36 hours in Perpignan – worth the visit?

Absolutely!

But what I’d like to know is if you have a list of places you want to visit?  Maybe in your home country or further afield? In the UK, for example, I have never visited the Lake District (I am ashamed to say!) yet. Further afield, India would be top of my list.  Here, in France, my wish list of places to visit seems to get longer by the minute. This brings me to Perpignan.

I have wanted to visit Perpignan for ever. It was even one of my choices when I did a teacher exchange. Therefore, I was delighted when we actually spent some time there, recently. We took the train from Carcassonne which goes all the way to Barcelona. It’s a fabulous journey and only takes an hour as it is direct.

Perpignan station is famous for its links with Dali.  He claimed that he was inspired simply by sitting in the station’s lobby. In 1963, Dali said that Perpignan  station was ‘the centre’ of the world. He later created a painting entitled ‘La Gare de Perpignan’  which hangs in the Ludwig Museum in Cologne.

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Leaving the station, we decided to head into Perpignan for a coffee and croissant and as we wandered into the city centre (about 15 minutes walk) we walked past the statue of Dali ‘en Levitation’. He is seated on a high red chair, outside FNAC, on the Place de Catalogne and facing towards the train station. The FNAC shop is located inside the original ‘Dames de France’ building which was opened in 1910.

I’m a fan of ‘hop-on, hop-off’ buses when arriving in a new city for a short visit. These aren’t available in Perpignan. We did the next best thing and caught ‘Le petit train’. The journey lasts for about 50 minutes and takes you around 34 of the main sites. Mr FF doesn’t share my enthusiasm for these ‘little trains’ but he had to admit that this was an excellent introduction to Perpignan.

After the train, we dropped our bags at our hotel. We often stay in Airbnb’s but, on this occasion, had opted for a hotel as we would be there for only one night. Location was important, as we would be doing a lot of walking! Our  hotel ‘Campanile Perpignan Centre’ was situated opposite a lovely park: le square Bir Hakeim.

Our room overlooked the old city walls.

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There was so much to discover and only limited time. This is what we manged to see:

  • Le Castillet 

This is a distinctive red brick tower and the only remaining one of the old town walls. It was built in 1368 to repel invaders and serve as a gate into the city. It was turned into a prison in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Casa Pairal Museum is located in the Castillet. The highlight, for me, was the views from the top of the monument. There are 142 stone steps to get to the top but it’s definitely worth the effort!

  • Le cinema Castillet

This is round the corner from Le Castillet and was completed in 1911. I loved the art nouveau style and this cinema is said to be one of the oldest and most beautiful in France.

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  • Le Palais des Rois de Majorque 

This magnificent 13th century palace was built as a residence for Jaume 11 of Mallorca. Perpignan has strong Catalan roots having belonged to Spain for long periods of its history. It only became French in 1642. Street names in Perpignan are written in French and Catalan.

To reach this impressive palace, there are  zig zagging steps until you reach the beautiful gardens. Here there are breath taking views of the Pic du Canigou. The day we went, entrance was free. I don’t know why. I believe it normally costs 4 euros; well worth it. We opted for the self-guided tour and there is plenty to see.

  • Cathedrale St-Jean Baptiste

On the day we visited, there was a small, family service taking place but we were still able to appreciate the nave, side chapels and stained glass. The foundations were laid in 1324 but it was elevated to cathedral status in 1601. The style is Gothic and the dimensions are impressive.

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There are many beautiful squares in Perpignan where you can people watch and enjoy a coffee, beer and a snack. We were there on a beautiful, warm sunny day. Perfect!

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This brings me on to food. There is no shortage of restaurants in Perpignan. As we were only there for one night, it was quite difficult to chose! In the end, we decided on Casa Santa which is known for being the city’s best Catalan restaurant. It was established in 1846 and is very popular. The inside is best described as ‘intimate’ as there isn’t much space between the tables. We didn’t mind as the food was extremely good! I was enjoying my meal so much that I forgot to take any photos. Here’s one from the restaurant’s Facebook page. I’m sure they won’t mind as I’m singing their praises!

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I’ll finish with a selection of photos which I hope will give you a further flavour of Perpignan. We certainly didn’t manage to see and do everything and we will definitely go back as we enjoyed the city so much!

Have you visited Perpignan? What did you think? I’d love to know!

 

Lou Messugo

41 thoughts on “36 hours in Perpignan – worth the visit?

  1. I highly recommend going for the Visa Pour l’Image photo-journalism festival in early September. The works are shown in several venues–good excuse to walk around. The city is very interesting–too close to the beach and touristy for living there, in my opinion, but well worth a visit, especially out of July/August.

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  2. I highly recommend going for the Visa Pour l’Image photo-journalism festival in early September. The works are shown in several venues–good excuse to walk around. The city is very interesting–too close to the beach and touristy for living there, in my opinion, but well worth a visit, especially out of July/August.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We have driven through Perpignan today 😊. However we had no time to stop and look around as we were heading for the motorway to take us into Spain for an 11 day stay. We have just stayed at Camping Ma Prairie, Cannet en Rousillon for 3 days. If you get the chance revisit Perpignan in August when the festival is on. The city thwn becomes magical with all the street entertainment.
    Loved reading about your visit. Thank you for sharing. Regarda Jill stylishatsixty
    http://Www.stylishatsixty.wordpress.com

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  4. Perpignan sounds and looks lovely but i think we must get to Carcassone first! Actually we’ve decided to take the train next time we see our friend in Toulouse and think that this will be rather a good way to see and travel around France as neither of us like driving all that much. The days of us driving across or down France in practically one day are over (!) but the train particularly French trains seem to me to be the way to go – as you did!

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    • If you haven’t visited Carcassonne, it’s definitely a must! I love train travel. You definitely see much more. We still drive down to our house, at least twice a year, but that’s mostly because we’re taking paint, tools etc! We do it over two days and share the driving. The train journey Toulouse to Barcelona, via Carcassonne and Perpignan, is fantastic!

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  5. IT looks an interesting place to visit. I’d like to see more of France; the only place I’ve been is Cannes. I’d like to see Japan but couldn’t face such a long flight. Apart from that, it’s more about wanting to re-visit places I enjoyed. My daughter and I are planning Barcelona next year (I love it). I would really like to go back to Amsterdam, Stockholm and to Gdansk in Poland and see more of them. In the UK I’ve long wanted to go to Whitby and have that planned for late summer.

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    • I’m not overly keen on long flights either. This was one of the reasons why we broke our journey on the way to South Africa. I loved Barcelona when we visited last year and I have always enjoyed Amsterdam. I’ve never been to Scandinavia nor the Baltics. I loved Dublin and would like to revisit.

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  6. I went to Perpignan as a child as we stayed with French friends in a little village nearby but I don’t remember exploring the city. Your post has really inspired me to go back down that way – the colours are glorious! #allaboutfrance

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  7. I think the closest we’ve ever been to Perpignan is getting lost on the roundabouts to the unending shopping centres on the outskirts! Must try harder next time as the photos look lovely. After 14 yrs of living four hours from Toulouse, we finally got to visit this year and loved it, even if the weather meant all the public parks had been closed due to the high winds!!! #AllAboutFrance

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    • As we went to Perpignan by train, we avoided any roundabouts and shopping centres! We are about 45 mins from Toulouse and I love going there. It’s a fabulous city. Thanks for commenting #AllAboutFrance

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  8. Your post is the first I’ve heard of Perpignan! And of course, after looking at your photos, I would love to visit. The red roofs against the backdrop of snowy mountains is so beautiful!

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  9. I’ve passed Perpignan quite a few times on the way to Spain, or further west in France. I’ve never stopped there, but after reading your post, I see that that was a mistake! It looks lovely! #allaboutfrance

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  10. I’ve driven past Perpignan many times and once stopped for lunch at the beach on the outskirts with 50 ten year olds on the way back from a school trip to Barcelona, but I’ve never actually been into the city. But I’d love to! I definitely have lists of places I want to go to and running #AllAboutFrance linky it just gets longer and longer with all the lovely places people link up. Thanks for adding to my list!!!

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    • I’m exactly the same! My list of places to visit in France, let alone elsewhere, keeps growing. The #AllAboutFrance linky is a brilliant way to learn about new places and revisit familiar ones.

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  11. Pingback: Espadrilles | Fancying France
  12. Hi Fancying France, really liked your blog on Perpignan. I haven’t been, but will spend a couple of days there in September. Really appreciate the details you shared, I’m looking forward to checking it out.

    Liked by 1 person

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