The Complete Guide To Travels With Dali

It is 100 years since the Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali was born. Cathy Packe goes in search of his homes, his art and the best exhibitions of his work around the world
Click to follow
The Independent Travel



This year marks the centenary of Salvador Dali's birth. The celebrations officially began in October last year, and are set to continue throughout 2004 and well into next year. Special exhibitions and events will take place all over the world, but the most important of these will be in Spain.


Salvador Felipe Jacinto Dali i Domenech was born on 11 May 1904 in the small Catalan town of Figueres, some 20 miles from the French border. He spent most of his childhood there, and it is also where he died on 23 January 1989. The main memorial to Dali in his home town is the museum devoted to his work that he founded himself. The Teatro Museo Dali is in the town centre at the square named after him and his wife, Gala: 5 Place Gala-Salvador Dali (00 34 972 67 75 00; He chose the venue - in the ruins of the 19th-century municipal theatre, rebuilt after the Civil War - because his first exhibition was staged in the lobby of the building. He also felt that the theatrical venue matched the flamboyance of his paintings.

The contrast between Dali's surrealist works and their surroundings is stark. In the space that once contained the stalls is a taxi, with a naked model of Gala, the artist's wife, on its bonnet. Elsewhere there are paintings and installations from Dali's own collection, some created to hang in this museum, as well as paintings he chose by other artists, including El Greco and Marcel Duchamp.

Dali was baptised in the church opposite the theatre and he spent the last years of his life in the Torre Galatea next door. He is now an exhibit in his own museum: his tomb lies under the stage. The museum opens from 10.30am-5.45pm, Tuesday to Sunday between October and June, and 9am-7.45pm daily from July to September - entrance is €9 (£6).


It is certainly a significant exhibition of Dali's art, but the most comprehensive collection in the world has been assembled over nearly 50 years by an American couple, Eleanor and Reynolds Morse, who live in St Petersburg, Florida. The Morses first saw Dali's work at an exhibition in 1941, just before they got married, and were intrigued by his subject matter. Two years later they bought the picture that was to start their collection and made an appointment to see the artist in New York, a meeting that was to lead to a lifelong friendship. They gradually built up a large collection of Dali's paintings, books, films and costume designs at their home in Ohio, but the collection soon became to large for their house.

Concerned that they would not be able to keep the collection together after their deaths, the couple were eventually offered a building in St Petersburg and a foundation was established to preserve the works on behalf of the people of Florida. The museum is on the waterfront at 1000 Third Street South (001 727 823 3767;, and opens 9.30am-5.30pm from Monday to Saturday (until 8pm on Thursday) and 12-5.30pm on Sunday; admission $13 (£8). The collection begins with some of Dali's earliest works, when he could easily have been mistaken for an Impressionist, and ends with a room devoted to some of his largest paintings. Visitors can wander around the museum on their own, but there are frequent, informative tours that explain some of Dali's recurring themes and preoccupations.

British Airways flies direct from Gatwick to Tampa (0870 850 9850; - about 20 miles from St Petersburg. Orlando is 100 miles away, and is served from Gatwick by British Airways and Virgin Atlantic (0870 380 2007;


Both Paris and London have galleries dedicated to Dali. The Dali Espace Montmartre in Paris (00 33 1 4264 4010; contains France's largest collection of his work. Tucked away just off the Place du Tertre at 11 rue Poulbot , it has an impressive number of sculptures, some unusual furniture and a complete collection of engravings and lithographs signed by the artist. The gallery is open from 10am-6.30pm daily, and until 9.30pm in July and August. Entrance costs €7 (£5).

Dali Universe (0870 906 3879; is among the many attractions on London's South Bank. It is housed in the County Hall Gallery, just along the embankment from the London Eye, and opens from 10am-5.30pm daily; admission £8.50. The exhibition contains several hundred items, displayed in themed galleries which cover different aspects of his work. The works include paintings, sculptures and furniture, along with long-legged elephants, Mae West sofas in the shape of red lips, a lobster telephone and several "soft watches" - distorted clock faces that he used to represent the fluidity and irrelevance of time.

One of Dali's most famous works (pictured, left, on the opposite page) is Christ of St John of the Cross, which is on display at the St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art at 2 Castle Street in Glasgow (0141 553 2557; just opposite St Mungo's Cathedral. This museum is the only one in the world that is dedicated to the importance of religion in people's lives, and, in addition to the Dali picture and others inspired by Christianity, it contains many works representing other faiths. The museum is open 10am-5pm from Monday to Thursday and Saturday, and 11am-5pm on Friday and Sunday, admission free.

Dali's vast canvas depicts Christ hanging from the cross, his head bowed and seen from above; below is a landscape of mountains stretching down to the water, on which a boat is beached.


Yes, Dali frequently used images and scenes from the Catalonian countryside and from places familar from his childhood. Many pictures include scenes of rocky coasts, mountains and small boats, all of which were symbolic of his younger years. Among his early works were pictures of Cadaques, about 15 miles from his home town of Figueres, and the place where his family had a summer house. Some of these are painted in styles that mirror the work of the Impressionists: a picture of the port of Cadaques at night echoes the work of Van Gogh, while the figures lying beside the bay in another painting are reminiscent of Gauguin.

Cadaques hasn't forgotten Dali - a statue on the seafront commemorates his connection with the town. White buildings tumble over the hillsides towards the water, while the vast baroque church of Santa Maria dominates the skyline. Cadaques has always attracted artists - in addition to Dali, Picasso, David Hockney and Max Ernst have all spent time in the town. Works by both Dali and Picasso are on display at the Museu Perrot-Moore at 1 Calle Vigilant (00 34 972 258 231). The museum opens from 10.30am-1.30pm and 4.30-8.30pm daily.


Yes. Having spent many childhood holidays in Cadaques, Dali became attached to the town and lived there for most of his adult life. He was attracted by the quality of the light in this area, and its remoteness. He bought a small fisherman's cottage a mile or so to the north beside the creek at Port Lligat, a wonderfully picturesque spot overlooking the Mediterranean. It may now be part of a well-trodden tourist trail, but it is still easy to see why he fell in love with the area. To preserve the atmosphere of the house, as well as its contents, visitor numbers are strictly limited. You must book a timed visit in advance. Book by phone (00 34 972 251 015), fax (00 34 972 251 083) or email ( Pre-booked tickets need to be collected 30 minutes before the entry time or they will be re-sold. The Casa-Museu Salvador Dali (00 34 972 251 015; is open from 10.30am-6pm daily from 13 March to 14 June and from 16 September to 6 January; and from 10.30am-9pm daily from 15 June to 15 September. Tickets cost €8 (£5.70).

The house was extended bit by bit over the years, and the result is a charming home that still feels as if Dali has simply stepped outside for a few moments. Visitors can see the artist's private rooms, his studio and the open-air dining room, patio and swimming pool where he and Gala entertained their friends. After her death, Dali moved to her home in Pubol in the village of La Pera, 20 miles inland.


Not entirely. Dali bought the ruins of an 11th-century castle in 1969 and set about remodelling it as a gift for Gala. He intended her to have somewhere to entertain her friends and lovers - and, occasionally, her husband, although he would visit only when invited.

From the outside the castle appears traditional, apart from the elephant sculptures in the garden with their long, giraffe-like legs; inside it is very much a Dali creation. His paintings adorn the walls, as do a number of trompe-l'oeil effects, and he also designed much of the furniture. In the attic is a theatrical room, painted black, in which are displayed some of Gala's clothes. Although Dali never lived at Pubol during Gala's life, he left his home in Port Lligat after her death and moved into the castle.

Before she was buried in the castle's crypt, Dali drove her body around the estate in a Cadillac that is now parked in the garage. He left Pubol for Figueres after he was badly burned in a fire in the property, never to return. The Gala Dali Castle House-Museum in Pubol (00 34 972 488 655; is open from 10.30am-6pm daily from 13 March to 14 June and 16 September to 6 January; and until 8pm daily from 15 June to 15 September. Entrance is €5.50 (£3.70).


It is easy to get to this part of Catalonia - usually known as the "Dali Triangle" - by flying to the region and hiring a car. Ryanair (0871 246 0000, flies daily from Bournemouth, Nottingham East Midlands, Liverpool, Prestwick and Stansted to a destination known to the airline as Barcelona (Girona). This is a small airport close to the attractive city of Girona, itself 25 miles from Figueras. Return fares start at around £50.

The Triangle is included in an escorted tour put together by Magic Travel (0870 888 0222; in conjunction with the Tate Gallery; Tate curators will accompany the trip that leaves on 28 May. The eight-day tour also includes several days in Barcelona. Prices start at £750.

Inntravel (01653 617906; is offering four-night breaks to Catalonia to celebrate the centenary, with two nights in each of two attractive hotels close to the Dali Triangle - the four-star Hotel Can Xiquet in remote Cantallops on the edge of the Albera Natural Park and the Castell d'Emporda, a Gothic fortified manor house with sweeping views over the surrounding plain. The trips start at £598 per person, including flights, car hire and half-board accommodation.


A number of events are to be staged around the world to commemorate Dali's life and achievements. Among these is a touring exhibition of around 400 of his works, which is currently showing in Barcelona at the CaixaForum, 6-8 Avenida Marques de Comillas (00 34 93 476 86 00). It opens 10am-8pm daily except Monday and admission is free.

The exhibition will continue in Barcelona until 23 May. It then transfers to the capital's leading modern art museum: the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia on the Paseo del Prado in Madrid (00 34 91 467 5062). It will be here from 22 June until 29 August. The exhibition moves to the Dali Museum in St Petersburg from October until January 2005, and from February until May 2005 it will be shown at the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen at Museumpark in Rotterdam (00 31 10 44 19 400;

An exhibition at the Figueres Toy Museum in the Hotel de Paris at 1 Sant Pere, Figueres (00 34 972 504 585;, will concentrate on Dali's childhood. This will run until 30 September and is open from 10am-1pm and 4-7pm Tuesday-Saturday, and 11am-1.30pm on Sunday.

A major retrospective covering all aspects of Dali's career, from his Cubist-inspired paintings to his surrealist work, will be on display at the Palazzo Grassi ( in Venice from 12 September until 9 January 2005. From here it will move to the Philadelphia Museum of Art at Benjamin Franklin Parkway and 26th Street in Philadelphia (001 215 763 8100; from 16 February to 15 May next year.

The Salvador Dali Museum in St Petersburg currently has a special exhibition containing items from the museum's permanent collection that are infrequently put on display. These include a number of hand-written manuscripts, Dali's birth certificate and his earliest self-portrait. The exhibition continues until 26 September.

The only special exhibition in France to mark the centenary will be at the Chateau de Lavardens in the Gascony village of Gers (00 3315 6258 1061, from 15 May until 30 September. The location is between Agen and Lourdes. The nearest airport is Toulouse, served from a wide range of UK cities. For accommodation close to Lavardens, contact The Gascony Secret (01284 827253;


Although Dali is best known as a painter and sculptor, he also wrote essays, novels, plays and poetry and was involved in designing theatre sets.He worked with the Surrealist film director Luis Buñuel on two films, L'Age d'Or, which they co-wrote, and Un Chien Andalou, both of which have been re-released by the British Film Institute. They will be showing in Edinburgh this weekend and will also run at selected cinemas in Manchester, Leeds, Northampton, Falkirk, Leicester, Cardiff and Bradford. The films will be released on video in the summer, and will be available from the British Film Institute at 21 Stephen Street, London W1T 1LN (020-7957 8960;


As part of the centenary celebrations, an Airbus A340-600 operated by the Spanish airline Iberia has been renamed "Salvador Dali". Other well-known Spaniards who have been immortalised in the skies include Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote, and the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. In 1972, Dali himself painted some panels for the inside of two Iberia planes, and these panels are now displayed at the company's head office.