A stone’s throw from the Pyrenees and France’s border with the Spanish region of Catalunya, Perpignan fuses two cultures. Natives call their city by its Catalan name, Perpinya. The red and yellow Catalan banner flies next to the French tricouleur. Food has a distinctive regional flavour, with dishes such as cuttlefish, anchovy pie from Collioure and Pyrenean ham. Locals dance the sardana, the Catalan circle dance, and many are still bullfight aficionados – though rugby is even more popular. In autumn and early winter, the city’s markets overflow with seasonal produce and it’s still warm enough to join the locals at a sunny café on place Arago, Perpignan’s social hub.
Main City Paris
Surface 68.07 km²
The people of Perpignan say you can buy just about anything at their city’s liveliest open air market. Stalls sell brightly coloured Catalan textiles and pottery and the work of local artists and artisans. Villagers come in from the country bringing their own produce – what’s on offer changes seasonally, but in autumn you can expect an even greater choice of home-made sweet and savoury preserves, cheeses, honey scented by Pyrenean herbs, and wines and liqueurs. There are plenty of stalls too where you can rummage for real antiques, unusual curios and bric-a-brac of all kinds
The city is proud of Perpignan-born Hyacinthe Rigaud, the 17th century artist and favourite of Louis XIV who worked in this gracious old mansion, painting portraits of courtiers, and aristocrats and local notables. It’s now the city’s fine arts museum, displaying a fine collection of paintings by Pablo Picasso, Raoul Dufy and Jean Cocteau, whose works form the core of a modern art collection which also features drawings and paintings by a number of other 20th century artists. If you love modern art, this little museum is a real discovery – it deserves to be much better known.
It’s hard to keep a secret like El Boca Boca, but young and lively locals far outnumber the handful of outsiders who manage to find this buzzy social hub of Perpignan. Because it’s favoured by natives, it stays open all year round (unlike the summer dance clubs in the nearby coastal resorts, which shut down from autumn until early spring). As you can guess from the name, Latin beats and beverages predominate. The door policy is relaxed, and even in autumn the outdoor garden is a nice place to chill. Don’t even think of getting here before midnight.