Montpellier enjoys a strategic setting in the south of France, along an axis linking Spain to the west with Italy to the east. With its proximity to the Mediterranean Sea and its wonderful weather (it is one of France's sunniest and least-rainy major cities), it is easy to see why it is regarded as a prime location in which to live. Some 275,000 people call it home, making it the eighth largest city in France by population, and it is also an educational hotspot, with the second most students per capita in the country.
Spread over two hills, Montpellier is nicknamed Lo Clapàs, roughly translating as 'rockpile' in Occitan. Its old town – known as L'Ecusson because it is shaped like an escutcheon, a type of medieval shield – has been the city's heartbeat since the 12th century. This historic centre, which was once enclosed by walls, is now one of the largest pedestrian areas in Europe, spanning close to 60 hectares. Most of the buildings in L'Ecusson* *date back to the Middle Ages and many have hardly changed since. For example, tourists can admire the Jacques Coeur Palace (housing the Languedoc Museum), the Saint-Pierre Cathedral and the two remaining towers from the old walled town, the Tour de la Babote and Tour des Pins. Another highlight is the main square, the Place de la Comedie, which is an almost permanent hive of activity.
*Montpellier Herault Sport Club (MHSC), established in 1919, pulled off one of the biggest shocks in French football history when they captured the Ligue 1 title for the first and only time in 2012. This immediately took pride of place in the club's trophy cabinet, which also notably contains two French Cups, won in 1929 and 1990. Laurent Blanc, Eric Cantona, Carlos Valderrama and Roger Milla are just a handful of the big names who have worn the *La Paillade *shirt over the years. The club's women's team have also tasted success, being crowned French champions in 2004 and 2005, as well as reaching a European semi-final and quarter-final during that decade.