It is a testament to Dalí’s enduring popularity that his eponymous museum, in the middle of Figueres, 35km northeast of Girona, is the most visited sight in Spain after Madrid’s Prado and Bilbao’s Guggenheim. There’s more to Figueres, of course, but you wouldn’t immediately know it from the crowds tripping over themselves to get to the museum. Native son Dalí returned to Figueres specifically to create this homage to Surrealism, and what an homage it is: wonderfully bizarre and cheekily interactive, the museum is all you’d expect from the world’s most celebrated Surrealist.
By all means make the museum your first stop – but leave yourself some time to roam Figueres afterwards, and enjoy the pleasant capital of the Alt Empordà region. Cutting a wide swath through the centre of town is La Rambla de Figueres, a graceful, leafy pedestrian street lined with modern houses and outdoor cafés. The Museu de l’Empordà features local archeological finds and the nearby Castell de Sant Ferran is a massive fortification on sprawling grounds.
One thing is certain: you won’t have trouble spotting the Teatre-Museu Dalí. Just look for a roof topped with giant eggs and a red facade with protruding bread loaves. Housed in a former theatre – which is particularly apt, for this most theatrical of artists – the museum is designed around a large courtyard with white ceramic sinks and gold mannequins inspired by Oscar statues. Light streams in to the building through a transparent, geodesic dome ceiling that resembles the eye of a fly, in a nod to Dalí’s fixation with insects. Incidentally, the artist had no problem with flies, but was supposedly repulsed by ants, which he depicted crawling out of eyeballs and such in his paintings.
Dalí created the museum to be an all-round sensory – and surreal – experience. Look through binoculars to see Gala Nude Looking at the Sea Which at Twenty Metres is Transformed into a Portrait of Abraham Lincoln, or revive a “dead” body in a coffin made of circuit boards. And check out The Face of Mae West That Can Be Used as a Drawing Room, in which Mae’s giant nose has a fireplace (complete with logs) built into each nostril, and her fleshy red lips are a couch.
The Sala de Tresor houses many of Dalí’s better-known works, including The Spectre of Sex Appeal, which explores his famous sex phobia. Other emblematic works include Soft Self-Portrait with Fried Bacon, in which Dalí’s dripping visage is held up by little sticks, and Venus de Milo with Drawers.
Dalí, fittingly, is buried in his fantastical museum. By 1984, he had moved to the nearby Torre Galtea, where he died in 1989. His body now lies behind a simple granite slab in a basement gallery of the museum. The museum ticket includes entry to the nearby Dalí Joies exhibit, featuring jewels designed by Dalí.