Prefecture building of the Pyrénées-Orientales department, in Perpignan

Coat of arms

Location of Pyrénées-Orientales in France
Coordinates: 42°30′N 2°45′E / 42.500°N 2.750°E / 42.500; 2.750Coordinates: 42°30′N 2°45′E / 42.500°N 2.750°E / 42.500; 2.750
Country France
Region Occitanie
Prefecture Perpignan
Subprefectures Céret
  President of the General Council Hermeline Malherbe-Laurent
  Total 4,116 km2 (1,589 sq mi)
Population (2013)
  Total 462,705
  Rank 54th
  Density 110/km2 (290/sq mi)
  Minority languages: Catalan and Occitan
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
  Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Department number 66
Arrondissements 3
Cantons 17
Communes 226
^1 French Land Register data, which exclude estuaries, and lakes, ponds, and glaciers larger than 1 km2

Pyrénées-Orientales (French pronunciation: [pi.ʁɔ.ʁjɑ̃.tal]; Catalan: Pirineus Orientals; Occitan: Pirenèus Orientals; "Eastern Pyrenees") is a department of southern France adjacent to the northern Spanish frontier and the Mediterranean Sea. It also surrounds the tiny Spanish exclave of Llívia, and thus has two distinct borders with Spain.


Prior to the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659, most of the present department was part of the former Principality of Catalonia, within the Crown of Aragon, so the majority of it has historically been Catalan-speaking, and it is still referred to as Northern Catalonia.

The modern department was created early during the French Revolution on 9 February 1790 under the name of Roussillon, also the name of the pre-Revolutionary province of Roussillon to which it almost exactly corresponds, although the department also includes Fenouillèdes, a small piece of territory which had formerly been on the southern edge of Languedoc. The name therefore changed on February 26, 1790 to Pyrénées-Orientales.[1]

Invaded by Spain in April 1793, the area was recaptured thirteen months later during the War of the Roussillon.

During the nineteenth century, Pyrénées-Orientales proved one of the most consistently republican departments in France. The intellectual and republican politician François Arago, who, during the early months of the short-lived Second Republic in 1848, was briefly de facto Head of state, came from Estagel in the east of the department.


The département is managed by the General Council of the Pyrénées-Orientales in Perpignan. The Pyrénées-Orientales is part of the region of Occitanie. The General Council of the Pyrénées-Orientales is more and more involved with the European Union to create with the Generalitat of Catalonia, and Andorra, a Eurodistrict.


Photo of Collioure - port in the department of Pyrenees-Orientales.

Pyrénées-Orientales has an area of 4,115 km². and a population of 422,000, of whom just over a quarter live in the capital, Perpignan. Other towns above 10,000 inhabitants include Canet-en-Roussillon, Saint-Estève, Saint-Cyprien and Argelès-sur-Mer. They are followed in decreasing order by Cabestany, Saint-Laurent-de-la-Salanque, Rivesaltes, Céret, Elne, Pia, Thuir, Bompas, Le Soler, Prades and Toulouges, each of 6-10,000 inhabitants.

Pyrénées-Orientales consists of three river valleys in the Pyrenees mountain range –from north to south, those of the Agly, Têt and Tech – and the eastern Plain of Roussillon into which they converge. Most of the population and agricultural production are concentrated in the plain, with only 30% of the area. There is one water reservoir at Lac de Matemale.

The upper Têt valley comprises the departments westernmost third, with just over a tenth of the total population. To the south-east, the Tech valley and the Côte Vermeille contain nearly 100,000 inhabitants. The Agly basin in the north-east has much in common with neighboring areas of Aude. Llívia is a town of Cerdanya, province of Girona, Catalonia, Spain, that forms a Spanish exclave surrounded by French territory.


Pyrénées-Orientales is a wine-growing area and a tourist destination.


French is spoken by almost all the population. Minority languages in the region are Catalan and Occitan, which between them are estimated to be spoken by rather more than a quarter of the population and understood by more than 40%.

On 10 December 2007, the General Council of the Pyrénées-Orientales recognized Catalan as a regional language of the department, though French is still the only official language in France, according to the Constitution.[2]

The area is traditionally divided into comarques, of which five (French Cerdagne, Capcir, Conflent, Roussillon and Vallespir) are historically Catalan-speaking and one (Fenouillèdes) is historically Occitan-speaking. The five Catalan-speaking comarques were historically part of the Kingdom of Majorca.


The cuisine of Pyrénées-Orientales draws naturally from the historical Catalan presence in the area, so dishes like paella, cargols à la llauna and calcots are prevalent in the restaurants, especially at important dates such as the various saints' feast days and cultural festivals.

The area is famous for its wine with the predominantly red grape varieties grown all over the department, regional specialities such as muscat de Rivesaltes and Banyuls are sold everywhere in the department.

The geography of the area leads to a distinct divide in the cuisine of P-O. The mountainous area to the south has dishes using ingredients that grow naturally there, products such as olives and goat's cheese.

Fish are also very popular in the region with Collioure being famous for its anchovies, although fishing has declined due to the overall reduction of the fish stock in the Mediterranean sea.


Places of interest include:

Pyrénées-Orientales has two notable sports teams: USA Perpignan (rugby union) and Dragons Catalans (rugby league).



  1. Cárdenas, Fabricio (2014). 66 petites histoires du Pays Catalan [66 Little Stories of Catalan Country] (in French). Perpignan: Ultima Necat. ISBN 978-2-36771-006-8. OCLC 893847466.
  2. See Article 1 of the "Charter of the Catalan Language"
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