Although Barcelona is glorious during the hottest months, it is far more than just a summer holiday destination. Autumn and springtime can also be a beautiful time to visit, especially if you want to venture a little further afield too.
Barcelona makes a great base for exploring the three points of the Dali Triangle, which feature fascinating architecture and flamboyant artworks. These includes Figueres, Cadaques and Púbol, a trio of important places linked to the surrealist artist, Salvador Dalí.
Driving along the points of the triangle is also a fantastic way to explore the countryside between the locations, and to take in other gorgeous towns along the way. From art to architecture, cuisine to countryside, don’t miss out on the chance to experience the beautiful Catalan region that embraces this charismatic city.
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As the intense temperatures give way to pleasantly warm sun beams, low season can be a great time for walking around the city and seeing all the sights. The famous Sagrada Familia cathedral is an essential stop and will set the tone for your surrealist road trip. Still under construction, the Gaudí design sees turrets melting into the modern and awe-inspiring structure. There are lots of intriguing art galleries to work your way around, such as Museu Picasso and Fundació Joan Miró. The cultural centre of Casa Milà is also worth a look-in, with its imaginative and unusually shaped sculptural rooftop giving you a great view out over the city.
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And you can still enjoy the beach too during low season. Although temperatures might be cooler, the sun is still likely to be shining. The beachfront, quieter and calmer than its overflowing summer state, is particularly inviting for cycling along the road that backs Barceloneta. Or you could pull on a wetsuit and hop on a stand-up paddle board, or go surfing if the conditions are right.
When it’s time to kick back and relax, the narrows streets of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter hide a wonderful selection of tiny tapas bars. The welcoming eateries serve up traditional treats such as patatas bravas, manchego cheese and stuffed olives. You’ll also find some great restaurants and cocktail bars lining the grand square of Plaça Reial too, just off the main La Rambla promenade.
The town of Figueres, which translates as “fig trees”, is best known for being the birthplace of artist Salvador Dalí and the location of the extravagant Dalí Theatre Museum. Designed by the artist himself, the striking surrealist structure is brought to life in bold red tones and is crowned with oversized golden egg shapes. Yes, that’s right, it’s crowned with giant eggs.
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Dating back to the 1960s and 1970s, it’s the world’s largest surrealist piece of work and you’ll also find avant-garde art collections within. This includes melting clocks and the Dalí Jewels, an assortment of sculptural gold and gem-encrusted objects such as a pair of lips.
Take some time to explore the rest of the town too and you’ll find other modernist architecture to marvel at. Or make your way to Carrer de Peralada for some shopping. If you’d like to go further back in time, you can also take a look around the imposing 18th century Sant Ferran Castle.
Head to the coast and follow the winding road down to the small fishing village of Portlligat by the town of Cadaqués. Here you’ll find Dalí’s home workshop, from 1930 to 1982, at the Dalí House Museum. You’ll be welcomed into the artist’s former work space in small groups so it’s usually necessary to book tickets in advance. The building is a combination of seven cottages on split levels with spectacular sea views shimmering in the sunlight when you peek out through the windows.
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The Bear Lobby entrance sets the tone for the maze of rooms that follows and flows out to the swimming pool and patio area. They are filled with an eccentric assortment of objects from taxidermy lavished in glittering jewels to the clean lines of his bright white sculptures of heads and, of course, more eggs.
The nearby beach town of Cadaqués makes a lovely spot to stop for lunch after exploring the museum. The fishing boats and white-washed buildings along the harbour provide a pretty backdrop, while the local seafood restaurants supply the fresh regional dishes. Then wander down to the beach for some post-lunch chill time.
A visit to Gala Dalí Castle House, in the medieval town of Púbol, completes the triangle. The 14th century castle was Dalí’s gift to his wife and muse Gala where she lived during the 1970s. It is said that he was only allowed to visit her there via written invitation. You, however, do not need a formal invitation to take a look around. Although the castle is not open to visitors all year so it’s worth checking the schedule online before you go.
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The throne and four-poster bed give the castle a traditionally regal feel, whereas extravagant artworks that echo the Dalí aesthetic add a whimsical touch. Elephant sculptures emerge from the greenery in the lush gardens of the Gothic-Renaissance fortress and busts of composer Richard Wagner are dotted around the swimming pool. Gala’s wardrobe is fit for a queen and her stunning collection of haute couture dresses is also on display.
After, it’s worth taking a wander around the pretty medieval town with its 14th century Sant Pere Church. Or take a 10-minute drive over to the historic town of Madremanya. Its 500-year old stone buildings and quaint little alleys threading through picturesque archways have been featured in several films over the years.
Not far from Púbol, Girona makes a lovely last stop to end your journey of surrealist discovery with a touch of traditionalism. As well as being conveniently near the airport, where you can easily drop off your hire car, it’s also a gorgeous setting to spend a few days in. The Onyar River runs through this pretty city and history is bursting from the walled Old Quarter. Roman and medieval influences mean that there are plenty of attractions on offer, such as the cathedral.
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Traditional tapas bars and cafés are tucked away within the cobbled streets and colourful buildings. So save some time to stop, sit and soak up your surroundings before you go.