Sitges and Sex: A Practical Guide
At first blush, the more than three dozen gay nightspots in Sitges seem a bit intimidating, but nights on the town soon fall into an all-too-familiar bar trail that starts off after dinner at a quieter cocktail lounge like El Piano (Calle San Bonaventura, 37) and can take you well into the next morning.
I stumbled into this tiny, but lively piano bar one night when Alison Jiear was performing. This Aussie has an Olivier nod for her pole-dancing turn in "Jerry Springer: The Opera," but at El Piano, she turned in a set of cabaret standards before sighing, "Let me sing this fucking song before I’m lynched." She then launched into her anthem "I Just Wanna Fucking Dance," but what impressed me most about this cabaret was the staff’s low-key attitude about what would have been a two-drink minimum nightmare in most other towns.
From midnight on, the local bars heat up and go until about 3:30 in the morning, when the discos take over. And while their numbers might seem overwhelming, it soon becomes clear that Sitges is like a big Monopoly board, with a few key players owning three or four bars each, which makes it easier to find a favorite.
If you like Rom Kramer’s cruisy, two-floor dance bar XXL (Calle Joan Tarrida, 7), you might wander across the street to try the former bakery a Dutch ex-pat turned into Sitges’ first leather bar in 1984 called El Horno Pub (Calle Joan Tarrida, 7) or give one of the perpetual underwear parties at his Man Bar (Calle San Bonaventura, 19) around the corner from El Piano a spin.
Another way to organize your evening crawl is by Sitges ever-present street gossip. On Thursday nights, you might want to check out up-and-coming drag queen Kelly Di’s night at Queenz Bar (Calle Bonaire, 17) or walk down the street and check in on the Lady Diamond performing at Privilege Music Bar (Calle Bonaire, 24).
Kelly, a raven-haired, very Spanish drag queen, snatched her night at Queenz from Lady Diamond, but her opening number, Björk’s "It’s Oh So Quiet," with her aggressive crowd-shushing, is something to see. Also, not to be missed is Brit ex-pat Lady Diamond, who has scads of free underwear from the ES Collection--one of three brands, along with Abercrombie and G-Star that seem like mandatory dress for the Sitges’ gay--to give away; but first, she’ll lure budding fashionistas onstage so they can try on their new knickers publicly.
On the weekend, you may want to make the pilgrimage/schlep out to the very first Pacha (San Didac, Vallpineda), the uber-club that pre-dates even its Ibiza cousin, which owner Ricardo Urgell started almost 50 years ago at his home on Sitges’ "Sin Street" Calle Primer de Maig. Or perhaps you want to side with the international, gay party promoters Energy Bears ( who claim they were bounced out of their Pacha residency this summer in a flurry of unpaid contracts) and check out Sitges’ first gay disco Trailer (Calle Àngel Vidal, 36) with its notorious foam parties, live sex shows, and mysterious new management team.
When booking my accommodation in Sitges, I went for quantity over quality and snatched up a cheap room over a restaurant on airbnb.com. It lacked certain things I never thought of as amenities before, such as toilet paper, but the low monthly rate allowed me to stay on for the entire summer whereas the same funds would have only gone a couple of weeks in one of Sitges many four-star hotels. That’s not to say I don’t have a bead on the local hotel market. As you might suspect by what you’ve read so far, I slept around. A lot. And so have included a few of the favorite hotels I visited.
The Hotel Terramar (Paseo Maritímo, 80) is a four-star property on the Southwestern end of Sitges with a pool that’s perfectly situated if you plan on making a daily trek to Playa del Muerto, but the poor guy I visited here was miserable. He complained of noise from the downstairs "indoor beach" and said even though he was moved to a higher room with a balcony and commanding view of the Mediterranean, it was really hard to lure guys that far from the beaten path.
The guy I met with a triple sea view room at the Hotel Calipolis (Avenida Sofia 2-6) was living large. His room was newly refurbished with a light, hardwood floor and modern furniture, but the real selling point was his private balcony overlooking the gay beach. And because his room was located on the curve of this mostly glass behemoth, he was afforded an almost panoramic view of Sitges.
Parrots Sitges Hotel (Calle Joan Tarrida, 16) is a three-star hotel that’s about as close as you can get to staying in a sauna, without actually staying in the sauna, which is an option at both of Sitges’ bathhouses. Late night visits to this hotel found the front desk cluttered with boys in their underwear, which made for an interesting lobby, but the rooms were much more unassuming. Still, if your aim is to roll out of bed and be steps from the nightlife, this is your option.
The friendly family that’s been running the Hotel Montserrat (Calle Espalter, 27), a very serviceable two-star hotel in the middle of town, for the last 50 years tends to frown on late-night guests, but my date managed to squirrel me past the front desk anyway. The rooms are fairly Spartan, but the street-facing room I visited had a charming balcony with a table and two chairs.
The Meliá Sitges Hotel is the last four-star hotel I visited and it’s well situated on the hill just above the Alguadolc Marina, making it a perfect spot for someone planning to spend a lot of time on Balmins Beach or someone just interested in observing Balmins Beach, as the binoculars indiscreetly lying out on the balcony suggested my date must have been. This property’s huge outdoor pool, dozen restaurants and spa bump it up into the resort level. There’s really no reason to leave, particularly if you remembered to pack the binocs.
I was only too happy to pass the entirety of the summer in a haze of sangria and suntan oil, but most of the other visitors I talked to started itching for something to do after about a week of beach, bars, and repeat. There are a handful of museums in town, the best being the Cau Ferrat Museum (Calle Fonollar, 8) housed in the former studio of one of Sitges’ boho founders, Santiago Rusiñol, who often played summer host to Picasso and Miró.
While walking around this painter’s perfectly preserved dining room and bedroom, it’s hard not to wonder why you didn’t just plunk down your museum admission on a RENFE ticket to take in some of Barcelona’s world-class art treasures, which include both Picasso and Miró, not to mention Antoni Gaudí’s amazing cathedral and UNESCO World Heritage site La Sagrada Família.