It’s been almost two months since my first Bear Week experience in Sitges, Spain. And I’ll have to admit, I’ve been procrastinating writing this to avoid day dreaming and wishing that I was back there… like right about now!
In September, I traveled to the small Spanish beach town right outside of Barcelona with a group of friends – most of which were no strangers to a vacation with burly bears. For me… well, I was the newbie. So, I feel it’s my obligation to spill the tea about my first-time experience; so, you know what to expect if you’re contemplating a late-summer trip to Sitges next year. Here’s the 4-1-1 on the bears, the bars and the beaches during Sitges Bears Week.
Intro to Sitges Bears Week
Every September, thousands of bears converge on Sitges to enjoy this annual 11-day event hosted by the Association Bears Sitges. Much like any gay extravaganza, you have the option to purchase tiered-ticket packages to the dance parties and special events like the Welcome Party, Official Bear Week Dinner, Fiesta Retro and the White Party at Disco Organic. And for bears who aren’t late-night partiers, you’re in luck because there are dozens of other events free to the public, including the beART (a weeklong art show), a 10-hour BBQ, and all the DJs spinning in the Bear Village every night.
Sitges Bears Week 2018 drew more than 7,000 bears, and chasers, of all shapes and sizes from around the world, including the United States, U.K., France, Austria, Germany, and even as far as Australia. I thought that by traveling thousands of miles away from Washington, DC, that I wouldn’t run into anyone I knew, providing an advantage in meeting new international friends – an opportunity much different than I would probably experience in Provincetown. And I did meet new friends… with help from some of my more socially adventurous friends.
True to what I normally expect from the Bear community – almost everyone I met was genuinely nice and not pretentious at all. However, I did hear rumors that some Europeans were were not happy that there were a lot of Americans. But for the most part, most people really didn’t care… and neither did I.
Traveling with good friends made my first Bear Week more enjoyable. It’s really about spending time with your chosen family and connecting with other people from around the globe. And from those budding friendships… I’ve already started making plans to plan visit Berlin at the end of July for Pride.
Wading through the sea of bears around the bars at night, there was diversity in ethnicities, shapes and sizes – including muscle bears and “thick” bears who had more to love – but there were few men of color. The words of Lluis Ramirez, founder and president for Association Bears Sitges), became my Bear Week mantra, “Come with an open mind, positive attitude, be prepared to meet new people and have fun.” And I did!
A Day in the Life of a Bear
Newcomers will quickly learn the regular Bears Week routine. Just don’t expect to make it to the beach until late morning, especially after late-night barhopping, along the Bar Zone, on Carrere de Joan Tarrida between Calle Jesus and Placa de la Industria. This is where you’ll find popular bars like Bears Bar, XXL, El Horno and La Villa.
After a day at the beach, most people will rest up and head back out to hit happy hour specials at a bar and or sit in Judgment Square, where you can enjoy the outdoor seating at Parrots Pub, grab a drink and appetizers (the Porn Star Cocktail and chicken tacos are highly recommended), make friends with the guys sitting next to you, and enjoy the amazing eye candy walking by. Central Bar Café and Summer Lounge are alternate options if Parrots is too packed and you can’t find chairs for you and your bear buddies.
Feeling hungry for more than just bar tapas? Consider several of the amazing restaurants in Sitges. There’s really no shortage of good places to eat in Sitges. Some of my favorite restaurants include Alfresco, Soi 33, Restaurante La Ora and Fragata. Locals in Spain eat dinner late, around 9:30 or 10, and you should have some food in your stomach before you continue your night at the bars or at the Bear Village – a dance space set up on the beach along Passeig de la Ribera. Starting the first Monday of Bears Week, this beachfront zone allows you to dance until the early hours of the morning even after the bars have closed. Experience guest DJs from other countries during special nights such as Prague Bears Night or French Bears Night, which featured a DJ from the bar Le Bear, located in Toulouse, France.
But no matter what you choose to do, make sure you keep a close watch of your pockets and whose hands are in them… other than your own. Pickpocketing is common. So, leave your valuables in your hotel room and wear shorts or pants with zippers to make it a little more difficult for thieves. Patrons who frequent back rooms in bars can be easy targets, too. Play with caution.
In addition to the bars, the beaches in Sitges are where you’ll find most of the bears during the day. La Playa De La Bossa Rodona, also know as “Picnic Beach,” has been attracting more straight sunbathers, but it is packed with beefy bears during the town’s peak season. Much like any other place, don’t bring your valuables to the beach if you’re heading to the beach alone. It’s usually better to travel with a friend or two; so someone can watch your things while you spend some time in the sea.
For nude sunbathers, like myself, you have two options. Just a 10-minute walk from the center of Sitges, Playa De Las Balmins is a small nudist beach beyond the church at Platja Sant Sebastia, past a long beach strip and up a hill. After descending down the hill, you’ll see two sections at the end where all the gay boys let it all hang out. There’s a limited number of lounge chairs and umbrellas; so, be prepared to bring proper cover from the sun, including sunscreen. There is a bar that serves drinks and food. The waves here are pretty calm and the water is relatively warm – perfect for a hot September day.
If you’re looking for another beach to go au naturel, I recommend taking the trek to the secluded Playa del Muerto. For about $10 you can catch a taxi near the corner of Passeig de Vilafranca and Carrer de Josep Vidal i Vidal. The taxi will only take you as far as L’Atlantida disco. From there, follow the path to the left of the train tracks. Pass by the first beach to find the secluded gay nude beach. It won’t be hard to miss with the rainbow flag and sign noting that this nude beach was “the first gay nudist beach in the world since the 1930s.” You have arrived! This beach is rocky and the waves are a little rougher than the other two beaches, but the peaceful serenity without the crowd is worth the trip. Lounge chairs, umbrellas and food are all available here. And if you’re feeling frisky, cross the train tracks near the main entrance to the beach, where you’ll find bears in the forest cruising for more than shade.
A Break from the Bears
In addition to it’s beaches, bars and the bears, you can also spend your spare time exploring the town as well as go shopping at high-end boutique stores and familiar brand-name beachwear shops, like ES Collection.
Before Bear Week began, my friends and I spent a day in Barcelona – a 45-minute bus or train ride from Sitges. It’s super convenient and gave us an opportunity to do some sightseeing even though we’d visited the city before. If you enjoy architecture as much as I do, seeing Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia – a work in progress carried on by other local architects and artists – is a must! And Gaudi’s nature-infused architecture at Park Guell is another awesome sight to behold. Casa Mila, Montujic, La Rambla, La Boqueria and Museau Picasso are a few other attractions you should consider when visiting Barcelona.
Tours 4 Bears also offers fun activities for adventurous bears, including a LGBT Sitges History Tour, a wine tour, a cooking class to learn how to make paella or a Muerto Beach cruise and picnic, ranging between $60 – $90 per person. And some tour companies offer a day trip to Montserrat from Barcelona.
During my time in Sitges, friends told me that Bear Week in Provincetown, Massachusetts has more venues and space for bears to roam and have fun in comparison to Sitges Bears Week, which is primarily confined to the Bear Zone (bars) and Bear Village. P-Town may be my next Bear Week experience, but I was definitely sad to leave Sitges, not only because my vacation had come to an end, but also because Sitges Bears Week was a memorable experience.
I enjoyed spending time with good friends, meeting new people, bar hopping, eating tapas, and more importantly, I was happy to leave without any tan lines.