08 August 2013

Cavorting in Catalonia: Castell de Sant Ferran

When I took the train for a daytrip to Figueres, I didn't just visit the Dali Museum. After lunch, I set forth to visit the largest monument in Catalonia. This is none other than the Castell de Sant Ferran, set on a hill on top of the town. It was a ten-minute walk from the town center, and I had to ask some locals to find the right road to get there. The sun was quite bright, but I persevered, and when I got there, a whole castle was waiting for me to be explored.

This is the entrance. One walks through the gates and the Ticket Office is on your right. I remember the entrance was not prohibitive, I think it was only 4 EUR if I remember correctly. Other people don't get in, instead, they opt to walk the perimeter of the castle, which takes one hour. Based on my calculations, if the walk takes one hour, then it is around 5 kilometers long.

After paying for my ticket, I was offered to use an audioguide. It was very antiquated; it looked like a large radio I had to carry over my shoulders, and I had to press this button on and off whenever I see an icon on the tour path. I felt like I was this old journalist during the Franco era, and all that was missing was this flash that would basically explode whenever a picture is taken.

The above set of pictures are taken from the entrance gate to the courtyard. The big courtyard is not visible yet; these are just structures and buildings that can be found near the entrance. This is a huge castle, but it is more a military fortress than a building that housed royals.

The six pictures above show the extent of the inner courtyard. It is huge. There are several buildings that surround it, and one can easily imagine how this would look like if there was a military drill happening in the middle. There would be space for several hundred men, perhaps even thousands. It actually feels a little eerie as when I visited, I was the only one there. There were other visitors, but the place was so large that I didn't really see the others, and so I felt like I had the place to myself.

The pictures above show some of the ruins. See, there are buildings that didn't actually get completed. I think the chapel is one of them. You can see the pillars that were built, but were not completed. One can just look at how massive these are, and imagine how it would look like if the construction was actually finished. Some of the pictures I have above show the living quarters of the castle. This was used by soldiers back then, when they were protecting the Spanish border against invasions from the Pyrenees. After all, if Sarah Palin lived here, she would have probably said "I can see Russia from here!" meaning France.

See what I mean? There is a part of the tour path that takes folks to the wall. So one can see how close the Pyrenees are from here. One can also see the other fortifications of this castle. I have to say, architecturally, it is well-defended. The audio guide explains very well how the fortifications function, with one side defending another, and vice versa.

Finally, these are photos of the stables. It is also well-designed, with ventilation and water flow incorporated into the design. Hundreds of horses can be housed and fed here. It is underground, but it doesn't feel cramped at all. I loved the way the series of arches looked like. This is definitely my favorite part of the castle.

Anyway, that was my visit. If you decide to visit this one, rest assured that there won't be plenty of crowds here. That could be a welcome respite, especially if you were just coming from the Dali Museum, which tends to be packed with tourists from the Costa Brava and France. I loved the 2 hours I spent here, just by myself, looking and admiring this huge architectural feat.


  1. That makes me think that I have never used any audioguide provided when visiting landmarks. The price is often prohibitive and I'm always afraid the translation won't be good!

    1. Zhu,

      I agree, but in this case, it was really useful, as otherwise, things were unlabeled.