1223 meters above sea level, Llívia is away from Spain, separated by a 2 km corridor, and is an enclave in France. Llivia connects to Puigcerdá, the nearest Spanish town by the N-154. You can make a day trip from Perpignan, France.
During our summer holiday in French Pyrenees, we went there in the late afternoon, after visiting Andorra. The entire village looked so peaceful. However, it was hostile area decades ago since there used to have disputes between France and Spain.
- Why is the town an enclave in France?
- The pros and cons of being an enclave
- Sightseeing in Llívia
- Year-round activities in Llívia
Why is the town an enclave in France?
Llívia was the ancient capital of Cerdanya until the early Middle Ages. In 1659, after years of war, the Treaty of the Pyrenees, signed between Louis XIV of France and Philip IV of Spain, ceded the comarques of Roussillon, Conflent, Capcir, Vallespir, and northern Cerdanya (“Cerdagne”) to the French kingdom. According to the treaty, only villages should belong to France. Therefore, as the historic capital of Cerdanya, Llívia remained part of Spain since the treaty unintentionally excluded Llívia.
The pros and cons of being an enclave
Being a landlocked town, Llívia had several disputes with France, particularly transport and water. Its water supply was problematic. The French got the water before Llívia, and they didn’t send it up the hill always. Sometimes, the French even cut the water source off. In 1973, both countries made an agreement that allowed Llívia to connect to the third water source. But due to the bureaucracy of Madrid, both neighbors settled the water issue 49 years later.
The transport dispute was about the use of the road. Llivia is linked to the nearest town in Spain, Puigcerdá, by the N-154. But back in the 1980s, the French put up a stop sign at the border. Then Llívians stole the stop sign away. The actions were ongoing and led to the main dispute as well. Now the road is administered in turn by France and by Spain, with a rotation of six months each. You need to be aware of the change in the speed limit between the two countries.
Nevertheless, Llívia had enjoyed one economic advantage. Before the Euro time, the Spanish used pesetas, and France used Francs. French liked to buy things there because of the low prices. Now both countries are in the Eurozone, and the advantage is getting minimized over the years.
Sightseeing in Llívia
Llívia is quite different from other Spanish towns in the Pyrenees. Houses look very stony. Most new and modern buildings are at the edge of the town, while some well-maintained old houses with freshly painted shutters are in the center. In that hot summer afternoon, it was still siesta time like centuries ago. Nearly nobody was on the road. Shops and many restaurants were closed.
Slowly walking up the hill, we saw the first attraction, the Pharmacy Museum. Registered in1594, the pharmacy is one of the oldest in all of Europe.
At the beginning of the 17th century, the Pharmacy was run by the family Esteva. The Esteva had operated the Pharmacy for seven generations until 1926 the last pharmacist closed the business. In 1965, Diputació de Girona bought the Pharmacy and donated it to the town.
The pharmacy has a large display of albarelli, a type of ceramic jar used in pharmacies, as well as antique drugs, and valuable collections of prescription books in Europe.
The Bernat de So tower
Built-in 1584-1585, the Bernat de So tower stands right in front of the pharmacy. Its construction was part of a conflict with Puigcerdà. In the 1970s, all artifacts from the pharmacy moved to the tower. Later in 1981, when the Municipal Museum opened, these artifacts became part of its collection. The top floor used to be the offices of the Board of Trustees. But nowadays, it hosts temporary exhibitions.
Year-round activities in Llívia
One of its most known cultural events is the Music Festival. The event holds in the Church of Our Lady of the Angels (Nostra Senyora dels Àngels).
In the summertime, outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, swimming are available. In the winter, the main activity is skiing. The nearest skiing area is about 30 minutes of driving.
From Llivia, it is possible to make an excursion to one of the smallest mountain countries, Andorra.
Where to stay
The following hotels are good choices for the winter and summer holidays:
- Hotels in Hotel Bernat de So provides comfortable 3-star accommodation in Llivia. It also offers ski equipment hire and an outdoor pool.
- Hotels in Mas Meya is 7 km away from the ski lift. France’s border is just 550 m from the hotel, and Puigcerda town centre is 2 minutes of driving. Cerdanya Golf Club is 4.5 km away.
How to get there
- By bus: The bus takes around one and a half hours From Perpignan and about three hours from Barcelona to Llívia.
- By car: The self-driving time from Perpignan via N116 is also about 90 minutes, and from Barcelona via C-16 is about 90 minutes.