This ancient defensive structure was built in 1368 to repel invaders and serve as the city’s gate. Expanded on by Louis XI around a century later before becoming a state prison in the 17th and 18th centuries, Le Castillet has now been declared a national historic monument. By climbing the 142 steep and narrow stone steps you can stand atop the structure and marvel at the views of the city and surrounding area. Within its walls are housed contemporary art exhibits and the Catalan Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions, which counts among its displays a replica of a 17th-century kitchen.
Address & telephone number: Place de Verdun, Perpignan, France, +33 4 68 35 42 05
Opened in 2010, this park provides not only a green space in which to relax but also flood protection for local residents, having been designed with irrigation canals and a water retention basin with a total capacity of 60,000 m3. Its meadows and large pond are home to a variety of plants from the Mediterranean coast and further afield, reeds, cattails, canes, tamarisks, oleanders, orange trees, and groves of maple, alder, ash, poplar, and aspen. Taking a stroll through the foliage or along one of the many walkways is a good way to blow off some steam.
Address & telephone number: Avenue Jean Giono, Perpignan France, +33 4 68 66 30 30
Palais des Rois de Majorque
This palatial complex was constructed in 1276 by King Jaime II of Majorca, and a permanent exhibition of the life of this “builder king” is held here. Although built in the Gothic style, Moorish, Arabic, and Spanish influences can be seen in its architecture, an indication of the area’s history of different rulers. Guided tours are available that will take you to places like the chapel, throne room, chancery, and dining room, and you will be able to walk among porticoes, galleries, fortifications, and courtyards. Art, photography, and film exhibitions are also staged here at times.
Address & telephone number: 4 Rue Archers, Perpignan, France, +33 4 68 34 64 93
Théatre de l’Archipel
It is worth visiting this theater site, the largest in Languedoc-Roussillon, just to view the bizarre genius of its architecture. Of its 6 buildings, Le Grenat (The Garnet) is most eye-catching, resembling a gigantic kidney bean covered in inscriptions. Le Grenat can seat up to 1100 people, and the other performance space, Le Carré (The Square), a further 400. The diverse range of shows on offer here includes theater, dance, circus, digital arts, contemporary and classical music, opera, and puppetry. They also run workshops for children of all ages and are involved with music festivals.
Address & telephone number: Avenue Général Leclerc, Perpignan, France, +33 4 68 62 62 00
Former home of the Bishop of the Diocese of Perpignan, this 18th-century building now functions as a museum dedicated to the Procession de la Sanch, an annual ceremony held in Perpignan and some other towns in France on Good Friday. Originally a means of conveying the condemned to their execution, the traditional hooded robes are still worn by today’s participants who walk in the same eerie silence as their predecessors did centuries ago. The museum contains information and artifacts relating to the Procession, including antique costumes.
Address & telephone number: 8 Rue de l’Académie, Perpignan, France, +33 4 68 62 38 84
Basilique-Cathédrale de Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Perpignan
Perpignan’s cathedral is another relic of the Majorcan kings’ occupancy. Its construction was begun in 1324 by King Sancho and was finished the following century. It is in the Catalan Gothic style, though a portico and clock tower were added in the 18th century. Whatever your religion (or lack thereof), a pilgrimage should be made to this grand example of human faith and skill. Distinguished by its wide nave, the cathedral also houses a stunning array of sculpture, artwork, gilding, religious icons, ornate altars, and stained glass.
Address & telephone number: 1 Rue de l’Horloge, Perpignan, France, +33 4 68 51 33 72
Arab and Romany quarter
Based around the bustling daily market at Place Joseph Cassanyes is an area of Perpignan that is populated mostly by those of Arab and Romany Gypsy descent. Here you will find North African cafés and bakeries, narrow winding streets, and countless stalls selling everything from trinkets, clothes, and jewelry to kebabs, spices, herbs, and baklava. Close by are the 13th century St Jacques church and the peaceful La Mirada garden. The quarter is a testament to Perpignan’s cultural diversity.
Address & telephone number: Place Joseph Cassanyes, Perpignan, France, N/A
Les Jeudis de Perpignan
Held every Thursday from mid-July to late August, this motley collection of cultural events includes street theater, parades, circus acts, artists, fanfares, troupes of dancers, and bazaars. Over 800 musicians will play at various venues over the course of the summer, treating attendees to jazz, flamenco, occitan, batucada, and more. Beginning at 6pm and continuing through to midnight, Les Jeudis come to an end each night at the Allée Maillol fountain, where 217 water jets are illuminated by a fantastic array of multi-colored lights.
Address & telephone number: Perpignan, France, +33 4 68 66 30 30
La Gare de Perpignan
It was in the lobby of Perpignan’s train station, in 1963, that Salvador Dalí experienced a vision that led him to declare La Gare de Perpignan as “the center of the world.” Two years later, he created a painting of the event, and a statue of the spread-eagled Dalí, inspired by the artwork, is perched atop the building. The plaza outside of the station is named Place Salvador Dalí in his honor, while the lobby’s ceiling is decorated in swirling, brightly colored shapes as an homage to the famous surrealist’s style.
Address & telephone number: 1 Place Salvador Dalí, Perpignan, France, +33 8 92 35 35 35
Place de la Loge
Visit this picturesque square in the heart of Perpignan’s old town and you may be able to experience the Sardana, a traditional Catalan folk dance accompanied by a band known as a cobla. Also here are three historic buildings. The Loge de Mer is a former stock exchange and maritime tribunal outfitted with gargoyles, balustrades, and a weather vane in the shape of a boat. The Palais de la Députation was once the site of Roussillon’s parliament, and finally, the Hôtel de Ville. Its façade decorated with pebbles features a bronze statue by local artist Aristide Maillol in its courtyard.
Address & telephone number: Place de la Loge, Perpignan, France, N/A
By Josh Wright