The Best Of Perpignan

Perpignan is where the Pyrenees flatten out to join the Mediterranean. It's a city of narrow medieval streets, outdoor cafés, markets and grand monuments.

Perpignan is where the Pyrenees flatten out to join the Mediterranean. It's a city of narrow medieval streets, outdoor cafés, markets and grand monuments.

Once Catalonia's second city (after Barcelona), under the 1659 Treaty of the Pyrenees, the Roussillon region was transferred to the French. The Catalan heritage is still strong. Yellow-and-red striped flags are ubiquitous. The street signs are in Catalan as well as French, and you're as likely to see locals dancing the sardane (the Catalan national dance) as playing pétanque. This cultural mix gives Perpignan a unique atmosphere which is a magnet for bohemians and artists. It has the culture, cuisine and atmosphere of Barcelona without the inflated prices and crowds.

Best hotel

Villa Duflot, Ronde-point Albert Donnezan (00 33 4 68 56 67 67; www.villa-duflot.com) offers rural tranquillity just a 10-minute taxi ride from town. The courtyard is planted with ancient olive trees and the rooms have balconies or patios, tiled floors, tasteful modern furnishings and original paintings and sculpture. Doubles from €105 (£70).

The Park Hotel, 18 bd Jean Bourrat (00 33 4 68 35 14 14; www.parkhotel-fr.com), is a modern, up-market establishment with a Michelin-starred restaurant. The rooms have views over Bir Hakeim park. Doubles from €65 (£43).

Best restaurant

For a taste of Catalonia try El Triquet on Rue Lazare (00 33 4 68 35 19 18), which serves tapas and local specialities such as boles des picolats (meat balls with olives and wild mushrooms) and red peppers stuffed with salt cod. The restaurant is run by a towering Dali-lookalike and the walls are hung with modern art and vintage Paris Match covers. Around €15 (£10) per head.

La France, Place de la Loge (00 33 4 68 51 61 71), is in the ground floor of the Loge de la Mer, a gothic, 14th-century building once the centre for maritime trade. The restaurant serves good French staples such as moules à la marinière and boeuf tartare alongside local dishes including parillada de poissons (fish stew). Around €30 (£20) per head. Tarteline on rue Petite le Monnaie serves delicious tarts for lunch, €10 (£6.70) per head.

Best cultural attraction

This year is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Salvador Dali in nearby Figueras. The painter was a great fan of Perpignan, which he proclaimed "truly surrealist". Over the year, five Dali exhibitions will be held, mostly at the Couvent de Minimes, rue Rabelais (00 334 68 66 18 68), Dali-inspired dancing, theatre and film. Other artists such as Maillol, Dufy, Picasso and Terrus congregrated in Perpignan at the beginning of the 20th century. Their works can be seen at the musée Hyacinthe Rigaud, rue de l'Ange (00 33 4 68 35 43 40), beside those of Rigaud himself, born in Perpignan and a court painter to Louis XIV.

Best shopping

There are daily markets in place Rigaud and place de la République, but the most interesting is the African market on place Cassanyes on Saturday and Sunday mornings. The pedestrianised streets behind the Castillet are best for classy window shopping, with Kenzo, Burberry, MaxMara and Cerruti all represented. The Librairie Tardy, on rue du Castillet, is a dusty cornucopia of antique books. The Maison Quinta on rue Grande des Fabriques Perpignan is everyone's favourite retail experience - four floors of colourful Catalan textiles, furniture and crockery.

Best sightseeing

The best view in Perpignan is from the top of the Palais des Rois de Majorque, rue des Archers. On a clear day, both the Spanish border and the ancient border between France and Catalonia are visible, as well as the snow-capped Canigou, the sacred mountain of the Catalans. The palace was begun in 1276 using local pink, white and blue marble. Perpignan's other landmark is the 14th-century Castillet.

Best night spot

Every Thursday in summer, Perpignan is transformed into a performance space with dancing and street theatre. On the same night, Le Habana, rue Grande des Fabriques Perpignan, hosts a salsa evening. On other nights, the Gaudi-inspired Café République, place de République, is the place to be.

Best way to get there

Ryanair ( www.ryanair.com) offers returns from Stansted from £22. Flybe has just introduced flights from Birmingham from £110 and Southampton from £98. A bus runs from the airport to the city eight times a day. It costs €4.30 (£2.90). A taxi is about €15 (£10). For further details contact Perpignan tourist information (00 33 4 68 66 30 20; www.perpignantourisme.com).

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
football
Life and Style
Jack Cooksey goes for the grand unveiling - moments before dropping his new iPhone 6 on the floor
iphone launch
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Life and Style
Customers look at the new iPhones on display at the launch of the new Apple iPhone 6 and iphone 6 plus at the Apple IFC store in Hong Kong
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week