Perpignan Visitor information
Perpignan is the capital of the Pyrénées-Orientales department in southern France. The city is nestled in the foothills of the Pyrenees, so in many ways Perpignan feels as much Spanish as French. The city’s sprawling suburbs radiate out from the tight knot of the old town, with its warren of shady alleys and shabby tenements coloured in shades of lemon, peach and tangerine. It feels a little rough around the edges compared to Montpellier or Nîmes along the coast, but it has a distinctly multicultural character – Spanish and North African accents are just as common here as French.
Palais des Rois de Majorque – the Palace of the Kings of Mallorca dominates a large area just to the south of the old town.
Cathédrale St-Jean – construction began in 1324 and the cathedral was not completed until 1509. The cathedral has a flat façade of red brick and smooth, zigzagging river stones. It is topped by a typically Provencal wrought-iron bell cage.
Le Castillet & Casa Païral - a modest folklore museum which contains various bits and pieces of Catalan ephemera – from traditional bonnets and lace mantillas to an entire 17th-century kitchen.
Perpignan is served by the Gare de Perpignan railway station, which offers connections to Paris, Barcelona, Toulouse and several regional destinations. The motorway A9 connects Perpignan with Barcelona and Montpellier. The nearest airport is Perpignan – Rivesaltes Airport.
Perpignan has been inhabited since Roman times, but was founded at the start of the 10th century. Soon Perpignan became the capital of the counts of Roussillon. In 1172 Count Girard II bequeathed his lands to the Counts of Barcelona. Perpignan acquired the institutions of a partly self-governing commune in 1197. French feudal rights over Roussillon were given up by Louis IX in the Treaty of Corbeil (1258).
When James I, the Conqueror, king of Aragon and count of Barcelona, founded the Kingdom of Majorca in 1276, Perpignan became the capital of the mainland territories of the new state. The succeeding decades are considered the golden age in the history of the city. It prospered as a centre of cloth manufacture, leather work, goldsmiths' work, and other luxury crafts. King Philip III of France died there in 1285, as he was returning from his unsuccessful crusade against the Aragonese Crown.
In 1344 Peter IV of Aragon annexed the Kingdom of Majorca and Perpignan once more became part of the County of Barcelona. A few years later it lost approximately half of its population to the Black Death. It was attacked and occupied by Louis XI of France in 1463; a violent uprising against French rule in 1473 was harshly put down after a long siege, but in 1493 Charles VIII of France, wishing to conciliate Castile in order to free himself to invade Italy, restored it to Ferdinand II of Aragon.
Again besieged and captured by the French during the Thirty Years' War in September 1642, Perpignan was formally ceded by Spain 17 years later in the Treaty of the Pyrenees, and from then on remained a French possession.