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 know because I’ve been here a few times.
Discover why you should visit, the best things to do in Collioure, how to get there and where to stay and eat.
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Where is Collioure in France?
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.
What is Collioure Known for?
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.
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, France
To help you make the most of your time in town, 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.
1. Dive into Collioure’s history at the Château Royal
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 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. It was modernized by Vauban 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.
2. Stroll around the Le Mouré
The artistic tradition of Collioure has its heart in Le Mouré, its old quarter, once home to fishermen and naval officers.
Don’t just confine yourself to the streets, lined with restaurants and shops, behind the lovely harbour. Keep climbing up through the maze of steep, narrow streets, past sherbet-coloured houses, draped in vibrant bougainvillaea and plumbago, until you reach Rue de la Carranque.
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
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 also hosts several temporary exhibitions a year.
4. Tantalise your taste buds in Collioure
Collioure is also a magnet for gastronomy enthusiasts.
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
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
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
This is a heart-pumping hike but worthwhile.
From the Musée d’Art Moderne, take the steep steps that meander their way 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.
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.
9. Hike along the coast from Collioure to Argelès Plage
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
Boramar – a popular stony beach located behind 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.
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.
How to Get to Collioure
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.
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.
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.
The closest airport to Collioure is Perpignan-Rivesaltes, which serves a number of 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 to Stay in Collioure, France
As Collioure is not a big place, there is not a huge selection of places to stay. Therefore, it pays to book in advance.
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
>>> CLICK HERE TO CHECK AVAILABILITY
Here are a few other places to stay in Collioure that might suit other tastes and budgets:
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.
>>> CLICK HERE TO CHECK AVAILABILITY
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.
>>> CLICK HERE TO CHECK AVAILABILITY
Where to Eat in Collioure
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?
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.
READ THIS NEXT: Solo Travel in France: Ultimate Guide & Best Places to Visit
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 email@example.com or follow her on social media.