Losing the track on how many trips we’ve done so far since January, not to mention absolutely nonstop week after week with some longer than just a weekend here and there. The “scary but exciting” side of this is to think ahead on the ones yet to come! This year has gone absolutely crazy, but on track to beat all records. I cannot even cope in creating these travel guides more or less at good time, not even on the smaller word doc “use-and-throw” guides I create to keep me in line knowing where to go and what to see to the places I travel, which I create prior of writing a final travel guide after the trip in my blog.
So here is for the first trip to France this year. A new destination that was in our viewpoint for a while and now finally we found a great deal with Ryanair; Perpignan. But as usual, the rule of thumbs works in here too, whenever is low season, get your hands quickly to grab some bargains in flights, those tend to go too quickly making no sense anymore to book such destinations for double and triple the price. Probably that’s why we kept postponing Perpignan until we found the right fare we would pay to come here.
The city is not “truly” French, in the sense of the word. In fact, it feels one of the less French cities in the whole of France. The reason for this is for Perpignan having acted as the capital of the newly formed Kingdom of Majorca by James I from 1276, back in the times when this region formed part of the Spanish Empire. It lasted until 1642 with the Treaty of the Pyrenees, and 17 years later in 1659, Spain ceded it to France.
Since the city is not that large, a weekend is more than enough to visit, and even two days could be way too much time if you are used to city breaks as we are. Nevertheless was great to have this weekend a little bit more relaxed and enjoy more the quieter moments every now and then since the past months from January it has been a completely non-stop rush. We visited everything in around 7 hours, including the visit to the Palace of the Kings of Majorca and accessing the Castillet. It is for this reason that if you have the time to see something else, (probably you will have an entire day without knowing what else to do in Perpignan anyway), then don’t miss the chance to get to Carcassonne just 1 hours and 15 minutes away by train!
Being a city so near to the Mediterranean coast, their cuisine is well influenced by this fact and includes a great choice of fish and seafood. But that’s not all, since the many centuries the city was part of the Spanish Empire and seat of the Kings of Majorca, there is a fusion between French and Catalan cuisines. In any case, surprisingly don’t expect to easily find mussels and fries, which should be really in every restaurant’s menu. Instead the amount of pizzerias was well over the expectations, really nice by the way, just check around few restaurants and chose the best deal. Most of them do the “day menu” that includes a starter, main course and desert, plus a drink and bread. Price ranges between 12 and 15 euros, anything over this then is probably a rip off unless is a really elaborate menu of course.
For more information about Perpignan check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. France’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Perpignan
- Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist Built upon orders of King Sancho of Majorca between 1324 and 1509 in Catalan Gothic style, is designated a National Monument of France. In any case, do not expect great architectural design in its facade. The interior is the best part.
- Palace of the Kings of Majorca The main sight in the city is this spectacular and large palace-fortress, ordered to be built by the King of Majorca James II in 1276, and completed in 1309, in Gothic style.
- Le Castillet Is the symbol of the city. Former city gates and the prison, was built upon orders of Juan I of Aragon in 1368 to replace the older gate of the city walls, now gone. Located near one of the most transited areas of the city next to the Sadi Camot and Vauban walkways of the River Basse. Currently houses the Catalan Museum of the Arts and Popular Traditions.
- Plaza de la Lonja In English the Market Square, is the center of the city and one of the largest and important squares.
-Lonja de Mar The Market of the Sea building dates from the 14th century in Gothic style following the design of those in Palma de Majorca and Valencia.
-City Hall Built between the 13th and 14th centuries with a Renaissance patio.
-Courts Palace Built in 1454 is another landmark building in the city. Its walls are of carved stone ans you will recognize it easily, right next door to the City Hall.
- Casa Julia Is one of the few surviving medieval houses in the city, in Catalan Gothic style.
- Château Roussillon Not much is left from the old castle bearing the tower from the 13th century.
- Place de la Republique One of the largest city squares, with many cafes and restaurants around it and in the nearby streets
-Municipal Theatre Is the oldest in the city.
Arriving from the Rivesaltes Airport is pretty straight forward with shuttle buses to and from the city center. Yet there are other ways to reach Perpignan like by train from everywhere in France and even Spain since the city lies really near the border with Spain where few daily trains connect to Girona, or with much frequent bus connections. It’s not a long way down to Barcelona for example.
The bus line 7 runs every 30 minutes from 7.00am until 19.00pm with a last bus departing the airport at 22.25pm towards the city center. On the opposite direction, from the city center (Place de Catalogne) the last bus departs at 20.20pm. This is valid timetable from Monday to Saturday, while Sunday it is a much limited service since the amount of flights is also very limited. For the most up to date timetable you can visit the homepage of the airport, shuttle section here. A single ticket costs only 1.20 Euros and takes around 20 minutes to Place de Catalogne.
Within the city there is no need for any public transportation since it’s very small and pedestrian friendly. Distances are short and makes it perfect for enjoying the sights on foot. Should you need to get farther, there is a good network of buses, but other than that, there is nothing else but taxis.
Although the city is not major in size nor in importance, also not a large tourist spot, there is still a good choice and amount of hotels with really good deals, at least by the time we booked it and went. Probably, same as for pretty much everywhere in the world during the high season months the cost for the same room would double if not triple, therefore keep an eye and compare around. That now I can strongly recommend this hotel does not mean that will be the same good deal should you wish to book the same. A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.
We stayed at the Appart’City Perpignan Centre, on 12 Boulevard Saint-Assiscle, meters away from the main train station. Location was great, minutes walking distance from the city center and all the sights. Good comfort and friendly helpful receptionist (even though they do not have 24 hours reception, being all automated with an access code when out of hours). It was an entire studio flat with a kitchenette and plenty of space and nice terrace; very clean and up to good standards. The bed was superb! Even much more comfortable than many 4* hotels we stay. This is not the first time we stay an an Appart’City while in France, and won’t be the last. Once you access their website, you will need to select the city from the drop-down list, then check your desired dates.