Bordeaux or Montpellier – Which city should you visit?
If you’re planning a trip to France and find yourself weighing up Bordeaux or Montpellier as your potential destinations, then you’re in for a treat.
Choosing between Bordeaux and Montpellier may seem daunting, given the appeal each city holds. However, this guide is here to help, offering a detailed comparison of the two cities – from food, safety and affordability we’ll cover most bases. Whether you’re a history aficionado, a gastronomy enthusiast, a wine lover, or a beach aficionado, this guide will help you decide!
🏛 History Buffs: Whilst Montpellier’s 1000-year history is interesting, it’s no match to Bordeaux’s history which stretches back to 300 BC. Learning about the city’s varied history and how it became a global hub for wine makes it a must-visit for history buffs. Regardless if you like wine or not!
🏖 Beach Lovers: With Bordeaux being 55km from the beach it loses this one. Montpellier’s beaches are 7km away and are easily accessible by car, public transport or bike. You could even walk if you wanted.
🥐 Foodies: Bordeaux is a go-to destination for classically indulgent French cuisine paired with incredible wines. But, if you want a bit more culinary diversity and seafood, Montpellier should be your choice.
🌳 Nature Enthusiasts: Montpellier’s proximity to the Mediterranean coast and the Maison de la Nature make it a clear winner here.
🏢 Urban Explorers: Both cities have beautiful old towns and fantastic architecture, but if we had to choose we’d go for Bordeaux just because there’s more to do.
🛍 Shopping Enthusiasts: Bordeaux is an amazing destination for shopping, there’s a great mix of designer boutiques and chic clothing and interior design shops. Montpellier is good but no match for Bordeaux.
🍷 Wine Lovers: Montpellier may only be an hour away from the Languedoc-Roussillon wine region. But it’s no match for Bordeaux, a city that is synonymous with wine.
🎒 Backpackers: With its laid-back vibe, proximity to the sea and cheaper cost of living Montpellier may be the better choice for backpackers.
👵 Over 60’s: Bordeaux’s incredible architecture, wine culture and pretty old town make it a perfect destination for the over 60’s. Montpellier’s youthful vibe is great, but it may be a bit too much for those wanting somewhere quieter.
If history, architecture and wine are your top priorities then Bordeaux is the destination for you. But if you want a younger vibe, easy access to beaches and a more diverse city, Montpellier should make the list. It all depends on what you value most.
Still not sure? Keep on reading to learn more about these two cities.
Bordeaux, often referred to as the “Wine Capital of the World,” is a port city on the Garonne River in southwestern France. It’s known for its Gothic Cathédrale Saint-André, 18th- to 19th-century mansions, and public gardens lining the river’s curving banks. The city’s historic centre, with 347 listed monuments, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.
Bordeaux had a population of approximately 250,000 people, making it the sixth-largest city in France. The city is the hub of the famed wine-growing region and is home to the world’s leading wine fair, Vinexpo. With its pedestrian-friendly layout and vibrant food scene, Bordeaux offers an immersive cultural experience that caters to a wide range of travellers.
Don’t overlook Montpellier just because it isn’t as famous as Paris or as glitzy as Cannes. This city, near France’s Mediterranean coast, has its own charm. Montpellier is a lively place where lots of cultures come together. You can taste this in the delicious variety of food the city has to offer.
If you love history, Montpellier has lots to offer. The city has been around since the Middle Ages. Its old part of town, Ecusson, is full of tiny, winding streets and hidden squares, waiting for you to explore them. And, of course, you can’t miss the city’s own Arc de Triomphe.
But Montpellier is more than old buildings and good food. The city loves arts and culture, too. You can visit lots of museums, art centres and even catch a festival if you time your visit right. If you want a mix of history, food and a laid-back beach feel, Montpellier could be just the right place for you to visit.
While we’re comparing Bordeaux and Montpellier in this post, we’ve also looked at how Bordeaux stacks up against other cities like Toulouse, Cannes and Biarritz. We’ve linked to those articles below if you want to take a look!
Pros and Cons of Bordeaux and Montpellier
- 🍷 World-class Wine: Bordeaux is famous worldwide for its excellent wines. For wine lovers, visiting the city’s vineyards and joining wine-tasting tours is a dream come true.
- 🏛 Historic Beauty: The historic centre of Bordeaux is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s filled with stunning architecture and historical monuments.
- 🥐 Delicious Food: Bordeaux has a vibrant food scene. Markets, bakeries, and restaurants all over the city showcase the best of regional cuisine.
- ⛴ Scenic Riverfront: Bordeaux is on the banks of the beautiful Garonne River. It’s the perfect setting for a leisurely walk or bike ride.
- 💶 Can be Pricey: Compared to other French cities, living and visiting costs in Bordeaux can be higher, especially during the tourist season.
- 👫 Crowded: Especially during the summer and wine harvesting season, Bordeaux can get quite crowded.
- ⛪️ Rich History: Montpellier has been around since medieval times. The city’s old town, Ecusson, is full of tiny, winding streets and hidden squares.
- 🎨 Lively Arts Scene: Montpellier loves the arts. The city is home to many museums, art centres, and regularly hosts festivals.
- ☀️ Sunny Weather: Located near the Mediterranean, Montpellier enjoys warm and sunny weather most of the year.
- 🍤 Multicultural Food Scene: Thanks to its cultural diversity, Montpellier has a wide variety of food on offer.
- 🍺 Limited Nightlife: Compared to other French cities, Montpellier has fewer options for nightlife.
- 🧳 Less Known: Montpellier isn’t as famous as some other French cities. This means fewer tourists, but also fewer tourist-specific amenities.
Which City Has Better Food? Bordeaux or Montpellier?
In Bordeaux, food and wine are a match made in heaven. It’s a place where meals are rich, flavourful, and meticulously paired with some of the world’s best wines. Notable are the fresh oysters from the nearby Arcachon Bay, but you should also make room for the ‘Entrecôte à la Bordelaise,’ a steak cooked in wine and shallots. And don’t forget the ‘canelés’, small pastries with a soft custard centre and a dark, caramelized crust that are a delight to the taste buds.
On the flip side, Montpellier, tucked away on the southern coast of France, is a true joy for fans of Mediterranean cuisine. As a city close to the sea, fresh seafood is always on the menu. From oysters harvested from nearby Thau Lagoon to the traditional ‘Bourride,’ a fish stew with aioli, you’re in for a treat. The region also excels in fresh produce, and you’ll find ‘Petits Pâtés de Pézenas,’ a sweet lamb pie, a rather unique local dish.
So, it’s a bit of a toss-up. If you’re all about gourmet dishes and fine wines, Bordeaux might be your best bet. But if the fresh Mediterranean flavours and seafood make your mouth water, you’ll love Montpellier. But remember, part of the adventure is diving into the local food scene. So, no matter where you land, make sure to taste the local delights!
Which City is Better For Couples? Bordeaux or Montpellier?
Bordeaux: If you and your better half have a passion for fine wines, Bordeaux could be your romantic haven. Known for its first-rate vineyards and wineries, the city offers endless opportunities for wine tastings and winery tours. Bordeaux is not just about the wine, though.
The city is filled with beautiful architecture, and strolling along the Garonne riverfront as the sun sets is a scene straight out of a romantic movie. The Mirror d’Eau, right across from Place de la Bourse, reflects the city’s romantic allure. Plus, the city’s top-notch restaurants offer the perfect setting for a romantic meal.
Montpellier: For those couples who want a mix of city life and Mediterranean charm, Montpellier might be just the place. The city’s charming old district, ‘Écusson’, with its narrow, winding streets and secret courtyards, makes for a perfect romantic walk.
Plus, the city’s location near the coast means you can enjoy a romantic beach day or a sunset dinner by the sea. Montpellier’s diverse food scene, with a mix of traditional French and Mediterranean cuisine, offers a gastronomic adventure. And if you’re a nature-loving couple, the nearby Camargue National Park, with its unique flora and fauna, is a must-visit.
Both cities offer their unique romantic charm. Bordeaux might entice you with its wine, romantic architecture, and fine dining, while Montpellier might captivate you with its Mediterranean charm, gastronomic variety, and adventurous opportunities. It all boils down to what you and your partner are looking for in your romantic getaway.
Which City is Better For Families? Bordeaux or Montpellier?
Bordeaux is a city that beautifully marries its rich historical legacy with a plethora of family-friendly activities, making it a compelling choice for families. Kids are sure to love the Miroir d’eau, a massive water mirror where they can play and cool off in the summer.
The Cap Sciences museum is another highlight, with interactive displays designed to ignite young minds. And if your little ones are animal enthusiasts, a day trip to the Zoo de Bordeaux Pessac will be a hit. The city’s compact size and easy-to-navigate streets are a bonus when travelling with children.
Montpellier, too, is a great family destination with its unique blend of city attractions and natural beauty. The city boasts numerous parks like the Domaine de Méric, where kids can play and parents can enjoy a peaceful picnic.
Montpellier’s proximity to the Mediterranean Sea means that a day at the beach is always an option, with numerous family-friendly spots along the coast. The city’s historic quarter, known as ‘Écusson’, is not just visually pleasing but also educational for kids. The Montpellier Zoo, with its variety of animal species, offers an exciting day out for the whole family.
In essence, both cities are pretty family-friendly, each offering a range of experiences. Whether Bordeaux with its compact size and educational attractions appeals to you, or whether Montpellier’s blend of urban and beach activities draws you in, it will largely depend on what your family enjoys the most.
Which City is Better For Partying? Bordeaux or Montpellier?
Bordeaux buzzes with youthful energy, promising a diverse and engaging nightlife scene. You’ll find everything from traditional wine bars, modern cocktail lounges, to vibrant nightclubs, particularly in the dynamic Saint Pierre district. A crowd favourite, I.Boat, a club located on a boat, offers a unique setting for electronic music lovers.
Additionally, Bordeaux hosts various music and wine festivals throughout the year, enhancing its allure for those seeking a lively nighttime experience.
Montpellier also boasts a diverse nightlife scene, characterized by a mix of stylish cocktail bars, cosy pubs, and energetic nightclubs. The city is known for its lively student population, which contributes to an active nightlife, particularly in the neighbourhoods of Beaux-Arts and Figuerolles.
La Panacée, a contemporary art hub by day, transforms into a lively spot in the evening, serving cocktails and hosting DJ sets. Just like Bordeaux, Montpellier also hosts a variety of cultural events and music festivals throughout the year.
Both cities offer dynamic and varied nightlife scenes. Bordeaux may appeal more to wine aficionados and music enthusiasts, while Montpellier caters to a youthful crowd with its eclectic mix of nightlife venues.
Which City is Safer? Bordeaux or Montpellier?
Bordeaux: Known for being a safe city for tourists, Bordeaux has a comparatively low crime rate. While it’s true that pickpocketing or minor theft can occur, particularly in crowded tourist areas, these incidents are relatively rare. Regular safety measures such as staying vigilant of your surroundings, particularly at night, and safeguarding personal belongings should ensure a safe visit.
Montpellier: Montpellier is generally considered safe for tourists. Like in most urban cities, certain incidents such as pickpocketing and petty theft can occur, usually in bustling areas. Some parts of the city have a more lively nightlife, and extra care should be taken there, especially at night. As always, maintaining basic safety precautions like being aware of your surroundings and keeping your belongings secure can contribute to a trouble-free visit.
Comparatively, while both cities are generally safe for tourists, Bordeaux typically has a lower crime rate than Montpellier. Regardless of where you choose to travel, keeping in mind common-sense precautions can go a long way in ensuring a safe trip.
How long to stay in Bordeaux
Figuring out the ideal duration for your stay in Bordeaux can be tricky. As someone who’s been there, I can tell you that the city has enough to keep you occupied for days. However, the optimal length of your stay depends largely on what you want to do and see.
If you’re in Bordeaux primarily for the wine, you’ll want at least a few days. This will allow you to visit several châteaux, take part in wine tastings, and possibly engage in a wine-making workshop. Remember, the Bordeaux wine region is vast, and it’s worth taking the time to explore it thoroughly.
For those interested in the city’s rich history and culture, a two to three-day stay might be sufficient. This should give you enough time to visit major attractions like the Gothic Cathédrale Saint-André, the Musée d’Aquitaine, and the contemporary art installations at CAPC, not to mention leisurely strolls along the Garonne River and through the charming city streets.
However, if you’re like me and enjoy immersing yourself in the local culture, you might want to stay longer. A week in Bordeaux would give you ample time to visit the city’s attractions, dine in its best restaurants, explore the surrounding vineyards, and simply soak up the atmosphere.
How long to stay in Montpellier
Choosing the right amount of time to spend in Montpellier might seem challenging, considering the city’s vibrant culture, historic gems, and pleasant Mediterranean climate. The length of your stay really depends on your personal interests and the pace at which you want to explore.
If your aim is to get a taste of the city’s lively atmosphere, wander through the picturesque old town, and sample local cuisine, a visit of 2 to 3 days should be sufficient. This allows you enough time to explore the charming pedestrian-only streets of the Ecusson, enjoy a coffee at the Place de la Comédie, and relish local delicacies at a traditional restaurant.
However, if you’re interested in delving deeper into Montpellier’s rich history and culture, a 4 to 5 day visit would be more suitable. This gives you ample time to explore historic sites like the Cathedral Saint Pierre, check out art collections at the Fabre Museum, and visit the stunning botanical garden without feeling rushed.
But, if you’re looking for a more immersive experience, a week in Montpellier would be a fantastic choice. This duration would not only let you thoroughly explore city attractions but also allow time for relaxing at nearby Mediterranean beaches, taking day trips to fascinating spots like the medieval town of Aigues-Mortes or the impressive Roman aqueduct, Pont du Gard, and truly absorbing the vibrant, student-friendly vibe of Montpellier.
Which City is More Budget Friendly? Bordeaux or Montpellier?
Bordeaux recognized worldwide as the wine capital, is celebrated for its elegance, historical landmarks, and its distinguished vineyards. As you’d expect from a city with such a reputation, the cost of living and visiting Bordeaux can be quite high, reflecting the excellent quality of goods and services it offers, particularly in the realms of gastronomy and wine.
In contrast, Montpellier, a dynamic university city located in Southern France, is renowned for its stunning medieval heart, sun-drenched squares, and cultural vibrancy. When it comes to expenses, Montpellier is generally considered more affordable in comparison to other prominent French cities. The costs for dining, accommodations, and general living expenses are pretty reasonable, especially if you’re open to discovering local markets and areas less frequented by tourists.
Although both cities provide a range of options for varying budgets, Montpellier usually comes across as more budget-friendly. The expenses for accommodation, meals, and everyday activities often turn out to be lower in Montpellier than in Bordeaux.
How much is food and drink in Bordeaux and Montpellier?
|Bordeaux Price Range (€)
|Montpellier Price Range (€)
|€5 – €7
|€5 – €7
|Glass of wine
|€3 – €10
|€4 – €9
|€1.50 – €3
|€2 – €4
|€15 – €30
|€20 – €40
How much is it to stay in Bordeaux or Montpellier?
|Bordeaux Price Range (€ per night)
|Montpellier Price Range (€ per night)
|€200 – €500 or higher
|€200 – €600 or higher
|€80 – €150
|€80 – €150
|€40 – €70
|€50 – €80
|€20 – €40
|€20 – €40
When is the best time to visit Bordeaux?
Choosing the perfect time to visit Bordeaux can be as important as deciding what to see and do. The city has a temperate oceanic climate, which means it can be visited at any time of the year, but some seasons offer unique experiences.
🌼 Spring (March to May) in Bordeaux is a beautiful time, with moderate temperatures and the vineyards coming alive with new growth. This is a great time to visit if you’re interested in wine, as many châteaux begin to offer tours and tastings for the new season.
☀️ Summers (June to August) in Bordeaux are warm and sunny, perfect for exploring the city’s historical sites or enjoying a cruise on the Garonne River. This is also the time for numerous festivals such as the Bordeaux Wine Festival and the River Festival, offering an extra layer of entertainment for visitors.
🍁 Autumn (September to November) is grape harvest time, a significant event in any wine region. This season allows visitors to experience the winemaking process firsthand. The weather during this period remains pleasant, and the changing colours of the vine leaves add an extra charm to the city’s surroundings.
❄️ Winter (December to February) in Bordeaux is relatively mild, with fewer tourists around. While not the peak season for outdoor activities, it’s the perfect time to explore the city’s museums, enjoy its culinary delights, and perhaps get a chance to attend the Bordeaux Christmas Market.
Weather: The weather in Bordeaux is usually pleasant, with mild temperatures year-round. Summers can get a bit sticky, but winters are mild and rainy. For the best weather, plan your visit during the shoulder season of April to June or September to October.
When is the best time to visit Montpellier?
🌼 Spring: Between April and June, Montpellier is quite pleasant with average temperatures ranging from 15-25°C (59-77°F). The city starts to come alive with various outdoor events, and the landscapes are beautifully lush, making it an ideal time for sightseeing and enjoying the local parks.
☀️ Summer: From July to August, temperatures can soar up to 30°C (86°F), making it perfect for beach visits as Montpellier is just a short distance from the Mediterranean Sea. Be aware, though, that it’s also peak tourist season, so the city can get crowded, and prices might be higher.
🍁 Autumn: September to October offers comfortable temperatures around 20-25°C (68-77°F). The city is less crowded during these months, and it’s a great time to explore the historical sites and enjoy local outdoor cafes.
❄️ Winter: November to March can be quite mild with temperatures around 10-15°C (50-59°F), though it can occasionally drop lower. While it’s not the best time for outdoor activities, it’s a good time to explore Montpellier’s museums and indoor attractions.
Average Monthly Temperatures
|Bordeaux High / Low (°C)
|Montpellier High / Low (°C)
|10° / 3°
|11° / 2°
|12° / 3°
|12° / 3°
|15° / 5°
|15° / 5°
|17° / 7°
|18° / 8°
|21° / 11°
|21° / 12°
|24° / 14°
|26° / 15°
|27° / 15°
|29° / 18°
|27° / 15°
|28° / 18°
|24° / 13°
|25° / 14°
|19° / 10°
|20° / 11°
|14° / 6°
|15° / 6°
|11° / 3°
|12° / 3°
Please note that the data includes the average high and low temperatures in Celsius (°C) and the number of rainfall days per month for Bordeaux and Montpellier.
Getting around Bordeaux:
The city’s public transportation system consists of trams, buses, and a bike-sharing service. The trams are well-connected and cover most of the city’s major attractions. The tickets allow you to use any form of public transport for a certain period of time, (usually an hour). So if you needed to get one bus and a tram to get somewhere you’d only need one ticket if the journey was less than an hour.
Bike sharing is a good option for people who want to be a bit more active. Bordeaux has a lot of small windy streets so we spent most of the time walking, which I feel is the best way to see a city. Taxis and Ubers are readily available but you might struggle to get one right in the heart of the old town where a lot of it is pedestrianised.
Getting around Montpellier:
Montpellier is easy to navigate with its tram and bus network. A single ticket allows an hour’s travel across both systems. The city centre is very walkable, and bike-sharing via Vélomagg’ is another popular option. Taxis and Uber are also available.
Top things to do in Bordeaux
- Place de la Bourse: One of the city’s most iconic sights, Place de la Bourse is a must-see. Be sure to check out the ‘Miroir d’Eau’, the world’s largest reflecting pool, located directly across from the square.
- La Cité du Vin: A modern museum dedicated to the world of wine, La Cité du Vin is a unique experience. Learn about the wine production process and enjoy tastings with an amazing view of the city.
- Saint-André Cathedral: This impressive Gothic cathedral offers a stunning view over Bordeaux from its bell tower, Tour Pey-Berland.
- Rue Sainte-Catherine: As one of the longest pedestrian streets in Europe, Rue Sainte-Catherine is perfect for shopping enthusiasts. It’s lined with a variety of shops and restaurants, offering a real taste of Bordeaux’s vibrant culture.
- Bordeaux Riverfront: Take a stroll along the picturesque Garonne River, which offers lovely views of Bordeaux’s historic facades. Consider a river cruise to truly appreciate the city’s beauty.
Top things to do in Montpellier
- Place de la Comédie: Often referred to as the heart of Montpellier, this bustling square is surrounded by cafes and restaurants. Here, you can absorb the vibrant city atmosphere and admire the iconic Three Graces fountain in the centre.
- Musée Fabre: A short walk from the Place de la Comédie will lead you to this prominent art museum. It boasts an impressive collection of European art, spanning from the Renaissance to contemporary pieces.
- Montpellier Zoological Park: This extensive zoological park is a paradise for animal lovers, with a wide variety of species and a unique Amazon greenhouse that replicates the Amazon Rainforest’s ecosystem.
- Jardin des Plantes: Established in 1593, this is the oldest botanical garden in France. Take a leisurely stroll through the lush gardens, filled with an array of plant species.
- Antigone District: Just east of the city centre, this district is a testament to Montpellier’s modern architectural achievements. Inspired by Greek and Roman designs, it creates a unique and visually striking urban landscape.
How to spend three days in Bordeaux
Day 1: Discover the City Centre
Start your Bordeaux adventure in the city centre. Begin at the Place de la Bourse and marvel at its grandeur. Don’t forget to take a memorable picture at the Miroir d’Eau. Continue to Rue Sainte-Catherine for a spot of shopping and lunch. In the afternoon, explore the Gothic Saint-André Cathedral and climb the Tour Pey-Berland for panoramic city views. End your day with a delicious dinner at a restaurant in the historic Saint-Pierre district.
Day 2: Dive into Wine and Culture
Begin your second day at La Cité du Vin. Immerse yourself in the world of wine and enjoy a tasting with a view. After lunch, head to the Musée d’Aquitaine to learn about Bordeaux’s history from prehistoric times to the present. Spend the rest of the afternoon at the CAPC, Bordeaux’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Finish the day with a relaxing dinner at the Chartrons district, known for its wine trading history and trendy eateries.
Day 3: Explore the Outskirts
On your last day, consider exploring beyond the city. Take a half-day tour to the Saint-Émilion wine region, where you can visit vineyards, enjoy tastings, and discover the charming namesake village. Back in Bordeaux, spend the rest of your afternoon strolling along the Garonne River, or explore the Public Garden for a leisurely end to your trip.
How to spend three days in Montpellier
Day 1: Exploring the Heart of Montpellier
Begin your Montpellier adventure at Place de la Comédie, the city’s bustling central square. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast at one of the local cafes and soak in the vibrant atmosphere. Next, explore the surrounding historic district, Ecusson, with its narrow, winding streets, charming squares, and elegant mansions. Post lunch, visit the Montpellier Cathedral and the Musee Fabre, a leading fine arts museum in the region. Finish your day with a delicious dinner at one of the many excellent restaurants in the city centre.
Day 2: Diving into Science and History
Kick off the second day at the Odysseum, a large shopping and leisure centre. Here, you can visit the Planetarium Galilee for a fascinating journey through the cosmos. Later, explore the Château de Flaugergues, a historic castle with beautiful gardens, followed by a wine-tasting tour. In the evening, enjoy a walk along the banks of the Lez River, followed by a dinner featuring local Languedoc cuisine.
Day 3: Enjoying Nature and Leisure
Devote your last day to the outdoors. Start with a visit to the Montpellier Zoological Park, home to a wide variety of species. After a picnic lunch in the park, head to the Lunaret botanical garden, the oldest botanical garden in France. Later, you could explore the nearby seaside towns like Palavas-les-Flots or La Grande-Motte, offering beautiful Mediterranean beaches. End your trip with a farewell dinner in Montpellier, reminiscing over your favourite moments.
Gareth is an avid city adventurer with a particular passion for finding amazing food! There’s quite literally nothing he doesn’t like. He spends most of his travelling time trying to find great restaurants and cafes to eat at. Alongside trying local street food which he loves! He’s done most of his travelling in Europe so far but would love to visit Japan and Mexico
When not travelling you can find Gareth boxing, running, or in the gym. He’s got a passion for exercise and loves physical challenges.
You can contact him at email@example.com