3. Itinerary to discover the town
Subject-matter: History, architecture, culture
Place: Historical town centre
Places of interest: Rambla de Figueres, modernist buildings, Monument to Narcís Monturiol, Plaça de la Font Lluminosa, Plaça de Catalunya, Plaça del Gra, the former Abattoir, the house where Dalí was born, Plaça de l’Ajuntament, street la Jonquera, Plaça Gala i Salvador Dalí, Church of Sant Pere and Jewish quarter.
Duration: 2 hours approximately
Observations: It is advisable to bring a street plan of the town (available from the Tourist Office)
The aim of this route is to show some of the most interesting and symbolic spots in Figueres, to act as a guiding strand for exploring the city. Here visitors will find a combination of features of historical, architectural, artistic and cultural interest that place the city’s heritage at ther disposal.
Departure: The route starts out from in front of the Tourist Office in Figueres, located in Plaça de l'Escorxador nº2. There you can find all the information you need to enjoy a good stay in the town.
La Rambla is one of the most symbolic places for the people of Figueres. Its origins date back to 1828 when Galligans stream was covered over. That construction project put an end to the health problems associated with the stream and improved communications in a city which had been divided by the stream itself. This covering work, directed by the military engineer Antoni Lasauca, was completed in July 1832.
In 1862 the plane trees were planted, and by the end of the 19th century La Rambla was a well-established gathering point, a place for the citizens to take a stroll and talk to each other, and for concerts, trade fairs and markets to be held; it was also a centre for hotels, restaurants and cafés that attracted people from all over the county. Between the end of the 19th century and the start of the Spanish Civil War the finest collection of the city’s civil buildings was built around it, with styles including the Baroque, neoclassical, eclectic, modernist, noucentista and rationalist.
In 1917 the last great transformation of La Rambla took place under the architect Ricard Giralt Casadesús, lending it a new geometrical dimension with the refurbishment of the central walkway. Dating from this period is the noucentista-inspired monument dedicated to Narcís Monturiol (inventor of the Ictineu, the first submarine vessel), the work of the sculptor Enric Casanovas located in the lower part of the central walkway on La Rambla.
Among the buildings of architectural interest on La Rambla visitors should not fail to visit the Casa Polideseia (1864) by the architect Josep Roca i Bros, in the neoclassical style and situated at La Rambla no. 15, the Casa Cusí (1894) by the architect Josep Azemar, in the modernist style and situated at La Rambla no. 20, the Casa Puig-Soler (1901), by Josep Azemar, in the modernist style and situated at La Rambla 27, the Casa Salleras (1901) by Josep Azemar, also in the modernist style and situated at La Rambla no. 16, the Casa Pagès (1928) by Josep Duran i Reinals, of noucentista style and situated at La Rambla no. 21 and the Casa Caselles (1930) by Joan Gomà Cuevas, of modernist style and situated at La Rambla no. 22 .
From La Rambla we take a small pedestrian street called Forn Nou which leads to Plaça Josep Pla and the Municipal Theatre El Jardí. In the centre of this square there is the monument by Josep Ministral dedicated to Josep Pla, a renowned Catalan writer with close links to the city of Figueres, where he often stayed and whose gastronomic delights he praised highly. The square is dominated by the Municipal Theatre El Jardí building, a modernist work by the architect Llorenç Ros i Costa built in 1914. From here we continue along Forn Nou street to Nou street and from there to Plaça Ernest Vila (which the people of Figueres know as the Plaça de la Font Lluminosa, or Lit-up Fountain Square); we then continue over the modern Plaça de Catalunya and arrive at Plaça del Gra.
Plaça del Gra features an unusual, simple yet effective structure. As its Catalan name indicates it was designed to protect the cereals market from inclement weather. It was constructed in 1887 using 36 iron columns that supported the roof, and it became a meeting and trading place for the inhabitants of Alt Empordà county. Nowadays, food markets are held there on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Next, we take Concepció street through to Plaça de l’Escorxador.
The former municipal abattoir was built in the modernist style in 1904 by the architect Josep Azemar, also the author of various buildings on La Rambla. The building is no longer used as an abattoir and today is the Tourist Office of Figueres. Its central body houses a room that stages temporary exhibitions of a cultural nature.
We next take Monturiol street till we get to number 20. This is the house in which the painter Salvador Dalí was born on 11 May 1904, and was recently acquired by the City Hall. Next, we go back to La Rambla and then up Girona street. We cross Plaça de l’Ajuntament and continue along La Jonquera street, characterised by the French style of the buildings, revealing the city’s proximity to the frontier. Before coming to Canigó street we take a set of steps on the left that leads through to Plaça Gala i Salvador Dalí where we find the Dalí Theatre-Museum.
Right beside this is Sant Pere church, one of the city’s most interesting architectural features. The first mention of it dates back to 1020 and the medieval quarter of Figueres was built up around it. It was probably raised on the site of a former early Christian church. Of the first Romanesque church (10-11th centuries) there are remains of the north wall with an embrasure to the left of the nave, at the foot of the belltower. At the end of the 14th century King Peter the Ceremonious ordered the construction of a new church which, following the architectural canons of the period, was in the gothic style.
That church reached as far as the present crossing and had a single nave with groin vaults and buttress support. The neoclassical-style facade was rebuilt in 1578 and is notable for its great bull’s eye window that provides light for the entire nave. In later years the church underwent many extensions (in 1678 work started on the Dolors chapel, on the north side) and modifications. During the Spanish Civil War it was burned and partly demolished, until in 1941 the Town Hall started to reconstruct it.
The last place of interest on this route of exploration is Magre street and Plaça de la Llana. This is one of the oldest parts of the city and is the former Jewish quarter. The Jews arrived in the city in the second half of the 13th century, following a call for them to do so from Crown Prince Peter, in accordance with which any Jews setting up in the city would be exempt for five years from the payment of taxes and would be given a grant of small plots of land free of charge in which to cultivate food. Thus was formed the Jewish quarter, which had a butcher and bakeries of its own. At night the district would be closed off in order to prevent disturbances. The quarter thus remained in marked isolation from the rest of the city, to the point that the houses which faced on to the church had no doors or windows. From here, going along Pujada del Castell or Sant Pere street, we return to La Rambla, thus bringing the route to an end.