Want to discover a beautiful red village in France? Welcome to Collonges-La-Rouge in Corrèze!
Located only 25 minutes drive from Brive, Collonges-La-Rouge is one of the most beautiful villages in France (yep, that’s official!) and is the perfect place to discover while exploring Nouvelle Aquitaine.
All the houses in this village are made of red stones which is pretty unique!
In this article, we tell you everything you need to know to visit. This includes the best things to do in Collonges-La-Rouge but also restaurant recommendations and where to find hidden gems!
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What is Collonges-La-Rouge
Collonges-La-Rouge is a small village in France that is particularly famous for being entirely red.
All houses in the village were built using the local sandstone.
This sandstone is located on top of a layer of limestone. In this region, the sandstone is filled with iron. As the limestone is waterproof, the layer of sandstone kept the water accumulated through time. It made the metal rust which gave the stone this unique colour.
This stone can only be found in Collonges and a few villages around. It’s very typical of this part of France and you can’t find anything quite like it.
Nowadays, Collonges-La-Rouge is known as one of the most beautiful villages in France and is a must-see for anyone visiting the Dordogne Valley or South West France.
Where is Collonges-La-Rouge
Collonges-La-Rouge is located in the south of Corrèze, near the border with the Lot. The nearest city is Brive La Gaillarde.
How to get to Collonges-La-Rouge
The nearest airport is located in Brive La Gaillarde. If you are flying from abroad, this will be the best place to fly to.
Although there aren’t many flights, you can score some very good from some other European destinations.
Alternatively, you can fly to Limoges.
Once you are in France, the best way to get to Collonges is by car. Unfortunately, there is no train station in the village so you will need to have a vehicle.
Where to park in Collonges-La-Rouge
You can find a large carpark about 100m from the entrance of the village. It’s a flat fee of 4 euros to park your car there, whether you stay for 10 minutes or the entire day.
PRO TIP: Collonges-La-Rouge can get very busy in summer so make sure to get there because 10AM to find a good parking spot and be able to walk around the village in peace.
Where to stay in Collonges-La-Rouge
There is only one hotel in the village. Luckily, it’s a pretty good one!
The Relais St Jacques is a hotel located in the heart of the village. It is used as a stop on the Camino de Santiago which is excellent news.
All these hotels and B&Bs are known for being very good value for money.
This one is no exception! The rooms are very comfy and have everything you may need.
You will also find a great restaurant here with an outdoor terrace, perfect in summer!
If this is not for you, you can also opt for two other establishments located less than 5 minutes away from Collonges:
- Camping de Collonges-la-Rouge offers several types of accommodation including bungalows and cabins
- VVF Villages « Les Pierres Rouges » is a holiday park with a swimming pool and activities. Perfect for families.
A quick history of Collonges-La-Rouge
Although the specifics are the history of Collonges are not known, historians have managed to put together a timeline indicating what events took place in the village through the centuries.
Collonges started to be built around the 8th century. It was managed at the time by a Collon (which was basically a managerial title for a slave), hence the name.
It then became more important in the 14th century thanks to the viscount of Turenne who granted more rights to the village.
The term “La-Rouge”, meaning The red in French, wasn’t actually originally part of the name. It was added in the 70s/80s and was a prime example of a marketing stunt.
Back then, tourism in small villages wasn’t as trendy as it is now and adding the “la Rouge” was a way to give a reason to people to come and visit.
Why is Collonges-La-Rouge one of the most beautiful villages in France
As well as slightly changing the name, the mayor at the time decided to create in 1982 an association with other mayors of pretty villages. They called it “Les plus beaux villages de France”, meaning “the most beautiful villages in France”.
If that seemed pretty innocent at the time, it will then grow to become one of the most famous and favourite labels in France.
In order to be one of the plus beaux villages de France, a village has to be pretty (of course) but also have a rich cultural heritage.
There can’t be more than 300 inhabitants.
You can now found over 100 villages under this label in the country.
Amongst the most famous ones, you will find Rocamadour, Saint-Cirq Lapopie and Cordes-sur-Ciel.
Best things to do and see in Collonges-La-Rouge, Correze
Now that you know a bit more about Collonges-La-Rouge and its history, it’s time to dive into the good stuff and discover what you can do in the village.
Walking tour of Collonges
The best way to learn more about Collonges and not miss a thing is to join a walking tour.
There are several walking tours per week in summer. They are run by the visitor centre (office de Tourisme).
When you arrive in the village, walk down the main street until you reach the fountain. The visitor centre will be located on your left.
You can opt for a ‘normal’ walking tour or for the more playful version for children.
Walking tours cost 6 euros per person and last between 1 and 2 hours.
The guide will take you around the village and explain many things about the architecture, the history of the place and will also tell you some interesting fun facts.
Rue de la barrière
This is the main street in Collonges-La-Rouge. It starts from the main road and goes all the way down through the village.
This is the first place you’ll see and it’s a very pretty street. You’ll find restaurants and local shops.
You will also find different types of architecture including timber and stone houses that date from before the 16th century.
It’s also a great place to see examples of encorbellement. This architecture style was developed in the 14th century and consist in having a first floor bigger than the ground floor.
During the middle age, the taxes on houses was calculated on the size of the ground floor. This technique was used so people would use have a smaller ground floor and pay fewer taxes.
It’s something you can find in many other French villages.
As you stroll along the street, you will also find a lot of facades with vaulted windows on the ground floor. These were shops in medieval times.
Les Halles (Market Place)
Les Halles in French refer to a covered market place. You will find a lot of them in villages, towns and even french cities.
That’s where the markets are held. Of course, they are very busy when the market is on but it’s also a very interesting spot to see at any other given time.
In Collonges-La-Rouge, les halles aren’t that big but they are for sure impressive. There even is an old bread oven.
The association Les amis de Collonges (the friends of Collonges) still use it for bread festivals.
Château de Vassinhac
Located in the Rue de la Garde, just below the church, the Château de Vassinhac is one of the most stunning landmarks in Collonges-La-Rouge.
It looks like a true fairytale castle!
It was built in the 16th century and used to belong to the Vassinhac family (hence the name).
It was a powerful family at the time. They were the lord of the village.
It is a marvelous place to visit. The castle itself is beautiful and it also boasts fantastic views.
The castle is open from April to November to visitors. The entrance costs 6.50 euros.
Église Saint-Pierre de Collonges-la-Rouge
The Église Saint-Pierre (St Peter) is located by the market place. It’s also a very beautiful building and it showcases the red stones so well.
It is a bit of a unique church as it’s actually two in one.
The first part was built in the 11th century but another side was added in the 15th century.
It’s pretty unique as there are two naves inside!
The church can be admired from the outside but it’s also open to the public for free. Just walk in and take a look!
Chapelle des Pénitents
Located on the other side of the church, the Chapelle des pénitents was built in the 15th century for the black penitents that were in Collonges at the time.
Inside, you will find unique and colourful stained windows. These are quite recent but are meant to represent the village. You can find the red colours, the scallop shell (that represents the Camino de Santiago) and many other elements.
La Rue Noire (The Black Street)
Hidden in the top part of the village, the Black Street is the most unique street in the village. The shape is quite unique as it’s zigzagging.
It was named Black Street because it used to be a bit of a dangerous place. Thieves used to hide in the corners and rob people walking at night.
Obviously, this is not the case anymore. It’s 100% safe to go there and it’s something you shouldn’t miss.
It’s also a great place to take photos!
Best of all, a lot of people don’t even go there so it’s usually pretty quiet.
Shopping in Collonges-La-Rouge
If you love finding unique souvenirs, you will love Collonges!
There are many local shops that sell souvenirs and local products. Nougat, sweets, clothes, jewellery… there is a bit of everything.
Some of them aren’t cheap so be careful with that but there are some awesome gems to find here!
Hidden gems in Collonges-La-Rouge, Correze
Do you love discovering hidden spots? Then you’ll be happy to know that there are a few hidden gems in Collonges-La-Rouge.
Just after the fountain, on the main street, you will find the Maison de la Sirène (the Mermaid house).
On the righthand side of the door, you can see a small mermaid sculpted in the stone.
This is pretty unique and quite an unusual thing to see in this part of France. After all, the sea is nowhere nearby!
There are many theories about this mermaid but nobody exactly knows why it’s there.
If you want to learn more about those, you can also walk in and visit the Maison de la Sirène. The entrance costs 2 euros.
The monk turning his back
This one is the best secret spot in Collonges-La-Rouge. Even locals don’t know about it!
Go to the Chapelle des Pénitents and stand in front of the door. Turn around so the chapel is in your back and you’re facing the building on the other side.
Look up and you should see a sculpture in the wall with a man turning his back.
This one is called “The monk turning his back”. Again, nobody quite knows why it’s there however, the most commonly told theory is that the monks living in the monastery of Collonges didn’t agree with the penitents.
The monk represents this difference of opinions as it’s turning his back to the chapel (and therefore not agreeing with what was happening there).
Restaurants in Collonges-La-Rouge, Correze
If you are spending the day in Collonges, chances are that you will want to grab food at some point.
Well, good news: there are many restaurants in Collonges-la-Rouge which means, you’ll be spoiled for choice.
Whether you want to try the traditional and local cuisine or something a bit different, you can find it.
Here are some recommendations of places to eat in Collonges-La-Rouge.
Located on the Rue Barrière, le Cantou is an all-time-favourite. It’s quite a big restaurant with outdoor terraces at the front and the back.
They serve delicious local food including duck and salads.
It’s good value for money and the perfect choice for people who truly want to experience the regional cuisine.
La crêperie du Pélerin et de la Sorcière
No trip to France would be complete without eating crêpes! If that’s something you want to do, head a bit further down the main street and you will find on the righthand side this cute creperie.
They serve delicious crepes (savoury and sweet). They use local produce which makes it even better!
They also offer a lunch menu that is good value for money.
PRO TIP: Want to do like the locals? Order some cider as well!
Le Relais de St Jacques de Compostelle
If you are particularly hungry, opt for this one. They offer a 3-course menu for 23 euros.
The food is excellent and their outdoor terrace is very pleasant.
We hope this article was helpful and will make you want to explore Collonges as well as many other plus beaux villages de France.