Set along the Mediterranean Sea, Sitges and its collection of charming whitewashed buildings make for a picturesque getaway. Less than an hour from Barcelona, the town offers a similarly lively seaside atmosphere but without the crowds. Regarded as one of Spain's favourite holiday destinations stretching back to the 19th century, Sitges is famous for its scenic beaches, cultural festivals and prominent gay community.

    Across an array of historic galleries and museums, you'll discover how the town played an important role in the rise of the Modernist art movement. There's also a spectacular variety of Spanish and fusion restaurants, while a plethora of bars see locals and visitors socialising late into the night. Meanwhile, the long sandy beaches are simply unmissable. Here are our tips for getting the most out of your time in Sitges.

    What are the best things to do in Sitges?

    1

    Walk along the seafront esplanade

    Take a morning stroll along this popular beachfront promenade

    Passeig Marítim is Sitges' seafront esplanade, a great place to start the day before the sun gets too hot. Extending almost 3 km along the town's pristine coastline, wind your way from one end of town to the other, soaking up all the incredible vistas along the way. 

    As you pass from one beachfront to the next, you’ll find a new offering of vibrant restaurants and bars. It's also a great chance to get your caffeine fix, as you enjoy Sitges' laidback atmosphere with a coffee in hand and a spectacular view to match.

    Location: Passeig Marítim, 08870 Sitges, Barcelona, Spain

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    photo by Castellbo (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    2

    Church of Sant Bartomeu & Santa Tecla

    Explore Sitges' ancient history at this striking church

    The baroque-style Church of Sant Bartomeu & Santa Tecla is one of Sitges' most impressive landmarks. The church is known locally as La Punta or 'The Point' and dates back to the 17th century. Once you ascend the long stairway, you'll be rewarded with a wonderful view of the nearby beach and surrounding town. 

    Tours of the church take place on the first Saturday of the month (May–October). These tours also include a special visit to the belltower where you'll get an even better view across the town. Behind the church, there's a busy maze of alleyways offering some delightful lunch spots.

    Location: Plaça de l'Ajuntament, 20, 08870 Sitges, Barcelona, Spain

    Phone: +34 938 94 03 74

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    3

    San Sebastian Beach

    Soak up the sun at one of the region's most popular beaches

    San Sebastian Beach is right between Sitges' old town and the port. Head beyond the eastern seawall and you'll arrive at the beach. Whenever the sun is shining, you'll find local families and groups sunbathing all day long. A favourite for its clean water and a charming beachfront bar, it's easy to find yourself relaxing here for hours.

    Nearby, you'll come across a selection of popular restaurants and bars, which serve an eclectic mix of Spanish and international cuisine. Meanwhile, the surrounding hillsides offer a special vantage point to catch the setting sun.

    Location: Carrer de Port Alegre, 45, 08870 Sitges, Barcelona, Spain

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    4

    Party at Sitges Carnival

    Revel in a week-long event of glamorous festivities and parades

    Sitges Carnival presents an eccentric showcase of floats, costumes and late-night parties. Held across 7 days in February, this vibrant festival attracts over 250,000 partygoers each year. The festivities kick off every year on what's known as Fat Thursday, with the King of Carnival being welcomed alongside colourful flourishes and live music.

    As the week progresses, massive parades featuring more than 50 specially designed floats are joined by over 3,000 dancers. The whole town turns up for this annual event, making it the ideal time to visit if you're keen to experience Sitges' stellar reputation for parties and hedonistic nightlife.

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    5

    Maricel Museum

    Wander through this superb cliffside museum and take in the sea views

    Museu de Maricel (Maricel Museum) is celebrated for its collection of works from the Luminism, Modernist and Noucentista art movements. Presented as a chronological journey through the various periods of art development, the exhibition begins in the Middle Ages before delving into the 20th century.

    Restored between 1910 and 1918 by prominent engineer Miquel Utrillo, the Maricel Museum was originally built for American businessman and art collector Charles Deering. Set overlooking the sea, some of the views from inside the gallery are almost as good as the artwork.

    Location: Carrer de Fonollar, 08870 Sitges, Barcelona, Spain

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +34 938 94 03 64 ext. 1

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    photo by Enrique Íñiguez Rodríguez (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    6

    Cau Ferrat Museum

    Get up close to artwork by many of Modernism's most celebrated artists

    Museu del Cau Ferrat (Cau Ferrat Museum) was founded in 1893 by artist and writer Santiago Rusiñol. The museum reveals his enduring legacy through its art collection. Situated in the same complex of galleries as the Maricel Museum, Cau Ferrat was once Rusiñol's home and art studio, where he hosted artists from across Europe. Collaborating with these artists on exhibitions and performances, Rusiñol helped transform many of the surrounding fishing towns into dynamic cultural destinations. 

    The Cau Ferrat Museum was revamped in 2014, offering an outstanding collection of painting, drawing, sculpture and glasswork. Featured artists include the likes of Rusiñol, Ramón Casas, El Greco, Ignacio Zuloaga and Pablo Picasso.

    Location: Carrer de Fonollar, 08870 Sitges, Barcelona, Spain

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +34 938 94 03 64 ext. 1

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    7

    Casa Bacardí Sitges

    Discover the secrets behind one of the world's most popular brands of rum

    At Casa Bacardí Sitges, you'll gain incredible insight into a world-renowned rum brand's storied history. Bacardi Rum might have been created in Cuba, but founder Facundo Bacardi was proudly born and raised in Sitges. Designed by celebrated 19th-century architect Gaietà Buigas, the Casa Bacardi Sitges' Modernist structure has been renovated into a series of chic bars, galleries and distillery rooms. 

    The Heritage Room and Production Process Room recount Bacardi's beginnings as a small-time operation before it grew into a household name. There are multiple daily tours in English, plus a range of cocktail-making classes. You can enjoy a cocktail in the lounge or on the terrace.

    Location: Plaça de l'Ajuntament, 11, 08870 Sitges, Barcelona, Spain

    Open: Wednesday–Sunday from 12 pm to 2 pm and from 3 pm to 8 pm

    Phone: +34 938 94 81 51

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    8

    Eat Sitges-style rice

    Don't miss your chance to eat like a local with this special paella dish

    Owing to its prime coastal setting, it's no surprise that Sitges' most popular local dish comes from the sea. Known as arroz a la Sitgetana, this meal combines local meat and vegetables with fresh shellfish and a bed of rice. Get the full experience by pairing the dish with a type of dessert wine called Malvasia de Sitges. 

    Enjoyed by generations of Sitges residents, the history of arroz a la Sitgetana can be traced back to centuries. It was rediscovered by 19th-century writer Emerencia Roig I Ravento, who published a book on Sitges' provincial dishes that have been passed down through stories and traditions. 

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    9

    Garraf Natural Park

    Explore geological sites on foot or bicycle

    Parc del Garraf (Garraf Natural Park) is just up the hills of Sitges. The picturesque landscape along the way is great for a day trip from Sitges, with many of its walks easily completed within a few hours. Spread across 12,820 hectares, the park offers a diverse range of geological sites to explore, as chalky rocks give way to red sandstone along the eastern border. 

    It's possible to visit on foot or by bicycle, as there are guided trails along the coastline or up into the hills and abandoned villages. One particular highlight is the Buddhist monastery occupying a former Modernist mansion named Palau Novella. It was reopened in 1996 as Catalonia's first Buddhist community.

    Location: Carretera de Ratpenat a, Carrer Plana Novella, Km 3, 08870 Sitges, Barcelona, Spain

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    10

    Plaça del Cap de la Vila

    Find great cocktails and tapas in the centre of town

    Sitges is renowned for its spirited nightlife and cocktail bar scene, with almost every street in the town centre featuring some top-notch places to drink and dine. The main square of Plaça del Cap de la Vila is where you'll find some of the best. 

    Featuring a rich variety of colourful cafes and bars, the area bustles with tourists and locals alike. Some of the nearby highlights include the cocktails at El Gin Tub and the fresh tapas served at NeM.

    Location: Plaça Cap de la Vila, 08870 Sitges, Barcelona, Spain

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    Hudson Brown | Contributing Writer

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