A little over the Spanish border with France and nestled in the foothills of the breathtaking Pyrenees, Figueres is a sleepy Spanish town with plenty of charm, lots of traditional architecture and, oodles of authentic Spanish eateries… The town also happens to be the birthplace of the surrealist painter, Salvador Dalí. Here’s your ultimate guide to following in the footsteps of Dalí in Figueres, as well as insider tips to know before you go!
Who was Salvador Dalí?
Born in Figueres in 1904, Salvador Dalí is best known for his surrealist creations and his larger than life moustache. In more recent years, you may well recognise the iconic ‘Salvador Dalí’ mask that’s been made famous by the hit TV series La Casa de Papel (or Money Heist in English).
Otherwise, you should know that Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, 1st Marquis of Dalí de Púbol was one of the most important artists of the 20th-century who lived in both Paris and New York during various periods of his life.
Dalí was a prolific painter, sculptor, and creator (not to mention that some of his jewellery is now on display in its own wing of the Theatre-Museum) and he is often said to be the father of modern surrealist artwork. Some of his most famous pieces include The Temptation of St. Anthony and The Persistence of Memory.
Where is Figueres Located?
The sleepy town of Figueres is home to a population of around 46,000 residents and is to be found just half an hour’s drive from the border with France. Situated in the region of Catalonia, the town is best known as being the birthplace of Dalí, though it’s also home to one of the best-preserved forts from 18th-century Europe, as well as some other interesting museums (including one dedicated to toys!)
Located around an hour and a half North of Barcelona via train, for those wishing to take a day trip from Barcelona to Figueres, it couldn’t be easier! While you can always take a self-guided excursion via public transportation, allowing you to explore the town and its surrounds at your own pace (check train times and purchase tickets here), there’s also the possibility of booking a guided tour like this one, which will allow you to see the top Dalí highlights of Figueres over the course of a day.
Dali Attractions in Figueres
Casa Natal de Salvador Dalí (Birthplace of Dali)
Though not a museum or even a location where you can visit (asides from enjoying the façade from the street), the Birthplace of Dalí is to be found close to the historic town centre. Full name Salvador Dalí i Domènech, the famous Spaniard was born on 11 May in Figueres to Salvador Dalí Cusí (a notary) and his wife Felipa Domènech Ferrés.
Today, the birth house can be found at Carrer Monturiol, No. 20, 17600, Figueres, Spain, where vintage photos of the artist’s formative years are displayed on the side of the building. The house is actually closed to the public due to a legal dispute! Other Figueres locations which are closed to the public but which were once visited by the artist School of the Immaculate Conception in Figueres (where Dalí learned French) and the Figueres Grammar School.
During his adolescence, Dalí went to classes at the Municipal Drawing School in Figueres by Juan Núñez, before attending classes by the teacher once more just under a decade later. Though the birthplace of Dalí is not much to see today, it is indeed an important place on the Figueres Dalí trail, not least because its where the story of the great artist began!
Church of Sant Pere
The largest church in Figueres also happens to be one of the oldest buildings in town and is where Dalí was baptised. Romanesque in style and simple in design, the Saint Peter Church dates all the way back to the 14th-century, though there has probably been some form or another of ecclesiastical building on site since the 10th or 11th-century. Today, a stroll inside is free, though donations are always appreciated.
Teatre-Museu Dalí (Dalí Theatre-Museum)
Hands down, the top attraction in Figueres is that of the Dalí Museum. Part art gallery part installation, you’ll know you’re in the right place when you spy the fantastical eggs on the red rooftop, the glittering golden figures dotted around the façade of the building, or you simply see the impressive glass dome.
In 1919 Dalí displayed his works of art in Figueres’ Municipal Theatre for the first time as part of a group showpiece. In time, the impressive building close to the Església de Sant Pere church would become his very own museum, where he would showcase some of his greatest surrealist creations to the rest of the world.
Dalí first announced his idea for the theatre-museum to the world in 1970, in the French capital city of Paris. By 1973, the venue had held its inaugural exhibition of Dalí works, His Art in Jewels, before opening to the public on a more permanent basis the following year.
Plaça Gala i Dalí
Just outside the Theatre Museum, you’ll soon spy one of the prettiest plazas in town, which simultaneously gives a view onto the Theatre Museum, as well as the Romanesque/ Gothic church. Nearby, there’s an outpost of the Figueres tourist office, where you can get local maps, tips, and helpful hints to make the most of your Figueres visit. If you’re looking to further follow in the footsteps of Dalí in Figueres, then you’ll soon discover plenty more information there!
Duran Hotel & Restaurant
If you’re looking for a quirky location to stay that’s well-reviewed and in the very heart of town, then the Duran Hotel is the place to book (find all the details here!). Over time, the Figueres accommodation has welcomed many a famous face, including Dalí on more than one occasion.
Wander into the reception today and you’ll soon spy a life-sized Dalí bust greeting you pretty much as soon as you step across the hotel threshold. Otherwise, you should also know that the Duran boasts a tiny museum of sorts, which explore the history of the town and its surrounds.
Castell Sant Ferran (Saint Ferdinand Castle)
One of the more off the beaten path Dalí spots in Figueres is the Castillo de San Fernando (which is also known in English as Saint Ferdinand Castle). It was here in the 1920s where Salvador undertook his military service. Just a few decades later, famous art pieces (such as those from the collection of the Prado in Madrid) were deposited in the castle walls so as to save them from destruction.
Nowadays, this 18th-century fort remains one of the best things to do in Figueres, not to mention that it’s one of the best-preserved forts of its kind in Europe. After all, from the elevated position of the fortress, it’s easy to see the lay of the land; from here, you can spy both Figueres spread out below, as well as the mighty Pyrenées beyond.
Just a few euros to enter and wander around, a stroll around the historic ramparts gives visitors an idea of just why Dalí fell in love with the Catalonian landscape in this region. If you’re looking to enjoy other top Figueres attractions, be sure to follow my free and self-guided Figueres walking tour.
Figueres was not only the place where Dalí was born, but also the place where he died on the 23 January 1989. Originally its own wing of the Theatre-Museum, Dalí moved to the tower after a fire broke out in the Castle of Púbol and he was forced to leave the abode which he had given to his wife Gala, prior to her death.