I visit Spain all the time – and there is a coastal town that the locals flock to but the Brits often skip.
British holidaymakers often visit popular nearby beaches such as Lloret de Mar.
And although there is plenty to see and do in Barcelona, it can get very crowded – especially in the.
But when it comes to quieter beaches and restaurants, Sitges is one of my favorite places.
Just a 30-minute train ride from the busy streets of Barcelona, this small beach town is a hidden gem of Catalonia that not many British tourists visit.
Due to its close proximity to the city, the city is also known as the “Brighton of Barcelona”. Barcelona residents come here to take a break from the busy capital.
Here you will find everything you need to know about Sitges.
What is Sitges like?
Sitges is a picturesque seaside escape where sun-drenched beaches – the country has an average of 310 Sundays a year – meet charming cobblestone streets.
Here, quaint cafes and tapas bars line picturesque squares and promenades, offering a taste of authentic Spanish culture away from the tourist crowds.
For someone who visits Spain sometimes even once a month, Sitges is a coastal paradise, perfect for those looking for a more relaxing break but would like to be a safe distance from Barcelona.
Sitges’ greatest landmark is the 17th-century church of Sant Bartomeu i Santa Tecla, which sits proudly on a hill between two of the city’s largest beaches.
On one side you’ll find the larger and more popular Ribera Beach and on the other the slightly quieter San Sebastian Beach, overlooked by a lively promenade lined with inviting terraces of independent bars and restaurants.
One of my favorite places to do this is the little-known restaurant El Náutico.
Part of Sitges’ own sailing club, this establishment is popular with locals and offers unique views over the sea from its terrace, which stretches out to sea and sits on the water like a small pier.
This means you can watch the waves crash on the shore right next to your table and experience a very special culinary experience.
The best time to visit is weekday lunchtime, when you can enjoy a reasonably priced menu del día (menu of the day), which includes three courses and a drink, for around €20 (£17).
When I need a break from the beach, I like to take a dip in the rooftop poolBar at Hotel MIM, owned by Argentinian Legend Lionel Messi with panoramic views of Sitges.
If you’re looking for something more understated, look no further than Terraza de Rafa. This local restaurant is known among locals for its paella, friendly service and low prices.
There’s also Parrots Bar – a down-to-earth spot that’s great for daytime drinking.
With a huge terrace overlooking a busy square, it’s great for people-watching while sipping a €3 (£2.60) Tinto de Verano, a more local, less sweet sangria. Stick around and maybe watch a drag show or two.
Looking for the wow factor? Visit the rooftop bar of Hotel ME Sitges Terramar overlooking one of Sitges’ most beautiful and quiet beaches of the same name.
The hotel’s huge terrace is particularly impressive at sunset, where you can sip a cocktail and watch the sun disappear behind vast golden sandy beaches and crystal clear waters.
Meanwhile, live DJs play smooth tunes for a relaxed beach club experience.
Sitges out of season
While summer in Sitges is the best place for those looking to enjoy sun, sea and sangria, there is plenty to do outside tooSeason.
The city plays host in February Sitges Carnivalknown as the “wildest winter party in Spain”.
250,000 people from all over the world flock to the eventand come to the coastal town to celebrate the start of the 40 days of Lent.
Carnival is famous for its colorful parades, extravagant costumes and lively street parties.
If February is too far away for you, it takes place every October Sitges Film Festivalwhich is essentially the Spanish equivalent of Cannes, but with an emphasis on fantasy, And Fiction genres.
Running since 1967, the festival showcases cutting-edge and iconic cinema and attracts filmmakers, industry professionals and horror film enthusiasts from around the world.
There’s plenty to do outside of Sitges if you’re looking for something a little different.
Just two train stops away is an even smaller town, Castelldefels.
Just a short walk from the beach is an Argentine chiringuito (beach bar) called Mira Vos, popular with locals for its top-notch food and drinks.
If you’re feeling upscale, take the train just one stop from Sitges to the small village of Girraf, where you’ll find the beach bar La Caseta at Soho House.
This upscale bistro serves premium cocktails and local cuisine. And best of all, you don’t have to be a member to take part.
Those taking a day trip from Barcelona can reach Sitges by train directly from Barcelona Sants station, which takes just over 30 minutes. Tickets cost around €7 (£6) one way or €13 (£11) return.
If you want to avoid the hustle and bustle of Barcelona city center altogether, you can easily travel from El Prat Airport directly to Sitges by taking a bus from Terminal 1, which goes directly into the city and takes just 25 minutes.
The buses called MonBus run every hour during the week, every two hours on Saturdays and four times a day on Sundays and public holidays. Tickets cost €7 (£6) one way.
For those who would rather forego public transport altogether, you can take a taxi from any terminal at Barcelona EL Prat Airport, although this will cost significantly more, costing around €60 (£50).
Once you’re in Stignes you won’t have to travel around much as the town is small and easily accessible on foot. You can walk from one end of the promenade to the other in about 30 minutes.
Flights to Barcelona from the UK start from £18 and take around two hours.