This feature firstly gives you an overview of the artist’s connection to these places, and then suggest an overnight itinerary to enjoy the route.
In his fantastic autobiography, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí, the artist said:
“Aside from being forbidden in the kitchen I was allowed to do anything I pleased. I wet my bed till I was eight for the sheer fun of it. I was the absolute monarch of the house. Nothing was good enough for me. My father and mother worshipped me. On the day of the Feast of Kings I received among innumerable gifts a dazzling king’s costume – a gold crown studded with great topazes and an ermine cape; from that time on I lived almost continually disguised in this costume.”
From upper left: aunt Maria Teresa, mother, father, Salvador Dalí, aunt Caterina (later became his father’s second wife), sister Anna Maria and grandmother Anna
Dalí’s parents had lost their first son, also called Salvador, the year before the artist’s birth. Aged 5, they took him to his brother’s grave and told him that he was his brother’s reincarnation. It didn’t take long for Dalí to embrace this and believe it. Just as he embraced his role of being king of his kingdom.
The Dali Triangle-Cadaques part of Dali’s kingdom
This kingdom started in his hometown of Figueres, Catalonia, located only 15 miles from the French border. But Dalí’s kingdom was everywhere he went, although the Dali Triangle includes the three places considered most important in the artist’s life: Figueres, Port Lligat-Cadaques and Púbol.
The Dali Triangle
1. Figueres: Dalí’s birthplace and home to the fantastic Theatre Museum
Figueres, the birthtown of Salvador Dalí, is situated 10 miles inland from the spectacular Bay of Roses, which is on the UNESCO endorsed list of the world’s most beautiful bays. Capital of the Alt Emporda region, the artist’s hometown is famous worldwide because of the Dalí Theatre-Museum, which he was asked to set up by the town’s Mayor. Today it is Spain’s second most visited museum, after the Prado in Madrid.
Dalí and Gala by Narcis Sans
When the Mayor proposed the Theatre-Museum to Dalí, the artist said:
“Where, if not in my own town, should the most extravagant and solid of my work endure, where if not here? The Municipal Theatre, or what remained of it, struck me as very appropriate, and for three reasons: first, because I am an eminently theatrical painter; second, because the theatre stands right opposite the church where I was baptised; and third, because it was precisely in the hall of the vestibule of the theatre where I gave my first exhibition of painting.”
A visit to the Dalí Theatre-Museum takes you on a journey, which starts with some of his first artistic experiences and takes you through surrealism, Dalí’s passion for science, nuclear mysticism and on to the work of his latter life. The museum is home to his surrealist collection and the Dalí Jewels.
Immerse yourself in the experience and consider what Dalí himself said: “It’s obvious that other worlds exist, that’s certain; but, as I’ve already said on many other occasions, these other worlds are inside ours, they reside on earth and are precisely at the centre of the dome of the Dalí Museum, which contains the new, unsuspected and hallucinatory world of Surrealism”.
Dalí Theatre Museum
The Dalí Theatre Museum was inaugurated in 1974, and needs to be appreciated as a whole. The artist conceived the world’s biggest surrealist object in order to give you, the visitor, a tangible experience of being inside his unique, captivating world.
Since its inauguration, the Museum’s Director was Dalí’s close friend and co-painter Antoni Pitxot i Soler, who helped him to set it up. He ran the museum until his death on 12th June 2015. The current Director is Montse Aguer.
It’s not possible to reserve tickets to visit the Dalí Theatre-Museum unless you are part of a group of 25 or more people.
Streets of Figueres
Eat where Dalí used to dine
Apart from the museum, Figueres does have other charms, making it worth a visit in itself. These include the castle: Castell de Sant Ferran, the Cathedral, some fine buildings, the Toy Museum, good shopping and a fine selection of eateries. Most of the town’s restaurants are in the narrow streets that surround the museum.
In a town that derives its name from fig trees, one may feel it is natural to anticipate eating well. In Figueres, not only can you enjoy fine dining, as well as tasty snacks, but you can do so in some establishments that Dalí himself used to frequent.
Hotel Duran Restaurant, photo by Emporda Tourism
Hotel Duran Restaurant
Hotel Duran was a favourite haunt of the artist. Apparently Gala used to tease the maitre, Jaume, about going bald. Classical Empordanese dishes are served in a charming dining room. Their foodie offerings include a six-course tasting menu for €49.00 and a super range of a la carte seasonal local dishes. Discover more about the food at one of Dalí’s favourite haunts, Hotel Duran Restaurant.
Prawn dish at Hotel Duran Restaurant
By the way if you drive around half an hour south, you can also dine at the World’s Best Restaurant, 2016, El Celler de Can Roca.
2. Dalí House Museum-Port Lligat-Cadaques
In a spectacular location overlooking the sea, you can sense the essence of the daily life of Salvador Dalí. It was in Cadaques where his first art studio was built and also where the Dalí family used to spend their summer holidays. From 1930 until 1982 Dalí lived and worked at the house in Port Lligat.
Dalí House Museum, Port Lligat Cadaqués
When you visit, you should easily be able to imagine how the coastline and surroundings inspired the artist. He bought the fisherman’s house, as it originally was, in 1930. His father disapproved of his relationship with Gala and had warned local hoteliers not to put them up, so this was the reason that Dalí purchased the house. Over time the couple extended the house, adding a second storey and buying adjacent cottages, creating annexes which make up the rambling property that you can see today.
Cadaques fishing boats at night
The house has been kept just as it was when the couple lived there, complete with its phallic shaped swimming pool. Many of the small whitewashed rooms are adorned with bunches of yellow Sempervivum, Gala’s favourite flowers. Photographs of famous friends and magazine cuttings include figures such as Walt Disney, Coco Channel and Ingrid Bergman.
The famous phallic shaped swimming pool
You need to reserve your ticket before your visit, but also you will need to arrive half an hour before to collect it. If you arrive late, your ticket can be sold to someone else, because of how tightly the visits are organised. Groups of eight people are allowed to enter the property every 10 minutes. The road to Cadaques is not easy, so be sure to give yourself extra time to arrive, especially at the height of the season when the roads can be very busy.
Eat where Dalí used to dine
El Barroco Restaurant Cadaques
Dali designed the logo for El Barroco Restaurant in Cadaques in 1978 and elements of its decor are inspired by his work. It is said that he considered El Barroco to be his Gastronomic Palace.
Apparently he used to turn up wearing his black sneakers with white spots, and reserve the Patio to dine. Inevitably he would invite gypsies, hippies and all sorts of people to his table, to provoke the other guests. Although the restaurant is Lebanese, the owner remembers his favourite dishes included grilled lobster with garlic, steamed mussels from Cap de Creus and Catalan shoulder of lamb.
3. Gala-Dali Púbol Castle
Dalí had promised Gala a palace so in 1969 he bought the castle in Púbol. He restored the late 14th/early 15th century castle in his flamboyant style, making a palatial residence for his adored wife and muse, Gala. He even designed a throne room.
Dalí could only come to the castle by written invitation, one assumes at least partially as Gala took other lovers, even in her eighties. When she died in 1982 he relocated there and it was where he had his final studio until 1984. It’s also where Gala is interred.
The medieval building was not in good repair when Dalí bought it, yet the couple found this in itself charming. So as the restoration work was carried out, Dalí ensured that some of this romance lingered on. His goal was to provide a secluded, quiet place for Gala. Throughout the castle’s decor, visitors can feel how his wife and muse’s energy flowed through into his creativity.
Richard Wagner Fountain at Púbol Castle
The castle’s exterior structure was consolidated however Dalí left some of the marks of time, in order to keep the old character of the property. Semi-collapsed ceilings and walls were transformed into fascinating spaces of different proportions. The interior is mysterious and austere in nature, yet it’s infused with spaces of magical beauty.
Inside the Gala-Dali Castle
The artist considered it to be a continuation of Port Lligat: a concept that he presents in Confessions Inconfessables in 1973. The following excerpt is an interesting read:
“Everything celebrates the cult of Gala, even the round room, with its perfect echo that crowns the building as a whole and which is like a dome of this Galactic cathedral. When I walk around this house I look at myself and I see my concentricity. I like its moorish rigour. I needed to offer Gala a case more solemnly worthy of our love. That is why I gave her a mansion built on the remains of a 12th century castle: the old castle of Púbol in La Bisbal, where she would reign like an absolute sovereign, right up to the point that I could visit her only by hand-written invitation from her. I limited myself to the pleasure of decorating her ceilings so that when she raised her eyes, she would always find me in her sky”.
Dalí elephant in the castle garden
Apart from the many quirky touches inside, you can also admire Gala’s collection of designer gowns, which were ordered from famous couturiers based in cities such as Madrid and Paris. Outside the famous elephants and giraffes can be found in the gardens.
Suggested Dalí Triangle itinerary
Regardless of how you decide to embrace the Dali Triangle, be sure not to forget that these museums are closed on Mondays.
Travelling from either Barcelona or Girona, you’ll find that there is a regular train service to Figueres. There are tour companies that will bring you around the Dalí Triangle in one day. I haven’t personally used any of them. This itinerary assumes you are coming from Barcelona, but the same route can apply from Girona, or of course if you are travelling by car. Girona is a lovely city, so you could consider a night there and start your itinerary from Girona.
If you wish to do it relatively quickly but not pack it all into one day, here is my suggested itinerary. I feel packing it into a day would be doing yourself and Dalí a disservice. It is do-able, although only safely in a private car, and even still it is a very intensive day.
1. Dali Triangle Itinerary 1
Barcelona to Figueres morning
Take an early train from Barcelona Sants to Figueres. The journey takes 55 minutes and costs vary, although the most common price is €21.00 one way. Right now there’s a promotion on for the 08.25 train, for only €10.85 – but I have no way to know how long this will be available. It’s better to buy your tickets online to be sure of reserving your seat. Follow this link and enter Barcelona Sants and Figueres Vilafant.
The train station is a little over a mile from the town centre. You can walk it in around 15 minutes or get the bus that takes you to town.
Figueres to Cadaques by bus afternoon
From 13.45 onwards you have a couple of buses that will take you to Cadaques, depending on which one you choose the journey takes between an hour to an hour and a half. The bus station is close by the train station square. The cost of the ticket is currently €5.50. Be sure to buy your ticket online so you have a seat booked.
I would recommend taking the 16.30 bus, as this means you can have a leisurely lunch in Figueres and see a bit of the town while you’re there. You could follow in Dalí’s footsteps and have lunch in the Hotel Duran Restaurant. The bus arrives to Cadaqués at 17.30 leaving a full evening of exploration and libation ahead of you!
Tramuntana Hotel Cadaqués
In Cadaques many of the hotels are around the same price range, starting off at £80/€90 or so per night for a standard double room. Try to book into the Tramuntana, ideally with time, as there are only eleven rooms. The Tramuntana Hotel has been featured in the likes of the Telegraph, Condé Nast Traveller and Harpers Bazaar. It’s an old family home located in the centre of Cadaqués. For dinner, naturally you should reserve a table, or just like Dalí, the Patio at El Barroco Restaurant.