SITGES is the highlight of the coast south of Barcelona. 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 a nightlife to match: staid it isn't. The town itself is reasonably attractive: a former fishing village whose pleasing 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 the town has a smattering of cultural interest.
It's the beach that brings most people to Sitges. From the two strands in town, a succession of platjas of varying quality stretches a couple of kilometres west along the coast. A long seafront promenade, the Passeig Marítim, runs all the way there, lined vy beach bars, restaurants, showers and watersports facilities. Beyond the Terramar hotel, following the train line, you eventually reach the more notorious nudist beaches, a couple of which are exclusively gay.
Late-opening bars centre on pedestrianized c/1er (Primer) de Maig (popularly known as Calle del Pecado, or Street of Sin) and its continuation, c/Marqués de Montroig, while c/de les Parellades and c/Bonaire complete the block. In summer, this is basically one long run of disco-bars, pumping music out into the late evening, interspersed with the odd restaurant or fancier cocktail bar, all with outdoor tables vying for your custom. If you're looking for more genteel nightspots, try those on the seafront.
Carnaval in Sitges (Feb/March) is outrageous, thanks largely to the gay populace. The official programme of parades and masked balls is complemented by an unwritten but widely recognized schedule of events. The climax is the Tuesday late-night parade, in which exquisitely dressed drag queens swan about the streets in high heels, twirling lacy parasols and coyly fanning themselves. Bar doors stand wide open, bands play, and processions and celebrations go on until four in the morning.
The International Film Festival (www.cinemasitges.com) runs for ten days in October or November every year. Originally a horror and fantasy film extravaganza, it has grown to embrace a wide range of genres and attracts big-name actors and directors.