The small town of Figueres lies within Catalonia’s Costa Brava region in Spain. It sits approximately 45 minutes’ drive north of Girona and half an hour south of the French border. The town’s main claim to fame is that it was where the artist Salvador Dalí was born and is where his main museum in Spain is located. But there’s more to it than the eccentric artist, so here’s our pick of the top 10 things to do and see in Figueres.
The Teatro Museo is the main Dalí museum in Spain. It’s housed in a large red theatre, which was renovated by Dalí himself. On the outside it’s covered in yellow pieces of the local bread, with white eggs on the roof and golden statues. Dalí wanted this museum to be a surrealist journey through his bizarre world, and he definitely succeeded in that aim. The museum houses one of the best Dalí collections of art in the world, featuring not only paintings and drawings, but also three-dimensional installations and sculptures. This is also where the artist is buried.
Right next to the Dalí Theatre Museum is the Dalí Jewels Collection, a permanent exhibition housed in a purpose-built two-storey building. It showcases an extensive collection of jewellery made by the artist between 1941 and 1970 and also features 39 gold jewels and precious stones of the Owen Cheatham collection. Visitors will also be able to see 27 drawings and paintings that Salvador Dalí made for the jewels’ designs.
The Toy Museum of Catalonia is a great place to take the kids on your exploration of Figueres. The museum covers three floors and houses an extensive collection. On the ground floor you’ll find the information desk, temporary exhibits as well as spaces for the little ones to draw and colour. Head up to the first floor to discover all about the games of ancient times. Here you’ll find, among ancient spinning tops, dolls and figurines, the remains of a board game named Ur, which is a direct antecedent of chess and dates back to 3000BC. And on the top floor, kids of all ages will delight in the miniature railway built by Andreu Costa Pedro (Barcelona, 1926–2013), who took eight years to construct it.
Museu De L’Empordà houses one of the most outstanding collections of art in the region. It first opened in 1946, however its collection dates back to the end of the 19th century. It is currently housed in a building constructed in 1971 as a museum of archeology, history and art, but today mainly focuses on art with a few archeology collections. Artists whose work is featured here include Sorolla, Casas, Gargallo, Tàpies and Dalí.
As the name suggests, The Technology Museum of Empordà focuses on technology and exhibits more than 3,000 mechanical antiques from the 18th and 19th centuries. You’ll see everything here, from the first sewing machines (1830) to unique typewriters, telephones and switchboards. Look out for the stunning Morez Comptoise clocks and the 1908 Hispano-Suiza car. It’s one of the finest collections of tools on display in Catalonia.
Salvador Dalí’s birth house can be found on Monturiol Street in Figueres. It’s not a museum or a particular attraction, but it’s great to see if you’re interested to know where the famous artist grew up. Combine this with a trip to the Dalí-Theatre Museum.
Figueres’ Castle of Sant Ferran is located on a hill to the side of the city. It’s an old fortification dating back to the 18th century and is surrounded by bastions. The castle covers an area of 32 hectares with a perimeter of 3,120 metres. In its time it had the capacity to hold 4,000 men, making it one of the largest fortresses in Europe. You can visit this magnificent construction by yourself or on a guided tour.
The Church of Sant Pere is one of the oldest and most important churches in Figueres. It dates back to the 10th and 11th centuries and was originally Romanesque, but Gothic elements were added at later dates. You can also still see part of the old city wall attached to the foot of the bell tower.
When you’re in Figueres, don’t miss a visit to the Duran Hotel & Restaurant, where Salvador Dalí himself used to hang out. Visit the hotel’s restaurant on the ground floor, which has an attached wine cellar and is decorated in a traditional style with old wooden rafters, chunky tables and whitewashed walls. Here you’ll find the cellar paying homage to Dalí, filled with photos of him with various celebrities, as well as some of his sketches.
At the heart of the small town of Figueres sits the town’s Rambla, a long pedestrianised street lined with shops and restaurants. It’s a lot more relaxed and chilled than the more famous Rambla in Barcelona and is less touristy too. Here you can experience the true essence of a local Rambla.