As the former capital of the Kingdom of Majorca, Perpignan was Spanish until the 17th century. The Catalans are proud of an ancestral culture that they like to share with visitors. The sea is 10 minutes away, the mountains an hour away, and Perpignan is their vibrant, lively and colourful "centre of the universe", as Dali proclaimed it.
Bathed in sunshine 300 days a year, with weather like that you can't go wrong choosing Perpignan as a holiday destination. The region's vineyards are testament to this exceptional climate; the terroir of the region has also been awarded the "Vignobles & Découvertes" label. Walk among the vines or the shady streets, then, once the evening rolls around, pull up a chair on rue Paratilla, nicknamed "the street of spices", around a cargolade, a platter of grilled snails, or a portion of Collioure anchovies. Enjoy the laughter and the sunshine on your plate, before dancing the sardana to the sound of a cobla, a traditional Catalan orchestra.
Most of the must-see sites are free-entry: the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, the Loge de Mer, the Museum of Natural History, the Fort du Serrat d’En Vaquer and its stunning panorama over the Roussillon plain, and the Casa Xanxo, a Gothic town house that will give you a taste of city life in days gone by.
For lovers of religious architecture, Perpignan boasts many exceptionally well preserved chapels, cathedrals and cloisters. The Ancien Evêché, the Eglise des Dominicains and the great Carmelite convent are all sites that bear witness to a history of religious fervour and the spirit of conquering the oceans. The nearby Mediterranean is a reminder of just how much the sea still influences this Catalan spirit, which is so recognisable and unique: there's a palpable energy in the many festivals and cultural events, a lifestyle revolving around the fine details of crafts and food, and a rarely equalled sense of hospitality.