SITGES – a Posh Seaside Resort South of Barcelona

Small but excellent – Sitges, a fancy seaside resort less than an hour south of Barcelona, has enchanted visitors for decades. While bourgeois families spent their summer retreat on the town’s fine sand beaches, artists and intellectuals gathered to share inspiration, but also local delicacies and drinks, obviously.

Església de Sant Bartomeu i Santa Tecla in Sitges.
Already because of the prominent spot right on top of the crashing waves, the Sant Bartomeu i Santa Tecla church remains Sitges’ most iconic landmark.

Today, Sitges is still a popular summer escape from Barcelona’s hustle and bustle.

Farther Than You Think

What’s wrong, why isn’t the turnstile turning as its name suggests? We try to slide our cardboard ticket again and again – in vain. A man in uniform comes to our aid, moves the metal barrier to one side, and lets us through. “Why aren’t our tickets working?” “Dunno – ask at the ticket office”, he orders with a stern look on his face.

The slightly friendlier man behind the glass windows takes a quick look at our perfectly fine  Hola Barcelona Travel Cards* and explains that those were only valid till the former stop which was Castelldefels. But we are in Sitges – in a different zone. He doesn’t request us to pay but explains that on the way back to Barcelona, we have to buy new tickets.

A different zone – for the town of Sitges, this is true on so many levels. Coming on a day trip from Barcelona, the train ride takes you not only to a different place, but somehow also into a different era. An epoch when families put on their Sunday attire, packed huge picnic baskets, and made it to beaches where the ladies in scrooping crinolines crouched under small, lacy umbrellas while their offsprings were splashing in the Mediterranean sea and chasing after squeaking seagulls.

Sitges is one of those posh seaside resorts – but has far more to offer than just sand’n’sea.

But sea see for yourself.

Note:

As always, you’ll find some tips on the local language at the end of this post in the info section – together with other facts’n’details that will make your visit to Sitges smoother and therefore more enjoyable.

But since Catalan is so…let’s say: unpredictable – even if you are fluent in Castellano, hence, the standard Spanish, I’d like to let you know right from the start that Sitges is pronounced Sit-jazz instead of Sit-hes as you Spanish learners might think.

Sitges – Come And Go

It started out as a classic fairy tale: Until the early 19th century, the de Sitges family was living in a castle that stood on the site of today’s town hall. From there, they ruled over – yes, Sitges, obviously, until 1814. Then, Sitges joined the crown of Aragon. At that time, the town’s inhabitants lived mainly on agriculture and fishing. However, according to a decree, Catalonia was allowed to trade directly with the Americas. Therefore, an incredible 27 percent of that trade was processed through the port of Sitges. The merchandise was mainly clothing, wine, and brandy.

Modernist Building in Sitges
It’s Catalonia – of course, there are Modernist buildings at Sitges, too. This is the Casa Bartomeu Carbonell, one of Sitges’ most intriguing buildings.

Also, in the second half of the 19th century, many former migrants from Sitges returned from the Americas. In Sitges, they commissioned superb villas that you can admire to this day. Also, they built fabric and shoe factories. Consequently, in the 20th century, 80 percent of Sitges’ population worked in shoe factories of which only one remains today.

Guests From Out Of Town

Tourism, on the other hand, started only at the end of the 19th century. Therapeutic facilities and the construction of the railway between Sitges and Barcelona in 1888 attracted increasing numbers of summer guests. No wonder, since the seaside resort has a total of 17 sand beaches and excellent water quality.

View of the Mediterranean from the Baluard de Sitges.
Grand view of the blue sky over the blue Mediterranean sea from the Baluard de Sitges.

In 1891, Santiago Rusiñol i Prats, a painter, writer, journalist, and playwright, moved from Barcelona to Sitges. This was the initial ignition that transformed the town into a hub of art and culture.

Santiago Rusinol and Ramon Casas, sculpted by Ramon Cuello in 2011.
Santiago Rusiñol i Prats and his painter-buddy Ramon Casas i Carbó hanging out on Sitges’ promenade. Ramon Cuello sculpted the duo in 2011.

Since then, considerable events have kept Sitges’ fame as a cultural hotspot alive. An international tango festival, a film festival, and a vintage car rally are taking place every year. Another major extravaganza is the carnival which attracts a very gay crowd; gay on many levels.

A Stroll Through Sitges

So we had made it to the station, the stationmaster had set us free, and we walked down towards the beach.

Sitges will enchant you with cute narrow alleys and some Modernist architecture.

Alley in Sitges.
One of Sitges’ many picturesque alleys.

The most attractive part, however, is in the vicinity of the Plaça de l’Ajuntament, hence, the town hall square. This square is the city’s highest point. Where once the de Sitges family had their castle stands today’s town hall, built in a neogothic style.

Church of Sant Bartomeu And Santa Tecla

Yes, it’s a beautiful church. But what makes the Church of Sant Bartomeu And Santa Tecla truly spectacular is the location. The house of worship stands between the town hall square and the old bulwark and is literally towering over the Mediterranean sea. And as the waves are crashing again the walls below, it’s an extraordinary sight.

Church of Sant Bartomeu And Santa Tecla in Sitges
Church of Sant Bartomeu And Santa Tecla – a church you can only look up to.

The church was built in the 17th century on the spot where two previous churches stood before.

Inside, the main feature is the Renaissance altarpiece of Saint Bartholomew and Saint Thecla, Sitges’ patron saints. Two other altarpieces are in the Renaissance respectively Baroque styles.

A Gothic tomb under the choir contains the remains of Bernat de Fonollar, the lord of Sitges. As King Jaime II’s wingman, he was the most important figure in the history of medieval Sitges.

Plaça del Baluard

On the opposite side of the Church of Sant Bartomeu And Santa Tecla is one of the most beautiful viewpoints of the city.

Cannon on the fortification wall of Sitges.
Next to the antique cannon on the fortification wall, you can read about some history.

From this square, popularly known as La Punta, you have a wonderful view of the Mediterranean sea, the marina, and then Sitges’ entire shoreline. Apart from being one of the city’s most stunning spots, the Plaça del Baluard is also the gateway to the historic old town.

Carrer de Fonollar

The alley that’s named after Bernat de Fonollar, the lord of Sitges that I’ve introduced above. Located in the city’s old core, Carrer de Fonollar is basically the cultural lifeline. It leads through the gate connecting the different edifices of the Maricel building complex.

Entrance into Carrer de Fonollar, one of Sitges' most beautiful alleys.
Between those beautiful buildings is the entrance into Carrer de Fonollar, one of Sitges’ most beautiful alleys.
Reflection of Renata Green in a window
For once in my life, I wanted to be the motif of an Impressionist picture. As a matter of fact, this is my reflection in the window of the building that’s shown in the picture above.

The architectural complex consists of three connected palaces. The North American businessman, art collector, and philanthropist Charles Deering commissioned Miquel Utrillo with the construction in the early 20th century. It represents an extraordinary piece of Modernist architecture.

Palau de Maricel

Once you walk through the small gate, you find yourself at the so-called Racó de la Calma, the quiet corner. And it is a serene nook, indeed. Just take a look around and enjoy the tastefully decorated structures.

Palau de Maricel in Sitges.
A serene square, indeed.

As you walk on, you’ll get to a small square. To your left is the Palau de Maricel. Together with the Museu de Maricel on the opposite side of the street, it forms an eclectic museum.

Corner of the Museo de Maricel in Sitges
Beauty at every corner – literally.

On display are sculptures and paintings from the Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque periods. But you’ll also get to see modern art like Romanticism, Realism, and Modernism, obviously.

The museum is open between November and February from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. to 5 p. m. From March till June and in October, it closes at 7 p. m. and from July to September at 8 p. m. General admission for the Palau de Maricel is 5 €uros, however, there are combi tickets including also the Museu del Cau Ferrat and the Fundació Stämpfli that I’ll introduce below.

Museu del Cau Ferrat

On the other side of the Carrer de Fonollar is the Cau Ferrat Museum. In the late 19th century, it was established by Santiago Rusiñol i Pratsto as his home and workshop and to house his art collection. According to Rusiñol’s last will, the building was opened to the public as an art museum in 1933.

Apart from his works, you can admire paintings by El Greco, Zuloaga, and Picasso.

The museum is open between November and February from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. to 5 p. m. From March till June and in October, it closes at 7 p. m. and from July to September at 8 p. m. There is a combined ticket including the Museu de Maricel for 10 €uros as well as combi tickets including Sitges’ other galleries.

Edifici Miramar

As you continue on the Carrer de Fonollar to the east, you’ll reach the Passatge la Vall. When it comes to sightseeing, this is a dangerous spot since you’ll have to decide to keep on exploring – or just hit the beach. Right next to the Passatge la Vall begins the truly beautiful Platja de Sant Sebastià, one of Sitges’ most popular beaches.

Facade in Sitges.
One of the beautiful houses lining Passatge la Vall. Maritim blue on white is an evergreen on the Mediterranean coast.

Presuming that I have not lost you to the joys of leisure, I’d like to point out the Edifici Miramar, a gorgeous structure built in the mid-19th century in the Neoclassical style. However, it also goes by the name of Can Vidal-Quadras according to the former owners. The Vidal-Quadras family originates from Sitges. Some family members migrated to the Americas and to Cuba. After returning to their motherland in the mid-19th century, they founded an important banking house.

Edifici Miramar in Sitges
You cannot miss the Edifici Miramar due to its iconic pale pink facade.

The reason for naming the mansion Edifici Miramar is quite clear. Located in a superb spot, just a stone throw from the Platja Sant Sebastià, you have spectacular views over the mar; hence, the sea.

Currently, the Edifici Miramar is mainly used as a gallery for temporary exhibitions of local and international artists. Normally it’s open from Wednesday to Sunday between 10 a. m. and 2 p. m. and then again in the afternoon from 5 p. m. to 8 p. m.

Palau del Rei Moro

Carrer d’en Bosc and Carrer del Vall are the oldest and most picturesque streets in Sitges. Whereby, just calling these scenic alleys streets is exaggerated.

Here, the medieval roots of the town are evident. There are walls and slopes and two well-preserved buildings. The Palau del Rei Moro, hence the Palace of the Moorish King although no Moor ever lived in it, is arguably the most interesting structure in Sitges.

Palau del Rei Moro in Sitges
Today, the Palau del Rei Moro is open mainly to members of the city’s different associations and clubs.

The Palau del Rei Moro is a Gothic building of medieval origin, probably from the 14th century.

The Palace of the Moorish King and the adjoining Vidal Studio must have been built around 1390, coinciding with an extension of the town’s walled enclosure. In fact, its rear parts formed the wall. Also, the Carrer del Vall is basically just the space that used to be the moat at the foot of the wall.

Beginning of the 21st century, the last private owners sold it in excellent condition to Sitges’ town hall. Now it houses various local organizations. Also, it hosts different cultural events throughout the year.

Mercat Vell de Sitges

This old market hall is located next to the town hall. It was opened in 1890 as the first iron construction in town. Today, the old market was replaced by a new one across from the train station. Yet, the old structures didn’t remain empty as they are housing the Bacardí Museum. This museum is dealing with the history of this world-renowned company and its founder, Facundo Bacardí i Massó.

Monumento a Facundo Bacardí in Sitges
This monument to Don Facundo Bacardi i Massó on the Paseo de la Ribera was sculpted by Lorenzo Quinn and inaugurated in 2009.

Bacardi is one of the largest spirits brands in the world. Don Facundo Bacardi i Massó founded it in Santiago de Cuba in 1862. Today, Bacardi owns over 200 brands and labels. Yet, very few people know that Bacardi’s history actually began in Spain. In 1814, Facundo Bacardí Massó was born right here in Sitges. As the son of a family of bricklayers, at the age of 16, he followed his brother and migrated to Cuba in 1830.

Passeig de la Ribera And Beaches

Yes, at the end of your visit to Sitges, you should definitely also enjoy the beach – the feature that makes the town a posh seaside resort.

Shoreline of Sitges.
View of Sitges’ eastern shore.

The palm-fringed beach stretches between the Mediterranean sea and an elegant promenade from the rocky cliffs in the east all the way to the golf course in the west.

View of Sitges' waterfront.
Sitges’ marina….followed by endless beaches.

Like basically all Spanish beaches, they are well-maintained and clean with facilities such as bathrooms and showers to make your stay as comfortable as can be. Just crossing the Passeig de la Ribera that then merges into the Passeig Maritim, you’ll find many hotels, restaurants, bars, and shops lining the street.

Sweet Souvenir

Before we went back to Barcelona, we stocked up on some local treats to take home. Although Torrons Vicens is not a company from Sitges, their products are as Spanish as can be. Founded as a family business in Agramunt in 1775, they specialize in traditional turrón, white nougat. However, since turrón is getting really popular, they are extending the variety. Today, you can get it with all kinds of different nuts, with yogurt, meringue, and many other ingredients.

However, Torrons Vicens are also making excellent chocolates, cookies, spreads, jams, honey, and also liqueurs.

You can get many of their products are already combined in beautiful packages – ready to gift to your loved ones.

In Sitges, you find Torrons Vicens on Carrer Parellades 23. They are open every day from 10 a. m. to 9.30 p. m. On weekends, they open only at 10.30 a. m.

Practical Information

How to Get to Sitges And Around

Sitges can be easily reached by train from Barcelona by suburban train R2 or R25. One way costs around 4 €uros and you can buy your tickets at vending machines. There is also a bus, it doesn’t make really sense since it takes much longer and tickets are hardly cheaper.

Organized Trips

Especially as a solo-traveller, sometimes it’s more reassuring and enjoyable to join a group on an organized tour – even if it might be a little more costly. If you want to leave all the organizing and hassle to others, you should consider joining one of these tailor-made tours:

Where to Stay

If you plan to spend the night in Sitges, make sure to have your piggybank ready. It’s been a posh retreat for centuries, after all, so to this date, prices for halfway decent accommodation are quite high.

However, if you can afford to splurge, here are some ideas of where to say*:

Booking.com

What And Where to Eat

Sitges’ most iconic dish is Xató – you have to pronounce it shato. Xató is an unusual combination of classic Mediterranean ingredients. It consists of a sauce made from roasted breadcrumbs, almonds, or hazelnuts, blended with oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper. This sauce is introduced to a salad made from endive, anchovies, tuna, cod, and olives.

To sample a typical dessert, get a slice of Coca de Llardons. In Catalan, by the way, you have to pronounce double L just like L whereas, in the classic Castellano, it’s pronounced like Y. Since Coca de Llardons is a Catalan dish, please say Lardons. Llardons are pork cracklings, one of the cake’s a bit unusual ingredients. Try it with a glass of Malvasia, a local dessert liqueur.

Apart from Xató, it is always a good idea to order some local seafood. So, how about some squid in garlic sauce or peppers stuffed with cod?

Cash And Cards

Since 2001, 19 European countries paying with €uros, and Spain is, obviously, one of them. The exchange rate is 1 US$ = 0.91EUR (March 2022), but you can check the conversion on this page.

You can pay with credit cards basically everywhere – actually, since the outbreak of Covid, businesses prefer that you pay with cards even for the smallest amounts.

Say it Right

You are probably thinking that since Sitges is a Spanish city, the local language will be Spanish. Well, that’s not completely wrong, but not correct, either. As I explained above, in Sitges, they speak Catalan and therefore pronounce their hometown sit-jazz.

In general, apart from Castellano, hence, classic Spanish, also Catalan, Galician, and Basque are spoken in Spain. Together with Castellano, Catalan is the second official language in the autonomous communities of Catalonia, Valencia, and the Balearic Islands, hence, also in Mallorca. Basque is a so-called co-official language in the Basque Country and parts of Navarre. Finally, Galician is spoken in Galicia, obviously.

English and French are mostly spoken as foreign languages. Especially young Spaniards tend to have a good command of English.

However, if you want to learn some basic Spanish or just brush up on your knowledge, there are various apps and online tools. I personally like to practice with babbel.

While I wrote down some tips on how to pronounce Castellano, hence, the language most people call Spanish, in my general post on Spain, I’m pretty much lost when it comes to the other languages like Catalan. But don’t worry, your knowledge of the classic Castellano will be appreciated and rewarded just the same.

Sitges was only one of many highlights on my road trip through Spain. To read about the others, go to the main post and take your pick! There, you’ll also find further valuable general information that will make your own trip much smoother and more enjoyable.

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18 Replies to “SITGES – a Posh Seaside Resort South of Barcelona”

  1. Surprisingly I have never heard of Sitges but I’m glad I came across it now. I like your opening to the blog, it’s quite engaging. As for the luxurious spot, it does seem worth it right from the architecture to the beautiful surrounds and the seashore views, stunning!

  2. I have never heard about Sitges until now. But no wonder it makes a good summer destination from Barcelona with its beautiful beaches and historic buildings. I wonder how you travel within Sitges though. Does it that small that you you can walk or you have to rent a taxi, bike, or Uber?

    1. Good point! I’m pretty sure they’ll have buses. However, the train station was close enough to the old town and the beach area so that we were walking 🙂

  3. I missed Stiges while in Barcelona but ran out of time. I had no idea that this town is picturesque and offers exciting attractions. I would especially like to see Carrer de Fonollar, Palau del Rei Moro, Edifici Miramar, and monument to Don Facundo Bacardi and Massó on the Paseo de la Ribera. It’s a great guide to Stiges.

  4. I absolutely loved my time in Barcelona, but didn’t have time to explore outside of the city. I really want to go back again and maybe next time I’ll have time to visit Sitges as well. It looks like a lovely place to visit.

    1. That’s the ‘problem’ with a city like Barcelona – it keeps you busy enough. I planned on many more day trips and finally had time for only this on 😉

  5. I love South-Eastern Spain & my time in Barcelona. But I never made my way over to Stiges. Looks Like I have to go back because what a beautiful destination. I love all the old buildings of course and a visit to the Church of Sant Bartomeu And Santa Tecla would definitely be a great reason to visit.
    The food sounds amazing as well.

  6. Wow, i had no idea that town even existed, and I have been to Barcelona multiple times. Seems like it was a total throwback to old Spain, and your post captured it perfectly. Thanks for adding another Spain destination to my bucketlist!

  7. I’m so ready for a post seaside resort like Sitges! It also looks like a more relaxed break than a trip to Barcelona. The church and alleys stand out to me, I’d like to try Xato too!

  8. Sitges seems to be a pefect day-trip from Barcelona. Strolling through town and taking in the atmosphere must be very relaxing. Best to go on a sunny day, I would say. The beaches look nice for swimming in summer too.

  9. We are moving a little slow as we settle into Barcelona. But we sure hope to be able to head out of town for a visit to Sitges again. Good reminder that we have to be cautious about crossing a zone with public transit tickets. We’d love to spend some time wandering along the water and stopping for lunch with a view.

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