It was, however, in Bonita Bonita that I first got the idea to visit Sitges in winter. I was chatting to Miss. Pandora, one of Sitges’s resident drag queens, who’d been hosting the weekly bingo night.
‘What’s it like living here?’ I asked her.
‘Well’, she said. ‘There’s the summer. It’s crazy from June to September. It all starts with Pride. The foam parties, the hot pants, the condoms – it really is a whirlwind. But then from October to May it’s completely different. The beach is still there, the weekends are still lively, but it’s calmer and altogether more relaxing – I don’t know why more people don’t come in winter.’
Suddenly I didn’t know why I didn’t either.
Sitges in General
If you’ve never been to Sitges, I’ll give a brief introduction: it’s more or less the best place in the world. From June to September literally millions of tourists descend on Sitges, taking advantage of the fact that it’s half an hour from Barcelona, it has many, many beaches, many, many excellent restaurants and is the most gay-friendly place you can possibly imagine.
Despite its immense popularity with tourists, Sitges retains its wonderful Catalan character. It’s not frequented by British people on package holidays eating fish and chips. It’s incredibly friendly, amazingly international and I’ve made many lifelong friends there in the ten years or so I’ve been visiting.
Sitges in the Low Season
Since my chat with Miss. Pandora I’ve been to Sitges in April, May, October and twice for New Year. I almost prefer the low season to summer. I feel much less like a tourist and more like a guest. It all looks the same but feels completely different. You can stroll along the promenade all the way to the Hotel Terramar one way or the Port Aiguadolc the other without breaking a sweat, but it’s warm enough to eat your lunch outside. Most bars and restaurants are open so there’s still a feeling of life going on around you, but you can get a table without mincing the streets for hours looking for one. What’s not to like?
Alright, it’s northern Spain, it’s not hot in winter, but it’s not cold either. Sitges summer weather is actually rather changeable and in winter it’s similar but ten degrees colder. That doesn’t stop the locals walking around in fleeces and fur as if they’re in Antarctica, but I suppose they’re used to being warm. I pride myself on never having eaten breakfast indoors in Sitges. Wear a jumper and get your sunglasses on and bingo, it may as well be July. If you live in northern Europe and book a minibreak to Sitges the longer sunnier days might just perk you up enough to get through the rest of winter.
It’s a lot quieter than the summer but it’s all still there. Bars like Queenz, XXL, Dark Bar and Parrots are open just as late as usual, they’ve just got fewer people in them. The fact that everyone is indoors rather than rammed vest-to-vest across the street makes it more intimate and relaxed – it’s much easier to get talking to people and there’s so much less attitude, perhaps because everyone’s actually got some clothes on.
The major boon of a winter trip is that it’s a lot cheaper than summer. Some of the hotels such as the Hotel Galeon and the El Cid will close in favour of their more popular (and much nicer) sister hotel, the Platjador, but almost everywhere else is open. My Top Tip! however, is to get an apartment. If you’re not going to be on the beach all day you really need somewhere to spend your lazy afternoons and Sitges is strangely lacking in high-end hotels. Whist the Platjador is a wonderful hotel and the rooftop bar has a nice view, it’s still really basic – it’s not as if you can take afternoon tea by a roaring fire. So, go for an apartment where you’ll have the space and privacy to chillax. I always use Friendly Rentals who have a range of homely apartments in amazing locations.
If you’re feeling the chill or just want a change of scene, give Sitges a whirl for some winter sun. It’s so much nearer (and so much nicer) than Gran Canaria, I tell you about my March trip to Playa del Ingles here. Sitges in winter will almost certainly will be sunny, and you can enjoy what Catalonia’s premier resort has to offer without having to squeeze your way through the summer crowds or break the bank. You might even bump into me there –surely that makes it a no-brainer?