Perpignan (/ˈpɜːrpɪnjɒ̃/, US: /ˌpɛərpˈnjɒn/,[2][3] French: [pɛʁpiɲɑ̃] (listen); Catalan: Perpinyà [pəɾpiˈɲa]; Occitan: Perpinhan; Spanish: Perpiñán Spanish pronunciation: [perpiɲɑːn]) is the prefecture of the Pyrénées-Orientales department in Southwest France, nestled in the heart of the plain of Roussillon, at the foot of the Pyrenees a few kilometres from the Mediterranean Sea and the scrublands of the Corbières massif. It is the centre of the metropolitan area Perpignan Mediterranée Métropole. In 2016 Perpignan had 121,875 inhabitants (Perpignanais(e) in French, Perpinyanés(a) in Catalan) in the commune proper, and the metropolitan area had a total population of 268,577 making it the last major French city before Spain.


Perpinyà  (Catalan), Perpiñán  (Spanish)
Coat of arms
Location of Perpignan
Coordinates: 42°41′55″N 2°53′44″E
CantonPerpignan-1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6
IntercommunalityPerpignan Méditerranée Métropole
  Mayor (2020–2026) Louis Aliot (RN)
68.07 km2 (26.28 sq mi)
  Density1,800/km2 (4,600/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+01:00 (CET)
  Summer (DST)UTC+02:00 (CEST)
INSEE/Postal code
66136 /66000
Elevation8–95 m (26–312 ft)
(avg. 30 m or 98 ft) (in French) (in Catalan)
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km2 (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

Perpignan was the capital of the former province and County of Roussillon (Rosselló in Catalan) and continental capital of the Kingdom of Majorca in the 13th and 14th centuries.It has preserved an extensive old center which aligns its coloured houses in a series of picturesque streets and alleys stretching between the banks of the Têt and its tributary the Basse. Its heritage earned it the title of "City of Art and History".

A important economic centre and university town for centuries, the capital of the French part of Catalonia is still an eventfull and touristic city with its bodegas in the historic centre. The city is also known for its International Photojournalism Festival, its medieval Trobades and its centuries-old garnet industry.



Perpignan is located in the center of the Roussillon plain, 13 km west of the Mediterranean coast. It is the southernmost of the cities of metropolitan France.


Perpignan is crossed by the largest river in Roussillon, the Têt, and by one of its tributaries, the Basse. Floods have occurred, as in 1892 when the rising of the Têt in Perpignan destroyed 39 houses, leaving more than 60 families homeless.[4]


Perpignan has a typical Mediterranean climate (Köppen Csa) similar to much of the Mediterranean coastline of France. We might think that rain is very rare in the city, but in fact the annual precipitation levels are similar to the national average. However, the city is known for its patchy rains, with brutal rain episodes with weeks or even months of rain falling in a matter of hours, followed by weeks and weeks without a drop of water. Perpignan experiences very hot summers and fairly mild winters. For decades, there has been no snow most of the time and temperatures reach 40 ° C (104 ° F) every summer since a few years. Most of precipitations occurs in the cold season, with extremely dry summers. A fresh north-westerly wind blows over the city very often, the Tramontana (French: Tramontane, pronounced [tʁamɔ̃tan), keeping the sky clear much of the time, participating in the annual high sunshine. But the presence of this wind makes the winters colder as it should be due to the geographical position of the city.

Climate data for Perpignan (1981–2010 averages)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 25.0
Average high °C (°F) 12.4
Daily mean °C (°F) 8.3
Average low °C (°F) 4.4
Record low °C (°F) −8.2
Average precipitation mm (inches) 65.4
Average precipitation days 5.4 4.3 4.2 6.0 5.5 3.8 2.3 3.5 4.4 4.8 4.5 5.3 54.0
Average snowy days 0.9 0.6 0.4 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 2.5
Average relative humidity (%) 70 68 64 64 66 62 59 63 68 73 71 71 66.6
Mean monthly sunshine hours 141.2 160.8 209.6 218.0 235.8 268.9 298.2 267.4 222.2 167.6 149.2 126.1 2,464.9
Source 1: Météo France[5][6]
Source 2: (humidity and snowy days, 1961–1990)[7]



The motorway A9 connects Perpignan with Barcelona and Montpellier.


Perpignan is served by the Gare de Perpignan railway station, which offers connections to Paris, Barcelona, Toulouse, and several regional destinations. Salvador Dalí proclaimed it to be the "Cosmic Centre of the Universe" after experiencing a vision of cosmogonic ecstasy there in 1963.[8]


The nearest airport is Perpignan–Rivesaltes Airport.


Attested forms

The name of Perpignan appears in 927 as Perpinianum, followed in 959 by Villa Perpiniano, Pirpinianum in the 11th century, Perpiniani in 1176. Perpenyà, which appears in the 13th century, is the most common form until the 15th century, and was still used in the 17th century. It probably derives from the Roman name Perpennius.


Historical affiliations
Perpignan circa 1780

Though settlement in the area goes back to Roman times, the medieval town of Perpignan seems to have been founded around the beginning of the 10th century. Soon Perpignan became the capital of the counts of Roussillon. Historically, it was part of the region known as Septimania. In 1172 Count Girard II bequeathed his lands to the Counts of Barcelona. Perpignan acquired the institutions of a partly self-governing commune in 1197. French feudal rights over Roussillon were given up by Louis IX in the Treaty of Corbeil.

When James I the Conqueror, king of Aragon and count of Barcelona, founded the Kingdom of Majorca in 1276, Perpignan became the capital of the mainland territories of the new state. The succeeding decades are considered the golden age in the history of the city. It prospered as a centre of cloth manufacture, leather work, goldsmiths' work, and other luxury crafts. King Philippe III of France died there in 1285, as he was returning from his unsuccessful crusade against the Aragonese Crown.

Perpignan circa 1905

In 1344 Peter IV of Aragon annexed the Kingdom of Majorca and Perpignan once more became part of the County of Barcelona. A few years later it lost approximately half of its population to the Black Death. It was attacked and occupied by Louis XI of France in 1463; a violent uprising against French rule in 1473 was harshly put down after a long siege, but in 1493 Charles VIII of France, wishing to conciliate Castile in order to free himself to invade Italy, restored it to Ferdinand II of Aragon.

Again besieged and captured by the French during the Thirty Years' War in September 1642, Perpignan was formally ceded by Spain 17 years later in the Treaty of the Pyrenees, and from then on remained a French possession.

On June 2020, it was reported that the National Rally's Louis Aliot won the mayor election in Perpignan. it would be the first time that the Marine Le Pen’s party has won a city of more than 100,000 people.[9][10]

Government and politics


Mayor Term start Term end
Edmond Benoit July 1910 May 1911
Léon Nérel May 1911 May 1912
Joseph Denis May 1912 May 1929
Victor Dalbiez May 1929 May 1935
Jean Payra May 1935 29 May 1937 (death)
Laurent Baudru June 1937 December 1940
Antoine Castillon December 1940 March 1941
Ferdinand Coudray March 1941 August 1944
Félix Mercader August 1944 11 March 1949 (death)
Félix Depardon April 1949 March 1959
Paul Alduy March 1959 May 1993
Jean-Paul Alduy June 1993 27 April 2009 (election of 2008 cancelled)
Bernard Bacou (retired magistrate acting as mayor) 27 April 2009 5 July 2009
Jean-Paul Alduy 5 July 2009 15 October 2009 (resignation)
Jean-Marc Pujol 22 October 2009 3 July 2020
Louis Aliot 3 July 2020

International relations

Twin towns – sister cities

Perpignan is twinned with:

Partner towns
  • Girona, Catalonia, Spain, since 1988
  • Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, since 1994
  • Figueres, Catalonia, Spain, since 1996


More than 10 000 students from 2 to 12 years old attend 61 preschools and primary schools in the city.[14] Perpignan also has 26 highschools.[15]

Population and society

Perpignan street name sign in French and Catalan.


Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
1793 9,134    
1800 10,415+1.89%
1806 12,499+3.09%
1821 14,864+1.16%
1831 17,114+1.42%
1836 17,618+0.58%
1841 20,792+3.37%
1846 22,706+1.78%
1851 21,783−0.83%
1856 23,301+1.36%
1861 23,462+0.14%
1866 25,264+1.49%
1872 27,378+1.35%
1876 28,353+0.88%
1881 31,735+2.28%
1886 34,183+1.50%
1891 33,878−0.18%
1896 35,088+0.70%
YearPop.±% p.a.
1901 36,157+0.60%
1906 38,898+1.47%
1911 39,510+0.31%
1921 53,742+3.12%
1926 68,835+5.07%
1931 73,962+1.45%
1936 72,207−0.48%
1946 74,984+0.38%
1954 70,051−0.85%
1962 83,025+2.15%
1968 102,191+3.52%
1975 106,426+0.58%
1982 111,669+0.69%
1990 105,983−0.65%
1999 105,115−0.09%
2007 116,041+1.24%
2012 120,489+0.76%
2017 120,158−0.06%
Source: EHESS[16] and INSEE (1968-2017)[17]


The famous "Sanch Procession" folklore, once forbidden by the Church, is still celebrated in Perpignan, Arles-sur-Tech, and Collioure.

Since 2004, the free three-day Guitares au Palais is held each year in the last weekend of August in the Palace of the Kings of Majorca. The festival has a broad mainstream focus with pop-related music as well as traditional acoustic guitar music and alternative music. The festival has attracted international guests like Caetano Veloso (2007), Rumberos Catalans, Pedro Soler, Bernardo Sandoval, Peter Finger, and Aaron and Bryce Dessner (2008).

Each September, Perpignan hosts the internationally-renowned Visa pour l'Image festival of photojournalism. Free exhibitions are mounted in the Couvent des Minimes, Chapelle des Dominicaines and other buildings in the old town.[18]

In 2008, Perpignan became Capital of Catalan Culture.[19] In Perpignan many street name signs are in both French and Catalan.


Rugby side Catalans Dragons' Stade Gilbert Brutus.

Like the rest of the south of France, Perpignan is a rugby stronghold: their rugby union side, USAP Perpignan, is a regular competitor in the global elite Heineken Cup and seven times champion of the French Top 14 (most recently in 2009). A Perpignan-based rugby league club plays in Northern Hemisphere's Super League under the name Catalans Dragons. The Dragons' games in Perpignan against the Northern English-based sides are usually very popular with British rugby fans, with thousands of them descending on the city on the day of the game, including many vacationing rugby fans travelling up from the Spanish Costa Brava joining the ones who came directly from home.


Traditional commerce was in wine, olive oil, corks (the cork oak Quercus suber grows in Perpignan's mild climate), wool, leather, and iron. In May 1907 it was a seat of agitation by southern producers for government enforcement of wine quality following a collapse in prices. JOB rolling papers are currently manufactured in Perpignan.

Sites of interest

The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist was begun in 1324 and finished in 1509.[20]

The 13th century Palace of the Kings of Majorca sits on the high citadel, surrounded by ramparts, reinforced for Louis XI and Charles V, which were updated in the 17th century by Louis XIV's military engineer Vauban.

The walls surrounding the town, which had been designed by Vauban, were razed in 1904 to accommodate urban development. The main city door, the Castillet is a small fortress built in the 14th century, which has been preserved. It had also been used as a prison until the end of the 19th century.[21]

The Hôtel Pams is a lavishly-decorated mansion designed for Jules Pams that illustrates the artistic taste of the wealthy bourgeois at the turn of the 20th century.[22]

Les Halles de Vauban are a new addition to the banks of the city's canal. Opened in November 2017 the indoor markets are privately owned and cost €1.5 million. Split into two locations, vendors offer fresh fruit and vegetables, bread, flowers, cheese, etc. There is a bar and central eating court with a range of tapas, burgers, omelettes and food from around the world.[23]

Place de la République and theatre
Sadi Carnot and Vauban walkways and the river Bassa

Notable people linked to Perpignan

Following a visit in 1963, the Catalan surrealist artist Salvador Dalí declared the city's railway station the centre of the Universe, saying that he always got his best ideas sitting in its waiting room. Dalí's painting La Gare de Perpignan commemorates his vision of "cosmogonic ecstasy" there on September 19, 1963.[24] He followed that up some years later by declaring that the Iberian Peninsula rotated precisely at Perpignan station 132 million years ago – an event the artist invoked in his 1983 painting Topological Abduction of Europe – Homage to René Thom.[25] Above the station is a monument in Dali's honour, and across the surface of one of the main platforms is painted, in big letters, «perpignan centre du monde» (French for "perpignan centre of the world").[26]

Perpignan train station

See also


  1. "Populations légales 2017". INSEE. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  2. Wells, John C. (2008). Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (3rd ed.). Longman. ISBN 978-1-4058-8118-0.
  3. Jones, Daniel (2011). Roach, Peter; Setter, Jane; Esling, John (eds.). Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary (18th ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-15255-6.
  4. Fabricio Cardenas. "Vieux papiers des Pyrénées-Orientales: Inondations en novembre 1892". Retrieved 17 December 2016.
  5. "Données climatiques de la station de Perpignan" (in French). Meteo France. Retrieved 7 January 2016.
  6. "Climat Languedoc-Roussillon" (in French). Meteo France. Retrieved 7 January 2016.
  7. "Normes et records 1961-1990: Perpignan - Rivesaltes (66) - altitude 42m" (in French). Infoclimat. Retrieved 7 January 2016.
  8. Coppens, Philip. "Salvador Dalí: painting the fourth dimension". Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  11. "Hanover – Twin Towns". (in German). Archived from the original on 24 July 2011. Retrieved 17 July 2009.
  12. "British towns twinned with French towns". Archant Community Media Ltd. Retrieved 11 July 2013.
  13. "Sarasota Sister Cities Association, Sarasota Florida". Archived from the original on 29 March 2012. Retrieved 15 September 2011.
  14. "Ecoles". Marie de Perpignan. Retrieved 16 January 2020.
  15. "ECOLES À PERPIGNAN (66000)". Journaldesfemmes. Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  16. Données Cassini, EHESS
  17. Population en historique depuis 1968, INSEE
  18. "Visa Pour l'Image". 22 August 2017.
  19. "VilaWeb - Diari escola: Perpinyа, Capital de la Cultura Catalana 2008". 20 April 2016. Retrieved 17 December 2016.
  20. "Cathédrale St Jean-Baptiste" [Cathedral of St. John the Baptist]. Histoire du Roussillon. Retrieved 15 November 2011. (in French)
  21. Fabricio Cardenas. "Vieux papiers des Pyrénées-Orientales: La prison du Castillet, 1892". Retrieved 17 December 2016.
  22. Fiche Pédagogique - Hôtel Pams de Perpignan (PDF) (in French), Association Pédagogique de la Plaine, du Vallespir et de la Côte Vermeille, retrieved 31 December 2015
  23. "Indoor markets bring new life to Perpignan | P-O Life". anglophone-direct. 19 December 2017. Retrieved 14 October 2018.
  24. "Salvador Dali: painting the fourth dimension". Retrieved 17 December 2016.
  25. Elliott King in Dawn Adès (ed.), Dalí, Bompiani Arte, Milan, 2004, p. 448.
  26. "Picture Gallery - Directory: /pix/fr/electric/emu/TGV/Duplex/misc". Retrieved 17 December 2016.


  • Alícia Marcet, Histoire de Perpignan, la fidelíssima (1995), Perpinyà [Perpignan] : Llibres del Trabucaire, ISBN 9782905828613
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