When it comes to art-related attractions, it’s no secret that Barcelona has a bountiful offering, but the nearby northeastern province of Girona is not to be overlooked, with galleries, museums and cultural centres showcasing world-renowned collections. Here’s our list of essential places to see.
The Dalí Triangle
The essential triptych to visit in Girona is the three emblematic museums dedicated to Salvador Dalí, who was born and lived in the province. The Gala Dalí Castle House in Púbol is a medieval building that Dalí bought for his wife and muse, Gala. He painted and sketched Gala many times here between 1971 and 1980, and after her death she was interred here. Next, head to the Dalí Theatre Museum in Figueres, the artist’s birthplace. Decorated with a series of giant eggs, the building houses the most comprehensive selection of his artwork. He said of the museum, “Where, if not in my own town, should the most extravagant and solid of my work endure, where if not here?” Finally, see the Dalí House Museum in Portlligat, Cadaques. This is where Dalí lived and worked from 1930 until 1982, and his impact on the art world is most palpable here. Note that for €35, you can become a ‘Friend of the Dalí Museums’, which gets you free entry to all three museums, along with events, talks, conferences, films, excursions and even surrealistic window-dressing competitions in the shops of Figueres.
In the six years since it was established, the Espai Carmen Thyssen Arts Centre has swiftly become one of the most important art museums in the Baix Empordà region. Located in the town of Sant Feliu de Guíxols, which hugs the rugged beauty of the Costa Brava, the building alone is worth the visit – a former Benedictine monastery known as The Abbot’s Palace – while the gallery includes European and American artworks from the private collection of the renowned philanthropist and art dealer Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. A new Carmen Thyssen Sant Feliu de Guíxols Museum is planned for 2020, which will display a permanent exhibition of the baroness’s collection of Catalan paintings.
Found in the charming Costa Brava town of Palafrugell, this sculpture space is housed in a former cork factory dating from the early 20th century. There are 220 works on show, from the 60s to the present day, by a wide range of Catalan artists, including Miró and Jaume Plensa. Temporary exhibitions are also held annually and the Can Mario gardens have more than 30 permanent open-air exhibits.
The canvas here is the kitchen, the artists are brothers Joan, Josep and Jordi Roca, and the artwork is Catalan cuisine. El Celler de Can Roca first opened in 1986, next to the trio’s parents’ restaurant, Can Roca, and changed location in 2007 to its current purpose-built building, which comprises a triangular dining room built around a calming inner garden. It has been awarded the highest accolades – it holds three Michelin stars and has twice been ranked the No.1 restaurant in the world – and recent creations include an amuse-bouche of liquid truffle soft buns topped with truffles, and masterpieces such as oysters with fennel sauce, black garlic, apple, seaweed, mushrooms, distilled earth and sea anemone, with Earl Grey mayonnaise and salicornia.
Anyone with even the slightest interest in art will find something joyful here, and art aficionados will be in seventh heaven. The museum houses the most important art collection in Girona province, with pieces dating from Romanesque times through to the early 20th century. The building itself, a former Episcopal palace, is more than 1,000 years old. Whether your taste is renaissance, realism, baroque, romantic, modernism, gothic or turn-of-the-century, there is something to behold here. Enjoy all the art but also be sure to visit the rooftop viewpoint – it offers one of the best vistas over this verdant and beguiling region.