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On Catalonia’s Costa Brava, 45 minutes from Girona, lies the small town of Figueres, the birthplace of surrealist artist Salvador Dali and home to the Teatre-Museu Gala Salvador Dali. Apart from the Dali museum, Figueres is a lively and vibrant town with great restaurants, local boutiques, interesting architecture and dreamy beaches only a short drive away.
History of Figueres
According to documents from the Sant Pere Monastery, the establishment of the town of Figueres took place around the 10th century. It was of little significance until it was made a Royal Town in 1267 by King James I of Aragon. A castle was built between 1753 and 1766 and its presence reshaped Figueres, which became a wealthier and more populated town. The following century, La Rambla was built over a dry riverbed and became the centre of the town. Some of the trees that line La Rambla today were planted in 1864. In 1904, the town’s most famous resident, Dali, was born.
During the Spanish Civil War, Figueres was one of the most heavily bombed Catalan cities and with thousands of people passing through the town on their way to exile, there weredali many deaths. Some estimate the number of bombing victims could be as high as 400.
Figueres began to recover in the 1950s and the Dali museum has been a major drawcard for tourists over the years.
What to See in Figueres
A visit to Figueres would not be complete without visiting the endlessly fascinating Teatre-Museu Dalí, otherwise known as the Salvador Dali Museum. The second most visited museum in Spain, the Dali museum is housed in a red, castle-like building studded with croissants and topped with giant white eggs and Oscar-like golden statues on the roof. The building itself is an amazing and bizarre work of art, as Dali intended. Dali wanted the entire experience of visiting the museum to be a surrealist journey and you will find exhibits full of the unexpected including optical illusions and controversial pieces. While you won’t find Dali’s most famous works here, it offers a unique insight into the artist’s imagination. You can also visit his grave – Dali is buried in the crypt at the basement of the museum. If you’re interested in continuing a tour of Dali’s life, you can visit the house he was born in on a nearby street. It is not a museum but is an interesting spot for Dali fans.
Figueres’ impressive 18th-century fortress, the Castell de Sant Ferran, is another attraction of the city, about a twenty-minute walk from the Dali Theatre-Museum. The fortress itself is a feat of military engineering, occupying an area of 320,000 sq metres with cisterns underneath the courtyard able to hold up to 10 million litres of water. At one point, the castle would have been able to support 6,000 troops. Visitors can stroll around the barracks and warehouses and admire the panoramic views of the Emporda plain, the scenery of the Girona countryside and the Pyrenees mountains.
There are also a handful of interesting museums in Figueres, including the Museu De L’Empordà, which houses one of the most impressive collections of art in the province of Girona.
Once you feel you’ve done your tour of Figueres, you may be interested in visiting the seaside town of Cadaques, just 35 km away. Dali’s family had a summer house in this tiny fishing village and the artist spent much of his childhood here. Picturesque and charming, there are more Dali sights to visit here as well as cobblestone lanes, boutique shops and a beautiful harbour.
If you’re interested in Figueres or are something of a Dali aficionado, you may be interested in our Barcelona tour. While we stay in Barcelona, on this tour, there is a day trip to Figueres where we visit the Dali museum as well as the Dali castle, Pubol. We also visit Figueres on our Discover Spain tour.
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