In search of Dalí

Aimée Smith, 15 March, 2018
Artistic genius or shameless attention seeker – whatever you think of Salvador Dalí, you can’t deny his enduring influence on both modern art and his native Catalonia.

The reading of a will can often carry a few surprises – be they pleasant or unpleasant. But when it was announced in 1989 that Dalí had bequeathed his entire estate to Spain rather than Catalonia, it seemed like the final death knell for what had been a frequently turbulent relationship between the Surrealist icon and his home region.

Barcelona retaliated by refusing to recognise Dalí publicly, and the 25th anniversary of his death passed without any acknowledgement from Catalonia’s capital. Yet, relations have finally begun to thaw, with a recent exhibition in Barcelona’s Museu Picasso and plans to dedicate a square to Dalí.

Whether or not he is officially in favour, this moustachioed artist is undeniably one of Catalonia’s most famous sons, and the area’s beautiful coastal region – the Costa Brava – has always been the best place for anyone interested in Dalí to get a sense of his life and visit the places that inspired him the most. Although some of these places are extremely well known – especially the three that make up the so-called Dalí Triangle – others are much better kept secrets.

Here we reveal our ten favourite ‘Dalí sites’ on the Costa Brava, from the very famous to the totally obscure. As much of the artist’s singular life was spent experimenting with shape and flouting convention, it feels entirely appropriate that not all of the places associated with him fit neatly within the sides of a triangle.
The big three
1) The first point of the ‘triangle’ belongs to the much visited Theatre-Museum in Dalí’s hometown of Figueres. Not only a Surrealist masterpiece in itself (giant eggs adorn the roof and the maroon walls are studded with loaves of crusty bread), it is also home to the largest and most diverse collection of his work. Dalí spent several years designing the museum (it was rebuilt on the site of the town’s former theatre) and is buried in a crypt beneath the stage.

2) Next up is his adult home in Port Lligat, just along the coast from Cadaqués – a former fishing village that Dalí once described as “el poble més bonic del món” (the world’s prettiest town). He and his wife Gala purchased a small fisherman’s hut there in 1930, and went on to spend most of the next 40 years living and working in this spectacular coastal setting. Over time, they gradually acquired and developed several of the neighbouring huts, creating the rambling labyrinth that today houses the Dalí House Museum.

3) The Gala-Dalí Castle in Púbol completes the ‘triangle’. As its name suggests, this medieval building was primarily the residence of his beloved wife and muse Gala, and there was an agreement between them that Dalí could only visit when invited in writing. He transformed the castle into a Surrealist sanctuary for Gala, who was interred there following her death in 1982. Dalí then moved into the castle, which became his final studio.
The hidden gems
4) Cara Puig, Figueres: just a few minutes’ walk from the Theatre-Museum is the house where Dalí was born and lived as a young child. Modernist in style, it was designed by Josep Azemar, the city’s chief architect from 1899-1914.

5) Sant Pere, Figueres: this large church dates from the 11th century and is well worth a visit regardless of its links to Dalí. But there are certainly no shortage of these… He was baptised in Sant Pere (the font remains the same), celebrated his first communion here and his funeral service was also held in the church.

6) Cafeteria Astoria, Figueres: an iconic café frequented by the artist and his peers. The historic building has barely changed since Dalí’s time and the walls are adorned with photos of him spending time there.

7) L’Hostal, Cadaqués: this seafront restaurant was a personal favourite of Dalí’s, so much so that he personally painted their welcome sign. Inntravel’s Alison Hall is also a fan!

8) Tudela walking trail: follow this trail north of Cadaqués and you’ll pass some of the coves, cliffs and rock formations that inspired a number of Dalí’s paintings. The Great Masturbator (1929) is based on one of the rocks – we’ll let you try and figure out which one!

9) Els Àngels sanctuary: Dalí and Gala were married in Paris in 1934, but they tied the knot again in 1958 at a Catholic ceremony in this 15th century sanctuary just above Madremanya.

10) Barraca d’en Dalí: even most locals don’t know about this small stone hut situated just north of Palamós, by Platja de Castell. It was built for Dalí by his wealthy friend Alberto Puig, and though it is not known whether he ever actually used it as a studio, there are photos of him at the barraca.

The Catalan Coast

There is plenty of time to relax on sandy bays and enjoy long lunches by the sea on this gentle hotel-to-hotel walking holiday – one of the routes even passes the Barraca d’en Dalí, possibly the least well known of all Catalonia’s ‘Dalí sites’.
More about our walking holidays in Spain >
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