Eleven kilometres southeast of Elne, COLLIOURE is achingly picturesque – and achingly expensive. Palm trees line the curving main beach of Port d'Avall, while slopes of vines and olives rise to ridges crowned with ruined forts and watchtowers. Its setting and monuments inspired Henri Matisse and André Derain to embark in 1905 on their explosive Fauvist colour experiments. Collioure is dominated by its twelfth-century Château-Royal (daily: June– Sept 10am–6/7pm; Oct– May 9am–5pm; 4), founded by the Templars and subject to later alterations by the kings of Mallorca and Aragón, and again after the Treaty of the Pyrenees gave Collioure to France. The mediocre permanent "collection" inside scarcely merits the entrance fee; attend instead a concert in the courtyard. Collioure's other landmark is the distinctive round belfry of the seventeenth-century church of Notre-Dame-des-Anges (daily 9am– noon & 2–6pm), formerly the harbour lighthouse. Behind it two small beaches (the northerly one naturist) are divided by a causeway leading to the chapel of St-Vincent, built on a former islet, while west from here a concrete path follows the rocky shore to the bay of Le Racou.
Just north of the château lies the old harbour, still home to a bare handful of brightly painted lateen-rigged fishing boats – now more likely used as pleasure craft – all that remains of Collioure's traditional fleet. Beyond this, the stone houses and sloping lanes of the old Mouré quarter are the main focus of interest. The tourist office is here on place de 18-Juin (July & Aug daily 9am–8pm; Sept– June Tues– Sat 9am– noon & 2–6.30pm; Tel:04.68.82.15.47, Web: www.collioure.com ).
The most central place to stay is atmospheric Hostellerie des Templiers (Tel:04.68.98.31.10, Web: www.hotel-templiers.com ; closed parts Nov– Feb; Price: 51-65 annexes, Price: 81-100 main bldg) at 12 avenue Camille-Pelletan, crammed with artwork and housing overflow in various annexes. With a car (central parking is nightmarish) and/or desire for a sea view, opt instead for Hôtel Triton, Port d'Avall beach (Tel:04.68.98.39.39, Web: www.hotel-triton-collioure.com ; all year; Price: 66-80) or remoter Hôtel Caranques (Tel:04.68.82.06.68, Web: www.les-caranque.com ; Easter– Oct; Price: 66-80) at the east side of the bay on route de Port-Vendres, very friendly and with direct access to a lido from the terraced gardens. The best campsite is seaside, caravan-free La Girelle (Tel:04.68.81.25.56; April– Sept), at plage d'Ouille, west of town on the coastal path to Le Racou. Rue Camille-Pelletan and its perpendicular lanes have some cafés and restaurants, but you'll fork out well over the odds for listless grub. Get, at least, what you pay for at Amphytrion on Port d'Avall, crowded even off season for the sake of good-sized, seafood-based menus ( 18–21).