Perpignan

Perched at the crossroads of French and Catalan culture, Perpignan has a rich history that has left an indelible mark on this vibrant city. From its days as the mainland capital of the Kings of Mallorca until 1349 to its subsequent role as Catalonia’s second city after Barcelona until the region’s annexation by France in 1659, Perpignan has consistently hogged the limelight.

In the early 20th century, Perpignan became a magnet for renowned artists of the time, drawing luminaries such as Picasso, Lurçat, and Dalí. These artistic giants left their creative imprints on the city, a legacy that continues to shape Perpignan’s artistic landscape to this day.

A Fusion of Cultures

Perpignan – Where Catalan, French, and Spanish Influence Converge

Perpignan, a city that is neither entirely French nor Spanish but thoroughly Catalan, mirrors its complex cultural heritage in its vibrant streets in Europe. The cityscape is adorned with red and yellow striped flags, an undisputed symbol of Catalan identity. As you wander through the colourful buildings, you’ll find Perpignan to be as bright and vibrant as these flags themselves.

L’Hôtel Pams – A Gem of Art Deco

Step into the Opulence of Perpignan’s Artistic Heritage

A must-visit in Perpignan is L’Hôtel Pams, a stunning Art Deco mansion that once belonged to Pierre Bardou, known for his fortune amassed through JOB cigarette papers. The mansion was lovingly redesigned by Bardou’s daughter, Jeanne, and her husband, Jules Pams. Inside, you’ll be greeted by opulent decor and wall frescoes that cover every inch of the building. It’s a visual feast, reminiscent of a fusion between London’s Leighton House and the Sistine Chapel. While you can explore it in just 20 minutes, the courtyard garden on the first floor offers an inviting spot to immerse yourself in the ambiance of this artistic gem.

Le Palais des Rois de Majorque – Uncovering History

Journey Back to Perpignan’s Royal Past

Le Palais des Rois de Majorque may appear unassuming at first glance, having served as army barracks for many decades. However, the palace holds a remarkable secret within its walls. Uncovered original wall paintings dating as far back as the 13th century provide a glimpse into Perpignan’s rich history as the continental seat of the Mallorcan monarchy. If your visit falls in July or August, be sure to check the events schedule, as the palace often hosts open-air concerts and the two-day Catalan music festival, Festa Majorque.

Cathédrale-Saint-Jean-Baptiste – A Stained-Glass Marvel

Exploring the Spiritual and Artistic Beauty of Perpignan

A short walk through the old town brings you to Cathédrale-Saint-Jean-Baptiste. The cathedral’s stained-glass windows are a sight to behold, capturing the play of light and colours within the sacred space. But don’t overlook the organ, which features a somewhat cartoonish, albeit historically intriguing, Moorish head. This unique organ entertains visitors as its mouth opens and closes in sync with the music.

Musée Hyacinthe-Rigaud – Artistic Heritage Unveiled

From Portraits to Impressionism: Perpignan’s Art Collection

Discover Perpignan’s rich artistic heritage at Musée Hyacinthe-Rigaud. The museum’s diverse collection spans classical portraits of Louis XIV to Impressionist masterpieces. Special exhibitions, such as those showcasing Picasso’s visits to the city, offer insights into Perpignan’s role in the art world. Occasionally, the museum even hosts yoga classes among its artistic treasures, providing a unique way to connect with the city’s creative spirit.

Day Trips from Perpignan

Fortress of Salses – A Bastion of History

Step Back in Time at the Impregnable Fortress

The Fortress of Salses, a short drive from Perpignan, is a historical gem that transports visitors to a bygone era. This imposing fortress, designed by the great military architect Vauban, stands as a testament to the strategic importance of the region. Its well-preserved walls and structures provide a glimpse into the military engineering of the past.

The fortress served as a vital defensive stronghold, guarding the region against invaders and marauders. Its design, with formidable ramparts and moats, was a formidable barrier. Today, you can explore its labyrinthine corridors, visit its museum, and even imagine the echoes of battles that once reverberated within these walls.

 Cité de Carcassonne – A Medieval Marvel

Discover the Magic of a Medieval Citadel

The Cité de Carcassonne, another day trip option, is a medieval marvel that seems plucked from the pages of a fairy tale. Located a short journey from Perpignan, this UNESCO World Heritage site is a fortified city that has captivated visitors for centuries.

The Cité de Carcassonne is known for its well-preserved medieval architecture, complete with thick stone walls, watchtowers, and charming cobbled streets. As you explore its winding alleys and ancient buildings, you’ll feel transported back in time. Don’t miss the opportunity to walk along its ramparts for panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

Both the Fortress of Salses and the Cité de Carcassonne provide deeper insights into their history and significance. It’s advisable to book your visit in advance to ensure availability, especially during peak tourist seasons.

Getting to Perpignan

There are several ways to reach Perpignan, each offering its distinct advantages. For those in the UK, direct flights to Perpignan from Leeds and flights to Perpignan from Manchester make the city easily accessible. Alternatively, the train from Carcassonne to Perpignan offers scenic views of the French countryside. Those venturing from Spain might consider the train from Perpignan to Barcelona, while Paris to Perpignan by train remains a popular choice for domestic travellers.

Perpignan’s Weather Patterns

For those looking to maximise their visit, understanding Perpignan’s weather can be pivotal. Perpignan weather in April marks the beginning of the warm season, with mild temperatures and blooming flowers. On the other hand, weather in Perpignan in September offers cooler evenings, making it perfect for exploring without the summer crowds.

Practicalities and Safety in Perpignan

A common question among travellers is, “Is Perpignan safe?” Like most urban areas, it’s essential to exercise caution and stay informed. However, Perpignan generally boasts a friendly atmosphere, welcoming visitors from around the globe.

Festivals in Perpignan

In addition to its rich history, Perpignan comes alive with vibrant festivals:

Têt en Fête (Summer Festival by the River Tet) – During the summer months, Perpignan hosts the Têt en Fête festival along the banks of the River Tet. It’s a lively celebration featuring music, dance, food, and a festive atmosphere, perfect for embracing the warmth of the season.

Sanch Procession (Good Friday Tradition) – Every Good Friday, witness the Sanch procession, an annual Catholic ceremony deeply rooted in Catalan culture. It’s a poignant and culturally enriching event.

Art, Music, and More Throughout the Year

  • In June, there’s an art book and film festival.
  • July and August bring musical delights with jazz aperitifs, musicals, and the Têt en Fête festival. Check out Live at the Campo for live music.
  • The Palace of the Kings of Majorca hosts the Eté 66 festival during the summer.
  • “Visa pour l’image” in the early school year is an international photojournalism festival.
  • Jazzèbre, dedicated to jazz music, offers concerts between September and October.
  • During Christmas, a Ferris wheel adds a touch of magic to the town of Perpignan.

These festivals provide an excellent opportunity to connect with the local community, experience the city’s artistic soul, and create lasting memories during your visit to Perpignan.

Conclusion

From its historic architecture to vibrant markets, Perpignan is one of the destinations that offers a mix of cultural experiences. Key attractions include the Palace of the Kings of Majorca and the Cathedral Basilica of Saint John the Baptist. Furthermore, those wondering what to do in Perpignan will find a range of activities, from wine tasting to museum hopping.

Don’t forget that for UK travellers, the Leeds Bradford to Perpignan route provides a direct link to this French gem and For those travelling by air, it’s helpful to know the airports near Perpignan. While Perpignan Rivesaltes Airport serves the city, other nearby airports such as Carcassonne Airport which 56 miles from Perpignan or Girona-Costa Brava Airport located 75 miles, can be considered depending on one’s itinerary.

So VayCay Couple will let you answer the big question on your own “Is Perpignan worth visiting?”