The city most of the French prefer living in (not Paris)

Yes it’s in France, and 65% of its citizens named Montpellier as the city they’d most prefer living in, even over Paris. So what does Montpellier have that makes it so desirable? How about what it doesn’t have…

Cars. From a North American journalist, “…the virtual absence of cars is paradise – not the sort of thing we could ever accomplish back in the real world, of course, but an unstoppable delight in this bar-filled biosphere where tables crowd into every square, flute solos seep out of the upstairs windows of the pale golden buildings and the sweet sound of conversation reverberates along the quieted winding lanes.”

It helps that the city is a university town with 60,000 students, with an expanded newer university in science and technology – it’s creative, open-minded culture has been attracting innovative and high-tech companies since the 1960s.

On many streets all but service vehicles are prohibited, while others are extremely narrow with no parking. Parking garages are not only located outside the city center, but underground as well. An overwhelming majority of North American planners would exclaim that this would hurt businesses, but it’s the very feature that results in a continually busy, economically successful, pedestrian-rich environment.

Check out more auto-free cities and districts in’s guide.

  • Ryan

    As a future urban planner, I’m proud to say that a car-less downtown is exactly the kind of place I’d love to live in. Although it would be to risky for most cities in the US to concider, it still sounds like an awesome idea for some thriving neighborhoods and city areas.
    But caution must be taken, Buffalo, NY did that with its Mainstreet. No cars, just pedestrians and light rail, and it was a bit of a flop due to the lack of other forms of downtown investment. Now the rumors are starting for returning cars to main street after spending tons of government dollars to make it car-less. Main street is an impressive site, but no one is down there. If they just invested more money in housing and busniesses, things could start to improve.

  • How’s Buffalo’s main street stack up to these guidelines?

  • Ryan

    HA! It doesn’t compare to those guidelines. I don”t know what main street was composed of when it was first done, but every detail you described is lacking.
    Main Street is long, 8 or 9 blocks, and there are very few shops, restaurants, or cafes. The streetscape itself feels extremely industrial; everything being pavement, concrete, metal and glass, there is almost no green. There have been some attempts at downtown housing, but for the most part, there really isn’t any. It feels very much like the mall strip, there are almost no sitting places, and when I was last down there, it was about 7 o”clock and it felt dark. The buildings on either side were so tall and the street goes basically north south, so there wasn’t any sunlight.
    Buffalo does have a strong downtown night life, but it”s not on Main Street, it”s on streets adjacent and parallel to it.