Visit Perpignan (Languedoc-Roussillon, France)
Perpignan is found 15km inland from the Languedoc coast, north of the border with Spain.
Salvador Dali declared that Perpignan was the centre of the world - something of an exaggeration perhaps. However the town is an interesting, lively, modern town, with its roots as an active centre dating to the early Middle Ages. Perpignan's medieval centre has a distinctly Catalan feel.
The medieval centre of Perpignan is charming. The river Basse runs through the city centre and is canalised with beautifully planted gardens running along its edge. To the south of the river narrow streets and open squares entice the traveller to explore the city centre. The medieval centre is quite small and easy to visit in a half a day. On the edge of the old centre is the Palace of the Kings of Majorca, a very attractive building with a moorish air.
Perpignan is for you if you are looking for a pleasant 'normal' French town to simply spend some time, look in some shops, take a drink, relax and explore. The part of the town between the 14th century entrance gate at Castillet and the Place de la Loge, and then south to the Palace of the Kings of Majorca, is the most interesting for visitors, and there are several attractive medieval buildings dotted around this central section.
On the edge of the river Basse and the Place de la Victoire is the Castillet. Originally the city gate the castillet was built in the 14th century. It has also been a prison and the Porte Notre Dame was added by Louis XI. It is now home to the Museum of Catalan History.
The Hotel de Ville, called the Loge de Mer, was built over the 13, 16 and 17th centuries and was originally the stock exchange. In its courtyard is one of Maillol's statues, La Mediterranee. The narrow Place de la Loge with its red marble floors and selection of restaurants is an attractive spot and was a favourite meeting point for refugees fleeing France for Spain during the Second World War.
Perpignan's cathedral is attractive although it looks little like a cathedral. It has the air of a large church built in a style with a Catalan influence especially its ornate campanile. Be sure to look inside as it has retained the paintwork that used to be in almost all churches. It is beautiful and gives the cathedral a very warm and welcoming atmosphere. The cathedrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste was built in the 14th century in a Gothic style. It did not become a cathedral until 1601.
Next to the cathedral is the Campo Santo an unusual cloister-cemetery. It is the only one in France. As it has a large open centre it is often used for concerts in the summer. In front of the cathedral is a lovely square surrounded by tall brick buildings with pale, painted shutters and ornate balconies.
The highlight of Perpignan is its lovely Palace of the Kings of Majorca (Palais des rois de Majorque). This was built in the 13th century for the court of Jacques II of Majorca and is a mix of civil and military architecture. It is built of a lovely red brick and from its walls you get some excellent views over the city and surrounding area. In the 17th century Vauban, a famous French military architect, updated the military defences of the palace. He also built defensive walls around Perpignan but these were removed as the city grew.
Be sure to explore the narrow alleys around the cathedral in the Arab Quarter, for a taste of a different Perpignan. Place Cassanyes is a market square with a north African flavour. The smell of the herbs and spices is delicious.
Perpignan has a decent art gallery, the Musee des beaux-arts Hyacinthe Rigaud, whose collection includes works by Maillol, Picasso, Miro and Dufy. This is housed in an 18th century mansion.
Another interesting building is the Casa Xano which is a 16th century mansion and the only gothic house remaining in Perpignan. Its facade is sculpted with a frieze showing the seven deadly sins.
Near to Perpignan
Perpignan is a good place to stay if you are hoping to explore the western Pyrenees a little, perhaps visit a couple of the cathar castles, and also have access to the Languedoc beaches.
The closest beach to Perpignan is at Canet Plage, east of the town. When we visited the beaches along this section of the coast we found them rather overdeveloped and a bit featureless, but we didn't visit all of them, and if you have children who simply must see the sea...
Photos of Perpignan
Click any picture to start the gallery
Tourist classifications for Perpignan
Perpignan has received the following tourist classifications: listed town of Art and History ; historical protected town centre' (secteur sauvegardé)
Address: Perpignan, Pyrenees-Orientales, Languedoc-Roussillon, 66000 || GPS: latitude 42.698, longitude 2.8955
Map of Perpignan & places nearby
Highlights close by
Fort de Salses 16km
See lots more places to visit nearby and a more detailed map at places near Perpignan.
See Languedoc-Roussillon and Pyrenees-Orientales (the region and department for Perpignan) for more travel ideas...
Suggested tourist attractions to visit near Perpignan, France
- Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges (Cabestany) - religious monument (4km)
- Eglise de Saint Michel (Saint-Genis-des-fontaines) - religious monument (17km)
- Castelnou - most beautiful village (18km)
- Chapel Saint-Martin de Fenollar (Maureillas-las-Illas) - religious monument (22km)
- Orgued d'Ille-sur-Tet - site of natural beauty (23km)
- Eglise de Trinité d'Aregno (Aregno) - religious monument (23km)
- Chapelle de Casenoves (Ille-sur-tet) - religious monument (23km)
- Prieuré de Serrabone (Boule-d'Amont) - religious monument (28km)
- Eglise de Sainte Marie de Marcevol (Arboussols) - religious monument (33km)
- Eus - most beautiful village (36km)
Market days in Perpignan: Regular market(s) are held in Perpignan each Every day. (Markets are held in the morning unless stated.)
The French version of this page is at Perpignan (Francais)