Montpellier is a fascinating pastiche of all the architectural eras of France—medieval structures stand next to 18th-century buildings and free-form modern designs in this city 50 mi/80 km southwest of Avignon.

The Antigone District has neoclassical architecture that people either love or hate. The city also boasts an 18th-century water tower, an elegant aqueduct, the oldest botanical gardens in the country (first planted in 1593) and wonderful old streets lined with tall, slender houses.

Montpellier offers a booming and diverse student population, thanks in part to several universities and medical schools; a highly regarded violin-making industry; and a beautiful central square, Place de la Comedie, that buzzes with sound and light shows on summer evenings.

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