There are many fairytale villages in France, but lucky for us we did not have to travel far to visit the colorful town of Collioure, France. Collioure is only about 13km over the Spanish and French border making this the perfect weekend getaway from Barcelona. You can take a train or even a bus, but we rented a car because we were heading further north to stay at Chateau Les Carrasses for Easter weekend.
I’ve seen a lot of charming medieval villages in Costa Brava, but what really put this particular one over the top for me, besides being in France, was the beautiful pastel hues of all the buildings. Before visiting Collioure I only saw a few images of the famous castle and lighthouse and knew there was a small coastal town, but I had no idea how colorful it was.
Being in Collioure is like being in Spain and France simultaneously, in fact Collioure used to be a part of Catalunya and went back and forth between the Catalans and the French a few times. The main attraction is the Castle of Collioure, Château Royal de Collioure that overlooks the sea and the beautiful bell tower that at one time used to be a lighthouse. There is also Moulin de Collioure, a windmill high up on the hill dating back to the 14th century and Collioure’s cemetery includes the tomb of Spanish poet Antonio Machado.
The Fauvism Art Movement
The thing that I found most interesting about Collioure was the Fauvism art movement that began here. In 1905 Henri Mattise arrived in Collioure a bit depressed and down on his luck, the light and the colors of Collioure lifted his spirits and he began filling his canvass. Soon his friend Andre Derain came to Collioure to paint and together they started what is now known as the Fauvism art movement.
Fauvism are paintings that are a bit more whimsical, using a lot of unnatural bold or pastel colors for objects that are not usually of that color. An example would be red trees or painting the sky pink instead of blue. The word Fauves means “wild beasts” and this type of art was a bit out of the ordinary and the art world turned their noses up at it and thought it was a bit odd.
No sky in all France is more blue than that of Collioure.” – Henri Mattise
There is a very small Modern Art Museum in Collioure with examples of Fauvism, Collioure inspired paintings and other artwork. From here you can climb to the top of the hill to check out the Collioure windmill as well. There are several small art galleries in the small town to enjoy, but be sure to stop into the little Collioure art shop and take home a colorful print of Mattise or Derain’s work as a souvenier!
Where we stayed
We stayed at a hotel about ten minutes up the road because it looked like a little hidden oasis surrounded by trees and lush greenery. Yes, it had trees but not so much an oasis, and it was right off the highway. It wasn’t horrible, but I can’t faithfully recommend it.
However, while walking around early in the morning I took note of these two hotels, and I would suggest staying at one of these for their prime location and views of the sea. The Relais des Trois Mas Hôtel or Hotel Le Bon Port, both of these hotels sit on the quieter side of the cove and have stunning views of the castle and bell tower. They both have pools too!
Where to Eat
If there is one place you eat in Collioure make sure it is La Viole it is perched out over the water on a point and you will have the fantastic views all around you. Not only is the setting ideal, but the food was delicious and the portions were huge! We ordered starters and main dishes and it was way too much food.
I can also highly recommend Restuarant Le Tambourin for a very nice French dinner. This restaurant is cozy and chic, the service was great and the food was delicious!
Be on the lookout for the gold bullhead hanging outside the restaurant Paco. Unfortunately, we could not get a table, but it was packed and looked like the place to be!
If you are visiting Barcelona, the Costa Brava area or the South of France I would highly recommend you take the time to visit Collioure. It can be seen in a day but it’s also worth spending one night if you have the time.