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Located just 20 minutes south of Barcelona by train, the coastal resort of Sitges has recently been called the St Tropez of Spain thanks to its luxury villas, glitzy nightlife and well-maintained beaches. A popular weekend retreat for Barcelona’s rich and famous, Sitges also has a more alternative side just waiting to be discovered.
Rich Catalan have been building villas in Sitges since at least the 18th century and by the 19th century it had developed a reputation for being a popular hangout for artists and intellectuals from Barcelona and beyond. Its proximity to the Catalan capital made it easily accessible for a weekend break, even back then.
By the mid-20th century, Sitges was a bohemian enclave with a growing party spirit. In fact, Sitges was the birthplace of the first ever Pacha nightclub – now a world-famous Ibiza institution – which opened its doors in 1967. It was around this time that the seaside town became a popular gay retreat, with many gay bars, hotels and cafés now gathered around the Gay Village around Carrer de Joan Tarrida.
In recent years Sitges has built on its reputation, drawing an increasingly international and cosmopolitan crowd. If there are some 25,000 year-round residents, this grows to nearly 100,000 residents during the summer months. While many stay in hotels around the seafront, there are an impressive number of luxury villas perched on the cliffs surrounding Sitges, too.
It’s not only during the summer months that the crowds flock to Sitges though, autumn sees the city host the world’s largest film festival for all things horror and fantasy. The likes of Quentin Tarantino, Guillermo del Toro and Sir Anthony Hopkins have attended the Sitges Film Festival over the years.
One of the highlights of the event is without doubt the Sitges Zombie Walk, which sees thousands of people parade through the town dressed in their most ghastly outfits. The night ends with live music and dancing and is an altogether unforgettable experience.
For a town of its size, Sitges has an impressive amount of bars, restaurants and cafés catering to a range of different crowds and budgets. The promenade along the waterfront is lined with restaurants, both traditional and modern, some of which have been here for 50 years or more.
Away from the beach, the town centre of Sitges is home to small boutiques and independent shops catering to both men and women. Many of these are concentrated around Carrer Sant Francesc, Carrer Parellades, Carrer Major and Carrer Jesus.
Nighttime brings out a whole other side to Sitges, especially around the Carrer 1er de Maig, which some have taken to calling ‘Sin Street’ owing to its rather raucous bars and nightclubs. There’s also a tamer side to Sitges’ nightlife, with places such as the Casablanca Cocktail Bar & Art Lounge offering a laid-back atmosphere and some excellent cocktails.
While Sitges may not have all the pizzazz of nearby Barcelona, it is a much more pleasant seaside resort with much to offer couples, families and large groups. The town centre has a friendly village feel, but with plenty of options for a wild night out too.