Destinations,  Europe,  France,  Travel Diary

Perpignan, a Spanish city in France

Perpignan is a town on the border of France and Spain; it has a lot of Spanish influence, more than can be found elsewhere in France. Or, more properly, it has significant Catalan influence. Many street signs are in both French and Catalan, for instance.

It also used to be the capital of the Kingdom of Majorca in the 13-14th centuries, so there’s some really cool medieval history hanging around.

If you’re on a tour of Southern France, Perpignan is an intriguing insight to the pre-French history of this particular area. It’s also small enough that you could totally visit it as a day tour from somewhere nearby, like Narbonne or Toulouse. I visited in October 2022 on a short stop before heading down to Barcelona.

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Transportation

Surreal artist Salvador Dali called the Perpignan train station the center of the world

France has a great public transit system and Perpignan is well-connected by bus and train.

From Narbonne: 46 minutes by train

This is what I did! It was a super local train, standing-room only, and honestly I was glad it was so short because I was standing right across from the toilet the whole time.

From Toulouse: 2 hours 24 minutes by train, 2 hours 30 minutes by bus (also half the cost of the train)

From Barcelona: 1 hour 22 minutes by train, 2 hours 20 minutes by bus

I went the opposite direction, from Perpignan to Barcelona, by Alsa bus and it was super easy. I think if you’re going by train you have to switch at the border, so there’s an extra step, where as with the bus you just stay on the whole time.

Accommodation

If you’re stopping by on your way to another destination, then one night in Perpignan won’t break the bank. There’s plenty of hotels for all budgets!

Appart’City Perpignan Centre Gare isn’t the prettiest hotel, but it’s a decent location, right across from the train station, and surprisingly well-stocked for travelers who want to take advantage of the kitchen to cook their own food. The staff who checked me in spoke good English and they have breakfast for a small charge.

Here’s a room tour video I took:

There’s a LIDL down the street which is where I got some groceries for my 5 night stay. You don’t need to stay 5 nights in Perpignan, but it IS cheaper than Narbonne, Carcassonne or Toulouse unless you can get a cheap-y AirBNB. I paid roughly $51.48 USD/night for my aparthotel.

The only downside of this particular location is that the train station area is a) fairly loud as it’s also a major street, and b) fairly rough, as there were several homeless people sleeping in the square between the hotel and the business next door. As a solo female traveler, it did feel a bit dicey so I didn’t go out after dark.

Here’s a demonstration of the hotel’s wonderful sound-dampening windows (and to show how loud it was outside at almost all hours):

A more aesthetic stay would be maybe 25 minutes walking distance from the train station, over towards the Plaza de la República which is where the nice tourist things are located.

Some hotels in that area are:

  • Hôtel De La Loge which has a desk, a flat-screen TV, free WiFi, air conditioning and a private bathroom PLUS you might be able to get a balcony. They have a breakfast buffet for an additional cost.
  • Hotel De France which has a desk, an LCD TV, free WiFi, air conditioning and a private bathroom. Some rooms have a view of the river or the gardens! They also have a breakfast buffet for an additional cost.
  • Hotel Alexander which has a desk, a TV with Satellite, free WiFi, air conditioning and a private bathroom. They do have breakfast but not sure it it’s a buffet or just an attached restaurant.

Perpignan Sightseeing

The good thing about Perpignan is that the historical center is super walkable. Even if you’re coming from the train station area, you can get there in about 20 minutes walking. Every major tourist attraction is within the same part of town, called Quartier Saint-Jean.

I honestly was tuckered out from some hardcore traveling in the last few weeks, so I stuck to just wandering around the historical center and looking at buildings. I didn’t even take that many photos!

If you only have a short time here, a 1 hour walking tour with a small group would be a great way to cover the major sights.

If you prefer not to walk as much, there’s a tourist train you can snag for €10 which has an audio tour guide.

Plaza de la República

The place to be for dining and shopping! It’s a public square surrounded by brightly-colored buildings and lots of tourists roaming around. When I visited at the end of October it wasn’t super busy, I think because the tourist high season is more in the summer.

Some very cute boutique shops and cafes in this area!

Le Castillet

This is a museum inside a 14th century gateway tower, and it was unfortunately closed when I visited. However, I could still see the outside! And it looked pretty nifty. Did I get a photo? No!

Campo Santo

A 14th century funerary cloister, which you can go in and explore a bit. The courtyard is used for concerts and town events, so there’s usually something exciting going on inside.

Perpignan Cathedral

Gothic cathedral very similar in style to other Gothic cathedrals in the surrounding area. Beautiful! But a bit repetitive if you’ve already seen 20 of them.

Things I didn’t see but probably should’ve:

  • Palace of the Kings of Majorca, a restored 13th century Gothic palace.
  • Hôtel Pams
  • Musée d’art Hyacinthe Rigaud, which has Picasso artworks in it
  • Weekly Markets

Just gives me an excuse to stop by again, really!

Perpignan Photo Gallery

I DID take some photos! Click to enlarge them:

Is Perpignan worth visiting?

I definitely think it’s an interesting view to France’s history, and visiting is a good way to tie up a short tour of Southern France. However, if you’re planning on going to Barcelona (which is also Catalan) then to be honest Perpignan is not a necessary stop, because you’ll see similar stuff in Barcelona, and in greater portions.


Europe 2022 Travel Diaries

Journal date: October 29-November 3, 2022

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Anastasia is a former librarian turned digital nomad. She's been traveling the world full time for two years and has visited 18 countries so far! Just Gone Wandering is a travel resource for solo female travelers on a backpacker's budget-- or slightly more-- and highlights amazing places to visit as well as providing tips and tricks for traveling smart and frugal. Read more...

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