Among the wine regions of France, Roussillon is often forgotten, despite the unique terroirs it offers from the Mediterranean Sea to the Pyrenees Mountains. The micro climates present in the wine, especially the dry muscat that is so famous in this area. To experience the best of Roussillon, stay in the center city of Perpignan and taste of the Catalan culture, while exploring the seaside towns of Banyuls and Collioure.
From the 10th to 17th centuries, Perpignan was the capital of French Catalonia. Now this “small big city,” as it is often referred, is the center of Roussillon. It’s also the place for you to center yourself as you explore everything this region has to offer. You will be able to reach all the other areas of Roussillon within an hour about an hour’s drive from Perpignan.
Stay downtown in Perpignan so you can walk to most of the museums, shopping and restaurants. Hotel Mercure Perpignan Centre is a good option with reasonable rooms and a nice breakfast, served by room service or at their buffet.
At the end of a day of exploring, you’ll find plenty to find this small city has plenty of cafes and quaint restaurants to choose from. The food here is not as heavy in creams and butter as it is in many parts of France. You’ll have more fresh fish, meat, vegetables, fruits, and oils as bases for meals. A few of the downtown restaurants you’ll want to try are Le Tire Bouchon and La Café Vienne.
Before you leave Perpignan, also treat yourself to a meal at Les Clos des Lys and make a stop at Olivier Bajard for delectable chocolates and baked goods.
Banyuls sur Mer
Be prepared to be wowed as you arrive in Banyuls sur Mer. The combination of mountains filled with vineyards and the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea is just beautiful.
Stop in town at the wine shop for Domaine du Traginer. If you are lucky, you’ll meet Jean-Francois. He’ll pour samples for you and tell you about how he works the vineyards along the mountain with three donkeys and a mule. It’s worth a drive just to see the stunning views and marvel at how he does it.
Spend some time through the narrow streets of Banyuls sur Mer tasting more of the wines of the area, and learning the many tastes of grenache.
Collioure may overlook the same sea as Banyuls, but it is a different paradise. Look out at the ancient castle and the cobblestone streets along the seaside village just 15 miles from the border of Spain.
Have lunch in Collioure at Le Neptune Restaurant for both the food and the views. Head to the Anchovy Factory to watch the city’s most popular export rolled by hand. Then browse the shops for Catalan finds you may not see elsewhere.
If you prefer to just have a day of relaxation, Collioure can be that place too. The town has several beaches with crystal clear water for swimming.
Roussillon is on the border of Spain and easily reached. You can fly into Perpignan from many points throughout Europe, including Paris’ Orly Airport. Rail Europe has a fairly new station in Perpignan that goes directly from Barcelona, Spain, during a scenic trip that’s just over an hour. You can also connect through Lille, France, from Belgium and London and then take the train directly to Perpignan.