Visit the Ecusson: Montpellier's historic centre

It's impossible to visit Montpellier without passing through the city centre. Also known as l'Ecusson, this historic part of the city owes its name to its shield shape, and is the nerve centre where travellers love to lose themselves in the pedestrianised streets. At the bend in some of these streets, you'll quickly come across small shady squares where you'll find cafés, restaurants and shops. But the centre also offers many other surprises. It also leads to parks and huge squares where you can admire the architecture of the Haussmann buildings and enjoy the street shows.

Montpellier's historic centre

- © trabantos/Shutterstock
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History of the Ecusson district

The history of this historic district dates back to the 13th century. At that time, a wall surrounded the town built on a hill. As the town grew, it expanded. It was at this time that a nerve centre was created with the Ecusson district, which owes its name to its French shield shape. Several avenues ran through the district to link the city of Montpellier to the others. These major thoroughfares were inspired by the Parisian model created by Baron Haussmann. They include an Arc de Triomphe and Haussmann-style buildings with typical balconies.

What to do in the L'Ecusson district?

Discover mythical monuments and squares

The Ecusson district stretches over several streets and squares and is home to a number of impressive monuments. One of these is rue Foch. It's sure to remind you of a famous Parisian avenue, with its luxury boutiques, Haussmann-style buildings and... its Arc de Triomphe, from the top of which you can admire a panoramic view of the city! A little Paris that will amaze young and old alike.

The Arch of Triumph in Montpellier

- © JeniFoto/Shutterstock

A few streets further on, the setting is less posh but just as charming. Head for Place Saint-Roch to admire the eponymous 19th-century church. In summer, locals and tourists alike sit on the steps of the church to enjoy the bucolic atmosphere of this tree-lined square, which is also home to cafés, restaurants and a fountain.

As well as the famous Place de la Comédie, the Écusson is also home to the Place aux Fleurs, with its fountain and cafés, and the Place Saint-Côme and its anatomical amphitheatre, created in the 18th century for surgical students. Finally, don't miss the Place de la Canourgue, with its majestic Unicorns fountain and tree-lined garden.

Place de la Canourgue, Montpellier

- © Mike_O/Shutterstock

Shopping

When it comes to shopping, there's no shortage of boutiques. Each street has its own type of shop, from big names to second-hand stores and concept stores, so there's no doubt that you'll come away with a great find.

Rue de la Loge, for example, offers a range of big-name shops such as Petit Bateau, Armand Thiery, Minelli and SFR for telephony and Swarovski for jewellery. Between two shops, you can also enjoy cafés and famous ice-cream parlours such as Häagen-Dazs.

For a stroll in search of small niche boutiques selling new designer brands, costume jewellery or decorative items, head for rue de l'Ancien Courrier or rue Jacques Coeur.

If you're more interested in concept stores selling distinctive objects, the Place Saint-Roch is the place to go. You'll also find niche boutiques such as the perfumery Héloïse et Abélard, offering a selection of rare fragrances and organic cosmetics.

Finally, for a bohemian atmosphere, head for rue Saint-Guilhem, where you'll find coffee shops, delicatessens and florists, as well as bulk sales, music and photography shops.

Enjoy the festive atmosphere in the evening

Montpellier's party-goers won't be disappointed. For a more relaxed atmosphere with friends, sipping a glass of wine with a platter of charcuterie or tapas, the Place Saint-Roch is the place to go (this place certainly has a lot going for it!). If you're a fan of terrace dining, you'll find plenty around Place de la Comédie and Place Jean-Jaurès.

If you want to dance the night away, head for the Rockstore, on rue de Verdun, a venue renowned for its concerts and DJ sets featuring every musical genre, or the Antirouille, on rue Anatole France, a festive pub where you can dance to the sounds of electro, funk and disco, either live or in DJ sets.

The lively Place Jean Jaurès in Montpellier

- © trabantos/Shutterstock

Where to eat in the Ecusson district?

🍴 Le Petit Jardin

Among the not-to-be-missed restaurants in the Ecusson district is Le Petit Jardin, with its bucolic atmosphere, large shady terrace and cuisine that takes you on a journey to the 4 corners of the world.

🍴 Le Jardin des Sens

If you want to experience the flavours of a Michelin-starred restaurant, you have to go to Le Jardin des Sens. This gastronomic restaurant has been awarded a star by the Michelin guide for its inventive cuisine, which gives pride of place to the Occitanie region and the flavours of the Mediterranean. A 10 or 15-course tapas-style menu awaits the hungriest diners, so go hungry!

Our favourite hotel in the Ecusson district

Grand Hôtel du Midi Montpellier Montpellier
Booking.com

Grand Hôtel du Midi Montpellier

The Grand Hôtel du Midi is located right in the heart of the Place de la Comédie. The hotel's Hausmanian architecture is impressive in terms of the decoration and comfort of its rooms.
8.1 Very good
From
£160 / night
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by Jude JONES
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