A proud Catalan city a stone’s throw away from the Spanish border, Perpignan is France’s southernmost city. With bilingual street signs and Catalan flags adorning the streets, it’s clear to see that this medieval village is something different. In just 48 hours, you can get a taste for what makes Perpignan such a vibrant and interesting place to be.
Getting from the airport
It’s easy to get from the airport to the city centre. Simply hop on the 6 bus and you’ll be in the city in just over half an hour. Otherwise, rent a car or jump in a taxi and drive 15 minutes. Then you’re ready to start your Perpignan adventure.
A royal welcome
There’s no better way to introduce yourself to Perpignan than by starting off from the Castillet, the historic city gate. It’s a strong symbol of the city and the defensive redbrick structure is one of the most photographed sites in Perpignan.
Fittingly, it also houses Casa Pairal. This museum celebrates the culture of the region, with exhibits ranging from farming to festivals to household objects.
Afterwards, check out the spectacular Palais des Rois de Majorque. In English, its name means the Palace of the Kings of Majorca and its Spanish architecture style is evident in this star-shaped citadel. Built in 1276 in a mix of Romanesque and Gothic styles, climb the ramparts and soak in the breathtaking views that take in those signature terracotta rooftops and the Mediterranean.
Picnicking in the park
On a sunny day, nothing beats a lunchtime stroll in Parc Sant Vicens. Only created in 2009, this park is the biggest green space in the city. It has a beautiful mix of shady walks lined by sycamore, poplar and aspen trees and a wonderfully calming duck pond.
If you’re peckish, head to nearby Le Moulin de Las Cobas for picnic supplies. This boulangerie and patisserie is famed for traditional baguettes and indulgent sweet treats.
The artistic side of Perpignan
Spend the afternoon seeing the history of Perpignan depicted through art at Musée d’Art Hyacinthe Rigaud. The Gothique, Baroque, Moderne and Contemporain collections are carefully curated with plenty of diverse artworks. Entry is €10 including access to special exhibits, but lots of people can enter for free including children and students.
If you want to squeeze in another cultural experience, try Hôtel Pams. Unassuming from the outside, you’ll be blown away by opulence when you enter. An elegant mansion transformed by art lover Jules Pams in the 1890s, it is a feast of gold, marble, onyx and incredible paintings. The courtyard is particularly spectacular, with lush planting and a statue of Venus overseeing proceedings.
Food from the four corners
From local produce to stalls offering exotic fare, Les Halles Vauban is a must-visit for foodies. Treat yourself to a multi-course dinner from a selection of stalls and don’t forget to take home a few delicacies too. On warm nights, grab a seat outdoors and soak up the atmosphere. Or if you visit in the run-up to Christmas, don’t miss the seasonal delights.
Explore the foothills of the Pyrenees
At the foot of the Pyrenees, Perpignan is a great base to explore the mountain range.
If you feel like a little road trip, Castlenou should be top of your list. It’s just 30 minutes’ drive away from Perpignan and is one of France’s most beautiful villages. You’ll know why as soon as you walk the cobbled streets and marvel at the buildings’ intricate brickwork. Look closely at the walls and you just might spot mediaeval bread ovens set on the facades.
For a traditional meal in the area, L’Hostal is a good bet. Serving up Catalan food and panoramic views, this is a popular spot with tourists and locals alike. There’s also a great selection of local wines and beers to quench your thirst.
Looking for another stop off? Drive further north and check out Orgues d’Ille-sur-Têt. These bizarrely-shaped limestone columns will take your breath away. Formed over 4 million years, they are like something from another planet. And if you don’t have a car, this spot is also accessible via train.
Finish off with some fine dining
The cherry on top of a city break is a really special meal. And in Perpignan, there are lots of amazing restaurants to choose from. For example, Le Garriane is famous for serving up just one set menu every lunch and dinner, with dishes full of seasonal ingredients.
Meanwhile, La Galinette has earned chef Christophe Gomes a Michelin star, with unusual pairings fresh from his own vegetable, citrus and olive gardens. But remember, if you have your heart set on a restaurant, it’s always worth booking in advance.
Itching to explore this southern French gem for yourself? Find great value flights direct from Dublin to Perpignan.