Once described by the famous traveller, Henry Swinburne as a villainous ugly town, we’re not so sure his 1775 verdict still stands true today. The town which has some very strong Catalan routes could just as easily be found in Spain and the mixture of French and Catalan cultures and routes makes it an interesting place to visit. Home to thousands of Spanish refugees who fled here after their own civil war ended, the town is just over the mountains fromSpainand is also the home of many Algerian settlers.
Perpignanmay not have a great deal to offer the tourist within, but it’s as a base to explore the Cote Vermeille coast and thePyreneesmountains that it finds itself on our list. Inside the town are a few historical points of interest, including the Cathar castles, and one thing in the towns favour is the way they have tried to make it accessible. Every single historical site has a sign in Catalan, French and English explaining the history and significance of the site, making it an enjoyable and educational town to wander around.
Perpignanis used primarily as a base for people, who tend to hire a car and explore, and the easiest way to reach the town is to fly. RyanAir run a daily flight to the airport which is just a few miles out of town from Stansted, and Flybe run flights fromBirminghamand Southampton, with BMI Baby running flights fromManchester.
You can also get the train fromParisbut it will take about 5 hours, or fromBarcelona, which takes about 3.
Things to do when you hire a car in Perpignan
Palais des Rois de Majorque
Sitting on top of a small mound in the centre of the town is the 11th century palace which still stands to this day. Built in 1276 the castle was built for the ruler of thePerpignan kingdom, which was once a powerful medieval power. Originally the palace was surrounded by olive groves but the need for defensive walls meant the palace was enclosed, and the groves and hunting reserve lost. If you choose to climb the Tower l’Hommage you can enjoy views of the entire city.
A museum documenting the vast Catalan andRoussillonheritage of the town, you can explore the way the two cultures integrated, or their failure too at times. The museum is located in a former prison, and is the last remaining evidence of the town walls that surrounded the town until 100 years ago. The rooftop terrace is another great place to look out over the city.
The cathedral in the town was originally started in 1324, but was one of the longest building projects in history, finally beinf completed in 1509. The cathedral stands out with a huge bell cage at the top of the tower, and inside you’ll notice a particularly Catalan feel as the influences of the visiting Spaniards influenced the church.