Portlligat is a peaceful place. Boats lie still in the rocky bay, the beach shack does a slow trade in Coca-Cola and the wild pigs that come down to forage on the shoreline seem nonplussed by the steady stream of visitors. This is the place where Salvador Dalí, the famous surrealist artist, chose to make his home for most of his life. Behind the neat white walls of the Salvador Dalí House, he let his imagination – and everything else – run riot.
Born in nearby Figueres, Dalí was a regular visitor to Cadaqués, although his love of Portlligat owes its origins to Gala, his wife and muse for over fifty years. This idyllic fishing village was where Gala decided to leave her first husband for Dalí. When the couple first met in 1929, she was involved in a three-way marriage with the surrealist painter Paul Eluard and artist Max Ernst.
Since Dalí’s father did not approve of his son’s relationship with Gala, the young artist found himself no longer welcome in the family home. And so, he set up home in a former fisherman’s house in the little village of Portlligat.
As years passed and Dalí’s wealth grew, he bought up all of the surrounding fishermen’s cottages and moulded them into a great surrealist palace, inconspicuous from the outside. Within its walls, Dalí was free to indulge in all of his artistic fantasies – many of which leave traces on the house to this day.
Throughout much of the Twentieth Century, Dalí’s home at Portlligat was a beacon to artists and colleagues including Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp, who became regular visitors.
The visit – what to see
As well as the beauty of Cadaqués, visitors who are familiar with Dalí’s work can visit the surrounding Cap de Creus to see how the unusual landscape impacted on his work.
We particularly recommend visiting the Salvador Dalí house at sunrise or sunset, when the views across the bay or the countryside behind the house are particularly beautiful.
It’s important to reserve tickets in advance via the museum website. We visited in early September and found the policy of admitting only small groups at a time (you need to book a time slot for your visit too) made the visit much more enjoyable than the nearby Dalí museum in Figueres, where things can get very crowded.
The visit is divided into two parts. The first half, lasting about half an hour, is a guided tour of the inside of the house. There are lots of Dalíesque touches for visitors to enjoy, including an imposingly bedecked stuffed polar bear, although the most striking thing about the house is how sparse it feels in parts with its whitewashed walls and simple furniture, and how small the cottage must have been initially (‘I wanted it all good and small – the smaller the more wormlike,’ said Dalí).
It’s also worth taking a good look at the studio where Dalí invented a few odds and ends to make painting more comfortable for himself – including a hoist for especially large paintings. Towards the rear of the house, there is a room whose walls are covered with photos of Dalí and Gala alongside the great and good of the day (as well as some less salubrious characters). The last room visited inside the house is the circular lounge with perfect acoustics that Dalí had built as a gift for Gala.
The rest of the visit is unguided, and visitors are free to wander through the grounds, taking in the tranquil olive groves and the various sculptures dotted around (including the gigantic eggs that Dalí liked bursting out of, and the Trash Jesus/Cristo de los desechos).
There is a small room with projected documentaries, just next to a lovely sitting area at the top of the hill. And, of course, the notorious phallic swimming pool and outdoor entertaining area, with its Mae West sofa, Pirelli adverts and Michelin men.
It is essential to buy tickets in advance, and to get to Portlligat ahead of your scheduled visit as parking is limited. Through most of the year, the Salvador Dalí House is open from 10.30 am to 6.30 pm, although from mid-June to mid-September opening hours are extended until 9 pm.
- Casa Museo Salvador Dalí
- Platja Port Lligat – s/n
- 17488, Cadaqués, Girona
- Telephone: +34 972 25 10 15
All photos copyright Gusto Guides, except that of the bedroom (Flick / Ferrán Pestaña)