Is Perpignan worth visiting?
This small town on France’s Catalonian border largely keeps to itself, but is snuggled right in the middle of idyllic Cathar Country.
Eight hundred years ago, this informal region of southern France was a rugged frontier dotted with mountaintop strongholds and constant political strife.
The impressive fortifications of the era remain today, making the countryside around Perpignan ideal for anyone searching for some living history alongside their beach vacation. Kids will love the castles and bastions of the region, and there are enough things to see in Perpignan to keep the whole family occupied for a week or so.
One day in Perpigan is, however, sufficient just to take in the major sights.
Perpignan sights are mostly bundled around the city center, with a few castles and beaches a stone’s throw outside town.
Cute and compact, it can be comfortably covered in a day.
Palace of the Kings of Majorca
Start your day in Perpignan at the town’s best known attraction. Eight hundred years ago, the Aragonese king James I The Conqueror set his eyes on Perpignan, turning it into the capital of a small feudal realm, the Kingdom of Majorca.
The kingdom was never truly independent, instead serving as an important buffer between James 1’s descendents and the French to the north. Nonetheless, it was here that James I’s son, James II, began construction on a major palace-fortress to the south of the town.
Today, that palace remains well preserved and open to the public. It’s one of the most important places to visit in Perpignan. The style is a fairly boisterous Gothic, with the entire complex being based around three large courtyards and two chapels.
The best part is the view from the roof, which commands generous views of the surrounding countryside. Kids will enjoy gawking over the town roofs, and on a clear day the view is well worth the stairs.
If you only have one day in Perpignan with kids, then make sure to prioritize a visit here.
Other than taking in the views from the roof and exploring the grounds below, there isn't much else to do at the palace.
Most rooms are almost entirely unfurnished, which takes a bit of the fun out of exploring such a historic location.
However, the old palace does come alive in August, when the three day Guitares au Palais is held on the premises.
The second big iconic attraction to mark off your list is easily reachable by foot from the palace. Another great example of this border town’s defensive history, the Castillet is a kid’s sized castle in a cute spot right in the heart of town.
For locals, this quaint historic structure is a popular meeting place, so on weekends expect to see friends, couples and families milling around the well-kept grassy areas.
Perpignan with kids simply wouldn’t be complete without ascending this small tower, via the informative museum within. In the museum, you’ll learn how this tower once guarded the entrance to the small medieval village of Perpignan, before later being converted into a prison.
After the visit, consider a stroll along the river nearby. This is a good stop for brunch if you have one day in Perpignan with kids.
The whole area, particularly the river walk, is pleasant and lined with restaurants. It’s also good for souvenir shopping.
In winter, you’ll be delighted by the festivities and folksy vibes.
Le Campo Santo
From the Castillet, you can continue heading deeper into the town center to find the historic Le Campo Santo.
This spacious public square has views of the Cathédrale Saint Jean-Baptiste. If your one day in Perpignan happens to be a weekend or vacation, then odds are you’ll run into some kind of eclectic public event in the square.
Nearby, there’s a few good snack bars offering ice cream, slices of fresh pizza and light meals. Consider this area for your lunch break, before or after the next activity.
Escape Dimension or TimeZone
Even if you’ve only got one day in Perpignan, a visit to one of the town’s excellent game rooms is well worth the detour.
In recent years, the town has grown a crop of family friendly escape style game rooms, each with their own unique twist on the formula.
Of all the game rooms in Perpignan worth visiting, the best is arguably Escape Dimension. Kids will need between one to two hours to find a way out of a dungeon-like maze of puzzles, games and adventure.
A similar experience can be found at nearby TimeZone, where players have to form teams to escape rooms with different themes.
It can likewise be completed in less than two hours, giving the adults plenty of time to see downtown Perpignan, enjoy an extended lunch and even sneak in some shopping.
If you have one day in Perpignan with kids, then make sure to bring them here.
Kid Friendly Beaches
As an alternative to spending all day in town, you may also want to do as the French do and enjoy this region’s sandy, sunny beaches.
Perpignan’s summer months bring sparkling Mediterranean waters and cloudless skies to this seaside hamlet.
Perpignan tourism is built around keeping the beaches pristine and safe, making this one of France’s best places to let the hair down with the family.
If you visit Perpignan with a vehicle, all of the following beaches are reachable within 10 minutes from the town center: Argeles sur Mer, St Cyprien, Canet Plage and Collioure.
If you visit Perpignan during peak season, make sure to arrive early as all these beaches fill up fast.
For a more laid back experience, you might want to try Torreilles Beach, which can be slightly more secluded than those mentioned above.
Chateau de Peyrepeteuse
As a final stop as you’re leaving town, try to squeeze in a visit to this amazing fortress.
For centuries, the Chateau de Peyrepeteuse marked the border between French and Aragonese (and later Spanish) territory. Today, it’s the largest and most well preserved of the Cathar Castles – a collection of fortresses in southern France associated with the 13th Century Cathar crusades.
The fortress itself holds a stunning location, perched on a 40 meter high limestone cliff. It’s one of the best things to do near Perpignan, and can be reached either by car or by hiking.
The hike can be started from the small village of Duilhac, but is not suitable for children.
Adults likewise shouldn’t attempt the ascent in poor weather.