The medieval town of Perpignan is located at the foothills of the Pyrenees, in the Roussillon plain just a few miles from the Corbières massif scrublands and the Mediterranean Sea.
With a strong Catalan heritage and a Mediterranean climate, it is certainly an interesting location. But is Perpignan worth visiting?
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Location and Climate
Situated in the middle of a winemaking region and surrounded by gardens, orchards, and farms, Perpignan sees around 300 sunny days each year.
Though its annual rainfall is average for the nation, most of this falls in the winter months and it’s not uncommon for a whole month’s rain to fall in just a few hours.
In summer, however, it’s very dry indeed and temperatures can reach as high as 40 °C (104 °F). If the location and climate appeal, what is there to do once you’re there?
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Reasons to visit Perpignan
This small city has lots to offer its visitors.
From markets, museums, monuments, restaurants, seaside trips, mountain trips, or day trips to Andorra or Spain, you’re in for a treat.
Here are the highlights of why Perpignan is worth checking out.
1. Its history and architecture
This city has a rich medieval history, which is apparent as soon as you enter the center via its castle gate.
There are also lots of beautiful squares and winding streets to explore too.
One of the most impressive buildings to see is the Basilica of Saint John the Baptist, which is one of the national monuments of France.
This Catalan Gothic-style cathedral started out in 1324 under the watchful eye of King Sancho of Majorca.
It took around one hundred years to be completely finished but the façade wasn’t finished because it was connected to the Kingdom of Majorca.
The 18th century saw a portico and a clock tower added and there were extensive renovations that carried on throughout the 20th century too.
Besides the Cathedral – Another beautiful piece of history and architecture is the Palais de Rois de Majorque (the Kings of Majorca Palace).
This was built by Majorca’s King James II in 1276.
The building has a fortress as well as a beautiful garden and is situated to overlook the whole city.
You can take guided tours of parts of the palace, including the throne room, the dining room, and the chapel.
Next up is Le Castillet.
This was built in 1368 as a gate to the city. It was built during Pierre IV of Aragon’s reign due to Perpignan being the last city before reaching Spain.
The bricks were made in Roussillon. Besides being a gate, it was also a prison until the end of the 19th century. Today, however, it is a museum and art gallery.
2. The markets
You’ll see the streets of Perpignan filled with various markets.
Everything from locally grown fruits, vegetables, and herbs to bric-a-brac, antiques, and books will find their way here.
Sunday morning is also the time to find oddities like engines, cheese graters, plant pots – and more besides.
3. The canals and fountains
Perpignan has lots of canals that are marked with bougainvillea and camellias.
There are also lots of lovely fountains, which were used for drinking water in the past. You’ll often see some with music or colored lights too.
You can take in all fountains in a short walk around the city center.
Here are the fountains you can see:
- La Fontaine Du Baron Després
- La Fontaine “aux grenouilles” (the fountain of frogs)
- La Fontaine Wallace
- La Fontaine de L’hopital
- La Fontaine du Mas Saint Jean
- La Fontaine Na Pincarda
- La Fontaine “à la salamandre” (the fountain of the salamander)
- La Fontaine “Maillol” Planes-Vila
4. The food and drink
The winemaking history of Perpignan is strong.
The area is famous for lots of high-quality wines and there are different grape varieties grown within the local vineyards.
The wines are available locally in restaurants and wine bars, but they also ship internationally too.
Two of the best vineyards to visit are Domaine Rière Cadène and Domaine Lafage.
The cuisine of Perpignan is equally exquisite.
Lots of restaurants do a plat du jour (dish of the day) or a menu (a set meal) offering a good deal.
If you want to try real French cuisine, La Villa Duflot is an excellent choice as is Les Aristo, which is more budget-friendly.
There are also lots of international cuisines on offer like:
- Le Petit Grec (Greek cuisine)
- Habana Bodeguita (South American cuisine)
- Artapas (Spanish)
- El Coco Rico (Mexican)
- and La Tagliatella – Perpignan (Italian)
5. It’s an ideal location for day tripping
Besides all of the things you can see and do in Perpignan itself, its prime location means it’s ideal for day trips to other places.
The city is just 20 miles from the Spanish border and there are frequent buses and trains over the border too.
There are two direct trains to Barcelona each day and it takes around 80 minutes.
These trains also call at Figueres and Girona along the way.
If you fancy visiting Andorra, this is just two hours away by car (which you’d probably need to do unless you’re prepared to change buses and trains a few times).
You can also visit Narbonne, the beautiful walled city of Carcassonne, and Montpellier all as day trips too!
6. The coastline
Though Perpignan itself is situated five miles from the sea, it’s an ideal location for exploring the local beaches.
Depending on what your ideal beach looks like, you’ll find it here. To the north of the town, you’ll find wide, flat beaches that are quite breezy.
This makes them popular among windsurfers and kite surfers. The best ones for this are Le Franqui and Le Barcares.
The most popular beaches in the area are Canet, Argeles Sur Mer, and St Cyprien. These are popular with families.
If it’s beauty you’re looking for, head to the south of the city and visit Cote Vermeille.
Here, you’ll be met with clear waters and the dramatic backdrop of the Pyrénées.
Is Perpignan worth visiting? Our final thoughts
Perpignan is a beautiful place to visit at any time of year but is especially beautiful in spring and summer.
It’s a fantastic place to see what the south of France has to offer, including its wine, food, coastline, and sunshine.
What’s more, it’s an ideal location for day-tripping too, so you’ll never be bored!