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Sitges is Calling

Sitges is a secluded Spanish coastal town, where flip flops and people-watching are the norm, and beaches and seafood are a must.

A crisp morning breeze rolls in through the open window, bringing with it the sound of nearby church bells, which rouses me from sleep. It’s a bit past six in the morning and the seaside Spanish village of Sitges is calling. 

During the spring and summer months the days are quite long. Here, the sun rises by six every morning, and sets past nine at night. Summer days aren’t as long as in Nordic countries— but they’re longer than in Miami, that’s for certain.

Sitges Running Route on the beach promenade
Sitges Running Route on the beach promenade

I’m up as soon as the sun rises and out the door by seven for my morning run. It’s perfect timing, too, because not much happens in Sitges at dawn. But for me, it’s the best way to get to know the destination before it’s swarming with activity. The beaches are lined with a wide promenade, perfect for those early morning runs. I run on that promenade every day, but somehow never take the same route twice.

The weather in late May is a cool 63 and it won’t get warmer than 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Getting to Sitges

Known as the Gay Riviera, Sitges is a secluded coastal resort town, where flip flops and people-watching are the norm. Getting there is easy, especially if you’re coming from Barcelona. For about 75 Euros, you can hire a taxi and arrive in style in less than 45 minutes. If you go the car route, ask the driver to take you along the coastal highway for impressive views of the cliffs. 

The train station is a short walk from Sitges’s city center and only a 35 minute commute from Barcelona’s main train station, Barcelona Sants. Regardless of how you get into this beach town, keep this in mind: if you’re staying in the old town, most streets are pedestrian only. This can be quite laborious if you travel with heavy or bulky luggage. There are very steep inclines on unevenly paved narrow streets.

Miami-Sitges connection

Palau & Museus de Maricel
Palau & Museus de Maricel developed by Charles Deering

Sitges is so much more than a beach town; it’s filled with interesting history, culture, nightlife, and serene areas in which to simply enjoy a glass of wine, some tapas, and write in your journal.

Coming from Miami, where the Deering Estate is enjoyed by both locals and visitors, I found it interesting that Deering also played an important role in the development of Sitges.

Philanthropist Charles Deering of International Harvester—an American company that manufactured heavy agricultural equipment and automobiles—invested in the development of a group of buildings that literally hang off the Sitges cliff. Palau de Maricel is exactly as Deering intended it to be: a place for artists to congregate and create in or outside its beautiful walls. The buildings include the palace side, which has access to the cloisters; the Museu Maricel art museum; and Museu del Cau Ferrat. This is a must-see Sitges gem.  

What to do in Sitges

Beaches

With 19 beaches, there’s literally a beach for every water lover. From serene private beaches; to nude and LGBTQIA beaches, nestled between cliffs; to shallow, calm beaches––there’s a beach for you in Sitges. The water is a bit cold for my liking in May, but some of my housemates enjoyed a refreshing dip.

The apartment we rented with three other couples for the week is on Carrer d’en Taco, which leads to Platja de la Fragata. This small beach is popular with a younger crowd for its beach volleyball playing access, proximity to Club Náutico (sailing club) for all sorts of water craft rentals, and because it’s on the edge of the casc antic (old town).

Sitges Popular rock wall for capturing on video
Sitges popular rock wall for the film industry

Sitges is a coveted film destination, too. Hundreds of movies feature the famed rocky wall of Plaça Vidal i Cuadras off of Passatge la Vall and Carrer de Fonollar. One such film is the Swedish lesbian flick Kyss Mig (Kiss Me).

Whichever beach you do decide on, don’t forget your sunscreen when you go. There’s nearly year-round sunshine in this crescent-shaped Mediterranean city.

Sitges is better on foot 

The historic district in Sitges is tightly packed within a little more than a mile and a quarter perimeter. And while you can rent scooters and bikes, the best way to explore it is on foot. If you’re coming off the beach, the inclined walk to the old city center can be quite strenuous. Once you make the trek, however, the streets level off. But that’s exactly what makes this beach resort town so charming. Every narrow street is an Instagrammable moment, and on my solo run I went nuts capturing it all.

The old town architecture seems to be a blend of Spanish and Greek Island styles. Most of the buildings close to the sea are whitewashed, giving them the Santorini look, but they’ve all got terracotta rooftops and are detailed with Spanish mosaic tile. Once you get further inland, you’ll find darker, more Gothic structures, reminiscent of Barcelona’s architectural style.

Get lost in the city center’s numerous turns and deadends. There are a number of resort-wear and kinky leather shops, wine and specialty food shops, electronics stores, and quite a few hair salons. Bars, pubs, and restaurants are also in abundance here. And along with typical Spanish tapas, you’ll find a few niche restaurants offering fine dining to Sitges standard. Because here, it’s “come in your flip flops but leave pleasantly satiated.”

Sitges dining

Beachside cafés offer more than a respite from the sun, walking on cobblestone streets, and shopping. Along with your ice-cold caña (draught beer) you’ll be treated to a variety of musical performances by traveling musicians who go from cafe to cafe singing their hearts out. Be sure to have plenty of pocket change to give them along the way; some are quite good.

Camins de Priorat Red Wine at Moreno Major Restaurant
Camins de Priorat Red Wine at Moreno Major Restaurant

One restaurant we quite enjoyed was La Fragata. It sits tucked up against the rocky city wall below the landmark Església de Sant Bartomeu i Santa Tecla, a 17th century parish church. Here, I enjoyed a delicious vegan paella, specially prepared for me. Most of these seaside restaurants will accommodate your special diet if you ask nicely.

Adjacent to our apartment, we enjoyed the ambiance, food, and the wine at the Moreno Major 17. Sitting on the corner of Taco and Carrer Major, this place was hopping every night. They have a few vegetarian offerings. But this is the place for sharing upscale tapas.

Bars and pubs are aplenty

Aperol Spritz at Parrots
Aperol Spritz, popular all over the Mediterranean coast. This one from Parrots

While on vacation, it’s always nice to kick back and watch the world go by with a refreshing beverage at the ready. Sitges has plenty of bars and pubs to make your trip a long, people-watching excursion. But if you’re jonesing for some excitement, make your way to Plaça de la Indústria on Carrer Marquès Montroig and Carrer de Joan Tarrida. This is the gayest public square you’ll ever experience. Try to grab a table at Parrots Pub & Terrace. Sip an Aperol Spritz and enjoy the people-watching, which is a feast for the eyes.

Sitges has everything you need for a relaxing getaway. With fantastic year-round weather, their busy season runs from May through August, when the water is warmer. So if you’re looking for a subdued vacation, I suggest visiting toward the end of May. And if you’re LGBTQIA, June, of course, is the right time to go. Although I’ve been told that it’s rowdier, Sitges takes Pride to a whole other level: parties, gay-friendly activities, and beach fun. What more can you ask for when Sitges is calling?

Visit my travel page for more of my favorite places.

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