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How Is Montpellier as an Alternative to Paris?

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I've been researching other cities in France since Paris would be so expensive given my limited financial resources. I found a thread at ExpatExchange that recommended Montpellier. I looked at the Wikipedia article about the city and it sounds like it might be the second best choice to Paris. It's France's second biggest city, it's got history, art, culture, beautiful architecture, three universities (which apparently are merging into one) -- all things I want in a city.

I went to Craigslist to check out rentals in Montpellier (this was not a serious search as in "I'm moving there ASAP," it's only for purposes of getting some idea of housing costs). It wasn't enormously helpful because there were very few listings, but this is a problem, at least on Craigslist, with every city in France other than Paris. I looked at the ones that were there and were priced reasonably for me (defined as the equivalent of $800 or less -- that's $200 less than the rent I'm paying now in New Jersey, USA). As I said, there weren't many, but there weren't many listings, period.

So, what do those of you knowledgeable about living in France think of Montpellier? Could I do better, given the kind of city I want to live in and the rental costs?

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