SITGES, 40 km from Barcelona, is definitely the highlight on this stretch of coast. Established in the 1960s as a holiday town, whose liberal attitudes openly challenged the rigidity of Franco’s Spain, it has now become the great weekend escape for young Barcelonans, who have created a resort very much in their own image. It’s also a noted gay holiday destination, with the nightlife to match. Indeed, if you don’t like vigorous action of all kinds, you’d be wise to avoid Sitges in the summer – staid it isn’t.
Finding a place to stay in peak season can be a challenge, unless you arrive early in the day or book well in advance. None of this deters the varied and generally well-heeled visitors, however – nor should it, since Sitges as a sort of Barcelona-on-Sea is definitely worth experiencing for at least one night.
The town itself is appealing and attractive: a former fishing village whose well-maintained houses and narrow streets have attracted artists and opted-out intellectuals for a century or so. The beaches, though crowded, are far from oppressive, and there’s a smattering of cultural interest.
Historical and cultural sites include the Church of Sant Bartomeu & Santa Tecla and the Museu del Cau Ferrat.
If you’re a fan of fantasy, a date worth noting in your diary is the annual Sitges Film Festival, one of the world’s premiere fantasy and horror film festivals. The festival has also expanded to embrace other genres and attracts some big-name actors and directors. It takes place over ten days in late October at venues around the town (information and venues from the turisme). In the summer, the city government usually hosts outdoor concerts at the various museums and gardens, including opera, jazz and classical guitar. Enquire at the tourist office.
Carnaval in Sitges (Feb/March) is outrageous, thanks largely to the gay populace. The official programme of parades and masked balls is complemented by an unwritten but widely recognized schedule of events. The climax is the Tuesday late-night parade, in which exquisitely dressed drag queens swan about the streets in high heels, twirling lacy parasols and coyly fanning themselves. Bar doors stand wide open, bands play, and processions and celebrations go on until four in the morning.
The frenetic and ever-changing gay scene in Sitges is chronicled on a gay map and guide available from Parrots Pub, as well as from several other bars and clubs. Most of the bars and clubs are centred around Plaça Indústria and in the triangle made up by c/Espalter, c/Sant Francesc and c/Parellades. Sitges’ clubs are liveliest in the summer, when they’re open Friday and Saturday nights and sometimes during the week; in winter, hours vary and may be limited. Most clubs open no earlier than midnight and stay hopping until the wee hours; check websites to confirm.
Featured Image, Sitges, Spain © GG-Foto / Shutterstock