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Tourist spots in France: Perpignan tourism information 2023
The Perpignan region in South France has a real Catalan feel to it. Partly, this is due to its proximity to Spain (25 kms away) and partly due to its history as part of the old King of Majorca's province. I really like the old town of Perpignan. It is a real pleasure to walk around, especially the narrow maze of street towards the Palais des Rois de Majorque. Perpignan has a couple of buildings worth searching out. It is also a great town to shop in and quite pleasant to look at along the grassy esplanades of the river that runs through it. In short, ther are plenty of things to do in Perpignan to occupy an afternoon or evening.
Our Perpignan tourism guide helps shed some light on the best things to do in Perpignan and the surrounding region in 2023.
Tourist spots in France: Perpignan tourism 2023
Perpignan is the capital of Roussillon. As I have said above, the people from Perpignan have a real identity as being Catalans. I am all for people adopting a primary and secondary identity - like the French Bretons - but Catalan is a bit of a strange one because there has never been an independent country called Catalonia. There was a Count of Barcelona who was created by the Franks under the leadership of Charlemagne, but his territory never extended much beyond the province of Barcelona and certainly, never extended up to the Pyrenees and into the area around Perpignan. In fact, much of modern day Catalonia was divided up by the Frank rulers into separate principalities, each with their own local ruler.
In fact the nearest and most closest association with Spain came from two distinct periods of history. The Kingdom of Majorca ruled over the Balearic Islands, the county of Roussillon (in modern day France) and interestingly, the County of Aumelas in France (which is today the city of Montpellier). In fact, Montpellier could have just as much claim to be Catalan (or Majorcan) than Perpignan. The Majorcan Kingdom lasted from 1231 to 1349.
The Kings of Mallorca made Perpignan their mainland capital and brought prosperity to the town from cloth-making. They built an impressive palace in the town, the Palais des Rois de Majorque. Following the Hundred Years War between the English and French thrones, the Kingdom of Majorca was eventually absorbed into the Kingdom of Aragon. Perpignan only finally became part of modern day France in 1659.
The second and probably more long-lasting Spanish influence, came from the 40-50,000 refugees that fled Catalonia at the end of the Spanish Civil War. The refugees were housed in enormous refugee camps near to Argeles-sur-Mer and in Rivesaltes (close to Perpignan airport). The Spanish refugees did not have a great time of it. They faced the continual threat and persecution from Franco, the Spanish dictato. They then enlisted in the French army at the start of the Second World War to fight the Nazis. They then faced the threat of being deported into Labour camps in France and Germany or escape and join the French resistance (and formed a distinct fighting force called The Maquis). But a lot of the Spanish remained in France after WW2 and had families and eventually found work. A lot of our French friends around Pezenas have Spanish heritage and are usually bi-lingual.
Where is Perpignan?
Perpignan is located in the very south of France, close to the Spanish border. It is on the Mediterranean coast, with beaches just a few kilometers away. From the centre of Perpignan you can see the Pyrenees mountain range between France and Spain and this gives the city a very eye-pleasing back-drop. Perpignan is on the mainline TGV route between Paris and Barcelona. It also has it's own airport, which regular flights to London Stansted.
Perpignan tourism - Palace of the Kings of Majorca Perpignan
The Palais des Rois (or Palace of the Kings of Majorca Perpignan to give it it's full English translation) has come to symbolise Perpignan. It is a massive palace sitting on a hill to the south of the city centre. Some of the original building still remains, but the impressive outer defences were constructed by Louis XIII and Richelieu after they successfully took Perpignan from the Catalans in 1659. The Palace of the Kings of Majorca is a great spot to take in the city of Perpignan and provides views out towards the Mediterranean.
Perpignan things to do - Perpignan old town
In the centre of Perpignan's old town you will find the 15th century Palais de la Deputation (where the Count of Aragon once convened the Roussillon parliament); the 16th century Hotel de Ville; and the 14th Century Loge de Mer, which served as the regions stock exchange. The square outside these buildings once served as a base for executions during the 15th-16th centuries. At the end of the place de Loge, you will also find Perpignan's iconic building, Le Castillet, a red brick tower that was once the main gate of the old town walls and also served as a gaol.
Things to do in Perpignan - Musee Rigaud
This old 17th century Palace, was originally the workshop of the artist Hyacinthe Rigaud, a favourite of the court of Louis XIV. But it later served as a studio for a range of famous artists such as Picasso, Dufy, Maillol and Cocteau. If you have time it is well worth popping in to see the collection of paintings from its former residents. Musee Rigaud is on rue Ange, close to place Arago (see Musee Rigaud for more information).
Things to see in Perpignan - Perpignan train station
The train station itself is a relatively plain old building, but it has been adorned on top with a statue of Salavador Dali who immortalised it in a couple of his paintings ("Le Gare de Perpignan" 1963). The Perpignan railway station held special significance for Dalí, who once remarked that it was the "centre of the world". Indeed there was once an old milestone erected that simply read "Centre du Monde 0.0km".He claimed to have experience a vision whilst passing through the station. Dali indeed decorated part of Perpignan train station during refurbishment work.
Tourist spots in France: Perpignan beaches
Perpignan itself is a good base from which to explore the rest of Roussillon. Either by car or train you can reach Ceret, Thuir, Ille-sur-Tet, Sales or the coast at Collioure and Argeles-sur-Mer. The outskirts of Perpignan are pretty scruffy.
Near to Perpignan you will find some excellent beaches, especially at Argeles-sur-Mer, St Cyprien Plage and Le Franqui.
The beaches closest to Perpignan are a bit overdeveloped (Canet Plage), but Torreiles beach is probably the best bet. It is less crowded in the summer months. But all in all Perpignan is a good town and worth a visit.
Accommodation Perpignan region
If you are looking to come to the Perpignan region this summer, then Go Languedoc has a range of accommodation options close to Perpignan and the beaches of the Languedoc coast. The full selection of Perpignan apartments and villas to rent in France can be found here Perpignan region accommodation.
Here are 3 of our most popular villas to rent in the Perpignan area during summer 2023:
Villa Vell-Roure, South of France holiday home, sleeps 10 (Ref: 225)
Villa Vell-Roure is a spacious 5 bedroom holiday villa in South of France. The villa is located on the edge of the small village of Villelongue-dels-Monts, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, just 15 km from the Mediterranean coast.
The villa enjoys splendid views over the nearby village and on towards the Mediterranean coastline in the distance.
The villa features 5 double bedrooms, all of which come with their own bathroom and air conditioning. The villa sleeps 10 guests in comfort and comes with a large private pool (with a security fence).
The villa is located up a private lane in a quiet residential area. The villa is situated on a substantial plot and there is ample parking for a number of vehicles.
This South of France holiday villa is the perfect retreat for a large family group or crowd of friends looking for a very special property in a rural location.
Casa Baléares - 5 bed coastal holiday villa private pool South France (Ref: 2029)
Casa Baléares is a lovely 5 bedroom villa with private pool in Southern France that can sleep 12 people. The villa is set in the foothills of the Pyrenees, just 15 minutes drive to the Mediterranean coast and the beaches at Argeles-sur-Mer, Saint Cyprien and Collioure. A short walk takes you into the centre of the sought-after village of Laroque des Alberes, with all the shops and restaurants that you will need. Perpignan is just 20kms to the North and the Spanish border is just 15 mins away.
The villa is located in a quiet residential on a large plot of 2,800m2 plot. This holiday rental villa comes with 5 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, a well-equipped kitchen, spacious lounge, games room and lovely views.
This large holiday rental villa in Laroque-des-Alberes is the perfect accommodation for a large family or a couple of families holidaying together.
Laroque is a great village to be based in, providing easy access to the Mediterranean beaches and the sites of the Languedoc and Northern Spain. The village comes with a popular bar and a couple of restaurants. A great location for a family holiday in Southern France.
Available for weekly rentals in July and August from €3500.
Villa in Languedoc with private pool near Argeles sur Mer (Ref: 1229)
Mas Sangha is a stunning holiday villa in Languedoc with private pool close to the Mediterranean beaches at Argelès-sur-mer. This is the perfect spot for a relaxing family holiday in South France. Argeles-sur-mer is located in the Southern-most part of France and has 7km of beach, a Marina and a host of restaurants and shops.
The villa comes with 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and large grounds. The villa can sleep up to 8 people and is surrounded by a fruit farm and vineyards.
This Languedoc villa is located within 7000m2 of grounds which is fully enclosed. The villa is located 10 mins drive from Argeles-sur-Mer, 5 mins bike ride to the nearest village of Saint-André and 15 mins drive to the beaches.
If you are looking for peaceful holiday accommodation for a family holiday in the South of France, then this beautiful villa in the Languedoc is absolutely ideal. The villa benefits from a private pool, large garden and it furnished to a high standard. The villa is very private and comes with total peace and quite with no neighbours nearby! The beaches are close-by and it is easy to explore the sites of the Languedoc region or even a day trip down to Spain.
Where to next . . . ?
- Read our article on the Best Perpignan beaches South France to visit this summer
- Interested in staying near Perpignan in 2023? Check out our fantastic holiday villas and apartments near Perpignan
- Read more about the Musee Rigaud in Perpignan during your visit to the South of France
- Read up on beautiful Collioure in Collioure tourism information.
Contact Iain by Email if you have any particular questions you would like to ask about visiting the South of France. I wish you a wonderful stay in the South of France.