The fishing village where famed painters Henri Matisse, André Derain, and the Fauvists committed chromatic mayhem in the early 20th century, Collioure is still the jewel of the Vermilion Coast. A town of espadrille merchants, anchovy packers, and lateen-rigged fishing boats in the shadow of a 13th-century Château Royal, it is now as much a magnet for travelers (beware the crowds in July and August) as it once was and remains a lure for artists.
Matisse set up shop here in the summer of 1905 and was soon inspired by the colors of the town's terra-cotta roofs. André Derain, Henri Martin, and Georges Braque—who were dubbed "Fauves" for their "savage" approach to color and form (fauve means "wild beast")—quickly followed. To discover tomorrow's Matisses and Derains, head to the streets behind the Place du 18-Juin and to the old Le Mouré neighborhood, beneath Fort Miradou—the studios here are filled with contemporary artists at work; or visit the streets behind the Vieux Port to find former fishermen's quarters now occupied by smart boutiques and restaurants. Other dining delights await on the café-terraces overlooking the main beach and the fashionable Rue Camille Pelletan by the harbor, where you can feast on Collioure's tender, practically boneless anchovies and the fine Banyuls and Collioure AOC wines coming from the impeccably cultivated vineyards surrounding the town. Although nearby villages are apparently only rich in quaintness, Collioure is surprisingly prosperous, thanks to the cultivation of primeurs, early ripening fruit and vegetables, shipped to the markets of northern France.