Lyon or Montpellier – Which City Will You Visit?

Lyon or Montpellier

Lyon or Montpellier – Which city should you visit?

Planning your next French adventure and torn between Lyon or Montpellier? This blog will unpick every factor you’ll be looking at when deciding. From food and party life to affordability we’ll cover everything you need to know to decide.


Lyon might not have the worldwide fame of Paris or the glamorous beaches of the Riviera, but boy, does it have charm! Set between two rivers, Lyon is like a treasure chest for history buffs. It’s crammed full of Renaissance-era architecture, with the old town, Vieux Lyon, being a UNESCO World Heritage site. But that’s just scratching the surface. Lyon’s also known as France’s ‘culinary capital’, and once you’ve tried a local ‘bouchon’ restaurant, you’ll see why. The city is also famed for its vibrant cultural scene, with a host of museums, theatres, and festivals that keep the city lively throughout the year. If you love good food, rich history, and a city that pulses with life, Lyon’s got you covered.


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 Lyon and Montpellier in this post, we’ve also looked at how Lyon stacks up against other cities like Toulouse and Marseille. We’ve linked to those articles below if you want to take a look!

Lyon or Toulouse

Lyon or Biarritz

Pros and Cons of Lyon and Montpellier

Lyon pros:

  • 🥐 Gastronomic Delight: Lyon, often referred to as the gastronomic capital of France, offers a culinary experience like no other. From traditional Lyonnais dishes to Michelin-starred restaurants, food lovers will be in heaven.
  • 🏛 Rich Cultural Heritage: Lyon is a city steeped in history and culture, boasting stunning architectural gems, such as the Renaissance Old Town and the ancient Roman amphitheatre. History buffs will find plenty to explore and admire.
  • 🎨 Vibrant Arts Scene: Lyon is renowned for its thriving arts scene, with numerous museums, galleries, and cultural events. From contemporary art exhibitions to world-class performances, the city offers a rich tapestry of artistic experiences.
  • ⛰ Gateway to Beautiful Landscapes: Lyon is nestled in the picturesque Rhône-Alpes region, providing easy access to breathtaking landscapes, including the majestic French Alps and the charming vineyards of Beaujolais. Outdoor enthusiasts can indulge in hiking, skiing, and wine-tasting adventures.

Lyon cons:

  • 👫 Crowded Tourist Areas: As a popular tourist destination, Lyon can get quite crowded, particularly in peak seasons. Some attractions and areas may be bustling with visitors, which might affect the overall experience for those seeking a quieter retreat.
  • 💶 Higher Cost of Living: Lyon’s reputation as a culinary and cultural hub also means that prices for dining, accommodation, and entertainment can be higher compared to other cities in France. Budget-conscious travellers may need to plan accordingly.

Montpellier pros:

  • 🏖 Mediterranean Charm: Montpellier, located along the sparkling Mediterranean coast, offers a vibrant blend of history, culture, and beachside relaxation. The city’s laid-back atmosphere and beautiful sandy beaches create the perfect setting for a sunny getaway.
  • 🍸 Youthful Energy: With its large student population, Montpellier exudes youthful and lively energy. The city is known for its vibrant nightlife, bustling squares, and a wide array of bars and clubs, ensuring plenty of fun-filled evenings.
  • 🏛 Architectural Marvels: Montpellier showcases an impressive mix of architectural styles, from medieval streets to elegant mansions and modernist structures. The city’s historical centre, Place de la Comédie, and the stunning Antigone neighbourhood are must-see attractions for architecture enthusiasts.
  • 🍷 Proximity to Natural Beauty: Montpellier is surrounded by stunning natural landscapes, including the Camargue wetlands and the picturesque Languedoc vineyards. Outdoor lovers can explore nature reserves, go birdwatching, or indulge in wine-tasting tours.

Montpellier cons:

  • 🏛 Limited Historical Sites: While Montpellier has its fair share of architectural gems, the city’s historical sites may not be as abundant as in Lyon. History enthusiasts seeking a deep dive into the past might find fewer options compared to other French cities.
  • ☀️ Hot Summers: Montpellier’s Mediterranean climate brings hot summers, with temperatures sometimes reaching high levels. Travellers who prefer milder or cooler weather might want to plan their visit accordingly or seek shade during the peak summer months.

Which City Has Better Food? Lyon or Montpellier?

Lyon, known as the food capital of France, takes pride in its world-renowned culinary scene. The city is a paradise for foodies, offering incredible dishes that you’ll be reminiscing about for years. From traditional Lyonnais bouchons serving hearty meat-based dishes to elegant Michelin-starred restaurants pushing the boundaries of gastronomy, Lyon will not disappoint. Don’t forget to try the local specialities like saucisson, quenelles, and the famous Lyonnais salad. Lyon truly is a food lover’s haven.

Montpellier, on the other hand, offers its own delightful gastronomic landscape. The city boasts a vibrant culinary scene with a focus on fresh Mediterranean flavours. Here, you can savour a variety of seafood dishes, aromatic herbs, and locally sourced ingredients. Montpellier’s lively food markets, such as Les Halles Castellane, are a paradise for food enthusiasts looking to indulge in fresh produce and regional delicacies. Make sure to try the local seafood platters, fresh oysters, and the famous La Tielle sétoise, a savoury pie filled with octopus, it’s not to be missed!

Whether you choose Lyon or Montpellier, you’re in for a treat. Lyon’s rich culinary heritage and diverse dining options cater to those seeking traditional French gastronomy, while Montpellier offers a taste of the Mediterranean with its fresh seafood and vibrant local flavours. The question is, which city will your stomach take you to?

Which City is Better For Couples? Lyon or Montpellier?

Lyon, with its charming Old Town and scenic riverfront, sets the stage for a romantic escape. The city’s beautiful parks like Parc de la Tête d’Or, provide the perfect backdrop for relaxing walks on a sunny day, and maybe even a picnic overlooking the river. The abundance of incredible restaurants here offers plenty of opportunities for romantic meals with a nice glass of local wine. And, that’s without even mentioning Vieux Lyon, Lyon’s picturesque old town. Wandering around its beautiful Renaissance buildings and exploring all the little shops and cafes is really something special.

Lyon Old Town

Montpellier, with its warm Mediterranean climate, makes a great destination for a romantic weekend away. Wander through the city’s picturesque squares and alleys, taking in the vibrant atmosphere and lively street performances. The city’s lively cultural scene offers a range of experiences, from art exhibitions to live music concerts, perfect for enjoying quality time together.

Both Lyon and Montpellier offer the blend of history, culture, and romantic ambience that makes a great romantic getaway. Lyon’s rich heritage and intimate dining experiences create a classic romantic setting, while Montpellier’s Mediterranean vibes and slow pace make for a relaxing, romantic break. So, whether you choose Lyon or Montpellier, prepare to create lasting memories and enjoy a romantic escape with your partner.

Which City is Better For Families? Lyon or Montpellier?

Lyon has plenty to offer for the whole family. Kids love exploring Lyon’s traboules, these secret back passages connect different parts of the city, there are over 400 but only 40 are open to the public. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to visit Mini World Lyon, the largest animated miniature park in France. And the Musée des Confluences, which offers an educational but fascinating experience for kids and adults. Lyon’s Parc de la Tête d’Or, with its zoo, boating lake and miniature railway is the perfect place to spend a nice day,

Montpellier, with its warm atmosphere, offers a range of family-friendly attractions. Spend a day at the Aquarium Mare Nostrum, where you and the kids can marvel at marine life from around the world. If you fancy a day at the beach
Carnon and Palavas-les-Flots, are perfect for building sandcastles and are only a thirty-minute drive away. A day at Montpellier’s zoo is also a great option for the little ones who love animals.

Palavas les Flots Montpellier

Both Lyon and Montpellier have something to offer families. Lyon’s historical sites and cultural experiences provide educational opportunities, while Montpellier’s vibrant atmosphere and coastal charm offer a mix of relaxation and fun.

Which City is Better For Partying? Lyon or Montpellier?

Lyon is a great place for a night out! Whether you’re into cosy speakeasy bars, energetic nightclubs, or live music performances, Lyon has it all. The city’s vibrant neighbourhood of La Croix-Rousse is a hotspot for cool bars and creative cocktails, while the Presqu’île area offers a bustling nightlife scene with a mix of venues catering to different tastes. Make sure you try out the famous Lyon Pub Crawl, although maybe not on your last night. There’s nothing worse than flying home hungover!

Montpellier, with its youthful energy and lively atmosphere, is another fantastic city for partying. The city boasts an array of bars, clubs, and rooftop venues that come alive after dark. Place Jean Jaurès and Place de la Comédie are popular spots where locals and tourists gather to enjoy drinks and soak in the vibrant ambience. Montpellier’s renowned music festivals, such as Les Nuits d’O and the Internationales de la Guitare, provide opportunities to dance the night away to live performances by both local and international artists.

Whether you choose Lyon or Montpellier, you won’t be disappointed. Lyon’s diverse bar scene and energetic nightlife will keep the party going all night long, while Montpellier’s youthful vibe and lively squares create a vibrant atmosphere.

Which City is Safer? Lyon or Montpellier?

Lyon, as a larger city, has its fair share of typical urban safety considerations. Lyon’s well-lit streets, especially in popular areas like the Presqu’île and Vieux Lyon, create a safe environment for walking around at night.

Montpellier, with its lively atmosphere and bustling squares, is also generally safe for travellers. The city benefits from a visible police presence and well-maintained public spaces. Popular areas like Place de la Comédie and the historic centre are well-patrolled and provide a sense of security.

Overall, both Lyon and Montpellier prioritize the safety of their residents and visitors. By staying aware of your surroundings, following common-sense safety practices, and trusting your instincts, you can enjoy a safe and enjoyable visit to either city.

How long to stay in Lyon

Deciding how long to stay in Lyon truly depends on your personal interests and the pace at which you prefer to travel. Known as the gastronomical capital of France, with its rich history and vibrant cultural scene, Lyon offers a wide variety of experiences for every type of traveller.

If you’re mainly keen to absorb the unique vibe of the city, enjoy its amazing food, and stroll through its historical streets, a weekend getaway of 2-3 days might be sufficient. This gives you time to explore Vieux Lyon (Old Town), visit a traditional “bouchon” for some authentic Lyonnaise cuisine, and perhaps enjoy a relaxing evening walk along the Rhône River.

However, if you have a passion for art, history, or culture, I’d recommend staying in Lyon for around 4-5 days. This allows enough time to discover the city’s key cultural landmarks, including the Musée des Confluences, the Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon, and the stunning Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, without feeling rushed.

For those who prefer a more leisurely pace or wish to delve deeper into what Lyon and its surroundings have to offer, consider a week-long stay. This provides ample opportunity to fully appreciate the city’s charm, take day trips to the nearby vineyards or beautiful towns in the region like Annecy or Perouges, and truly immerse yourself in the Lyonnaise lifestyle.

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? Lyon or Montpellier?

Lyon, being a larger city tends to have a slightly higher cost of living compared to Montpellier. Lyon is renowned for its high-end dining scene, which comes with a price. But there are also plenty of affordable places to be found if you look. From cosy local eateries to affordable street food, you can savour the flavours of Lyon without breaking the bank. Accommodation can be pricey too but you can find budget-friendly accommodations in the city, ranging from hostels to budget hotels, especially if you venture a bit away from the city centre.

Montpellier offers a slightly more budget-friendly experience compared to Lyon. The city has a youthful energy, with a variety of affordable accommodations available, including budget hotels, guesthouses, and hostels. Montpellier’s vibrant street markets, such as Marché du Lez and Marché des Arceaux, offer an opportunity to shop for fresh produce and local products at reasonable prices.

Whether you choose Lyon or Montpellier, both cities offer budget-friendly experiences for travellers. Lyon’s cultural and culinary scene can be enjoyed on a budget with some planning, while Montpellier’s youthful vibe and affordable accommodations make it an attractive choice for budget-conscious travellers.

How much is food and drink in Lyon and Montpellier?

Lyon Montpellier
Beer €5 – €8 €5 – €7
Glass of wine €4 – €10 €3 – €9
Coffee €2- €4 €1.50 – €3
Meal at midrange restaurant €20 – €40 €20 – €40

Please note that these prices are estimates and may vary depending on the specific establishment and other factors.

How much is it to stay in Lyon or Montpellier?

Lyon Montpellier
Luxury hotel €200 – €600+ €150 – €500+
Midrange hotel €80 – €150 €70 – €150
Budget hotel €50 – €80 €40 – €70
Hostel €20 – €40 €20 – €40

Please note that these prices are estimates and may vary depending on the specific hotel, location, and seasonal factors. Additionally, prices for accommodations can fluctuate based on demand and availability.

When is the best time to visit Lyon?

In Lyon, springtime (March to May) marks the city’s awakening post-winter. The temperatures are pleasant, and the city’s parks and gardens come alive with blooming flowers. If you appreciate outdoor activities and want to avoid the summer rush, this is an ideal time to visit.

Summers (June to August) in Lyon are warm and energetic, making it an excellent time for exploring the city’s historical old town and lively food markets. The city comes alive with numerous festivals, such as the Fête de la Musique, a nationwide music festival celebrating the summer solstice.

Autumn (September to November) in Lyon brings mild weather and a change of colours, painting the city in vibrant hues. The falling leaves in the city parks offer a delightful visual treat, creating an ideal environment for photography enthusiasts.

Winter (December to February) in Lyon can be quite chilly, but it’s also when the city exudes a festive charm. The Festival of Lights (Fête des Lumières), one of Lyon’s most renowned events, transforms the city into a mesmerizing display of light, offering a unique experience despite the cold weather.

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

Month Lyon (High/Low °C) Lyon Rainy Days Montpellier (High/Low °C) Montpellier Rainy Days
January 6° / 0° 9 days 11° / 2° 5 days
February 8° / 1° 8 days 12° / 3° 4 days
March 13° / 4° 9 days 15° / 5° 4 days
April 16° / 6° 8 days 18° / 8° 5 days
May 20° / 10° 10 days 21° / 12° 4 days
June 24° / 14° 8 days 26° / 15° 3 days
July 27° / 16° 6 days 29° / 18° 2 days
August 27° / 15° 7 days 28° / 18° 2 days
September 22° / 12° 7 days 25° / 14° 3 days
October 17° / 9° 9 days 20° / 11° 5 days
November 11° / 4° 8 days 15° / 6° 5 days
December 7° / 1° 9 days 12° / 3° 4 days

Please note that the values represent the average high and low temperatures for each month, followed by the average number of rainy days.

Getting around Lyon:

Lyon has a great public transport system. With buses, trams and a metro system it’s very easy to get around the city. If you’re planning on making the most of the public transport here, make sure you get a City Card they’re great for saving money. Walking is always a good option, it is a big city but it doesn’t take hours to walk between attractions like Paris can do.

Taxis are readily available but not particularly cheap.

Getting around Montpellier:

Getting around Montpellier is a breeze thanks to its efficient and well-connected public transportation system.

The city’s tram network covers most of the city and is very easy to use. It’s probably the best way to travel around the city cheaply and easily. The trams are even a sight to see themselves, each line designed by a different artist which gives it all a sense of fun!

On top of the trams, Montpellier also boasts numerous bus lines that can take you to places the trams don’t reach. If you prefer to take control of your own travel, the city has several bike rental services, thanks to its flat layout and plentiful bike lanes. The city centre is primarily pedestrianized, making it easy and delightful to explore on foot. Plus, it’s hard to beat a leisurely stroll through Montpellier’s historic streets!

Don’t forget about the Montpellier Méditerranée Airport, located just on the outskirts of the city, if you’re looking to explore further afield. There are plenty of car rental services available here too. So whether you’re sticking to the city or venturing out, getting around in Montpellier is easy, efficient, and convenient.

Top things to do in Lyon

Visit Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière: Perched on the top of Fourvière Hill, this magnificent basilica offers breathtaking panoramic views over Lyon. Whether you’re a history buff, architecture enthusiast, or just looking for a great view, this is a must-visit.

Basilica of Notre Dame of Fourvière

Stroll Through Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon): This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the largest Renaissance neighbourhoods in Europe. Its narrow, cobbled streets, charming courtyards, and historic “traboules” (hidden passageways) are super cool!

Explore Parc de la Tête d’Or: This expansive urban park is perfect for a leisurely day out. It houses a zoo, botanical gardens, and a beautiful large lake. Whether you want to picnic, boat, or just relax, this park has something for everyone.

Discover Lyon’s Culinary Scene: Lyon is often referred to as the gastronomic capital of France. Try local specialities at a traditional “bouchon,” visit a local market like Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, or take a cooking class.

Visit the Musée des Confluences: This science and anthropology museum is renowned for its modern architecture. It’s located at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers, thus the name. The exhibitions are as impressive as the building itself.

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.

Place de la Comedie Montpellier

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 Lyon

Day 1: Introduction to Lyon and Its Historical Centre

Start your Lyon journey by wandering the streets of Vieux Lyon, the city’s old quarter. Appreciate the charm of Renaissance architecture, visit the majestic Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste, and perhaps engage in a little retail therapy at some chic boutiques. After lunch, make your way over to the Place Bellecour, one of the largest open squares in Europe, where you can admire the statue of Louis XIV and the stunning surrounding buildings. Finish off your day with a delightful meal at one of the local ‘bouchon’ restaurants in the area, savouring Lyon’s unique culinary heritage.

Day 2: Delve into Lyon’s Cultural Riches and Parks

Start your second day by immersing yourself in some of Lyon’s renowned museums. Visit the Musée des Beaux-Arts to appreciate masterpieces from artists like Rubens, Monet, and Picasso. After lunch, take a leisurely stroll or have a picnic in the Parc de la Tête d’Or, home to a zoo and a beautiful lake. In the evening, venture back to Vieux Lyon for dinner, opting for a cosy bistro to experience the enchanting nighttime atmosphere of this historic district.

Day 3: Embrace the Local Atmosphere and Farewell Meal

On your final day, delve into the local vibe at Lyon’s Croix-Rousse district in the morning. Known for its history of silk production, the area is now teeming with local markets and boutique shops. Consider having lunch at one of the quaint cafes in the area, sampling some more Lyonnaise delicacies. In the afternoon, pay a visit to the Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourvière, which offers breathtaking views over the city. To wrap up your Lyon trip, enjoy a farewell dinner at a restaurant serving traditional Lyonnaise cuisine.

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, which offer beautiful Mediterranean beaches. End your trip with a farewell dinner in Montpellier, reminiscing over your favourite moments.




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