Piece of Dali jewellery, The Eye of Time, in Spain's Dali Theatre Museum

Day tripping with Dali | Barcelona dreamscape | An eye on art

Brainy and cheeky. Witty and inventive. Always smoking hot.

Artistic offerings in Barcelona are not confined to the city’s beating heart. In her new book, The Art Lover’s Guide to Barcelona, author and performer Ruby Boukabou plots an out-of-town speed date with Salvador Dalí.

Salvador Dalí exemplified the Surrealism art movement, with all its figurative absurdity. The “mischievous provocateur” made paintings about his dreams. He painted melting clocks and floating eyes, clouds that look like faces and rocks that look like bodies. His career also embraced sculpture, printmaking, fashion, advertising, and writing. He collaborated with filmmakers such as Luis Buñuel and Alfred Hitchcock.

The Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres, in north-eastern Catalonia, is one of two major museums devoted to Dali’s work (the other is in Florida, US). It’s easy to hop on a train from Barcelona (Barcelon-Sants) and head 140km north to Figueres (Figueres-Vilafant) to visit the flamboyant Dalí Theatre Museum, lunch on a terraced café in the town square, and be back in the Catalan capital for dinner.

The surrealist’s itinerary

Alternatively, hire a car for a couple of days for a fuller Dalí immersion in “the Dali Triangle” named for the three villages that played a key role in his life: Figueres (where Dalí was born), the rustic fishing village of Port Lligat (where he lived) and Púbol (where he built a castle for Gala, his wife and muse).

Browse the Theatre Museum then travel 40km to Dalí’s House Museum. Take a tour on his boat. Spend the night locally before heading to the medieval castle in Púbol.

This way you’ll not only submerge yourself in the mind-bending work of the Surrealist artist, but also plunge into the landscape that was a major inspiration. Legend has it that the high winds of the area contributed to Dalí’s wild imagination, so be prepared for your ideas to break loose!

The flamboyant Dalí Theatre Museum at night

The flamboyant Dalí Theatre Museum at night

Dalí Theatre-Museum
Plaça Gala i Salvador Dalí, 5,
17600 Figueres, Girona
+34 972 67 75 00

It’s not surprising that the prince of Surrealism chose a former theatre as the venue for his museum, which he opened in 1974. The dramatics of the 19th-century performance space coupled with Dalí’s re-imaginings are perfect for his curious pieces and installations.

You can’t miss the building, crowned by a dazzling Italian Renaissance-inspired glass cupola (designed by Spanish architect Emilio Pérez Piñero) or the Dalí egg-shaped sculptures on the walls, looking as if they’ve just been laid.

Inside, as expected, the building is a maze of intrigue. Discover grotesque monsters, family portraits, a surrealist portrait of Pablo Picasso, a sculpture representing a hydrogen atom, a trippy Mae West room with the famous “lips” sofa and an upside-down bathroom and, underneath a white slab in the middle of the stage, Dalí’s tomb.

The Salvador Dali house on tranquil Port Lligat in Spain

The Salvador Dali house on tranquil Port Lligat in Spain

Salvador Dalí House Museum
Platja de, 17488 Port Lligat, Girona
+34 972 25 10 15

Visit the house in which Dalí mostly lived and worked from 1930 until Gala’s death in 1982, when he moved to her castle home.

The house is a renovated fisherman’s hut, transformed for Dalí’s eccentric tastes. Here you’ll get a taste of the artist’s daily life through objects, decor, architecture and the famous views.

Exterior, with egg-like adornment, of the Salvador Dali house in Port Lligat.

The giant egg on top of the roof of the Salvador Dali house in Port Lligat, an “intrauterine” special effect

Check out Dalí’s workspaces and tools, then roam around the courtyards where he received guests. Imagine, for a moment, that you’ve gone back in time and you’re one of them.

Don’t rush off after your visit but instead stay to explore the small coastal village which provided the artist with the space, the isolation and the light in which he could think and work freely. “Time goes more slowly and each hour has its proper dimension,” Dalí said of Port Lligat, so make sure to take enough time to wind down from bustling Barcelona and indulge in a moment to observe and reflect.

Dalí’s Boat
Riba de, 17488 Port Lligat, Girona
+34 617 46 57 57

From the second half of June to the end of September, you can take a tour in Dalí and Gala’s small, yellow fishing boat, experiencing the locations and sensations that inspired the artist.

Dalí found the boat, Milagros, abandoned in the early 1950s on the beach of l’Estartit, repaired it and renamed it, unsurprisingly, Gala, and presented it to his wife. The trips depart from Dalí’s house and you can hear stories of the couple’s lifestyle and adventures as you enjoy the 90-minute ride through the area of Cadaqués and Cap de Creus.

The much used yellow row-boat Dali named after his muse, Gala

The much-used yellow row-boat Dali named after his muse, Gala. Image courtesy of Excursiones Barca Gala de Dalí

In warmer months take the boat with musicians who will serenade you as you glide through the clear waters and Dalí’s past. Guitarists, harpists, singers, drummers, violinists and accordionists entertain guests on this cruisy outing. You’ll stop off in a cave to sip Spanish wine while enjoying the tunes, then have the chance to take a quick dip in the waters of Cap de Creus peninsula on the Costa Brava.

Gala Dalí Castle, Púbol
Gala Dali, s/n, 17120 Púbol, Girona
+34 972 48 86 55

Dalí had promised to buy Gala a castle, and found this medieval one in 1969, restoring it to be her main summer residence. While Dalí did spend much of his time there, with her, it was always with the permission of Gala by written correspondence. After Gala’s death, he moved in permanently. In 1996, the castle was opened as a museum.

Long-legged elephants in the grounds of Gala Dalí Castle in Púbol

Long-legged elephants in the grounds of Gala Dalí Castle in Púbol

Roam the sculpture garden, decorated with Dalí’s iconic long-legged elephant sculptures, fountains and a pool featuring the bust of Wagner, then explore the historic interiors with Dalí’s paintings, a collection of haute couture dresses and Gala’s furniture and decorations. Gala’s crypt is also here.

Images courtesy of The Gala – Salvador Dalí Foundation  

An edited extract from An Art Lover’s Guide to Barcelona by Ruby Boukabou, published in May by White Owl, an imprint of Pen & Sword Books Ltd, rrp $44.99

The Gala – Salvador Dalí Foundation manages all three spaces. www.salvador-dali.org

The cover of Ruby Boukabou's new Art Lover's Guide to Barcelona


Editor. Writer. Traveller. Keeping tabs on all things fab. susan@excessallareas.com.au

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