Should you rent a car in PerpignanFrance>Perpignan

Perpignan benefitted quite early from the low-cost flights revolution, although it has since seen several routes scaled back. Depending on whether your local airport offers flights to Perpignan, this advice could be considered in conjunction with our Carcassonne or Toulouse car hire guides, or alternatively with our suggestions about whether or not to hire a car from Barcelona in neighbouring Spain.

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The natural assumption would be that as Perpignan is relatively small and out of the way, a hire car would be the most obvious option, but is it as straightforward as that?

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  • Gorges Galmus — head directly west to St-Paul-de-Fenouille and then through the delightful Gorges Galmus, from where you can drive in a loop around the Rialsesse forest. However, you can also get to St Paul by train and then walk up the gorge from there.
  • Canigou — drive west as far as Prades, and then head down to Vernet-les-Bains and the impressive Massif and Pic du Canigou. There are also a number of high-quality walking trails in this area, and these can be accessed by train from Prades.
  • Slow trains — although TGV services call into Perpignan, the fast line from Paris slows down to conventional pace just before Nimes. Trains from here aren’t going to be as fast as they might be elsewhere in France. For exploring the local area though, this really isn’t a problem. Note that there is a fast link to the edge of Figueres (45 mins)  in Spain, but you have to change to continue to Barcelona (2h30), or take a slightly slower direct train (2h 50).
  • Carcassonne — the walled city of Carcassonne makes a great day excursion from Perpignan, and it is extremely easy to reach using the A9 and then A61 autoroutes. You can also get there by train, but you will have to change in Narbonne for a connection, taking around 1 1/2 hours, and you will also have to reserve seats on any services operated by the TGV. See our Carcassonne car hire advice page for more details.

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  • Beaches — you can easily take a bus out of Perpignan to Canet-Plage and other surrounding villages to enjoy the Mediterranean coastline, or some of the lakes which sit just behind. However, a hire car will naturally let you explore a bit further.
  • Vermilion coast — as you approach the Spanish border at Cerbere / Portbou, the railway line takes a superb scenic route along the Vermilion Coast. You can also drive the route, and then loop back through the Alberes via le Perthus.
  • Dali painting and decorating – the station in Perpignan has been uniquely featured in a Dali painting (currently hanging in Cologne) and has also been partly decorated by him. He considered it the “centre of the universe” – a kind of geographical “42” perhaps?
  • Pedestrian friendly centre — although most people flying into Perpignan are more interested in the surrounding country, the city of Perpignan in itself is relatively compact and walkable, centred around the pedestrianised Le Castillet. The city also has a six sided citadel, featuring the Palais Des Rois De Majorque.

Beyond Perpignan

  • Yellow train — you can take the train to Villefrance-de-Conflent, from where you can board the spectacular “Yellow Train” to Latour-de-Carol. From here you can continue on to Toulouse.
  • Catalan connections — from Perpignan, you can head south into neighbouring Spain, and through to the Dali hometown of Figueres, and then onto Girona and the Catalan capital Barcelona.

Conclusion: Do you need to hire a car in Perpignan? Perpignan has previously had railway routes heading out in various different directions, but now it only has three. What it lacks in quantity it more than makes up for in quality, but this is still more of an option for rail buffs than it is a workable system for everyone else. So a hire car is still the best idea for visiting the area around Perpignan.

Verdict — yes

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Author: Carometer

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