Perpignan may be located within France’s borders, but this historic town doesn’t feel like a distinctly French town. Perpignan’s rich history has given it its own unique culture and atmosphere, thus you’ll feel almost as if you’re in an entirely new country when you travel from elsewhere in France to Perpignan. Located near the Spanish border, this Catalan city boasts a beautiful Mediterranean climate, gorgeous architecture and a unique character with which you’re sure to fall in love.
Before I visited Perpignan, I knew relatively little about this sunny, romantic city in the French Pyrenees countryside. But after a few locals in Marseille raved about this beautiful town, I decided to get out of the big city and explore one of France’s more underrated destinations. Without hesitating, I pulled up the HotelTonight app on my phone and booked a great last-minute hotel in Perpignan. HotelTonight makes it easy for travelers to find last-minute deals on hotels around the world, which is why it has become my absolute favorite modern travel resource.
Perpignan is a small town, so you can see most of the city in a couple of days; however, you may be so drawn to the city’s charm and character that you may want to extend your stay. That’s exactly what happened to me, because as soon as I began wandering through the tight knot of alleyways and cobbled streets of the old town, I was hooked. This historic city center features colorful peach and tangerine buildings, typical of a Mediterranean town, as well as the Majorca kings’ palace and the beautiful Place de la Loge. Once the capital of Majorca during the Middle Ages, Perpignan was also a part of Spain at one point, so the blend of different cultures and architecture is evident throughout Perpignan, but especially so in the old town. This is an area of the city you’ll keep returning to, because it’s charming, pretty and full of great restaurants, shops and historical sights.
The Têt River winds through the city of Perpignan to the Mediterranean Sea, and the city has built around the river in a very attractive fashion. In the heart of the city, the Têt runs through canals, which are lined with greenery, trees and paved walkways, providing the perfect paths for afternoon walks along the river. I was lucky enough to visit Perpignan during the spring, when the flowers along the Têt were in bloom, making my afternoon strolls colorful and fragrant.
If you want to enjoy some of Perpignan’s beautiful Mediterranean weather and a bit of natural scenery, you should visit the Parc Sant-Vicens. This park is very popular among locals, who venture out into the park to exercise, enjoy a leisurely stroll, or meet up with friends. Once I found out about this expansive natural park, I visited every day during my stay in Perpignan to get in a bit of exercise under the bright Mediterranean sun.
Even though Perpignan is small, it’s quite a diverse town, largely due to its complex history. The Arab and Romany quarter is one of Perpignan’s most interesting areas, as it’s populated by mostly people of Arab and Romany Gypsy descent. In this neighborhood, you’ll find narrow streets, North African bakeries and cafes, and shops and stalls selling kebabs, spices, and baklava. This neighborhood adds a unique flavor to the town of Perpignan, and you shouldn’t miss it during your stay in this Catalan gem.
Just a short drive outside Perpignan is the picture perfect town of Castelnou. Nestled in the foothill of Les Apres, this mountain village feels untouched by time. Castelnou’s narrow, medieval streets wind through the hilly village, and it’s a dream come true for architecture lovers and history buffs. I spent an afternoon walking through the magical streets of Castelnou, which were once part of the Majorca Empire. Today, Castelnou is regarded as one of the prettiest towns in all of France, so it’s well worth the trip from Perpignan. In Castelnou, you’ll find charming local art galleries, jaw-dropping vistas, and some of the best-preserved medieval streets in France.
I’ll be honest–Perpignan completely surprised me. I didn’t know exactly what to expect from this small Catalan town in the south of France, but it didn’t take long for Perpignan to win me over. From its quaint, charming old town to its stunning natural surroundings, this historic French town offers plenty to do, see and experience. Perpignan should be on every traveler’s radar, especially since this small town is so easy to explore in just a day or two. During my short stay in Perpignan, I felt that I got a great beat on the city and its unique culture, and I’d certainly return in the future. The next time I find myself in this area of France, I’ll be sure to book a last-minute hotel in Perpignan so that I can enjoy the beauty and the charm of this French town once again.