The seaside town of Collioure, France is not somewhere that I’d ever heard of before. When I told people that I was travelling to Collioure their general reaction was “Where?”. Even when I Googled it articles were limited. Where is Collioure? Are there many things to do in Collioure? When I hopped on the plane to Perpignan, the nearest airport to Collioure, I had no idea what was in store for me. Here’s what I discovered.
A Guide to Collioure France
Collioure is a small town, home to just over 3,000 people, in the south of France with a distinct Catalan vibe. Which isn’t surprising considering its proximity to the border. It’s just over 2 hours drive from Collioure to Barcelona after all. The town centre is bright and buzzing in summer. Restaurants, souvenir shops and galleries line the main street, square and harbour. The streets are narrow and cobbled and sloping the further you get from the town centre. The buildings are bright and multi-coloured. Every corner you turn is picture perfect and Insta-worthy. The beach and harbour area took me completely by surprise. The Church of Our Lady of Angels is an impressive building on the harbour jutting out into the Mediterranean Sea. You’ll see it on all the postcards in the souvenir shops and it will no doubt inspire you to snap a couple of photos of your own.
Collioure is famous for art and anchovies! They have an annual anchovy festival if you’re a fan of the tiny salty fish and you’ll find anchovy paste for sale everywhere. When it comes to art Collioure is a big hitter. Artists like Picasso, Dali and Matisse all adored and were inspired by the town of Collioure. Fauvism is said to have been born in Collioure thanks to the unique and stunning light that is only experienced in Collioure. Dotted around the town you’ll find copies of works by Matisse and Derain in the spots where they were originally painted. So as you walk around Collioure you can see the town through the eyes of these great artists. And if that’s not what you’re into there are also 24/7 automated tourist information machines dotted around the centre of town so you can figure out exactly what Collioure has to offer and how you’d prefer to explore.
You can read more about Collioure here.
When to Visit Collioure
Collioure has incredible weather in summer so make sure to pack your sunscreen. Usually it only rains a couple of days a month, a far cry from what I’m used to. The weather is still fine in September and October and you might manage to avoid the crowds so that’s probably when I’d recommend visiting. I visited at the end of May and it was nice and hot and the town wasn’t too crowded so that’s also a good option. I was reassured by representatives from the tourism office that Collioure does not shut down in Winter like some seasonal tourist destinations. For the most part, the month of January is the only time that some restaurants etc might be shut, but it is always up to the individual business owner of course. The anchovy festival is usually in early June. The festival of Saint Vincent is usually mid August. This is normally a 4 day festival with concerts, parades, water activities, fireworks, Catalan dancing and more. If you like a lively, buzzing atmosphere then these are great times to visit Collioure.
Restaurants in Collioure
There are plenty of places to eat in Collioure to suit all tastes. Usually I struggle in France as a vegetarian, but I think the Catalan influence helped me out a bit this time. We went to La Frégate for lunch on the first day. Everyone else had a starter and a main course where as I was served a main course when everyone else got their starters and then was just left with it until dessert came around. So that sucked. The food was incredible and it was a really lovely vegetarian mezze type platter. But just give it to me when everyone else is getting their main and toss me some crap little salad for a starter so that I don’t feel like a complete alien at the table just because I don’t eat meat. It was such a stupid thing to do and really made me feel like the odd one out. That being said, that probably won’t happen to you if you eat meat. PLUS the dessert was excellent and the restaurant is beautifully decorated. I just had to have a little moan about my experience. I’m still more than happy to recommend it, just MAYBE not for vegetarians eating with non-vegetarians. Hotel Restaurant Les Templiers is a very interesting bar/restaurant just a minute from the port. It has long been a haven for local artists and used to accept works of art as payment. The walls are lined with thousands of works of art. At one point they owned several Picasso paintings but they were stolen. Their bar is also shaped/made from an old polished up boat. Definitely worth dropping in for a drink and a bite to eat. If you like fine dining then you have to visit La Balette restaurant. They serve up beautifully presented dishes made from locally sourced produce paired with local wines. For lunch on our final day we went to the lovely La Treille Tapas. It’s a small tapas bar just off the main street. Obviously sardines were involved as well as lots of cheese, meat and Spanish omelette. The waitress was lovely and I’d definitely recommend the place. These were just the places I tried, obviously there are plenty more and you’ll find your own favourite spot if/when you visit Collioure.
Things to do in Collioure
1 – Get Lost
The streets of Collioure are the perfect place to wander around without too much of a plan. The town is too small for you to get seriously lost. You’ll find hidden independent galleries down tiny side streets, colourful front doors framed by giant fragrant jasmine plants and plenty more. There’s less tourists when you start exploring the small side streets as well, so you’ll have the place to yourself a bit more.
2 – Visit a Gallery/ But Some Art
There are galleries everywhere due to the arty history of Collioure. There’s the Museum of Modern Art which always houses artists like Matisse but also runs various themed exhibitions throughout the year. If you prefer to be guided Maison du Fauvism runs guided tours of the town via Chemin du Fauvisme (the route containing the reproductions of great art works that I mentioned earlier). There are plenty of resident artists in Collioure who have their own galleries, workshops and shops. It’s definitely worth visiting some of these to pick up some very unique local art. In fact, on my trip to Collioure one of my travel companions bought a piece of art at Galerie Profils and later bumped into the artist on the main street of town. It was a truly authentic experience. La Cabane du Peintre is the workshop and gallery of a local artist who found God after an extremely turbulent time in her life. Now all her paintings have a religious theme but are bright, bold and full of fun patterns. I particularly enjoyed her work and story.
3- BEACH DAY
The beach at Collioure is relatively small but extremely beautiful. You can kayak if you prefer something a bit more active, or just lounge on the sand reading a book before going for a dip in the sea.
4- Catch the Train
There’s a small train literally called The Small Tourist Train that leaves from the centre of town and goes to Port Vendres with a stop at Fort Saint Elme to take in stunning view of Collioure below. Adult tickets cost €8 and children over 4 years old cost €4. It’s actually a lovely little activity and it’s quite impressive how the train manoeuvres up the steep hills.
5 – Explore the Fort
Fort Saint Elme cut an impressive figure up on the hill, easily visible from the port of Collioure. And when you’re up there it affords incredible views of Collioure and neighbouring Port Vendres. Once inside there’s plenty of history to soak up if that’s your thing. It isn’t really mine, but regardless the history of Fort Saint Elme is exciting enought to keep even me interested. They have a small museum inside full of old weapons and armour which I particularly enjoyed. The staff are incredibly friendly too. Oh an you have to check out the panoramic views from the terrace. Tickets cost €7 per adult and €3/4 per child.
6 – Hike the Hills
You can walk back from the fort down to the port of Collioure. When you start it seems like it will take hours but about 15-20 minutes later you’re in the centre of town. Obviously you can hike up to the fort too, but hiking down seems easier if you ask me. You pass through vineyards and orchards along the way and it’s a very scenic walk. Just make sure to wear suitable shoes. There are plenty of other hikes around Collioure too. You can check them out here.
7 – Wine Tasting
I mean, it is France after all. If you didn’t do a bit of wine tasting I’m pretty sure they’d never let you back into the country. So make sure to stop by La Cave FéFé for a small wine tasting of local Collioure wines. The staff are incredibly welcoming and I really enjoyed the little outdoor seating area.
9 – Take PHOTOS
There are empty picture frames scattered around Collioure made from what I think is brass or bronze. Steps lead up to the frame and you will find, when you look through, that they frame various stunning viewpoints around the town. They certainly make it easy to take a great photo in Collioure. Behind the Chruch in the harbour there is a sort of pier leading out into the sea and at the end is some sort of building and a large crucifix. But it’s a beautiful part of town and affords great views of the sloping multicoloured neighbourhood of Collioure.
Hotels in Collioure
We stayed in Relais du Silence Casa Pairal which was right in the centre of town just a minute away from the Carrefour express/local (these things are important) and only 3 minutes walk from the beach. It was basically an old house/manor full of character and antique furnishings. I was up in the attic and the room was lovely with beams across the ceiling. There was a fridge in the room which I LOVE. It was roasting out so I wanted my water as cold as humanly possible. The hotel has a stunning garden area and even has a small pool. Breakfast is a decent buffet and can be eaten inside or out in the courtyard. Oh and it’s a pet-friendly hotel if you’ve brought your canine companion with you.
There is also one 4* hotel in Collioure if you’re looking for a bit more luxury, the Relais des Trois Mas Hotel. Rooms are themed after various artists and the hotel overlooks its own beach/bay and has great views of Collioure. Restaurant la Balette, which I mentioned earlier, is part of this hotel. The hotel itself is a bit further out of town but stillonly a 5-10 minute walk from the main port area.
Interested in checking out more hotels in Collioure? Here’s a full list.
How to Get to Collioure
Luckily Collioure is quite easy to get to if you’re based in Ireland, the UK or mainland Europe. The best way is to fly into Perpignan. Aer Lingus flies from Dublin to Perpignan 5 days a week from €45 one way. From the airport you can drive to Collioure, if you’re renting a car, in about 40 minutes. If you’re not planning on renting a car then you can take the shuttle to the Perpignan for around €1.30 one way. It takes about 20 minutes. It leaves you about 13 mins walk from the train station. Or you can walk 1 minute from where it drops you to Catalogne 2 and get a local bus to the train station. From the train station there are several trains that stop at Collioure and they all take around 20 minutes. Ask at the ticket desk for the next train to Collioure. Tickets normally cost around €6. If you’d prefer to fly into Barcelona you can easily drive from there to Collioure, or you can get a bus from Barcelona airport straight to Collioure. It’s called the Perpicat.
** I was hosted by the Collioure tourism board on this trip. However, as always, all opinions and views expressed in this article are entirely my own.**
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