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Gala Dali Castle: Dalí’s Gift to his Muse

If you like Salvador Dalí’s art—even if you’re not such a fan of his work—the Gala Dali Castle in Púbol, Spain, is something you should not miss.

The unassuming entrance to Gala Dali Castle.

The unassuming entrance to Gala Dali Castle.

This is not a Dalí museum. Dalí bought the building, a medieval castle, as a gift for his wife and muse, Elena Ivanovna Diakonova, who was called simply Gala.

I am extremely grateful to the Costa Brava Tourist Board and the Consell Comarcal Baix Emporda  for including me in a “Discover the Medieval Coast” tour, which included the Gala Dalí Castle. While I received admission and the tour for free, all opinions are my own.

What makes it special, though, is that he didn’t just buy it and hand it over to her. Instead, he had it renovated to his instructions and decorated it himself: an entire Daliesque house! It’s meant to be a museum about Gala and her life and death. In reality, though, it’s a museum about Gala and Dalí’s relationship.

Some random facts I learned about their relationship:

  1. Gala was first married to Paul Éluard, also a surrealist artist, and they had a daughter, whom she disliked and neglected.
  2. Gala and Dalí met when she was visiting Dalí with Éluard. When their visit was over, Éluard left and she stayed.
  3. Dalí was 10 years younger than Gala.
  4. He bought her a castle to live in. In other words, despite their marriage, they didn’t live together. In fact, she required him to write to her to receive permission to visit.
  5. She lived in the castle in the 1970’s. Apparently, she entertained a series of young lovers there as well, including her ex-husband.
Painted on a door, this trompe l'oeil door was painted by Dali for Gala Dali.

a trompe l’oeil door in the throne room of Gala Dali Castle, painted by Salvador Dali


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The Gala Dalí Castle Interior

As medieval castles go, this is a pretty modest one. Stone walls, a very small courtyard, but not the kind you’d picture as a fortification. It’s more of a stately home than a castle. What’s special about it is Dalí’s interior design.

For example, the throne room. I suppose in Dalí’s mind, any good castle needs a throne. According to our excellent tour guide, Nik Duserm (whom I recommend unreservedly as a truly gifted storyteller), it was only ever used once—by Dalí, not Gala—for a photo shoot.

throne chair on a dais with a cloth draped above it in the Gala Dali museum

the Dali-designed throne in the Throne Room

The ceiling was also his creation, echoing historical styles but with a surrealistic touch.

The ceiling of the throne room in the Gala Dali castle references rococo style, but with a surrealistic twist.

The ceiling of the throne room, painted by Dali

Notice that he didn’t just assemble items from other makers for the throne or any of the interior décor. Besides the painting and sculpture he did for the castle, he designed much of the furniture himself too. For example, the living room, next to the throne room, has a glass-topped coffee table. It seems ordinary at first, until you look down: a hole in the floor reveals a horse … an entire stuffed horse, which, apparently, Dali received as a gift.

The full-sized white horse is visible below.

The view down through the table to the floor below.

And the lamp next to the sofa isn’t just an ordinary lamp.

The lamp is attached to the table and has cutouts with something like geodes in it.

Dali-designed lamp/endtable

Many rooms include references to medieval themes, in keeping with the history of the castle, but always with a surrealistic twist. He created several coats of arms that are all plays on the coat of arms of the original family who lived in the castle.

This painting in the Gala Dali castle looks like a medieval court scene, but with what looks like a burning giraffe standing in the middle of it.

This painting of a tapestry is just one of many examples of how he referenced the age of the castle (medieval).

The bathroom I found rather attractive, and less disturbing than some of the other rooms. It was converted from an old kitchen.

Apparently these gold-leaf taps are a reference to a mobius strip.

Dali designed these bathroom fixtures.

The Gala Dalí Castle Garden

Not one for half measures, Dalí didn’t stop with the interior of the castle. He added his special touch to the garden as well. The most alarming items are the monsters: huge statues that seem to be elephants, more or less, but have the legs of insects. Very creepy when you round a corner of the shrubbery and come upon one.

Surrounded by greenery in the garden of the Gala Dali castle, this elephant/insect is perhaps 10 feet tall and has a bird of some sort sitting on its back.

One of the elephants/insects in the garden

The fountain that forms the centerpiece of the garden seems classical at first glance, but when you look closer, you notice the heads on either side down near the ground. They’re Wagner: all of them.

While the main structure of the fountain includes two classically-posed female statues in the garden of the Gala Dali museum, the fountain below is flanked by a number of small, identical carvings of heads: Wagner's face, repeated.

Again, classical references, but then … Wagner.

This museum makes up one point of a “Dalí triangle” that Dalí admirers visit. The Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres was designed by Dalí himself and is filled with his works. It also hosts a gallery of Dalí-designed jewelry. The third point in the triangle is the Dalí house in Portlligat, where he lived and worked and which he designed and decorated himself. Both the Castle and the Theatre-Museum were excellent. I assume that the Dalí house is just as worthwhile.

Don’t try to see all three in one day, however. I don’t know about the house, but the castle will take a couple of hours to see properly and the museum in Figueres will take at least three—and that’s not including the time it takes waiting in line for a ticket to the museum if you don’t book ahead! Plan at least two days: three if you don’t want to rush or overdose on surrealism!

Information for visiting Gala Dali Castle

How to get there: The Castle is on Gala Dali Square in Púbol-la Pera. The village is about a half hour by car from Girona, two hours from Barcelona and an hour and a half from Perpignan, France. You can take bus #11 from the central bus station in Girona, get off in La Pera, Gasolinera, and walk about 1.5 km from there.

Opening hours:

  • November 2 – January 7: 10-17:00
  • January 8-March 14: Closed
  • March 15-June 14 and September 16-November 1: 10-18:00
  • June 15-September 15: 10-20:00
  • They also have open nights from 20-22:00 between July 28 and September 1, but only with a guided tour.

Prices: Without a guide, adult tickets cost €8. If you want an English-speaking guide (or French, Spanish or Catalan), make sure to book in advance, and it will cost €10.

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