The Pyrénées-Orientales region is France’s best kept secret. Of course the locals know and love France’s 66th département, but foreigners might not be as familiar with its wonders. Why is it so great you ask? We have mountains, the sea, a fascinating history, charming villages, good wine, and endless sunshine! What more could you ask for? One of my favorite parts of this little corner of France is the Côte Vermille.
Along this Mediterranean coastline you’ll find colorful villages, rocky vineyards, and Pyrenean peaks. My coup de coeur of the Vermillon Coast is Collioure, but recently I’ve been enchanted by Argèles-sur-Mer, the first town of the littoral. Whether you visit with friends, kids, or even by yourself, there’s something for everyone in this coastal village. Keep reading to discover the 5 best things to do in Argelès-sur-Mer.
1. Discover Local Products at the Marché
The South of France is home to some of the best produce I’ve ever sampled. The sunny Mediterranean climate is ideal for agriculture and the large variety of fresh fruits and veggies every season prove it. There are a few different markets around Argelès’s port, beach, and town center. On Saturday and Wednesday mornings you can check out the traditional market in Place de la République in the village. The marché is always a great place to sample local cuisine, get picnic supplies, or find hand crafted souvenirs. I’d also suggest strolling along the little streets in the village to admire the colorful doors.
2. Visit the Château de Valmy Winery and Park
About a half hour’s walk from town is the Domaine de Valmy, a vast winery with a château and park. If you are not an oenophile or francophile, you might be unfamiliar with the term “château viticole.” These agricultural estates usually don’t have what you might think of as a castle, but sometimes they’ll have a large mansion. The “château” appellation comes from the notion that the wine plots once belonged to nobility. There was some controversy a few years ago when some wine producers in the United States wanted to put “château” on their wine labels. French vignerons were obviously against this and claimed that only they had the right to use this name because of their history, reputation, and location.
The Art-Nouveau Valmy estate was built between 1888 and 1900 for Jeanne Bardou, the daughter of Perpignan industrialist, Pierre Bardou-Job. Later the land was sold to Victor Peix, a distiller from the region who transformed the property into a vineyard. Today, its gardens are open to the public and if you are feeling fancy you can make a reservation to dine in the restaurant or even stay in one of the chambres d’hôtes (bed and breakfast).
3. Relax on Le Racou Beach
Argelès has many beaches and little coves to discover, but if I had to pick only one to see it would be le Racou. This Southern little neighborhood is a bit a quieter than the main beach and its name means “nook” in Catalan. If you are looking to just relax and enjoy the sun, sea, and sand, this beach could be for you. As a girl who grew up on the Atlantic coast of the US, I find the waters of the Mediterranean to be quite clear and calm, as long as it isn’t a windy day!
4. Hike, Bike, or Walk around the Trails
Looking for a scenic seaside walk? Try the sentier littoral, which stretches along the coastline offering stunning views of the sea and villages. From here you can access lots of secret rocky inlets.
Are you more of an athletic hiker or mountain biker? From Valmy, you can find a number of trails in the Albères ranging from medium to difficult. I recently hiked up to the Tour de la Massane, which was hard, but so worth it for the views!
Or, if you are in the mood for a calmer, more leisurely walk, there is a lovely loop that leads you from the village, up to Valmy, and back around to the beaches and the port.
5. Treat Yourself at the Port
After hiking, swimming, or promenading around town, an ice cream cone is the perfect end of the day treat. Around the port, there are lots of little ice cream stands and restaurants to choose from; just be careful of the tourist traps! Not a big dessert person? You can always enjoy a glass of local wine on a terrace with a seaside view or on a beach picnic instead. If you’re visiting for more than one day, perhaps staring at the boats in the port will inspire you to book a sail or rent a kayak.
So, what would you be most interested in doing in Argelès-sur-Mer?
À la prochaine,
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