With large avenues and narrow streets, Sitges is a charming small town about 30 kilometers outside of Barcelona. The town is beautifully surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea and the hills of Garraf. Certain parts of the town center are exclusively accessible for pedestrians and cyclists, which makes Sitges a perfect location for a lovely walk.
Written by J. Moerman
Up and down the coast, charming fishing villages near Barcelona succumbed to mass tourism in the fifties and sixties. Sitges did not. The larger hotels are moored at a safe distance from the center, like cruise ships, where elegant three- or four-store townhouses and villas line the streets and the esplanade. By the way, Sitges has one of the highest property prices in Europe. If you want to buy a piece of land here, you will have to compete with the football players of FC Barcelona or some French millionaires.
A hodgepodge of authentic and international
The town's infrastructure is very tourist-oriented. In recent years, traditional economic activities have mainly disappeared, giving priority to the region's tourism market. However, in addition to tourism, part of the economy is still based on fishing, due to its geographical location. The euros, pounds and dollars have been an essential part of Sitges' economy for decades - and of Sitges' brand itself: a mix of hedonistic, flamboyant and friendly inhabitants. In good and bad times, Sitges has always been able to bring in money. The houses, lounges and terraces are a mixture of medieval sacred art, Andalusian fountains and ceramics, Gaudí-style decoration with a little Chinoiserie added. Rich Americans still enjoy Sitges, as do wealthy Britons, wealthy Swedes and French. The Russians haven't made their mark yet, but this is only a matter of time.
A little bit of Cuba in Sitges
People come to Sitges for the beaches and the atmosphere, because when it comes to tourist sights there is not so much to see. The most popular is the Bacardí house. Facundo Bacardí Massó was a resident of Sitges who decided to try his luck in Cuba in the 1830s. After several bankruptcies he hit a winning formula with the rum brand that now carries his name on more than 200 million bottles around the world. Eventually, years later, the Casa Bacardí was established in Sitges, a museum that takes you into the history and production process of this iconic drink. Besides the Bacardí house, you can also visit the Cau Ferrat and the Maricel museum, both situated in a beautiful location along the sea.
So most people come to Sitges because of the beaches. The town has a total of 17! The sand and seawater are cleaner than those of Barcelona, so the beaches are also popular among Catalans. Every beach in Sitges is different, and has its own shape, size, atmosphere and public. 'Platja' is actually the Catalan word for beach, while we all know the Spanish word 'playa'. The most visited beaches near the center of Sitges are: Platja Sant Sebastia, Platja de la Fragata and Platja de la Ribera. Ideal for a day of relaxation!
A spectacle of hedonism and colours
Over the years, many events have developed in Sitges that attract people from all over the world. The most famous are the Sitges Film Festival - a Catalan film festival founded in 1967 - and Carnival, which attracts more than 250,000 people during the week. Since 2006, the Gay Pride has also been organised in Sitges to encourage members of the LGBT-community. One of the most heartwarming aspects of Sitges' LGBT-community is how open it is. The bars are not hidden in secluded streets; on the contrary, they occupy a large part of the town center. Sitges' reputation as a LGBT-town is well established in Spain and abroad. The locals are very hospitable. The sad truth is that there are few places in the world where homosexual people feel completely comfortable and free, but in Sitges this can be done without any effort.
Almost every weekend there is an event planned in Sitges, whether it is an exhibition, parade or festival. This makes Sitges a unique town that prefers not to use the word 'boredom'. But if you prefer peace and quiet, you can certainly visit the beautiful beaches. These contrasts linked to the charm of the locals have made it special: the mountains of Garraf in the background, the sea, the quiet little squares in the town and the streets full of "fiesta".