If you’re looking for an alternative weekend city break in Europe, then Perpignan could be the perfect trip.
What does Perpignan have to offer?
We took the train from Montpellier, passing through the Languedoc countryside and skirting the Mediterranean Sea to this get to this southern French city.
Perpignan is the festival city with a colourful history that neighbours the Pyrenees on the border of Spain and France.
As you walk into the city the most striking feature is the avenues of palm trees that line the streets – you will instantly see influences from Spain and North African countries such as Morocco.
It has an interesting history and its geographical position means that the city is a mash-up of various cultures which is apparent through its architecture, food and people.
Sightseeing in Perpignan
Obviously we arrived at a time no festival was happening – our classic bad timing, but we still found things to do!
Take a couple of days to soak in the atmosphere of the city, there is plenty on offer for art and food lovers as well as those who enjoy Catalan history and even photojournalism!
Palace of the Kings of Majorca
Perpignan was the Kingdom of Majorca during the 13th century, which is evidenced by the strong Catalan presence throughout the medieval part of the city. You will find Catalan flags strung above buildings next to the French tricolore, and nothing represents this era better than the Palace of the Kings of Majorca.
The Palace lies stripped of any furniture or art, so a visit is only worth it to marvel at its Gothic architecture which is built around a courtyard and gardens. What is worth the climb to the top of the palace is the view over the city where you can see the Pyrenees and snow-capped mountains.
It also has an exhibition room where we found some contemporary art – a little random but a welcoming end to the tour of an empty building – as exquisite as the architecture is!
🎟 Entrance for the view from the garden was free and to walk around the palace and up on to the roof it costs 3€
Castillet Casa Pairal
The focal point of the city is the river that runs through it’s core. The Basse is one of the tributaries of the river Têt that leads to the Mediterranean Sea. Alongside the Basse is the 14th century gateway tower of Castillet.
Its quirky appearance is emblematic of Perpignan and its connection to Catalan culture. Inside find the Casa Pairal, a museum of local history which is worth a gander!
🎟 Tickets are very cheaply priced at 2€ each!
Another little find nearby is the Musée Hyacinthe-Rigaud, an art museum with everything from the baroque period to modern styles and decorative art. Keep an eye out for some Picasso artworks and temporary exhibitions which change regularly.
🎟Tickets are priced accordingly – if there is an exhibition on it is 10€ per person
CATHEDRALE SAINT JEAN BAPTISTE
Where religion and art meet.
Nothing says grandeur like a cathedral and Perpignan’s Roman Catholic offering is no exception. Initially constructed around 1324 you will find this cathedral a short walk from Castillet hidden amongst the winding backstreets of the medieval part of the city.
Opposite the cathedral is a wonderful little street full of artists sitting outside shopfronts and craft makers out on the street selling their wares. Sipping coffee and listening to a lone accordion player, this is a place to revel in the creative spirit of the city.
🎟 The entrance to the cathedral is free
The International Center of Photojournalism
The highlight of Perpignan is The International Center of Photojournalism.
This city is a hub for photojournalism with annual city-wide exhibitions of international photography documenting events happening all around the world and defending freedom of expression.
It makes sense to preserve these photos in a library such as this. Not only an active library, this is also an exhibition space. Our visit documented the French-Algerian war with comparisons between two photographers and a short film for no entrance fee.
🎟 Entrance fees are dependent on the exhibition and the International Festival of Photojournalism takes place in the first two weeks September.
Eating in Perpignan
There is a huge North African influence in the food on offer in Perpignan so you can go to local markets (next to the riverside there is a marvellous indoor market) and sample fresh hummus, cous cous and some delightful tagines as well as French and Spanish foods.
For dining out then Pa Amb Tomate is perfect for both budget travellers and people who love hearty portions. Named after the Catalan dish of bread and tomato, expect to find pintxos (tapas or small bites from north Spain), tortillas, omelettes and charcuterie in big portions. It’s friendly with an open kitchen and one of the best places to eat in the city.
🍽32 Avenue Julien Panchot, Perpignan, France, +33 9 66 84 16 59
Staying in Perpignan
Air BnB for the win again!
We found an entire flat for around 50 euros a night just a 15-minute walk from the medieval centre of the city and a 10 minute walk to the train station. We loved this apartment so much we will leave the details right here. We could have easily lived there!
There seemed to be a good selection of Air BnB apartments and rooms meanwhile there didn’t seem to be much in the way of hostels. Cheap hotel and bed and breakfast rooms ranging from 32 – 130 euros a night is commonplace though so whatever your needs and budget you will find something – even if you want to camp!
Tip: Pros to getting your own apartment is being able to cook and saving money on eating out which we found helpful!
✈️ By Plane
There are potentially two airports you can look at flying to for a trip to the city.
From here you can get a taxi, hire a car or get a regular bus No 7 which you see a timetable for here –CTPM company.
You can also choose to fly into Girona (Spain) which is 94 km from Perpignan (59 miles) and catch the bus with Perpicat straight to the city.
🚆 By Train
Trains run regularly into this city which is on a direct line to Barcelona and connecting to lots of major French cities.
Gare de Perpignan
The station is quite central with car rental places nearby and lots of convenient hotels – it’s a straight shot to town but will take twenty minutes or so to get to the medieval part of the city unless you get a taxi.
The bus station is directly behind the train station so it’s easy to get around.
The new train station Centre del Món (boulevard St Assiscle) is now open, with several shops and two hotels in the vicinity.
ℹ️ Tourist Information
For events and general planning around the city the tourist office can be found here.
Perpignan is the perfect weekend break but if this is a long weekend then look out for our ’24 Hour Guides’ to the neighbouring towns of Ceret and Collioure next week!
As ever find us on Instagram – @hoopla_adventures