I’ve already written about the Dalì Museum in Figueres, which is the primary attraction of the town. Head there to know all about it and why it is a must do if you are in Catalonia and have a few spare hours (or you can make some free time).
But outside the museum, what else is there to do in Figueres? The town itself is pretty small and can be visited in a single day. Yet there are a few places that are worth spending some time at. Let’s see which ones.
While the museum has the lion’s share of art in town, around it there are a few other places that are connected with Salvador Dalì. First of all, if you come by bus or train and head to the centre of Figueres, you’ll meet the first monument dedicated to the artist, the Mouth of Dalì. It is a simple metal piece that reflects a large depiction of the face of Dalì, resulting in a human-sized one on the metal. Nothing impressive, its function is probably just introductory to what expects you later.
Going slightly further on La Rambla, on the right side there’s Salvador Dalì’s Birthplace, marked by a plaque on the outside of the n°20 of Carrer de Monturiol. Spend a few moments thinking of would have looked like Figueres in 1904, when the artist was born, and how nicely located was his first house.
Moving more inside the old town, around the Dalì Museum there are plenty of statues and images remembering you of him: one on the staircase leading from the Museum to Calle de la Jonquera, another right in front of the Museum, yet another on the east side of the Museum while going to Carrer Canigò.
But, above all, it is of extreme interest to visit the Llibreria Surrealista, placed right on the left of the Museum’s entrance. Any souvenir you can imagine with theme of surrealism and Dalì can be found here, for a, usually hefty, price.
Spending 10 minutes to check all the operas of Dalì reproduced in various forms at this bookstore is the perfect pairing with a visit to the Museum itself. If you don’t manage to find what you want or prefer to order from home, they have a webstore on their website.
Figueres outside of Dalì
There’s more in Figueres than just Dalì’s operas and history. Walking through the old town, with its cobblestones and an atmosphere of late 800s is a joy during a, hopefully sunny, afternoon. The town is not very crowded, most of the tourists come from the nearby France and not many make the trip from Barcelona, preferring perhaps the big city on the sea or closer Girona. I never had to fight to enter a place or queueing to access anywhere.
Especially nice is strolling through La Rambla, which is the main artery of Figueres and runs west-east right on the southern border of the old town. It is much smaller than the one in Barcelona, probably less than one third in length, but it is very spacious in the centre, with benches under the trees and youngsters playing around. Way less touristic too, which is never a bad thing.
Same nice atmosphere you can find in the two prettiest squares in the old town: Placa de L’Esglesia and Placa de L’Ajuntament. The former is next to the Esglesia de Sant Pere.
Basically, the local cathedral. Do visit it as it is an example of Spanish gothic from the 11th century, sporting a spacious nave and a gate of wrought iron on the side of the square that is an originality for gothic churces (and indeed is much more recent than the church itself).
On Placa de L’Ajuntament there is, and I’m specifying for those who don’t speak any catalan, the townhall and an array of bars and cafes, some with tables right in the middle of the square. On the evenings it is a popular place for the nightlife and as a reference point for drinking tours around but during the day is much more quiet yet lively, not noisy. Personally I liked to spend time in the morning at Cafe 365, which is not surprisingly open 365 days a year. Lots of pastries, sweets and local beverages.
If you are looking for jamon or queso, head through Carrer de Peralada to Ibericus, part bar and part deli-shop, with a huge selection of hams and cheeses on show. The place for food shopping in Figueres.
Figueres outside of the old town
The town in itself is very small and can be visited in a day, at most, with nearly everything in the pedestrian areas in the centre. Yet there are a few places outside the proper old town that are worth mentioning.
Probably most guides will direct you to visit the Sant Ferran Castle. I went there and found a very normal fortess, very well preserved I admit, but nothing impressive. If you are interested in the military history of the region it can be worth the 15 minutes by foot to come here from the old town. Perhaps there’s an exhibition you may find interesting that day and that will make it worth the walk. Otherwise, I’d suggest you to spend more time in Figueres and at the Dali Museum. The view either from the Castle is nothing exceptional either. In the “can be avoided” category for me.
Much closer to the centre, just south of La Rambla, there’s Plaça Josep Pla and Jardins Puig Pujades, a lovely, quiet square with an area for children to play and the municipal theatre, Teatre Municipal El Jardì.
Don’t miss either an art-noveau veranda of a house on the side of the square towards La Rambla and the Cafe La Pau, a part cafe and part bookstore with an organic, vegan taste. The owners are among the nicest persons ever and will serve you either sandwiches or sweets, along with fresh fruit juices or coffee-tea based drinks.
If you aren’t thirsty but only tired, a break at the Parc Municipal de Figueres will do. Well organized, albeit smallish, it serves well enough residents and tourists as a green lung next to the old town. Ideal for a quick rest.
There’s not just the Museum
The Dalì Museum is still the single most important reason to visit Figueres, and probably to visit Catalonia at all besides Barcelona. Yet, Figueres offers a few other attractions and a not overtly-touristic atmosphere that make it a worth alternative for a day out. It is also compact enough that it is possible to see it all and come back to Barcelona for the evening without rushing anything. A great catalonian town under the shadow of the Pyrenees.