Although I’ve lived in Languedoc for a while now, I haven’t yet had the chance to visit Collioure. I have made a few attempts, but with three little ones sleeping in the car, a huge traffic jam and a storm, in the end, I did not manage to set foot in the village. Yet. Last weekend I finally visited Collioure, for no less than 24 hours. And it was well worth it, what a beautiful village! I wonder why it is not one of ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages de France’…
A short history: since ancient times, Collioure has been an important port of the Mediterranean. It used to be divided into two villages: Port d’Avall, also known as Le Faubourg, and Port d’Amunt, or La Ville. The river Douy separated these two villages. The Château Royal is already mentioned as early as 673 during the occupation of King Wamba, King of the Visigoths. In the centuries that follow, Romans, Barbarians, Arabs, Spaniards and French occupied Collioure. In the 12th century, the kings of Majorca used the Château Royal as a summer residence. By the end of the 17th century, Collioure became definitively French, when the Roussillon region was added to France by the Treaty of the Pyrenees.
The beautiful castle is still in the centre of the town, located on the bay of Ansa de Baleta. You can visit it, and, from what I heard, it is worthwhile. I will keep this visit for a next trip to Collioure, as I was too busy with strolling, sightseeing, browsing the Sunday market and enjoying the many terraces.
Round bell tower
On the other side of the bay is the church of Notre Dame des Anges, dating from the 17th century. The round bell tower is part of this church and is the symbol of Collioure. You will see this tower everywhere: on postcards, pictures and paintings. In the 20th century, a large number of artists, including Picasso, Derain, Braque and Dufy, discovered Collioure. According to Matisse, the sky is nowhere as blue as in Collioure, after my visit I can definitely vouch for that! Even now the village has an artistic atmosphere; you will find many galleries and studios there.
Collioure is located on the Côte Vermeille, in the far south of France and only 20 kilometres from the Spanish border. It is the warmest region of France. With about 300 days of sunshine a year, life is pretty good here. Most people share this opinion, especially in July and August when the village is bursting at the seams. If you can, try to spend a night at Collioure. It is truly magical to sit on the beach at night with the beautifully lit bell tower in the background.
Collioure market day
After this relaxing Saturday, Sunday morning came. And Sunday morning means market day in Collioure. During the year, it attracts many visitors. In July and August it is even impossible to park (I speak from experience…), but I managed to park my car at the big parking lot near the castle. The market is in the old part of the town and was great to visit. You will find all kinds of the most delicious food, but also beautiful pottery, fouta’s, hats, clothing and of course art. After all, Collioure is the ‘Ville d’Art’.
The good things in life
All in all a lovely weekend away. Colourful Collioure is certainly worth a visit. The picturesque old town has enough charming streets and squares with plenty of restaurants, shops and galleries to spend a day or longer… The great part is that you can combine a lot of things: interesting history, tasty food and beautiful art followed by a cool dip in the sea.