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Although Perpignan is located in Southern France, its historical roots lie in the Spanish Kingdoms of Aragon and Majorca and for a long time it was also part of the County of Barcelona. It is therefore hardly surprising that the city feels more Spanish than French. Many of the inhabitants speak Catalan.
The Spanish influence is evident from the Palace of the Kings of Majorca (Palais des Rois de Majorque). This giant complex, located in a high spot, covers almost a quarter of the old city and is situated around an arcaded square. It's like a city within in a city. Inside the palace complex you can see beautiful frescoes and tiles. Every year in August, a music festival is held here, the Guitares au Palais.
The Gothic Loge de la Mer from the fourteenth century lies on the Place de Loge, in the heart of the city. It used to serve as a stock exchange and maritime court. The rich decorations (for example gargoyles) on the outside already catch the eye, but the interior is even more impressive: Chiseled window frames and exuberant woodcarvings.
The Castillet gatehouse from the fourteenth century houses two museums. In the Musée Casa Païral you can learn more about Catalan handicrafts, traditions and customs; in the Musée Rigaud you'll find paintings by the local artist Hyacinthe Rigaud, who was the court painter of King Louis XIV, as well as works by Dufy and Picasso.
On the Place de Gambetta lies the Cathédrale Saint-Jean, commissioned by the kings of Majorca. It has the typical appearance of buildings in the Roussillon: Red bricks combined with cobbles. Inside, candles tastefully illuminate the frescoes, stained-glass windows and the gilded altar. There is also a wooden sculpture representing the crucifixion of Jesus, Devôt Christ, which is carried around the streets of Perpignan on Good Friday in a procession that seems somewhat strange: The penitents are dressed in red or black garments with high cowls.
Next to the cathedral lies the Campo Santo, a former monastery and cemetery. In July, it forms the center of the Estivales, a renowned festival of classical music, dance and theater.
The two-week photo festival Visa pour l'image takes place every year in September. It includes work by photojournalists from all over the world who have captured conflicts, natural disasters and inequality on film. Some photos are quite shocking. These photos are displayed at various locations in the city, which makes that you will visit places where you would have never ended up otherwise.
Southwest of Perpignan lie the Pyrenees with the highest mountain in this region, the Pic de Canigou (2784 m) with its snow-capped peak. For Catalans it is a sacred mountain, which you can also tell from the large iron cross at the top. From Vernet-les-Bains-Cortáets excursions are organized to the top of the mountain.
North of the Pyrénées-Orientales department lies the wine region of the Corbières. You can of course make a trip along the vineyards, but you can also visit some beautiful Romanesque churches. In the Roussillon you'll find old Cathar castles at the top of limy mountains. The Roussillon coastline is jagged, but further north you'll find sandy beaches, for example near La Grande-Motte, Port-Leucate, Port-Barcarès and Cap d'Agde.
The city has various underground parking garages that are clearly signposted. Use these garages to park your car as they are cheaper and safer than parking out on the streets.
Perpignan Airport, or Aéroport de Rivesaltes, is located three kilometers north of the city. It is mainly a destination for budget airlines. You can easily reach the airport by rental car. From the airport, the D117 connects with the A9 toll road (which connects Toulouse and Montpellier with Barcelona in Spain) and the D900 parallel road, which leads to Perpignan's center.