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SITGES, 40km from Barcelona, is definitely the highlight of this stretch of coast. Established in the 1960s as a holiday town, whose liberal attitudes openly challenged the rigidity of Franco’s Spain, it has now become the great weekend escape for young Barcelonans, who have created a resort very much in their own image. It’s also a noted gay holiday destination, with the nightlife to match. Indeed, if you don’t like vigorous action of all kinds, you’d be wise to avoid Sitges in the summer – staid it isn’t. Finding a place to stay in peak season can be a challenge, unless you arrive early in the day or book well in advance. None of this deters the varied and generally well-heeled visitors, however – nor should it, since Sitges as a sort of Barcelona-on-Sea is definitely worth experiencing for at least one night.

The town itself is appealing and attractive: a former fishing village whose well-maintained houses and narrow streets have attracted artists and opted-out intellectuals for a century or so. The beaches, though crowded, are far from oppressive, and there’s a smattering of cultural interest.

If you’re a fan of fantasy, a date worth noting in your diary is the annual Sitges Film Festival (wcinemasitges.com), one of the world’s premiere fantasy and horror film festivals. The festival has also expanded to embrace other genres and attracts some big-name actors and directors. It takes place over ten days in late October at venues around the town (information and venues from the turisme). In the summer, the city government usually hosts outdoor concerts at the various museums and gardens, including opera, jazz and classical guitar. Enquire at the tourist office.

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