Figueres is a provincial town in the northwest of Spain. It is the capital of the Alt Empordà in the province of Girona in Catalonia. It is an unremarkable town with one remarkable tourist attraction. Figueres, which was the birthplace of Salvador Dali, houses his largest work and burial place. This extra-ordinary building is now a large museum called the Dali Theatre and Museum which explains his life and work.
The town of Figueres was founded by the Visigoths. King James I of Aragon granted feuro rights to the town in 1267. The feuro rights were an honour roughly equivalent to that of the king granting a charter to a town in medieval England. In 1271 forces led by count Hugo V of Ampurias burnt down the town. In much later times Figueres became the last refuge for the Republican forces during the Spanish Civil War. It held out after the fall of Barcelona and was heavily bombed. The current town was rebuilt from the ruins during the 1950s and is largely focused upon the tourist trade built around their most famous son.
The Dalí Theatre and Museum, which is in the centre of town, was once the town theatre. It was a place where the young Dalí first exhibited his works. For many years after the Civil War the burnt out building remained a ruin. Eventually Dalí and the local mayor decided to turn the theatre and neighbouring buildings into a museum to the artist. The museum opened on September 28, 1974. It is built in the eccentric style one wound expect from Dalí.
The museum is a fine blend of participation, fantasy and absurdity. It houses one of the largest Dalí collections in the world. There are paintings, sculptures, 3-dimensional collages, absurd machines and other curiosities from all periods of his life. One of the highlights is furniture that looks like Mae West when viewed from a certain angle.
The museum contains a small collection of works from Dalí’s personal collection. The works include El Greco, Marcel Duchamp and Antoni Pitxot.
The Dali Theatre and Museum is open throughout the year. It is closed on Mondays during the winter. Hours vary depending upon the season. Tickets are 11 Euro, but there are concessions. The museum offers guided tours and has a shop.
During a visit to the town there are several other sights worth a look. The parish church of St Peter is built in a Gothic style with a single nave and side chapels. The very large castle of Sant Ferran dates from 1743. It was built to protect the Spanish borders from the French. Later, the castle was the last bastion of the Republican forces in the Civil War. The site includes a moat and massive cisterns. The pentagonal walls stretch for a total length of 5.6 kilometres.
Figures is easy to reach by road and rail. The town is 40 kilometres from Girona, 140 kilometres from Barcelona and 60 kilometres from Perpignan which is in France. Plans for a high speed rail link passing through Figueres on the railway line between Perpignan and Barcelona are well advanced. There is a delay because French and Spanish railways operate on different gauges. Through scheduled high speed services are due to start in 2012.
Enthusiasts who enjoy the work of Salvador Dali would be well advised to pay a visit to Figueres. A visit makes a convenient day trip from Barcelona or the Costa Brava.