Collioure is only a few kilometres north of the Spanish border. Located on the Mediterranean coast of southern France, this small village is built around a small port with narrow maze-like cobblestone streets. Not as famous as its neighbour Banyuls-sur-Mer, it has a very charming seaside ambiance and has all the characters a seaside village would have.
Maze of picturesque alleys
During our summer vacation in the French Pyrenees, our family spent a whole day in this lovely village. It was an extremely hot day with 40°C air temperature. We parked our car far outside and took the free shuttle bus arrived at the village centre. Before we reach the beachside, we had already lost in the maze of picturesque alleys. We couldn’t resist the attractive products from those beautiful local shops and stopped at shops one after the other, bought a French hat, some pictures, and sweets.
At some places, staircases lead the way from one narrow street to the other. And, at some corners, where no shops are present, were very quiet during the mid of the day.
Most of the eateries were near the beachside. Those restaurants had very appealing settings. We opted for Le Copacabana, whose terrace is directly next to the beach, with the view to the Royal Castle on the one side and the Lighthouse to the other side. All tables were facing the seaside. As a fishing port, Collioure is a prime site for enjoying fresh fish, grilled shellfish (calamari, king prawns, oysters…), or seafood platters. We ordered the seafood salad as our starter. It had scampi, raw tuna slices, and other treasures from the sea. Its amount was nearly the equivalent of the main course.
The tunas are usually caught in the Mediterranean and distributed from Port Vendres. Our seafood starter cost only 15 Euro. All main courses are mainly seafood as well. The waiter who served us spoke standard English. He looked like a university student. We did not order any drinks, but he kept serving us free ice-cold table water. Regardless its premium location, the quality of the food and the value for the money is high.
It is worth to mention that a typical Catalan specialty is the anchovies made in traditional and artisan style. You can join a tour to learn how the workers make the anchovies and then to taste it when they are prepared. Please visit the local tourist information centre for the updated information.
Notre-Dame-des-Anges and its bell tower
The left side of the restaurant Le Copacabana is a lighthouse, which was converted into the church, Notre-Dame-des-Anges (the Church of Our Lady of the Angels). It has a rich and exceptional interior design, especially the high altar designed by the Catalan artist Joseph Sunyer, carved wood, and covered with sheet gold. The bell tower served as a beacon, but then as a prison. It was connected to the church in 1693 and thus became its bell tower.
The Royal Castle and the old mill
To the right side of the restaurant is the Royal Castle. It used to belong to the Aragon Kings as a summer residence, who had originally created the Kingdom of Majorca. In the 12th century, Collioure was part of the Majorca Kingdom. Later the Spanish Hapsburgs strengthened and reinforced the castle. Until 1642, the fortress then passed into the hands of the French.
There are many tunnels and underground passages. Especially when it was 41°C outside, it would be a good alternative to get inside the castle.
The old mill
Built in the 14th century, it is one of the oldest mills in Roussillon. It is now used as an oil mill. It takes about 20 minutes to walk up the mill from the Royal Castle. There are beautiful scenery and views as well. It is also not far from the Modern Art Museum.
Unfortunately, I broke my leg before this trip, we were unable to visit the neither the castle nor the old mill.
La Chapelle Saint-Vincent (Chapel of St. Vincent)
From Notre-Dame-des-Anges towards the seaside is the narrow boardwalk which leads to the La Chapelle Saint-Vincent. It was built in 1701 to shelter St Vincent’s relics. From there I had awesome views over the beach, the bay, and the village of Collioure.
The Fauvism trail
Matisse and Derain gave birth to the artistic movement of Fauvism in 1905, during their stay in Collioure. Fauvism is a style based on strong emotions and intense colours, emphasizing freedom and creativity. The Fauvism trail is completely free to access. You can take a guided tour organized by the tourism office to discover the reproductions of their works displayed in the streets. For more information, please visit here.
Patrick O’Brian and his novel ‘The Catalans’
The historical novelist O’Brien lived in the town from 1949 until his death in 2000. His novel ‘The Catalans’ set in this corner of France which became O’Brian’s adopted home. The main character Alain Roig returns to Saint-Féliu after years in the East and finds his family in crisis. His middle-aged cousin Xavier, the mayor and most powerful citizen of the town, has fallen in love and plans to marry Madeleine, the young daughter of the local grocer. The Roig family property is threatened by this union, and Madeleine’s relatives object on different grounds.
The novel graphically describes the life in Collioure before it became a tourist hot-spot. And Patrick O’Brian and his wife Mary are now buried in Collioure’s cemetery.
Collioure wine appellation
Collioure is a tiny appellation within the Roussillon region. The appellation comprises four communes, Collioure, Cerbère, Port-Vendres, and Banyuls-sur-Mer. Red Collioure is characterized by its intensely ripe, fruit aromas and elements of spice. In France, there are many wines only sold locally because of the limited productions. Collioure wine is one of those wines in small production. It is unlikely to find Collioure wine in Germany. Therefore, before we left the village, we stopped at a local wine shop and bought a box of six bottles.
Other things to do in Collioure
Great outdoor activities
There is also the ultimate sport for the great outdoors. Along the coastal walk, several short hikes will offer you a spectacular panoramic view over the bay of Collioure. The area of Collioure has something to offer every level and fancy, for example, a small hike towards the Hermitage of Consolation or the Sainte-Elme Fort.
The evening events are colourful. The intimate ambience in Collioure immerses you in a distinct atmosphere. Walk along the beach to listen to the echo of waves on the shore, or have a dinner accompanied by the jokes and laughs from the neighbouring tables is something you can plan for a relaxing night.
Traditional market day
There is a traditional market day at Place du Maréchal Leclerc and night markets at Port d’Avall. There you will find the local specialties, sun-ripened fruit, and vegetables, sold directly by the producers, and a selection of original items from the local companies.
Where to stay
As a popular tourist destination among the French people, there are many hotels in and around the village. But during the holiday seasons, you still need to book well ahead.
The Hôtel des Templiers features 2000 original artworks by 20th-century painters who stayed in the hotel. Hôtel des Templiers is located 200 m from the Château Royal de Collioure and 550m from the Collioure Train Station. In front of the hotel is a pedestrian street, and public parking is available 400 m from the property. Featured with the premium location, its art collection, and a Catalan restaurant, this hotel is one of the best choice in Collioure.
How to get there
The UK website has detailed information about how to get there. You can reach there by planes, buses or trains. In case you arrive at Gerona airport, you can hire a one-way low-cost private transfer from Gerona Airport to Collioure.
The easiest way is by car. However, the parking situation is difficult during the summer holiday seasons. Most likely you need to park a few kilometres away from the villages. But the good news is, that there is a free shuttle bus service at each parking area.