Boutique hotels in Sitges boast coveted ocean views. // © 2011 Katherine Peach
When first arriving in Barcelona, my main goal was to lie on its sandy beaches and soak up the Mediterranean sun. I quickly learned that, like many other novice travelers to this area, the city beaches are not particularly clean and public respect for the water is somewhat lacking. Sitges is a nearby alternative, however, which offers a beach experience that can’t be beat.
Sitges — a small town located about an hour west of Barcelona by train — has a more Mediterranean feel with whitewashed buildings and flower-lined balconies. Unlike Barcelona and other coastal cities in Spain, Sitges manages to maintain its Old World charm. The architecture of the city is typically Catalan, including the parish church of Sitges, Lesglesia de Sant Bartomeu i Santa Tecla, which towers over the beach. Three museums in the area showcase internationally renowned Spanish artists, including Picasso and El Greco. Further, the town rarely has a lull in its entertainment calendar as it hosts lively monthly festivals as well as the annual Sitges Film Festival in October.
Sitges beckons travelers who enjoy surfing, a roaring nightlife and regional delicacies — consistently good seafood and tapas are readily available at seafront restaurants. While walking off the extra calories, visitors will stumble upon shops, high-end boutiques and cafes.
For day-trippers coming from Barcelona, private, guided tours are a good way to experience the highlights of the city. While some tour operators take guests to the monastery in the hills at Montserrat, others escort clients to Bodegas Torres to tour the wineries via private car.
Sitges is known as a gay-friendly destination, during the summer months in particular, when several beach parties take place on its designated “gay beaches.” In fact, Sitges hosted the second-annual Gay Pride Sitges festival this month, which included performances from local celebrities, a fashion show, live DJs and more. The latest gay-friendly hotel to open in the city, Parrots Gay Hotel Sitges, offers simple accommodations that are not only close to the gay bars and clubs but are also steps away from the beach.