750km (466 miles) SW of Paris; 170km (105 miles) NW of Marseille; 56km (34 miles) SW of Nîmes

Montpellier is one of France’s most exciting cities with architecture that mixes old and new and a university that has brought a dynamic edge to Montpellier life. Its renowned medical school was founded in the 13th century. Nostradamus qualified as a doctor here, and Rabelais studied at the school. A medieval, not a Roman city, its oldest buildings date back to the 15th century. Today Montpellier is a bustling metropolis with a population of 277,000, one of southern France’s fastest-growing cities.

Cars are banned from the center which is the largest pedestrianized area in France; the excellent public transport system is great for getting around outside this area. The city has a handsome core, with tree-flanked promenades, broad avenues, and historic monuments.