Which city is for you? Nice or Montpellier
Nice or Montpellier – which southern French city will make the list? Will it be the seaside city of Nice? With its beaches, cute old town and interesting museums? Or will it be Montpellier? This beautiful city may be smaller but it still has plenty to offer, plus it’s always cool discovering somewhere that’s a bit less well known isn’t it?
Nice quite literally has it all – sun, sea, sand and history. It’s a great option for travellers that want the option to experience the culture of a city break and the relaxing vibes of a beach 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.
Pro’s and Con’s of Nice and Montpellier
- Beautiful beaches – Nice has some of the most stunning beaches in France, with crystal clear waters and soft sandy shores.
- Cultural attractions – Nice is home to a number of museums and cultural attractions, including the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and the Chagall Museum.
- Picturesque Old Town – Nice’s Old Town is a charming and picturesque neighbourhood with colourful buildings, narrow streets, and plenty of restaurants and cafes.
- Proximity to the French Riviera – Nice is an ideal base for exploring the French Riviera, with easy access to other coastal towns like Antibes, Cannes, and Monaco.
- Great weather – Nice enjoys a warm Mediterranean climate with plenty of sunshine throughout the year.
- Affordable accommodation – Compared to Montpellier, Nice offers more affordable accommodation options, making it a great budget-friendly destination.
- Vibrant nightlife – Nice has a lively nightlife scene with plenty of bars, nightclubs, and live music venues to choose from.
- Crowded in peak season – During the summer months, Nice can get very crowded with tourists, making it difficult to find a quiet spot on the beach or in the Old Town.
- Limited public transportation – While Nice does have a tram system, it can be limited in terms of coverage and frequency.
- Hilly terrain – Nice is a hilly city, which can make it challenging for those with mobility issues.
- Lack of parking – Finding parking in Nice can be a challenge, particularly in the Old Town and other popular areas.
Best for: Nice is best for travellers looking for a beautiful beach destination with a mix of cultural attractions, nightlife, and affordable accommodation.
- Rich history and architecture – Montpellier boasts a stunning mix of Gothic and Renaissance architecture, including the Place de la Comédie and the Saint-Pierre Cathedral.
- Lively student scene – Montpellier is home to one of the largest universities in France, giving it a vibrant student culture with plenty of cafes, bars, and restaurants.
- Cultural attractions – Montpellier has a variety of museums and art galleries, including the Musée Fabre and the Musée Atger.
- Proximity to natural attractions – Montpellier is located near several natural attractions, including the beaches of the Mediterranean and the Cévennes National Park.
- Great weather – Montpellier enjoys a warm Mediterranean climate with plenty of sunshine throughout the year.
- Affordable public transportation – Montpellier offers a budget-friendly tram system that covers much of the city, making it easy to get around.
- Festivals and events – Montpellier hosts a variety of festivals and events throughout the year, including the Montpellier Dance Festival and the Montpellier International Guitar Festival.
- Less beach access – While Montpellier is located near the coast, it does not have as many beaches as Nice.
- Limited parking – Finding parking in Montpellier can be a challenge, particularly in the city centre.
- Crowded in peak season – Like Nice, Montpellier can get crowded in the summer months, making it difficult to find a quiet spot in popular areas.
- Less developed nightlife scene – While Montpellier has plenty of bars and restaurants, it may not offer the same nightlife scene as destinations like Nice.
Best for: Montpellier is best for travellers looking for a mix of history, culture, and natural attractions in a lively university town with affordable public transportation.
How long to stay in Nice
A trip to Nice needs to be at least three days. But you could easily spend a week or two here. There’s so much to do whether it be in Nice, or exploring the local area. Monaco and Cannes are a stone’s throw away. You could even get a ferry to Corsica for a few nights if you were feeling adventurous!
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 Nice and Montpellier?
Nice and Montpellier are known for their delicious cuisine and wine. Here are some estimated average prices for food and drink in both cities:
|Beer (0.5-liter draught)||€5-7||€4-6|
|Glass of wine||€4-6||€4-6|
|Cup of coffee||€2-4||€2-4|
|Meal (mid-range restaurant)||€30-50||€25-40|
How much is it to stay in Nice or Montpellier?
The cost of accommodation in Nice and Montpellier can vary depending on the location and the type of accommodation you choose. Here are some estimated average prices for accommodation.
|Accommodation Type||Nice (€/night)||Montpellier (€/night)|
|Luxury Hotel||200 – 400||150 – 300|
|Mid-range Hotel||100 – 200||80 – 150|
|Budget Hotel||60 – 100||40 – 80|
|Hostel Bed||25 – 45||20 – 35|
When is the best time to visit Nice?
Nice is a very popular tourist destination all year round. When to visit depends on personal preference. Here are a few things to consider before booking your trip:
Weather: Nice has a Mediterranean climate with mild winters and hot summers. Plan your trip between June and September if you want to make the most of the hot weather. Winters are mild compared to a lot of places, you’ll rarely see it freezing here. Spring is probably the best all-around time to visit.
Crowds: Nice can get extremely busy during the summer months so visit during the off-season if you can be irritated by crowded places.
Events: There are several world-famous events held very close to Nice every year, like the Cannes Film Festival in May and the Monaco Grand Prix. If you want to experience something a bit different the Nice Carnival is a spectacular event. There are huge parades day and night, with floats, dancers and all sorts of fun!
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 average monthly temperatures in both Celsius and Fahrenheit (in brackets) and average rainfall for Nice and Montpellier, based on historical data:
|Month||Nice (°C / °F)||Montpellier (°C / °F)||Nice Rainfall (mm)||Montpellier Rainfall (mm)|
|January||9 (48)||7 (45)||69||54|
|February||9 (48)||8 (46)||44||46|
|March||11 (52)||10 (50)||39||42|
|April||13 (55)||13 (55)||69||54|
|May||16 (61)||16 (61)||47||56|
|June||20 (68)||20 (68)||37||39|
|July||23 (73)||24 (75)||12||26|
|August||23 (73)||24 (75)||44||40|
|September||20 (68)||21 (70)||73||76|
|October||16 (61)||16 (61)||132||90|
|November||12 (54)||11 (52)||106||70|
|December||10 (50)||8 (46)||92||54|
Getting around Nice:
Nice has plenty of public transport options like buses, trams and trains. The trams and buses cover most of the city and are both reliable.
But, on a nice day, you’d be better off walking everywhere. Just make sure you take some comfortable shoes. There really isn’t a better way to see a city as beautiful as Nice other than on foot.
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 Nice
Promenade des Anglais: This beautiful promenade stretches for 7km along the Mediterranean coast and is probably the most famous attraction in the city. The views are spectacular, you could literally spend a full day just wandering around and enjoying the view.
Vieille Ville: There is plenty to see and do in Nice’s Old Town. Full of colourful buildings, cute streets and cafes. You could spend a full day just ambling around doing very little other than eating and drinking.
Musée Matisse: Devoted to the works of Henri Matisse, this museum is located in a beautiful 17th-century villa. The gardens are very impressive, its location on a hill also offers great views over the city. The art isn’t too bad either.
Castle Hill: A must-see when in Nice, Castle Hill offers panoramic views over Nice and the Mediterranean. You can walk to the top via the stairs. It’s a bit of a walk, so probably not a great idea with kids. There is also an elevator for those that don’t fancy the stairs.
Musée Marc Chagall: This museum houses the largest collection of works by the Russian-French artist Marc Chagall. Located in a beautiful garden, it also features works by other contemporary artists.
Place Masséna: This stunning central square is the perfect place to sit with a coffee or a cold glass of white wine and watch the world go by. The architecture is very impressive and looks especially good at night when it’s all lit up.
Jardin Albert 1er: The perfect place to relax and enjoy the sun, this beautiful park is located right in the heart of Nice next to the beach. Go in the evening and catch an amazing sunset, you won’t regret it!
Palais Lascaris: This beautiful 17th-century baroque palace is now a museum that showcases the history of Nice and its culture. It features stunning architecture and artwork.
Parc Phoenix: This stunning botanical garden holds over 2,500 plant species and a large lake. There are even different types of exotic animals like flamingos and alligators!
Cimiez Monastery: Located very close to the Musée Matisse, this monastery is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Make sure your phone is charged, you’ll want to take plenty of photos of its beautiful gardens and views over Nice.
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 Nice
Morning: Grab a coffee and a pastry from a nearby coffee shop and head to Promenade des Anglais. Find a bench to sit on and relax whilst the city wakes up. There’s something really special about the sea breeze in the morning. Either spend the morning on the beach or have a chilled walk along the seafront.
Afternoon: Head over to the Vielle Ville, Nice’s Old Town. Make sure you start off at Cours Saleya, this market has an abundance of local produce for sale like fruit, flowers and spices. There are many little street food stalls too which are great for lunch. Spend the rest of the afternoon wandering around Vielle Velle’s cute little streets.
Evening: Have a relaxing evening at Place Masséna. Get some good Niçoise food and a few drinks and watch the world go by.
Morning: Get an early start and head to the Musée Matisse. A great museum dedicated to Henri Matisse, perfect for art lovers. The views from the museum are beautiful. All of his work isn’t housed here so don’t be disappointed if you don’t see everything you wanted.
Afternoon: Visit the Cimiez Monastery, a stone’s throw from Musée Matisse. The interior of this monastery is incredible and the gardens are even better! Before you head back to the centre of Nice, have a nosy at the Ancien Hôtel Régina. This is a very famous hotel from the 19th century and was built to meet the requirements of Queen Victoria who loved to visit the Côte d’Azur.
Evening: Make your way to the seafront to ascend Castle Hill. You can go up via the stairs or the lift. Maybe take a little picnic and some wine. The views over Nice and the Mediterranean are amazing!
Morning: Begin your day with a visit to the Palais Lascaris. A 17th-century palace that’s been turned into a museum. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful museums in Nice. Its collection is mostly focused on musical instruments but its baroque interior will have you in awe.
Afternoon: Spend your afternoon at the Musée National Marc Chagall. Dedicated to the artist Marc Chagall, it’s got an expensive collection of his works. Most of the collection is focused on his religious works, there are also some of his stained glass windows that are very beautiful.
Evening: Finish your trip to Nice with a visit to the Nice Observatory. It’s a little outside of the city centre, so you’d be better off getting the bus. It’s a working observatory so you can’t just wander in. There are regular tours, but they are only in French. The sunset from here is amazing, there are a couple of restaurants nearby so you can get a nice dinner and watch the sun go down.
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.
Nice and Montpellier Ratings
Here’s a table with our ratings for Nice and Montpellier:
|Category||Nice Rating||Montpellier Rating|
|Food and drink||9||9|
|Culture & History||9||7|