Perpignan is unassuming yet incredibly charming. It’s no wonder that Picasso was a frequent visitor. Nestled along the sun-drenched Vermillion Coast in southern France, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Pyrenees, Perpignan is a perfect destination for a short getaway. To help you make the most of your day trip to Perpignan, here’s my One Day in Perpignan: The Ultimate Itinerary for exploring the city’s greatest attractions.
As you stroll through the city, you will come across many historical attractions and stunning architecture. You will be able to sample delicious French and Catalan treats like turrón or crema Catalana (a reminder of Perpignan’s proximity to the Spanish border), explore cute gift shops, and relax in green spaces along the River Basse.
- One Day in Perpignan: The Ultimate Itinerary
- Palace of the Kings of Majorca (Le Palais des Rois De Majorque)
- Hôtel Pams
- Casa Xanxo
- Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist
- Campo Santo
- The Castillet and the Casa Pairal Museum
- The Town Hall (Hôtel de Ville / Loge de Mer)
- Hyacinthe-Rigaud Museum
- Good to Know
One Day in Perpignan: The Ultimate Itinerary
Palace of the Kings of Majorca (Le Palais des Rois De Majorque)
Boost your energy with a cup of coffee (there is no shortage of cute cafes in Perpignan) and head to the Palace of the Kings of Majorca, a splendid 13th-century fortress offering panoramic views over the plains of Roussillon, the Pyrenees and the Pic du Canigou.
You will have plenty of photo opportunities (bonus: you can snap away inside the palace too).
Check out the king and queen’s chambers, the grand banquet hall, and the Sainte Croix chapel.
Take a relaxed walk through the gardens filled with Mediterranean plants. If you’re there in the summer, you might catch some performances in the palace courtyard.
Address: Rue des Archers, 66000 Perpignan
Continue your stroll through Perpignan and make a stop at Hotel Pams. It’s hands down my favourite spot in the city, and it’s truly one-of-a-kind. If you are into discovering hidden treasures, this place will be right up your alley.
In 1852, Pierre Bardou, the son of the JOB cigarette paper company founder, used his family fortune to acquire a house on rue E. Zola. After his passing, his politician relative, Jules Pams, hired architect Léopold Carlier to redesign the home.
Carlier blended various architectural styles, drawing inspiration from the Neo-Renaissance, Neo-Classical, and Art Nouveau movements.
Today the house belongs to the city of Perpignan and the entry is free.
Once you are there, climb a magnificent iron-wrought staircase, explore ceremonial salons, and wander in the patio garden adorned with Art Nouveau galleries.
When I visited Hotel Pams during Halloween, I stumbled upon eerie skeletons, Halloween pumpkins, and other spooky decorations.
It felt like stepping into a scene straight from Tim Burton’s film.
Address: 18 Rue Emile Zola, 66000 Perpignan
Continue walking towards Casa Xanxo. The façade of this building features a frieze of enigmatic characters and animals, a hallmark of its Gothic origins.
A wealthy cloth merchant with the rather fancy name Bernat Xanxo constructed this impressive residence in the 16th century.
Today, Casa Xanxo houses the CIAP (Centre for the Interpretation of Architecture and Heritage).
8 Rue de la Main de Fer, 66000 Perpignan
At this point, you’re probably hungry. Grab a bite at one of the local restaurants around the city centre. Perpignan offers fantastic French and Catalan specialties and you’ll find restaurants catering to all budgets.
Just a heads up: some restaurants and bars like to change their menus daily, and they like to keep it authentic with handwritten French descriptions on blackboards.
If French isn’t your strong suit, Google Translate can come in handy. Otherwise, be prepared for some language gymnastics! (I keep telling myself I’ll start learning French after every trip to France.)
If you’re up for a unique culinary experience, I highly recommend a few restaurants:
Despite its unassuming interior, Le 17, located in the heart of Perpignan’s historic centre (not far from Perpignan’s Cathedral), offers delicious French cuisine with a modern flair.
From exceptional wines to culinary masterpieces, the dining experience here is outstanding. While the staff may not always speak English, they are extremely friendly, and the atmosphere is warm and inviting.
Given its popularity, it’s better to either book your table in advance or be at the restaurant right when it opens.
Address: 1 Rue Cité Bartissol, 66000 Perpignan
This Michelin-starred restaurant is a definite must-try. Chef Christophe Comes is passionate about plants. His love for veggie gardens and citrus and olive trees is reflected in the taste and freshness of his dishes. Each plate is bursting with flavours and made with top-quality ingredients.
Address: 23 Rue Jean Payra, 66000 Perpignan, France
Le Grain de Folie
Le Grain de Folie offers modern European cuisine beautifully showcased at surprisingly reasonable prices. Not to mention the impeccable service that adds to the overall dining experience.
Address: 71 Avenue du Général Leclerc, 66000 Perpignan
Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist
After lunch, make your way to Perpignan’s Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist. It’s a stunning example of French Gothic architecture that dates back to the 14th century. Inside, you will find impressive sculptures, finely crafted altars, and beautiful stained-glass windows.
Take a moment to appreciate the Great Organ. Notice a carved head with a movable jaw at the lower part of the organ case. In the past, the jaw could be opened by a special pedal.
According to local stories, before the Christmas mass, the head would be filled with candies. During the performance, as the organist used the pedal, children below would be treated to a cascade of sweets.
Once you exit the cathedral, you will see a lovely square. Take a glance at the brick buildings with pale, painted shutters and ornate balconies.
Address: 1 Rue de l'Horloge, 66000 Perpignan
Right next to the cathedral, you will find the Saint-Jean cloister-cemetery, known as Campo Santo. Dating back to the 14th century, this site served as the main burial ground for Perpignan’s elite until the 19th century. Today, it’s a popular tourist spot frequently used for cultural events and concerts.
Address: 6 Rue Amiral Ribeil, 66000 Perpignan
The Castillet and the Casa Pairal Museum
Make a quick stop at the Castillet. This mediaeval red-brick gate tower used to be a military fortress and a prison. It now houses the Casa Pairal Museum, great for those into Catalan culture and traditions. Head up to the rooftop terrace for panoramic views of Perpignan.
Address: place de Verdun, 66000 Perpignan
The Town Hall (Hôtel de Ville / Loge de Mer)
Take a stroll to the Place de la Loge, where you will find an impressive building featuring a pebbled façade made of river stones, a characteristic element of Roussillon architecture. This building is none other than Perpignan’s Town Hall, originally used as the Stock Exchange.
The patio of the Town Hall showcases one of Aristide Maillol’s masterpieces, the Mediterranean. Adjacent to the Town Hall, you will also find the former Palace of the Deputation.
Address: Place de la Loge, 66931 Perpignan
Even if art isn’t your forte, a trip to the Hyacinthe-Rigaud Museum in Perpignan is worth it. The museum honours the works of the local painter, Hyacinthe Rigaud, and showcases an impressive collection of both classic and contemporary art, including works by Picasso.
Personally, I really enjoyed a collection of photos that captured Picasso’s time in Perpignan and the Baroque portraits by Rigaud.
Before you leave, don’t forget to check out the museum’s small but incredibly charming garden.
Address: 21 Rue Mailly, 66000 Perpignan See: https://www.musee-rigaud.fr
You can enjoy the rest of your day strolling through the narrow alleys of the old city, dotted with little shops and cafes, savouring a glass of French wine in one of the local bars, or watching the sunset over the green banks of the Basse River.
And the best part? You won’t be jostling for space with a sea of tourists, so you can truly relish the local vibe (one of the top reasons Perpignan is such a great destination to explore).
Good to Know
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit is from late spring to early autumn for nice weather and different festivals, including the International Festival of Photojournalism.
Navigating the Area
Perpignan is best explored on foot, but buses operated by Sankeo can take you to different parts of the city. Check bus routes and schedules at stops (they are usually well-marked) or visit the tourist information centre, located in Place de la Loge, for assistance.
Where to stay
The best area to stay in Perpignan often depends on your preferences and the purpose of your visit. Here are some recommended areas to consider:
Staying in the heart of the city centre puts you within walking distance of key attractions such as Le Castillet, the Cathedral, and Place de la Loge. Additionally, you’ll have easy access to shops, restaurants, and public transport.
This neighbourhood is known for its narrow streets, historic buildings, and the Church of Saint-Jacques. It’s a quieter option compared to the city centre, yet many attractions are still within walking distance.
Gare de Perpignan (Train Station)
The neighbourhood surrounding Perpignan station is perfect if you want to explore the area of Perpignan by train. It is well-connected by public transport and offers various accommodation options.
What to see in Perpignan’s area?
There is a lot to explore in the area, from stunning coastlines and historical sites to scenic landscapes. Consider a wine tour in nearby vineyards or visiting Collioure, a lovely coastal town well known for its colourful buildings, cultural heritage, Royal Castle, and… anchovies!