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.

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