As a total zealot of Dali I couldn’t miss Figueres. This small town lies in the heart of Catalonia.
Figueres was during the Spanish Civil War it served as the last Republican outpost to stand against Franco, nowadays there are only two reasons to visit it – the Dali Museum and one of the finest restaurants in Spain.
Figueres is a pleasant town with a semi-attractive centre, the 18th-century Sant Ferran Castle (in fact the largest castle in Europe), and stands within city walls from the Middle Ages with beautiful medieval parts such as the Plaza del Ayuntamiento and the area around Carrer Magre – the old Jewish quarter in Figueres.
With the café-lined Rambla there are many impressive churches, such as San Pere Church or San Sebastian Chapel, the Catalan Toy Museum, and the Empordà Museum where you can learn about the country’s history and art.
It has some outstanding examples of modernist buildings, such as Casa Cusi, Casa Salleras and Casa Puig-Soler; and in the Neoclassical style the Casa del Cafe Progres, Casa Polideseia and Casa Bonaterra. These were built thanks to the profusion of the local middle class taking part in ambitious architectural projects in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Many people from around Spain and France flock to Figueres for the exceptional cuisine, which combines raw ingredients from the sea and the mountains. Try to have lunch or dinner at the ‘Motel Emporda’ Restaurant – it is truly worth a separate trip!
However, it is the Salvador Dali Museum that everyone comes here for!
In 1974 the mayor of Figueres asked the native Dali to donate a painting to a museum that was being planned by the city. And, typical of Dali, he couldn’t donate just ‘a painting’, so he donated the entire building! The Dali Museum was built to Salvador Dali’s design in order to offer its visitors a genuine experience that would take them into his entrancing, unique and awfully surreal world.
And believe me, you will find yourself in some kind of hypnagogic dimension right from the entrance to the museum, with its transparent geodesic dome and the courtyard with the black ‘Rainy Cadillac’ project, inside of which some figures are sprayed with water, with a statue of a well-endowed female figure which stands on top of a Cadillac and the walls decorated with golden mannequins!
The Theatre-Museum Gala Salvador Dali in Figueres should be seen in its entirety as the most unique and greatest work of Dali, and the largest surrealist object in the world dedicated to the genius of surrealist painting. The museum contains a broad spectrum of works by Dali – from his early artistic experiences through his erotic and mind-bending works as well as works from his mystical and nuclear phase to late-life creations and paintings.
The most famous works in the museum are: Port Alguer, The Spectrum of Sex Appeal, Soft Self-Portrait with Fried Bacon, Poetry from America, the Cosmic Athletes, Galarina, The Bread Basket, Atomic Leda and Galatea of the Spheres.
There are many sets of work that Dali created expressly for the Theatre-Museum, such as the Palace of the Wind room, the Monument to Francesc Pujols, the Rainy Cadillac and the Mae West room, where looking through a lens creates an illusion of a woman’s face. Do not miss the Torre Galatea where the artist spent the last years of his life.
Dali was a leading exponent of surrealism, defying the irrational imagery of dreams and delirium in a scrupulously detailed style which he was a master of! He is widely known for his eccentricity but for his undeniable genius as well!
This most acclaimed of the Spanish artists was born in Figueres and died there. Most of his works are in the stupendous Dali Theatre-Museum, designed by the artist himself and used to hold his first exhibition ever. Dali was also buried here, next to the church that witnessed both his christening and his funeral – the first and last acts of a perfectly planned scenario. That is so Dali!
I had an amazing time in the museum, but that was to be expected from such a Dali lover like me! The only thing I regret is that I didn’t have time to visit the museums created in both his houses, in Port Lligat and Pubol. Oh well, what is postponed is not lost!