|Month||Montpellier Temp (°C)||Montpellier Rainfall (mm)||Strasbourg Temp (°C)||Strasbourg Rainfall (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 Strasbourg:
Strasbourg has a really good public transport system like most French cities. You probably won’t need to use anything other than the tram, it covers pretty much all of the main attractions. But, for the places the tram doesn’t reach the buses will get you there. A single ticket costs €1.70 and is valid for up to 1 hour of travel, with transfers allowed within that time frame. If you plan on using public transportation frequently, consider purchasing a 24-hour ticket for €4.50 or a 3-day pass for €12.50.
If the weather is good try and walk as much as you can. It’s the best way to see all the city’s unique architecture and take in all the sights.
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 Strasbourg
Visit Strasbourg Cathedral: This cathedral is a must see when visiting Strasbourg. Try and visit on a nice day, you can climb the stairs to the top and get a magnificent view of the city! It’s also a good idea to go back at night and see it lit up. It’s very beautiful.
Explore Petite France: This beautiful neighbourhood is known for its canals, cobbled streets and half-timbered buildings. A UNESCO world heritage site, this area is so relaxing to stroll around on a nice day.
Visit the Palais Rohan: Once the residence of a noble family from Brittany. This 18th century is now home to three museums: the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Decorative Arts, and the Museum of Fine Arts. It’s a great way to learn about the history and culture of the region.
Take a Boat Tour: The boat tours here are well worth a visit, you get to see all the main attractions from the river and learn about the history of the city.
Explore La Grande Île: Grande Île literally means Grand Island. This island in the centre of Strasbourg has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1988. It’s a beautiful district filled with amazing buildings, relaxing squares and cute shops and cafes.
Visit the European Parliament: This impressive building hosts the European Parliament. You can go inside at certain times, there are exhibits to see and a recorded guide. It’s interesting but might not be for everyone.
Explore the Strasbourg Christmas Markets: Strasbourg’s markets are very famous. Definitely don’t miss them if you’re visiting over the festive period. There’s a reason Strasbourg is regarded as the ‘Christmas Capital of the World’.
Visit the Jardin des Deux Rives: Translated to ‘Two Shores Garden’ this park actually covers both sides of the river Rhine. Meaning one side is in France and the other is in Germany. There’s a bridge connecting the two sides so you can quite literally walk into Germany.
Explore the Musée Alsacien: This museum takes you on a tour through old Strasbourg homes and helps you see what life would have been like for residents hundreds of years ago.
Eat like a local: Due to its unique location, this city has both French and German influences in its cuisine. Make sure you try local favourites like Baeckeoffe, Spätzle and Lewerknepfle.
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 Strasbourg
Morning: Begin your day at the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg, try and get there early to beat the crowds. If you’re feeling fit, climb to the top of the tower to see the amazing view.
Afternoon: Take a stroll through Petite France. This picturesque neighbourhood is full of beautiful old houses and cute cafes. It almost feels like stepping back in time. Make sure you stop off for lunch and try some traditional Alsatian cuisine.
Evening: Spend the afternoon relaxing in Place Kléber, the main square in Strasbourg. This central square is lined with cafes, restaurants and shops. Perfect for people watching and shopping.
Morning: Spend your morning admiring the work of famous artists like Rubens and Botticelli in the Palais Rohan. This stunning 18th-century palace houses three museums, so you’ll have plenty to see!
Afternoon: After grabbing a nice lunch from a local restaurant, take a boat tour of the city’s canals. It’s a relaxing way to spend the afternoon, especially if you’ve eaten too much for lunch and want to let your stomach settle.
Evening: Have a romantic walk down the River III. This river runs around the historic centre of Strasbourg, and there are plenty of lovely bridges and weeping willows to admire along the way. Once you get tired stop off at a riverside restaurant for some good food and drinks. Just be sure not to drink too much and fall in!
Morning: Visit the Musée Alsacien. This museum showcases life in the Alsace region over the last few centuries. It’s very interesting and has lots of exhibits on traditional clothing, crafts and architecture.
Afternoon: Head over to the Jardin des Deux Rives and spend the afternoon exploring the park. If you walk over the bridge to the German side, there’s a really cool observation deck that offers great views of the city and down the Rhine. You could even stop off for some German food and beer!
Evening: Head back to the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg to see it lit up in all its splendour. Get some food at a local restaurant then go and enjoy one of the city’s fabulous beer gardens!
Montpellier and Strasbourg Ratings
|Food and Drink||9||9|
|Culture and History||7||9|