From Sitges with Love
Hola! A guide to fall in love with the Mediterranean sun, sea and sand on the southern coast of Spain.
The seaside resort town of Sitges is located on the gorgeous Coasta Dorada of Spain and just 42 km (26 miles) south of Barcelona.
Known as the St Tropez of Spain, Sitges boasts year-round balmy Mediterranean weather and a 4 km (2.5 miles) stretch of immaculate sandy beaches along the town’s picturesque seafront.
Sitges’s main economy is tourism – it is a well-known holiday destination of the hip and chic European jet set crowd.
Despite the glitzy glam, Sitges remains a charming small town: winding cobblestone streets, old churches, quaint neighborhoods, along with its rich history and culture, and warm welcoming people.
Sitges hosts many festivals throughout the year including International Fantastic Film Festival, Carnestoltes Carnival, Barcelona-Sitges Vintage Car Race, and the festive Festa Major – honoring Sitges’ patron saints Sant Bartomeu and Santa Tecla – with a parade of giant puppets and folk dancers on the streets, and spectacular fireworks over the ocean.
Sitges is also known as one of the most gay-friendly places in the world, with many hotels, boutiques, cafes, restaurants, and nightclubs that cater to the large LGBTQ community and visitors.
DID YOU KNOW
- In the late 19th century, Sitges was a popular hangout for aspiring European artists and writers. Famous Catalan painter, poet and playwright Santiago Rusinol settled in Sitges to work. Among the friends who frequented his studio was a young Pablo Picasso who was a student at the School of Fine Arts in Barcelona. Rusinol had strong influence on many of Picasso’s early paintings.
- Facundo Bacardi (1815-1886) was born in Sitges. At the age of 15 he went to Cuba (a Spanish colony at that time) to find work. In 1852 he began to experiment with the process of distilling rum. After a long trial-and-error period, he successfully produced a more refined, smoother rum. The liquor quickly became a best-seller in Cuba and then worldwide. In 1862, he founded the Bacardi rum company.
HOW TO GET HERE
Because Sitges is only 26 miles away from Barcelona, a day trip or weekend getaway is very popular. To get from Barcelona to Sitges, you may take a train, bus or taxi.
Train – the quickest and cheapest option, with trains depart hourly from 3 Barcelona train stations: Estacio de Franca, Passeig de Gracia and Estacio Sants. The train trip takes about 25-30 minutes depending on which train station you travel from. Train ticket costs 3.80 euros (one-way) or 7.60 euros (round-trip) per passenger.
Bus – another affordable option though it takes longer due to the frequent stops along the way. The buses (called MonBus) leave every half hour from Ronda Universitat and Plaza Espanya, with stops at Barcelona-El Prat Airport. The bus trip takes an hour or more depending on traffic. The bus ticket costs 4 euros one-way and can be purchased on the bus.
Taxi – a more expensive option but less hectic as you don’t have to deal with the tourist crowd at the train station or on the bus. A Taxi trip from Barcelona to Sitges usually takes 40-45 minutes and costs about 85 euros.
WHAT TO DO
Whether you spend a weekend or a whole summer in Sitges, here are the top 10 things to do and see:
1. Beaches – Sitges has 22 beaches, each has its own setting and scenery. Two of them are designated as nudist beaches where sun worshippers and bathers can let it ALL hang out! Most of the beaches have a good mix of people - gay and straight. The main gay beach is Playa de la Bassa Rodonda, located at the middle of the seafront. Whatever beach you go, relax and get a good tan!
2. Heritage Sites – Sitges’ most famous landmark is the 17th century parish church Esglesia de Sant Bartomeu i Santa Tecla. Situated on top of a rocky outcrop overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, this old church is still open for services. Other historical significant buildings include the Mercat Vell (Old Market), the Town Hall (built in 1889 over the foundation of an old castle) and the Gothic-style palace Palau de Maricel.
3. Sant Sebastia Cemetery – Remarkable Modernisme style tombs and pantheons of rich Catalan families who made their fortunes during the last century in faraway colonies like Mexico and the Philippines.
4. Museums – Museu Cau Ferrat was the former studio of artist Santiago Rusinol. It exhibits works of Rusinol, Ramon Casas, El Greco, and Picasso among others. It also houses an impressive collection of wrought iron, glass and ceramic artworks. Another museum worth a visit is Museu Maricel del Mar with its fine collection of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Catalan Modernism sculptures. Casa Bacardi is a fascinating museum, dedicated to perhaps Sitges’ most illustrious citizen Facundo Bacardi, the founder of the world-famous Bacardi rum.
Have you been to Sitges?
5. Beach Promenade – Sitges has plenty of walkable streets and plazas. Passeig de la Ribera and Passeig Maritim are the 2 magnificent promenades that run along the entire seafront. Lined with palm trees and gardens, these park-like promenades are perfect for a leisurely stroll, jogging, people watching, or enjoying the sunset.
6. Beach Train – Tire of walking? No problem, just hop on the Barca Tren or open-air wagon that goes up and down the boulevard along the seafront. A favorite of families with children!
7. Chiringuitos – Nickname for the beach bars dotting Sitges beachfront, selling drinks and tapas to beachgoers. El Chiringuito is the oldest beach bar, it was built in 1913 and is still in business today. Grab an umbrella table, order a cocktail, sit back and enjoy the endless parade of perfect beach bodies goes by.
8. Nightlife – For a small town, Sitges is packed with nightclubs, discos and bars. Don’t miss the fun Lady Diamond show at Parrots Pub. Take a sidewalk seat at one of the bars on Plaça Indústria to watch street performers and go-go boys in skimpy outfits entertain the crowd. Or dance the night away at some of Sitges’ hottest clubs on Carrer Bonaire. Excellent international DJs. Some clubs are exclusively gay, others welcome all.
9. Shopping – Head to La Vila Vella (Old Town quarter) where the streets are lined with eclectic souvenir shops, art galleries, fashion & fine jewelry stores, New Age boutiques, fragrance & beauty shops. Calle Major is one of the liveliest streets, with numerous cafes and bakeries.
10. Wine Tour – Take a tour of the vineyards in nearby countryside Penedes and sample some of the finest Spanish wines. Most prestigious is Miguel Torres Winery which has been producing world-class red, white, and rose wines since 1870.
WHERE TO STAY
Stylish, upscale hotel located in central Sitges, across from the main gay beach Playa de la Bassa Rodonda. Modern rooms with luxurious amenities and stunning ocean views. Only a few minutes’ walk to the Old Town quarter, museums, shops, restaurants and nightclubs.
Artsy hotel located in the quiet north end of Sitges, near Port d’Aiguadolc marina. Its lobby is filled with contemporary arts and sculptures. Rooms are richly decorated by local artists. The view of the million dollar yachts mooring in the marina is unforgettable!
WHERE TO EAT
Note: As with the rest of Spain, people eat late in Sitges. Some restaurants don’t even open for dinner before 9PM. Reservations are always recommended.
Fine dining with incredible views of the iconic church and seafront, sophisticated décor, impeccable service, and top-notch Mediterranean cuisine. One of the best restaurants in Sitges.
Long-established (since 1978) restaurant located in the historic marina district of Port d’Aiguadolc. Classic Catalan and Mediterranean cuisines, featuring fresh-caught seafood and local ingredients.
Tabernas Selectas Eguzki
Fun and affordable place to eat “pintxos” or pinchos – delicious tapas skewed on a toothpick. Self-service, with dizzying array of mouthwatering choices. Just try them all and pay at the end when the waitress counts the number of toothpicks left on your plate.
Best known for pizzas, sandwiches, salads, and smoothies. Spacious and airy, with lovely terrace sitting/lounging area. Attractive service staff. Very gay friendly. Open early for breakfast and late at night.
ABOUT THIS HUB
The author and his partner had a fantastic time in Sitges in the summer of 2015. He loves pinchos and Spanish wines.
All photos were taken by the author with an Olympus Stylus TG-630 iHS digital camera and iPhone6.
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Copyright © 2016 Viet Doan (punacoast)