Dali theater museum in Figueres, Spain

Figueres – Home of the famous Salvador Dali

Figueres, Portlligat, Spain (2016). – Either we belong to the group of the admirer of artworks or we
produce art ourselves. In one way or another art fascinates us. Independently from artist,
form, style or genre. But is it always the artwork itself which attracts us really? Or is it possible it’s more the curiosity about the artists, about their way of life which leads us also to be interested in
their art? A question I have asked myself many times and I think I found the answer this summer when I walked in the footprints of the great Spanish Surrealist Salvador Dali. I visited the Catalonian town of Figueres in the north of Spain. Everything there literally screams Salvador Dali.
No wonder it was the birthplace of this extravagant artist, the town where he lived and died as Marqués de Dali de Pubol. And it is the town in which he created the largest surrealist object in the
world, the second most visited museum in Spain. Avoiding the great Dalí in Figueres is almost
impossible. The thought why the Catalans hadn’t renamed its town to “Dali-Town”, had crossed my mind several times during my visit. Maybe because it’s also the birthplace of other
rather famous people, like Narcis Monturiol, inventor of the first successful machine-powered submarine or Monica Naranjo, one of Spain’s best selling singers of the ’90s and 2000s.
Sculpture of Salvador Dali at the Dali Theatre Museum in Figueres
Giving Dali the chance to fascinate
Many years ago my art teacher in school did his very best to educate me. His fascinating stories about many great artists are still vivid in my memory. But you can only learn what is taught to you and even though we’ve learned about many artists, Dali wasn’t much of a subject in my school days. I assume my art teacher wasn’t really into the works of Dali or he just didn’t have a great story to tell about him, which seems odd to me today since the Spanish Surrealist delivered in his days great stories, like the baker the daily bread. Sure, Dali’s probably best-known art piece “The Persistence of Memory”, the painting of the melting clocks, was mentioned but that was it. Later in life, I realized that the preference I had in art was a direct result of the teaching back in my school days. That’s how simple minded I seem to be. But that also meant that Dali wasn’t on my radar when it came to art. What a mistake.

The visit of Dali’s hometown Figueres in August was my opportunity to make up for my lack of knowledge about the Spanish Surrealist. And no surprise, after hearing about Dali’s life, his incredible love story with his wife Gala and after having seen his creation, the amazing Dali theatre-museum as well as his very cool place of living in Portlligat I am fascinated by this man, his vision and his works.
Dali theatre museum in Figueres, Catalonia, Spain
The theatre-museum of Dali is pure gold for the city
About 45.000 people live in Figueres, located in the province of Girona in Catalonia, an hour car ride away from the Costa Brava. The city today has its economic focus on tourism – mainly thanks to its great son, Salvador Dali. The town’s name comes from the Catalan language and means fig trees. Figueres saw hard times during the Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939), was repeatedly bombed by the rebels for sticking loyally to the government. Not much was left of the city at the end of the war.

On the ruins of the completely destroyed former Municipal Theatre, Dali built his unique theatre-museum, one of the for sure coolest projects he had taken on in his lifetime. He not only erected with it an incredible monument, dedicated to his art, but also a publicly accessible shrine for himself. The Dali theatre-museum became economically immense important to the city of Figueres and its people. It’s like pure gold to them.
Dali theatre museum in Figueres, Catalonia, Spain
You look at art even if you don’t look at artworks
The location of the old Municipal Theatre seemed to the right place for Dali’s new project. Across the street from it is the Church of Sant Pere located, in which he was baptized, had his first communion and later his funeral. And only a few blocks away from the old theater is the house located where he was born. Dali worked 14 years (1960 -1974) on the realization of his museum project. Millions of people from all over the world came to Figueres since the official opening in 1974 to visit the Teatro-Museo Dalí. And no question about it, they must have been as impressed as I was. I not only saw a collection of artworks made by the great Dali, but I also saw an unbelievable fascinating presentation of it. Wherever I went and looked I saw art, even when I was not looking at artworks. Only a great visionary like this eccentric Surrealist could come up with.

Make no mistake, the Teatro-Museo Dalí is not an easy walk-in-location. Not less than 1,5 million visitors a year are lining up patiently to get into this remarkable place to see its treasures. I’ve seen the lines by day and by night, just incredible. Waiting lines seem almost to be mandatory. But they are avoidable. The best advise I can give you is to buy tickets in advance and book your visit online, at least in the summertime when tourists from all over the world seem to have the same vacation plans. With an online ticket in your hands, you actually can walk right in. Also, take into account, this is not an ordinary museum, it is more an adventure theater and you will need to spend more time than you might think. This visit won’t be done in an hour. If you really want to make good use of the opportunity to see this masters artwork and learn about him and his unique life, you better make some more room for it on your daily schedule. I promise you, it won’t get boring and it will be worth it, every minute of it.

Dali Museum-House in Cadaques, Catalonia, Spain
It took Dali 40 years to build his perfect home
To really get to know the man who created such incredible art and had this amazing vision, one has to not only see the Teatro-Museo in Figueres but definitely has to make the little trip to Portlligat (Port Lligat) where Dali and his wife had their stunning home.

It’s less than an hour car ride (33 miles/54km) from the city in the inland to the marvelous place on the sea. It is worth the trip! No wonder Dali was so attracted to this little fishermen’s village, Portlligat is surrounded by incredibly gorgeous landscape, sea and land, and was then secluded enough for Salvador Dali and his wife Gala to peacefully enjoy and get inspired by it.

In 1930 Salvador Dali started to build his home in Portlligat by buying an old, tiny, almost fallen apart fisherman’s place. 40 years later, after purchasing and incorporating six more old homes in the immediate neighborhood, the Dali house as we know it and can visit it today was done. If one can believe the stories the guides tell visitors during the house tour, then the eccentric artist must have enjoyed living there immensely. He, so goes one of the stories, was proud of the fact to be the first Catalan to see the sunrise every morning while still laying in bed. He had installed mirrors which guided the light strokes of the rising sun through his house right into his bedroom. And to have an inspiring nature feeling in his home, Dali kept birds in and also crickets in cages in his bedroom.

No matter where you walk on Dali’s property, in the house, through the huge olive garden, in the beautiful inner courtyard or alongside the great pool area, on each step the visitor is reminded what a genius Salvador Dali was. Sure, for some he might have been crazy. The way he lived his life and especially the way he presented himself to the public did label him as an eccentric artist. But the fact of the matter is, he was a loyal man who loved his city and his country, loved and adored his wife Gala every second of their relationship and always stuck to his style. And he was a unique artist, always ahead of his time and with a vision from another planet.

Salvador Dali, who had already gotten a pacemaker after his first heart failure at the beginning of 1989, died in the same year due to another heart failure. And as another story about him is told, the proud Catalan died while listening to one of his favorite records, the Wagner opera “Tristan und Isolde”. Salvador Dali was buried as Marqués de Dali de Pubol according to his last will below the stage of his theater-museum, where until today millions of visitors paid their respect. 

Booking also the home tour online is advised
Speaking of visiting: to visit the inside of Dali’s residence it is strongly advised to also buy a ticket in advance online. At least if you plan on seeing it during the summer months. Even though online booking forces you to be there at a certain day and yes also a certain time, without tickets chances are you won’t be able to get into the Dali’s residence at all. The house tours are kept small and the people at the ticket office in Portlligat show not much flexibility. So to be safe, book online!


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