The capital of the Pyrénées-Orientales department, Perpignan is a small city of 300 000 people located in southern France. It is a stunning border city, with one side on the Mediterranean coast and the other at the foot of the highest mountains in the French Pyrenees. As such, the town is a crossroad between two cultures and represents a fascinating mix of Spanish Catalonian and French influences.
Not only are these influences evident in the architecture and culture, but also in the food which has strong Catalan influences and always accompanied with one of the fine regional wines. When visiting Perpignan, try some of its most popular dishes such as the garlic snails, salted smoked ham and stuffed sausages.
Its location also makes it a fantastic base for day trips along the coast or to the mountains. Due to its location, Perpignan is blessed with warm and sunny weather for most of the year much like other locations in southern France.
Settled in the 10th century, by the12th century Perpignan had come under the control of the Spanish and became the capital of the Kingdom of Marjorca in 1276. The city’s golden age followed, as it served as the centre for luxury crafts including leather, gold and cloth production.
The French recaptured Perpignan in 1642 during the Thirty Years’ War, with the city formally ceding from Spain with the Treaty of the Pyrenees some 17 years later.
There are several historical monuments worth visiting in Perpignan. The Palace of Kings de Majorque built in the 13th century is a defensive structure representing a mix of French and medieval architecture. St Jean-baptist Cathedral is a stunning building dating back to the 14th century. The Hyacinth Rigaud Museum, located in an 18th century townhouse exhibits the rich art and culture of the Oriental Pyrenees from the 18th century to present day. The Town Hall, Loge de Mer, typifies the region’s typical architectural style and is constructed of river stones. The Museum of Folk Arts and Traditions has several fascinating displays and is situated within a building once used as a prison. In the countryside around Perpignan, there is the 2 700 year old citadel in the village of Elne, the renowned vineyards of Riversaltes as well as numerous picturesque coastal villages like the Catalan village of Saint Andre.
The town can be accessed by train, bus and car, with Air France also offering daily flights from Paris to the city’s local airport.
With so much to see and do is such a small town, it is no wonder that artist Salvador Dali considered Perpignan to be the “Centre of the Universe”.