Capital of the Roussillon and eastern Pyrenees area, during the 13th and 14th centuries Perpignan was the residence of the Kings of Majorca. This city is the most Catalan of French towns, and Salvador Dali famously declared Perpignan's train station as the "centre of the world". The city became part of France in 1659, with the Pyrenees Treaty, but Perpignan has always retained its colourful Catalan customs and traditions. At just 160 kilometres from Barcelona, France is the last stop before Spain itself.
The Loge quarter is where the real heart of the city is to be found. Explore this largely traffic-free area and admire the famous statue of "Venus with a necklace" by Aristide Maillol. In the central courtyard of the Hotel de Ville you can see the same artist's sculpture of "The Mediterranean". Around the Llojat de Mar (sea lodge) you can enjoy the fun atmosphere in some of the bars and clubs in Perpignan. The zig-zag stairs which lead to the Palace of the Kings of Majorca will require some stamina, but the Palace itself is a must-see in Perpignan. Built in 1276 for the court of Majorca, the palace has a remarkable courtyard, and the Gothic chapels are particularly splendid. Wander round the sweet smelling botanical gardens blooming at the foot of the ramparts. The Castillet, which today houses the Museum of Popular Arts in Perpignan, and the Cathedral of Saint-Jean were once part of the Palace. If luxury fashion appeals, the boutique Oh is just a stone's throw away from here.
The Palais des Corts was built to house the five courts of law during the reign of the Kings of Majorca.
Perpignan is a lively and fun city, not least in summer when the Estivales de Perpignan festival ensures that the whole city is filled with performing art of all kinds: theatre, circus, cinema and music.
During the Nuit et Fête du vin primeur in October, the newly produced wine is celebrated (and tasted, of course).
The Perpignan experience is an unforgettable one: with its many Spanish decendants of those who fled the Civil War, and its Algerian immigrants, this southern city is a melting pot with a cultural identitiy that is all its own. In summertime it's traditional to dance the sardane on the Place de la Loge. On Good Friday the religious Procession de la Sanch is a Catalan tradition. Enjoy some Spanish flavour in the south of France.
De gare à gare