Note: This is a guest post by Elliott of Barcelona Travel Hacks.
Figueres, a medium-sized town 140 km (87 mi) north of Barcelona, is famous as the birthplace of Salvador Dalí, arguably the greatest surrealist artist ever. Its main tourist draw is the Dalí Theatre-Museum, a monument to Dali and the Surrealist movement in general. However, you can make a visit to Figueres as a full-day trip rather than taking just a half a day coach trip for the Dalí Museum only. This is how I do it: my one-day itinerary.
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Below is a map showing each of the recommended stops in this Figueres itinerary, plus any other locations mentioned, as well as the two train stations.
1. Sant Fernan Fortress
The first thing to do in the town of Figueres is go see Sant Fernan Fortress – Castell de Sant Ferran in Catalan, the local language.
Sant Fernan Fortress is the largest bastioned fortress in Europe, covering a 550,000-square-metre (136 acres) site on top of a hill. It dates to the 18th century, when it was built as a frontier castle for the Franco-Spanish wars.
The fortress has underground stables with capacity for 500 horses. It includes 3.12 km (2 mi) of outer walls and 10 hectares (25 acres) of moats. Built in the age of cannons, it has sloping walls to deflect cannon fire. Four subterranean cisterns stored drinking water (9 million litres or 2.38 million gallons) to provide for 6000 troops in times of siege.
Later, during Francisco Franco’s dictatorial rule, the fortress was used as a concentration camp and prison.
My tips for visiting the Sant Ferran Fortress
The castle opens at 10:00. I would allow two to three hours to complete the self-guided walking route around the fortress barracks, parade square, underground stables and officers’ quarters.
Take a baguette sandwich and a 1.5-litre bottle of water because the outside parts get very hot. On the castle walls you will find several great places with views to sit and eat. My favourite spot is when you get to the ramp down into the stables, there are stairs going up nearby that lead to an area with great views over the fortress and surrounding countryside.
In the underground stables you will find a military chapel dedicated to General Alverez de Castro, who was the much-liked commander of the fortress. This simple chapel contains some artefacts of the general and is a serene place to sit for a few minutes.
At the end of the castle visit, there is a cafeteria bar by the entrance. This is a good time to get a cold beer.
What I really like about this fortress is that it is being preserved, not renovated. The bits that were blown up when Spanish forces surrendered the castle remain blown up. It is a perfect time capsule. Also, the ticket price is only four euros.
There is no adapted disabled access. The route involves grassy ramps and stairs out of the underground stables. You can explore all of the fortress in a wheelchair but to exit the underground stables you will have to return via the ramp where you entered and return to the entrance via the route you came. There are small steps exiting and entering the barrack ruins.
Sant Ferran Fortress: Pujada del Castell, s/n 17600 Figueres (Girona). Open July-August daily 10:30 to 20:00; Last Sunday in October-last Saturday in March open Tuesday-Sunday 10:30-15:00; Easter week open Tuesday-Sunday 10:30-20:00; rest of the year open Tuesday-Sunday 10:30-18:00. Closed on December 25-26 and January 1 and 6. Admission is up to 1 hour before closing time. Free parking. Website.
2. Dali Theatre-Museum
From Sant Ferran Castle I walk into Figueres old town and the next place to visit is the Dalí Theatre-Museum. I book my ticket to the Dalí museum in advance online for the 13:30 time slot. It’s the best time to visit the museum because at 14:00 Spaniards have lunch, so it’s less crowded then.
This museum is one of Spain’s most popular tourist attractions. Its collection is wide-ranging: many paintings from throughout Salvador Dali’s career, but also sculptural pieces. Dali designed the building itself, so it’s worth noticing the architectural details both inside and outside the building.
Take time to sit in the patio garden with fountain and trees. And don’t miss the Mae West room and the Dalí jewel exhibition: its entrance can be found just before the turnstile exit of the Dali Theatre Museum. You can visit Dali’s burial place when you walk on the stage of the old theatre. You’ll see a plaque above Dalí’s tomb in the middle of the floor.
If you haven’t booked a ticket in advance, you’re in for a wait, possibly a long wait. There are a number of things you can do while you wait in line, at least if there are several people in your group so you can take turns saving your place in line. You can:
- Explore the surrealist bookstore, which carries all things Dali.
- Visit the plaça Gala i Dali Salvador square next to the Dali Museum – the line passes there anyway – where you will find some outdoor Dalí sculptures and monuments.
- Admire the Francesc Pujols monument, the work of art right in front of the museum.
- Cool off inside the Sant Pere Church. Dalí’s funeral took place here before his interment inside the Dalí Theatre-Museum.
While waiting to visit the Theatre-Museum Dalí, here is a list of things to do.
My tips for visiting the Dalí Theatre Museum
Access is via the theatre façade, not the red building.
Allow two hours to fully explore the Figueres Dalí Theatre Museum. Like many popular attractions, the museum can be a bit of a tourist trap, but with Dalí being a world-famous surrealist painter and sculptor, it is nevertheless worth the visit. It is a truly unique museum, personally designed by Dalí himself from the ruins of the Spanish-War-bombed theatre.
Travel light with only a small bag. There are no lockers and you will be refused entry with large bags or luggage greater than 35 x 35 x 25 cm. You can leave bulky items like umbrellas or smaller luggage in reception. If you have a stroller with you, you will be given a baby carry sling and asked to leave the stroller in reception.
I recommend comfortable shoes because the museum is on multiple levels with stairs between levels.
The Dalí Theatre Museum has partial access for those with reduced mobility. The central courtyard with the Cadillac installation, the stage, the Treasure Room, the ground floor, the under-stage area – where the toilets are – the painter’s crypt, and the Fishmongers’ Room are all accessible. The rest of the museum is wheelchair inaccessible due to the impossibility of installing lifts or because of narrow corridors. Reduced-mobility access is via a side door with a ramp that is to the right of the museum. Book your ticket in advance and notify reception upon arrival or by phone in advance the day before.
Dalí Theatre Museum: Open July and August daily 9:00-19:15; September-June Tuesday-Sunday 10:30-17:10 (open Mondays on certain public holidays). Closed on January 1. Admission: €21 in July and August; €17 the rest of the year. There are discounts for students, seniors, reduced mobility, children and groups. Children under 9 enter for free when accompanied by an adult. The ticket includes a 30% discount to the Figueres Toy Museum as well as free admission to the Museu de l’Empordà, a regional art museum in Figueres. Website.
By the way, if you have more than a day in the area and you like Salvador Dali’s work, consider a visit to Gala Dali Castle too. Dali decorated this medieval castle himself for his wife, Gala.
While you’re in Figueres, you can choose to take a walking tour of Figueres’s narrow streets, which includes a ticket to the museum. Another option is to book a guided tour of the museum itself, which also includes an admission ticket. This private tour includes both: a tour inside the museum and a tour around Figueres.
3. A stop for lunch (or tapas)
Depending on how you feel, you could stop for some lunch or tapas either before or after visiting the Dali Museum. My recommended places to eat are Restaurante Tony’s bar in Plaça de las Patatas, La Volta in Plaça Ajuntament, or in any of the restaurants in La Rambla. Note in La Rambla if you take Carrer Monturiol towards the Figueres train station, you will pass the birth home of Salvador Dalí.
4. Figueres Toy Museum
After lunch the final place to visit is the Figueres Toy Museum, a.k.a. the Toy Museum of Catalonia. The 22-year-long personal collection of Josep María Joan Rosa and Pilar Casademont Sadurní was moved to its current location in the former Hotel Paris building. The collection has expanded since then and includes a wide variety of children’s toys dating from the 18th century to more modern toys from the 1970s and 1980s. There are some strange items in the collection that in today’s society are a bit creepy. The museum gives a good insight into how children were entertained or groomed for future professions in centuries past.
My tips for visiting the Figueres Toy Museum
Present your Dalí Theatre Museum ticket to get a 30% discount on your entrance fee. Allow 1 hour to explore the toy museum.
The museum will ask you to leave bulky items in the cloakroom.
The Toy Museum has baby-changing facilities and is 100% reduced-mobility accessible: step-free and with an internal elevator.
Toy Museum of Catalonia: Sant Pere St., 1, 17600 Figueres. Open daily Monday-Saturday 10:00-19:00 and Sunday 10:00-14:00. Closed December 25-26 and January 1. Admission €8, reduced for children 6-16, students, and seniors 65+. Website.
Getting to the city of Figueres from Barcelona
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If you’ve rented a car, you can drive to Figueres from Barcelona in about an hour and a half. There are paid parking lots scattered throughout the City of Figueres.
If you can, travel by train. It’ll be much less stressful, and you can enjoy some beautiful scenery along the way. This will take between about an hour and a half and a bit more than two hours, depending on whether you take the slow train or the fast train.
Figueres is served by two rail lines:
- The regional rail line which goes to a station at the edge of Figueres town centre.
- The high-speed rail line which arrives at Figueres Vilafant station outside of town near the fortress.
I recommend using the high-speed train to go to Figueres and the regional (slower) train to return. This allows you to do this day-trip itinerary as a linear walking route. You can, of course, use only the regional or only the high-speed train.
A one-way train ticket for the high-speed train costs about 20 euros (40 euros return). Book this via the Renfe.com website in advance. One-way tickets for the slower regional trains cost 12 euros (24 euros return).
By group tour
There are plenty of tours from Barcelona that include the Dali Theatre-Museum, though they’re usually packaged together with a stop in Girona and sometimes other places like Cadaques.
This day-trip itinerary can be done any day of the week except Monday and the Christmas holiday period (December 25-26, January 1 and January 6), if you plan to visit all three museums. The total cost for this entire day’s itinerary – train to Figueres from Barcelona and back, admission to all three museums, plus food, should come out to well under €100.
When you get back to Barcelona around 20:30 or 21:00, I recommend eating in Rambla Catalunya near Passeig de Gracía Renfe train station in the centre of Barcelona. I ate really well at Taller de Tapas, but any of the restaurants in this area serve amazing food.
Post and photos contributed by Elliott of Barcelona Travel Hacks, a travel blog primarily focused on hiking, beaches, day trips, historical and cultural sights for anyone wishing to explore the non-typical sights in Catalonia.
My travel recommendations
- Skyscanner is where I always start my flight searches.
- Booking.com is the company I use most for finding accommodations. If you prefer, Expedia offers more or less the same.
- Discover Cars offers an easy way to compare prices from all of the major car-rental companies in one place.
- Use GetYourGuide to find walking tours, day tours, airport pickups, city cards, tickets and whatever else you need at your destination.
- Bookmundi is great when you’re looking for a longer tour of a few days to a few weeks, private or with a group, pretty much anywhere in the world. Lots of different tour companies list their tours here, so you can comparison shop.
Other travel-related items
- Get a Priority Pass if you fly a lot so that you can use airport lounges while you wait for flights. Plan your visits around meals and/or drink times and it’s definitely worth the investment!
- I’m a fan of SCOTTeVEST’s jackets and vests because when I wear one, I don’t have to carry a handbag. I feel like all my stuff is safer when I travel because it’s in inside pockets close to my body.
- Airalo is an e-sim card. You buy it through an app and activate it when you need it. I tried it on my trip to Thailand and it worked just like any other sim card, but without my having to fuss with physical cards.
- I use ExpressVPN on my phone and laptop when I travel. It keeps me safe from hackers when I use public or hotel wifi.