The Mediterranean port of Collioure
A jewel on The Mediterranean
Discover the history
Collioure is a pretty little port on The Mediterranean Sea in South west France, just a few kilometers from the Spanish border – this is Catalan country, which is deeply reflected in the customs and culture of the region.
The best time to visit is definitely out of season, if you can, to avoid the summer crowds, as parking here, as well as accommodation is difficult to find in the high season, it really is a popular place and rightly so.
There have been settlements here from at least the 7th centuy and it has changed hands between France and Spain over the centuries due to its strategic importance and its sheltered harbour.
This can be seen by the fortified Château Royl and church and also the surrounding forts on the hills along the coast.
On the trail of art
The climate here is very mild, but it can get quite windy along the coast due to the influence of the sea and the nearby Pyrenees mountains.
It has long been a popular place for artists – the light is magic, both during the day and at sunrise and sunset and is the birthplace of The Fauvism art movement, pioneered by André Derain and Henri Matisse.
There is a restaurant in the town, Les Templiers, where penniless artists paid for their wine and food by exchanging one of their paintings, which are displayed on the walls of the restaurant.
Collioure is famous for the excellent anchovies, which must be sampled with a Collioure wine (red, rosé or white) – both are appellation contrôles or with an apéritif of the local Banyuls forified wine, which is similar to port.
The vineyards are perched precariously on the steep hillsides on tiny terraces, separated by dry-stone walls that snake their ways up to the crest of the hills, where cork oaks grow, and the views are just stunning.
What to see and do
There is a lot of history here and in the surrounding area. There is plenty to see and discover in the little winding streets in the town. There is a museum of modern art, and carry on up the hill out of the town towards Port Vendres to Le Moulin de La Courtine (windmill), which was formerly a flour mill, transformed for producing olive oil. The windmill has been restored by some enthusiastic volunteers and it still works nd can be visited – the views from here are probably the best of Collioure. Carry on up the trail from the windmill up to The 16th century St Elme fort, again the views are stunning.
In the town there are the 18th century forts – Le Fort Rond and Le fort Carré.
A must-do is the fauvism trail around the pretty little flower-lined streets, always with a glimpse of the deep-blue Mediterranean, look out for the paintings of Matisse, Charles Rennie-Mackintosh and André Derain on the way.
After this, go back down to sea level, past the church Notre-Dame-des-Anges (you can also visit the church) to the St Vincent Chapel (on a rocky promentary jutting into the sea, which was the home of several religious hermits through the ages – then take a stroll along to Le Château Royal, some nice viewpoints here too!
There are a few beaches, some get very crowded in high season, probably the quietest is at La Plage d’Ouille, unless you take the car to find some of the (almost) deserted creeks up or down the coast.
Coulliore is just 20 minutes from Perpignan by train or car – there is an airport in Perpignan – a two-hour drive from Barcelona and roughly two and a bit hours from Toulouse.
The road here is pretty good, with autoroute up to Perpignan then dual carriageway, but if you have the time, and you must make the time, take the more picturesque route de la Corniche which hugs the coast along the way.
Food & drink
Collioure became rich through the fishing and preparation of anchovies and you can visit a traditional processing unit – the most famous anchovies are La Maison Roques and Desclaux.
There are quite a few restaurants that serve tapas and fish is readily available, fresh and delicious, well accompanied by a wine from either Collioure or Banyuls, which are the main appelations in the area.
A local Catalan speciality is Boles de picolat – meatballs fried in olive oil, then combined with olives and simmered in a rich sauce, served with white beans, chickpeas, or rice. If you like fish, try a parillade – a selection of freshly grilled fish, often served with rice or risottos, zarzuela – a fish stew, similar to bouillabaisse. Try a Escalivada – a mixture of Mediterranean vegetables (peppers, aubergines, onions and tomatoes) marinated in olive oil – if you dare – Cargolida; snails cooked over a wood fire with salt, pepper and olive oil or sliced, dried ham
Then to finish, what better than a crème Catalane!
Ready for more? See our video Visit Colliore
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