“Perpignan la Catalane” is how the city is officially presented. This name came about because Perpignan, the capital city of French Catalonia from the 10th to the 17th centuries approximately, was part of a Catalan principality linked to the Aragon Kingdom.
“Big small city” or “small big city,” Perpignan lies at the centre of the Rousillon, an ancient province organized around an agricultural plain. It is a privileged environment, bordered by the Mediterranean on one side and the mountains (including the Canigou massif – one of the highest summits of the French Pyrenees) on the other. Also known as the “Land of Light and Tramontane,” Tramontane being the name of a strong dry wind from the northwest, Perpignan benefits from its location on the Mediterranean coast and enjoys about 300 days of sunshine a year. Today Perpignan is the capital city of the Pyrenees-Orientales and its geographical and cultural identity is similar to Spanish Catalonia. Many regard Perpignan as a bridge-city between Barcelona and other cities of the region.
Perpignan has always been a border city, a place many people have passed through. It is strategically located on the land route between the Straits of Gibraltar and Italy. The Romans called it the “Via Domitia.” Today we know it as the A9 Motorway. Because of its location, Perpignan has been a site of invasions and wars. Over the centuries, the city has seen the army of Hannibal as well hordes of Vandals, Visigoths, Arabs, and Franks. It has suffered from the rivalry between France and Catalonia, the Spanish War of Succession, the Napoleonic wars, and World War II. However, Perpignan has also been a place of refuge. For centuries it has been a meeting place for people from different cultures: Catalans from Roussillon or Spain, settled gypsies, retired people from all over Europe, pieds noirs (Algerian-born Frenchmen or women), as well as Portuguese and people from North Africa.
Perpignan knew its golden age with the «Kingdom of Mallorca», from 1276 to 1344, when the city was the continental capital of a Mediterranean and partly islander state. The main monuments of Perpignan illustrate this sumptuous period: the Palace of Kings of Mallorca, the Cathedral, the Campo Santo, the City Hall, the churches.