Just 35km away from Barcelona (or 35 minutes by train from Sants Station), the coastal resort of Sitges is one of the most attractive stopping points in Catalonia. Often dubbed the St. Tropez of Spain, thanks to the high prices of property, Sitges is possibly even closer by comparison to Brighton on England's South Coast. Picturesque and sleepy by day, with a Bohemian vibe, 17 pristine beaches and a smattering of cultural points of interest to visit, at night Sitges is a hedonistic playpen of throbbing bars and discos and one of the epicentres of gay nightlife in Spain.
Families and couples of all ages come for the former, whilst gay party animals from around the world make the pilgrimmage to Sitges to sample the wild lifestyle by night. If these are the town's staple charms, then its worth remembering too that Sitges is home to two world-class events in the form of the Sitges Carnival (Febuary/March) and the Sitges Film Festival (November).
Starting life as an Iberian settlement in 4th Century BC, Sitges gained a small castle and a Bishopric in the middle ages whilst relying on principally fishing, maritime trade and viticulture to support itself. The Sitgetans (as they are improbably known) imported a variety of grape called malvasia from Greece and the sweet liquor wine they fermented from it made the town famous. Indeed the Hospital Sant Joan Baptista still produces 4,000 bottles via the traditional method each year and you might want to grab yourself a couple as souvenirs! If you're in Sitges in September you can even check out the Festa de La Varema (Sitges Wine Harvest Festival)... we'll keep you updated via our Barcelona events calendar.
If there was one man responsible for setting Sitges on the path towards glamorous seaside resort then fingers would no doubt point to the Catalan artist, playwright and poet Santiago Rusiñol, whose influence helped turn the town into a flourishing intellectual and artistic centre in the height of the Modernista era. Even after Modernisme was considered passe, Sitges continued to attract artists as famous as Salvador Dalí and the poet Federico García Lorca until the Spanish Civil War put an end to what is still considered Sitges's Golden Age. Romantics should investigate the excellent Cau Ferrat Museum, a tribute to the great Rusiñol and those times.
It was later in the 20th Century, during the 1960s and 70s, that the latest incarnation of Sitges was hatched, when economic conditions in Spain had significantly improved and tourists began to return en masse to the resort's beaches and bars. Fast forward to the 2010s and you could rightly consider the town to be entering a second Golden Age. Prettier and more relaxed than Barcelona, significantly cheaper than Ibiza and still unknown to many foreigners a few days in Sitges will be as relaxing (or debauched) as you could hope for, and can easily be combined with some of the other excellent sights in the region.
Getting to Sitges from Barcelona
The simplest and cheapest way to get to Sitges from BCN is to hop on the RENFE train which leaves from Sants Station (or Passeig de Gracia Station, which is more central), every 15 minutes in summer between about 5am and 10.30pm. Tickets are around 6 euros return, journey time around 35 minutes. Otherwise you can hire a car or rent a scooter and drive there!
For more info on Sitges, straight from the horse's mouth, check out our sister site Sitges Life, or the official tourism website.
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reviewed by David Andreu from Spain on Mar.11.2013