Llívia is an enclave of France. 1,223 metres above sea level, it is separated from the rest of Spain by a corridor about 2 km wide, which includes the French Munipalities of Ur and Bourg-Madame. Llivia is linked to the nearest town in Spain, Puigcerdá, by the N-154.
This is a typical mountain village. There isn’t any border control before entering the town. We saw the European Union sign at the edge of the town. Everything looks peacefully. However, it wasn’t the case decades ago. Due to the historical reasons, there were some disputes between the two neighbours.
Why is the town an enclave of France
Llívia was an important Roman settlement and was also the ancient capital of Cerdanya up 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 be ceded to France. Being considered a city and not a village due to its status as the ancient capital of Cerdanya, Llívia did not become part of the French kingdom.
The pros and cons of being an enclave
Being a landlocked city, Llívia had several disputes with France. One lasted 40 years long was the water dispute. Llivia’s water sources were problematic. The French got the water before Llívia and they didn’t send it up the hill always. Sometimes the French cut the water off. The water disputes raised periodically when water supplies dried up. In 1973, there was an agreement to allow the town to connect to a third source, and was ready to be signed. But due to the bureaucracy of Madrid, the issue was settled 49 years later.
Another dispute for example, was about the right 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 edge of the town. Now the road is considered neutral and is administered in turn by France and by Spain, with a rotation of 6 months each. But you need to be aware of the change of the speed limit.
Nevertheless, Llívia had enjoyed one economic advantage. Before the Euro time, Spanish used pesetas and France used Francs. French liked to buy things in Llívia because things were cheap there. Now both countries are in the Euro zone, the advantage is getting minimized over the years.
The main interests
I like this town as well. Houses look very stony. At the edge of the town are the new houses. In the center are some well-maintained old houses with fresh painted shutters. After having spent a couple of days in the French Pyrenees and at the French coast, it is nice to see a mountain town for an exchange. Less than 2000 inhabitants live in Llívia. In the summer afternoon, it is still the siesta time just like centuries ago. Hardly anyone is in the road. Shops are closed and many restaurants are closed as well. A typical Spanish life.
Up the hill is the museum. The Pharmacy Museum is an important attraction. The pharmacy is registered since 1594 and it is considered the most ancient pharmacy in Europe.
At the beginning of the 17th century it was run by family Esteva, who had run it for seven generations until 1926, it was closed by the last pharmacist. In 1965, Diputació de Girona bought it and then donated to the town on the condition the contents remain in the town.
The pharmacy has a large display of albarelli, a type of ceramic jar used in pharmacies, as well as antique drugs, and one of the most important collections of prescription books in Europe.
The castle gave to Llívia the most glorious times. It was located at the top of the hill. It was a superb enclosure formed by a rectangular tower with 4 circular turrets – one in every angle – and an inferior enclosure where the population lived. Remains are dated from IX to XV centuries when the castle was destroyed by Louis XI army.
Activities in Llívia
One of its most known cultural events is the Music Festival which is held since 1982. The events take place offers the in the Church of Our Lady of the Angels (Nostra Senyora dels Àngels ).
In the summer time outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, swimming are available. In the winter, it is also possible to ski. The nearby skiing area is half hour driving by car. You can also make excursions to French villages, Andorra. In fact, it is a nice day trip from Perpignan.
See three countries in one day
Llívia is usually not a classic tourist destination but it is unique by all means. The three countries day trip tour starting from Girona combines Llívia, Dorres (a charming small French town), and eat and shop in the capital of a small country in the middle of the Pyrenees, Andorra!
Andorra has wonderful mountain landscape but it is difficult to access without a car. The tour is a very good choice for those who has less time, less mobile but eager to add more countries on their list. Are you inspired to travel there? Please click here to book the tour.
Where to stay
La Cerdanya are is a perfect region for outdoor activities. To combine the overnight stay and the outdoor activities, you can book a 6-day Pyrenees Bike Tour. The trip starts from Barcelona, passes many villages including Llívia, and includes a stage of Tour de France. It includes 5 nights accommodation in double room with half board 3 Gourment Dinners as well as other services. for the detail of the offer, please click here.
If you prefer to stay in Llívia to ski in winter or hiking in summer, then the following hotels are good choices.
Hotels in Hotel Bernat de So provides comfortable 3-star accommodation in Llivia. It also offers a safe, ski equipment hire and an outdoor pool. Rooms have a modern décor, air-conditioning and a telephone. They are also fitted with heating, a hair dryer and a shower.
Hotels in Mas Meya is 7 km away from the ski lift. France’s border is just 550 m from Mas Meya, and Puigcerda Town Centre is 2 minutes’ drive away, where you will find a range of shops and restaurants. Cerdanya Golf Club is 4.5 km away.
How to get there
There is bus connections from Perpignan. It takes around one and a half hour. The self-driving time between Perpignan and Llivia is also around 90 minutes and via N116.
It takes around three hours from Barcelona by bus. The self-driving time between Barcelona and Llivia is also around 90 minutes and via C-16.