Visiting the small Catalonian fishing village that Salvador Dalí called home
Today we set out at the crack of sparrows to reach the small fishing village of Port Lligat, where we were booked into an early tour of the home that Salvador Dalí had shared with his wife Gala for many years. It was a short journey but involved a trip over the coastal range and some extremely bendy roads. As we travelled over the mountains we were greeted with spectacular views, but I had to keep one eye on the crazy drivers and brave cyclists. We arrived in plenty of time, so we decided to stop in the neighbouring town of Cadequés. This is a very quaint town hidden in a peaceful bay, well away from the main tourist traps of the Costa Brava, and being so early in the morning it was completely dead … except for few keen tourists and a convoy of trucks delivering to the cafes that lined the seafront.
After taking a few pictures we settled down for some breakfast in one of the cafes, where we got talking to an American gentleman on a business trip to Barcelona. He had dropped by Cadequés to meet a friend. The only other customers were a French woman and her daughter, who provided some entertainment when their illegally parked car attracted the attention of the police. The woman was quick to leap up and go and remonstrate with the local constabulary, but to no avail … there is a lot of love lost between the Spanish and French so her requests for leniency fell on deaf ears.
Powered by ham filled croissants and strong coffee we completed our short journey to the village of Port Lligat.
Dalí was born in nearby Figueres and first visited Cadaqués as a child during family holidays. The area later provided inspiration for some of his most famous works. In 1929 Dalí met his muse and future wife Gala (real name Elena Ivanovna Diakonova). Apparently, his father didn’t approve of their relationship and following an argument, contacted local hoteliers to ensure that none of them would rent a room to his son.
Because of this in 1930 Salvador Dalí purchased a small “barraca” (fisherman’s hut) in nearby Port Lligat where he and Gala lived for more than 40 years. Little by little the couple enlarged and extended the house, adding a second floor and purchasing 6 adjacent cottages, which they annexed, to create the unique rambling property which can be seen today. Dalí lived in Port Lligat until Gala’s death in 1982 and the house is maintained exactly as it was when the couple lived there. Many of their personal belongings are on display as well as magazine cuttings and photographs with famous people including Coco Channel, Ingrid Bergman and Walt Disney.
Despite the quirky interior design features; including stuffed swans, a bejewelled polar bear and the famous phallic-shaped swimming pool, we were surprised by the simplicity of the house. With someone as creative as Dalí, you might have expected something more grandiose. Most of the small whitewashed rooms were decorated with large bunches of Gala’s favourite yellow Sempervivum flowers. Light flooded the house, especially at the time of the day we were visiting. It was easy to see why Dalí found the house and its’ setting so inspirational.
Dalí was a colourful character and his early years coincided with a very unstable political dynamic in Europe. He spent time initially in Madrid and later, during the 1920s, in Paris where he met up with fellow artists including Picasso, Magritte and Miró, who influenced his direction towards Surrealism. With the approach of war in Europe, Dalí clashed with members of the Surrealist movement and was expelled from their group. During World War II, Dalí and his wife moved to the United States. They remained there until 1948. The last years of his life were marred with sadness, with illness preventing him from painting and then in 1982 the passing of his beloved wife and friend Dala. He shuffled off this mortal coil in 1989 and was buried in a crypt at the Teatro-Museo in Figueres.
The relationship between Gala and Dalí was deep and profound and he used her image in many of his works – but it was an unusual relationship. According to most accounts, Gala had a strong sex drive and throughout her life had numerous extramarital affairs (among them with her former husband Paul Éluard), which Dalí encouraged, since he was a practitioner of candaulism. Salvador Dalí claimed to be a virgin, completely impotent and afraid of women’s anatomy.
In summary …
- Port Lligat is in the very north-east of Spain (nearly France) so it is a bit of a trek, but well worth it
- If you love Dalí this is a must-visit … it shows off his creative genius in a way visiting a museum cannot
- The parking is limited so it is best to get there early in the day, especially in the summer (this also avoids crowds, heat etc)
Planning your visit
Making a reservation
Entrance to the house museum is very restricted and by guided tour only and it is usually necessary to make a reservation. If you turn up without one you will probably either be disappointed or have a long wait for an available time slot
When you reserve your time slot bear in mind that the road to Cadaques is a long, slow and windy one and if you walk from Cadaques it is a 15-minute walk. You will need another 15 minutes to find the tourist office in Cadaques, pick up a map and find the start of the walk.
From Barcelona: AP7 motorway (Barcelona-France), Figueres exit. Take the C-260 road, towards Roses. Before entering Roses village, turn left and take the GI-614 road towards Cadaqués. At the entrance to Cadaqués, turn left to Portlligat. If you walk from Cadaqués to Portlligat, it takes 15 minutes.
From Perpignan: A9 motorway (Perpignan-La Jonquera), and then N-II road up to Figueres AP7 motorway (La Jonquera-Figueres)
Platja, 17488 Port Lligat, Girona, Spain
|Telephone:||+34 972 251 015|
|Hours:||15 March to 14 June and 16 September to 6 January 10.30 to 18.00h (closed Mondays) and 15 June to 15 September 09.30-21.00h|
|Admission Fee:||Individual €14, Student (<16) €8; Senior (+65) €8|
Best time to visit Catalonia
The best time to visit Catalonia is from May to June when balmy temperatures in the low to mid-70s mesh with a flurry of festivals that trumpet the advent of summer. The actual summertime is sticky with humidity – locals leave their beloved city in droves to catch a breeze somewhere else. They come back for the fall when the average highs drop back into the 70s. Winter is mild compared to other Spanish destinations, with highs in the high 50s. And while coming during the spring may seem like a smart idea for avoiding crowds, April sees frequent showers, which may put a literal damper on sightseeing plans. Keep in mind that no matter what time of the year you’ll visit, there will be tourist crowds.
Where to stay?
1. HOTEL OCTAVIA
This smart hotel enjoys a privileged setting in the charming fishing town of Cadaqués the home of Salvador Dalí, on the beautiful Costa Brava coastline.
Enjoy this picturesque seaside location, where white-washed buildings and cobbled streets nestle on a pretty hillside. Walk down the charming street from your hotel which leads to the fishing port with beautiful, clear seas and a pretty beach.
Visit the ancient church that towers above the village architecture and the house where Dali once lived. Cadaqués still maintains its delightful charm and heritage and has a cheerful, familiar atmosphere.
2. HOSTAL EL RANXO
Hostal el Ranxo offers accommodation in Cadaqués, 2,950 feet from Salvador Dali’s House.
All rooms boast a flat-screen TV with cable channels and a private bathroom. Rooms also include a seating area and a wardrobe. Guests can have a cocktail at the bar.
Breakfast is available every morning and includes gluten-free and buffet option
3. HORTA D’EN RAHOLA
Surrounded by gardens, Horta d’en Rahola – Adults Only features air-conditioned rooms with a furnished balcony with views. The hotel is 1,300 feet from Cadaques Beach, and free WiFi is provided.
Featuring modern décor, rooms have a wardrobe, minibar and coffee machine. All have an en-suite bathroom with a shower and hairdryer, and bed linen and towels are provided. Some rooms have a flat-screen satellite TV.
The family-run hotel is on Cap de Creus peninsula, on the Costa Brava and is a 4-minute drive from Port Lligat Bay.