Collioure, France: Where Art and Beauty Collide

You won’t see Collioure on most France itineraries but that’s a good thing. This gem on the picturesque Roussillon coast offers an enchanting escape for in-the-know travellers escaping the busier resorts of the Côte D’Azur and Costa Brava.

I first visited Collioure on a day trip from Canet-en-Roussillon in the mid-1980s and was instantly captivated. It took me the best part of forty years to return, this time staying four nights. I fell head-over-heels in love with the town again.

Discover why you should visit, the best things to do in Collioure, how to get there and where to stay and eat.

three people sitting by the seafront painting an old castle in collioure france

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Introducing the City of Painters

Occupying a picturesque cove, Collioure is a historic and achingly beautiful beach village, refreshingly unspoiled by tourism. Also known as “The City of Painters”, it has a rich artistic legacy.

Collioure captivated some of the greatest artists of the 20th century, including Henry Matisse and André Derain. In the early 1900s, these Fauvists (les Fauvistes), made the village their summer base.

image of the painter matisse and a sign with one of his paintings in collioure france

Today, Collioure remains an important artistic hub. The pastel-tinted houses of the old quarter are brimming with galleries and the village attracts painters from across the globe.

Beyond its artistic charm, Collioure is a magnet for foodies, serving some of the best anchovies on the planet. 

Best Things to Do in Collioure

Here are my favourite things to do in Collioure. If you find it helpful to map it out, here’s one I prepared earlier.

For a live map, click here or on the image.

map of the best things to do in Collioure France
Places to visit in Collioure, France. Map data @ Google, 2023

1. Dive into Collioure’s history at the Château Royal

old stone castle of collioure by the side of a harbous

Collioure has a long and rich history.

It was established as a trading port by the Phoenicians and ancient Greeks and later occupied by Romans, Visigoths and Arabs. Over the years, Collioure has been the subject of nearly a dozen territorial squabbles, including four French invasions and two Spanish invasions.

Château Royal de Collioure, the imposing fortress that dominates Collioure’s pretty harbour, played a key role in the village’s history. It is, in fact, an amalgamation of four castles.

The Knights Templars founded the original castle in the early 13th Century. A second castle was built by the Kings of Majorca during the 13th and 14th Centuries and was used as their part-time residence.

In the 16th century, the Spanish Habsburgs turned the castle into a modern fortress.

Following the Spanish surrender to Louis XIII’s troops in 1642, the castle passed into French hands. Vauban modernized it, turning it into a Bourbon citadel.

Even if you have only a passing interest in history, I recommend visiting Collioure’s Château Royal. You can easily spend an hour yomping along the castle’s ramparts and up and down its bastions. From here, the views of Collioure are sensational.

view of the harbourside of collioure in france with cafes and small boats
the stone tower of collioure castle

Opening hours are seasonal. Check here for current times.

Entrance fee applies

English tours are self-guided. You will be given a laminated A4 sheet with a map and brief history. Information in the castle itself is in French and Catalan.

There are twice-daily guided tours in French.

2. Stroll around the Le Mouré

red flowers clinging to a stone wall leading to a view over the sea

The artistic tradition of Collioure has its heart in Le Mouré, its old quarter, once home to fishermen and naval officers.

Don’t confine yourself to the streets, lined with restaurants and shops, behind the lovely harbour. Keep climbing through the maze of steep, narrow streets, past sherbet-coloured houses, draped in vibrant bougainvillaea and plumbago, until you reach Rue de la Carranque.

row of low stone cottages on a cobblestone street in old town collioure france
Rue de la Carranque, Collioure Old Town

Immortalised by Matisse and Derain, the fathers of Fauvism, this is the most charming corner of Collioure.

3. Nurture your artistic soul at Musée d’Art Moderne

old building house modern art museum in collioure with courtyard and tables and chaisr

This Collioure attraction is best for fans of modern and contemporary art.

Collioure’s Musée d’Art Moderne is housed in Villa Pams on the eastern edge of the village, about five minutes walk uphill from the port. As well as a permanent collection, the museum hosts several temporary exhibitions each year.


Opening hours are seasonal. Check here for current times.

Entrance fee applies

Daily guided visits in English are available

4. Tantalise your taste buds in Collioure

tins and boxes of seafood on a shlf in a shop in collioure

Collioure is also a magnet for gastronomy enthusiasts.

Known as the anchovy capital, there is no shortage of opportunities to sample this fishy, salty delicacy. The best places to buy anchovies in Collioure are Maison Desclaux and Anchois Roque.

For sweeter treats, pop into Le Croquant de Collioure. This small bakery is the place to try and buy croquants – crunchy French biscuits – or macaroons. 

5. Taste local wines at Le Cellier Dominicain

two bottles of wine and a glass with a little red wine

When in France it would be almost rude not to taste local wines. The best place to go wine tasting in Collioure is the Dominican Cellar.

The cellar of Le Dominicain, a wine cooperative founded in 1926, is housed in the 13th Century Couvent des Dominicains. Friendly and informative staff will allow you to taste their wines for free.

I tried one white wine, a young red and an oak-aged red. All were fabulous.

Opening hours are seasonal and they close for lunch. Check here.

6. Pay your respects at Eglise Notre Dame des Anges

gilded altarpiece in church of notre dame des anges in collioure france

On the north side of the harbour lies Collioure’s spiritual heart. The 17th Century Église Notre-Dame-des-Anges replaced the ancient Sainte-Marie, which was razed on the orders of Vauban.

Its round bell tower once doubled as the lighthouse and has been reconstructed many times, thanks to damage by storms and war. The base dates from the 13th Century, whereas the bell chamber is from the nineteenth.

Although the church’s interior is a little gloomy, it’s worth stepping inside to see the magnificent gilded retable, carved and painted in three tiers by Joseph Sunyer. You’ll need to pop €1 in the slot at the side of the main altar to see it lit up

7. Hike up to the Windmill of Collioure and La Gloriette

old stone windmill under a blue sky

This is a heart-pumping hike but worthwhile.

From the Musée d’Art Moderne, take the steep steps that wind through a cactus garden to Moulin de la Cortina. This 14th-century windmill was used to grind grain until the 19th century. It was restored in the 2000s and is now used to produce olive oil.

From here, there are panoramic views of boats bobbing in the harbour and the terraced vineyards that surround Collioure. For a spectacular view over the Bay of Collioure, follow the path to the right to La Gloriette viewpoint.

view of a pretty harbour and beach in collioure france

8. Take in the view from Fort Saint-Elme

If it’s more views – and a robust cardiovascular workout – you are after, head further up the hill to Fort St-Elme.

This was built between 1538 and 1552 by Charles V to defend his Spanish Empire from the French. It is now home to a museum with medieval and Renaissance arms collections and offers spectacular views over Collioure.

Fort St-Elme is closed for renovation. It is due to reopen later in 2024.

9. Hike along the coast from Collioure to Argelès Plage

view across a rocky coastline with a small town in the distance

For a rewarding day hike from Collioure, follow the coastal path to Argelès.

For the most part, this path hugs the coast and offers a magnificent panorama of the Gulf of Lion. There’s more information on the route here.

Covering a distance of around four miles, I would grade this walk as easy-moderate. The terrain is mostly steps or good paths, but there are some uneven surfaces and it is undulating.

Come prepared. Wear suitable footwear and bring a hat and water. With the exception of a restaurant at Plage D’Oueill near the start of the walk there is nowhere to eat and no toilets.

I finished the walk at Port Argelès instead of continuing to Argelès Plage. From here, it was around 30 minutes to the train station at Argelès for the short journey back to Collioure.

10. Soak up the sun on one of Collioure’s beaches

There’s a lot to be said for simply relaxing in Collioure. Although the beaches are mostly stony, the views are hard to beat.

From north to south, here are the main beaches in Collioure:

Nord – a stony beach that is good for rolling surf and crystal-clear water

Saint Vincent – a stony and fine gravel beach located behind the Church of Notre Dame des Anges

people by a small beach next to a a stone church with round bell tower

Boramar – a popular stony beach located in the heart of the village in front of the harbourside restaurants. This is the biggest beach in Collioure and has a lifeguard in the summer.

Port D’Avall – the only sandy beach in Collioure. A sheltered spot with shallow waters.

Boutigue – looks directly out onto the bay and provides wonderful views of the castle. There is sand on one side and stones on the other.

people sitting on beach and swimming in the sea backed by a promenade with pastel coloured buildings

When to Visit Collioure

Although Collioure is a year-round destination, visit in early summer and autumn for reliable weather and fewer crowds.

Avoid July and August if possible. This is when the masses descend on the village and prices are higher. If you are driving, parking can be tricky.

Winter is quieter but cooler and some businesses may shut or have reduced opening hours.

blue and purple flowers framing a narrow pretty cobbled street

How to Get There

Collioure is in the Occitanie region of southern France on Vermillion Coast (Côte Vermeille), close to the border with Spain. The Roussillon city of Perpignan is around 16 miles to the north.

By train

The easiest way to reach Collioure is by train. The village is on the line between Perpignan and Port-Bou. From Perpignan, it’s a 20-minute journey. In the summer, there are more than 10 trains a day.

It will take you ten minutes to walk from the train station to the centre of Collioure.

You can check train times here.

By bus

Collioure is served by bus 540 from Avignon and bus 541 from Port-Vendres. Services are operated by liO Occitanie and you can check timetables here.

Buses stop at the central car park, Les Glacis, off Av du Général-de-Gaulle.

narrow pretty street in collioure old town with pastel coloured stone buildings draped with purple flowers

By car

To reach Collioure by road, take the A9 motorway towards Barcelona and exit at Perpignan Sud (junction 42). If you are driving from Spain, turn off at Le Boulou (junction 43).

You will need to follow directions for Argelès-sur-Mer, then Collioure.

Parking in the centre of Collioure can be challenging in July and August. From May until the end of September, there is a shuttle bus service between two external car parks – Dourats and Cap Dourats – and the centre of Collioure.

By plane

The closest airport to Collioure is Perpignan-Rivesaltes, which serves domestic and European destinations. Make your way into central Perpignan by taxi or bus and then catch a train to complete your journey. Alternatively, rent a car.

If Perpignan does not work for you, Carcassone, Girona or Barcelona airports are also good options.

Where I Stayed in Collioure (+ a few alternatives)

As Collioure is not a big place, there is not a huge selection of places to stay. Therefore, it pays to book in advance.

Hôtel Madeloc

I stayed at this lovely 3-star hotel just up the hill from the train station and a ten-minute walk into town.

The room was spacious and squeaky clean and had a fabulous terrace with mountain views. Breakfast was superb as was customer service. The reception staff could not have been more friendly.

If you like a good rooftop pool, this is the place for you. Prized private parking is available on site

room at hotel madeloc in collioure with large bed with yellow cushions and bathroom entrance
room terrace at hotel madeloc collioure with table and chairs and view of distant mountains


Here are a few other places to stay in Collioure that might suit other tastes and budgets:

Les Appartements de Collioure

If you prefer a space to call your own, take a look at these affordable 4-star apartments.

They have well-equipped kitchens and are close to Collioure’s beaches. Onsite parking is also available.


Les Suites de Collioure

This 4-star hotel located close to Port Avall Beach has garnered stellar reviews. All of its suites have a kitchenette and it also offers an 2-bedroom apartment with a washing machine.


a collioure 7

My Favourite Restaurants

I dined like a king in Collioure. Here are a few places I tried and liked:

L’Escale Bleu | 1 Avenue Gén de Gaulle, 66190 Collioure

A small and friendly place away from the main tourist drag that serves excellent fresh fish. Run by a husband and wife team, it was one of the few places in which I have dined the chef came out to speak to the clientele.

Casa Leon | 2 rue Riere, 66190 Collioure France

Fish is also the order of the day in this rustic restaurant close to Collioure’s harbour. Try their chorizo and calamari.

Is Collioure Good for Solo Travellers?

France is a fabulous solo travel destination and one of the best places to travel alone in Europe. Collioure is no exception.

It is safe, has good transport links and there are activities to suit most solo travellers. That said, as with any travel destination, don’t make yourself a target.
Make nimble-fingered pickpockets’ jobs harder by stashing your valuables at your accommodation and use an anti-theft backpack when you are out and about. I use this PacSafe backpack which has anti-RFID technology and a hidden pocket.
Make sure that you know your way back to your hotel or apartment after dark.
Above all, trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, remove yourself from the situation.

bridget coleman the flashpacker 2

About Bridget

Bridget Coleman has been a passionate traveller for more than 30 years. She has visited 70+ countries, most as a solo traveller.

Articles on this site reflect her first-hand experiences.

To get in touch, email her at or follow her on social media.

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