Things to do

Things to see and do in Perpignan

30 minutes from the Spanish boarder, the city of Perpignan is filled with architecture and brimming with culture ready for you to enjoy.

Within easy reach of both the Spanish and Mediterranean borders, Perpignan is filled with both French and Catalan cultures and a marvellous place to explore.

Things to see and do in Perpignan

Between the coast of the South of France, and the Spanish border lies Perpignan, a beautiful city with a wonderfully exotic past. Formally the capital of the Kingdom of Majorca in the 13th Century, the old town is brimming with cultural allusions and insights into its history as a former Spanish city. 

Today, Perpignan is known to be the meeting point between two historical nations, and the French-Spanish atmosphere is prevalent throughout the city. If you’re desperate to escape to the south of France, Perpignan should definitely be a location on your list. 

Where is Perpignan?

Perpignan is the southernmost city in metropolitan France and lies just 13km west of the Mediterranean coast. Although Perpignan is a French city, it is only 31km north of the Spanish border, making the drive into Spain extremely easy.

City square in Perpignan with red brick buildings, balconies, and the cathedral spire in the background

Driving Perpignan from Calais

The drive from Calais to Perpignan will take between 10 and 11 hours. Although it’s a long journey, a trip to Perpignan is the perfect way to see as much of France as possible whilst travelling. 

As well as the popular destinations inland, the south of France is known for its beaches, so if you have time and fancy extending your holiday, there are plenty of spots for you to enjoy. There are also some dog-friendly spots if you’re travelling with a canine companion. 

Via the A71 and A75

Driving along the A71 and A75 from Calais to Perpignan should take approximately 10 hours and 45 minutes. The journey does include toll roads on the A16 out of Calais but will save you time as this is the quickest route.

Via the A26

Going from Calais to Perpignan via the A26 will take just over 11 hours and does include toll roads on the A16 and A26. Although a longer journey, you will be travelling through picturesque countryside, past places including Reims and Dijon where you could stretch your legs.

The highlights of Perpignan

Its medieval centre, narrow streets, stunning gardens and open squares mean there’s plenty of things to explore while you’re walking around Perpignan.

The former prison of Le Castillet

Red brick building Les Castillet beneath a blue sky with white clouds, with a flag on one of the turrets

Classified as a historic monument in 1889, Le Castillet in Perpignan was built during the reign of Pierre IV of Aragon in 1368 as a gate to the city.

Today, the former prison is one of Perpignan’s most symbolic monuments of its past and a great place to visit. The square at the front of Le Castillet is filled with sculptures and flowers, while visitors can climb the 142 stairs up to the keep, which offers a panoramic view across the city and the Place de la Victoir.

The art galleries of Hyacinthe Rigaud Museum

Ranking as Perpignan’s leading cultural institution since its 2017 renovation, the galleries in the Hyacinthe Rigaud Museum occupy two central private mansions and are divided into three parts which span 500 years. 

The main sections include Gothic Perpignan, Baroque Perpignan and Modern Perpignan and works include portraits by Hyacinthe Rigaud, a Perpignan born artist after whom the museum was named. There are also sensory and storytelling sessions aimed at children as young as 18 months old, so if you’re travelling with children there’s plenty to keep them occupied.

Wine tasting at Domaine Rière Cadène

Something to arrange ahead of your trip, this family-run vineyard in Roussillon is the perfect place to get acquainted with some of the region’s most delicious wine.

Only 6km outside central Perpignan, the Domaine Rière Cadène has been producing wine since 1904 and are more than happy to arrange a 2-hour tasting for you while you’re in the area.

Find the centre of the universe at La Gare de Perpignan

The Perpignan railway station was given special significance by surrealist painter Salvador Dalí, in an oil canvas he produced in 1963 which depicts the station as the centre of the universe. 

Although the canvas itself is in the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, visitors to Perpignan can still enjoy exploring the railway station which pays tribute to the canvas through its decoration which uses distinctive Dalí styles and colours.

The annual festival of Les Jeudis de Perpignan

Throughout July and August, Thursday evenings in Perpignan see the city streets filled with dance, music and live theatre as part of the annual festival. From 6 pm until midnight, you’ll be able to wander through the carnival atmosphere and watch everything from parade floats to jugglers, stilt walkers, and salsa dancers as they move through the streets. 

The wonderful architecture of the Théâtre de l’Archipel

If you take a stroll along the La Tet River you won’t be able to avoid the brilliantly designed and highly distinctive Théâtre de l’Archipel. 

Built in 2011, the theatre is comprised of a variety of notable buildings, including a red orb and a golden tower, that complement each other and extend the theatrical and youthful atmosphere prominent inside the theatre to the building’s exterior.

The shows at the Théâtre de l’Archipel are generally aimed at a younger audience, but even if you don’t manage to see a show, walking around the different buildings is still fun.

The gothic palace at Palais des Rois de Majorque

Aerial view of the Palais des rois de Majorque à Perpignan square beneath a blue sky with the city beyond

A remnant of Perpignan’s history, the palace at Palais des Rois de Majorque is one of the city’s main cultural hubs. 

Visitors can arrange a guided tour of the palace’s gardens, courtyard and throne room and attend several concerts and events which are held there throughout the year. Not only does this give you further insight into Perpignan’s past, but also a real sense of the palace’s grandeur first-hand.

The Park and gardens of Parc Sant-Vicens

Parc Sant-Vicens is one of the areas in Perpignan which can be enjoyed by everyone. Comprising of gardens, arboretums and recreation grounds, the park is formed on the old ground that has been irrigated by the river ‘La Cave’, situated at the end of the irrigation canal. Especially lovely if the weather is nice, take a picnic and spend the afternoon exploring the Mediterranean’s riverbanks and looking at the local flora which can be found there.

Perpignan Cathedral

Spanning two centuries, the construction of the Perpignan Cathedral was begun by King Sancho of Majorca in 1324. Wonderful to walk around, the cathedral was built in the Catalan Gothic style and has a wide nave comprising of seven cross-vaults. The western façade features a portico and clock tower, which date from the 18th century.

The markets of rue Paratilla

Extremely charming, make sure to spend time enjoying the hustle and bustle of rue Paratilla, one of Perpignan’s busiest shopping streets. Not only is this a great way to soak up the city’s atmosphere, but also the perfect place to pick up any souvenirs or treat yourself to something special. With stalls selling everything from regional cheeses to cosmetics, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

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