Excited about finding our where to stay in Malta? Nestled between Sicily and North Africa, Malta is made up of three beautiful historic islands with a craggy coastline, rock-cut salt pools, and honey-coloured stone streets to wander. Malta has often been described as an open-air museum for the sheer volume of historic sites on offer. It’s capital city Valetta is a UNESCO World Heritage city and was named European capital 2018. Interestingly, it’s still off the radar in terms of mass tourism when compared to other historic cities, such as Rome or Athens, which makes exploring these laidback islands all the more thrilling. This is a place where you can spend the day visiting some of the oldest buildings ever created, enjoy ancient temples, then lounge by the beach eating local street food such as kebabs and pastizzis after. There really is something for everyone on this small but vibrant archipelago so your challenge is choosing which part of Malta to stay in.
Where to stay in Malta [2020 Guide For First Time Visitors] - Contents
Where to Stay in Malta
Picking where to stay in Malta is one of the biggest decisions when visiting this beautiful archipelago, and can have a real impact on the kind of holiday you have. Malta is very much broken up into areas rather than clearly defined cities, and each of those areas blends into the next so you’re not entirely sure where one ends and the other begins. Then there’s the choice of which island to base yourself on – with many choosing the outstandingly beautiful Gozo island, a place which offers a real slice of a more traditional Malta. This is definitely one of those holiday destinations where you can escape modernity and travel back to a charming time before chaotic city life was the norm. Even the main city of Valetta, often tourists first thought and one of the busiest areas, has a relaxed vibe, with plenty of wine bars, and winding streets perfect for getting lost in. For those who are in Malta for he sunbathing and diving being based up north in Mellieha provides access to some of Malta’s best beaches and coastline. There really is something for everyone on this fascinating archipelago.
Valetta – The cultural capital worth getting lost in
Why stay in Valetta
Surrounded by Baroque architecture, this is the main cultural hub of Malta where you’ll find no shortage of museums to visit and historic palaces to explore. If that wasn’t enough to convince you, you’re also within walking distance of some of Malta’s best restaurants, wine bars, and cafes. There’s plenty to keep you occupied for several days before even considering day trips so if you’re looking for a city break where you can discover Malta’s history with minimal excursions then this is a wonderful choice. However, if you are looking to explore the rest of Malta then Valetta is a great hub as it has excellent transport facilities including the bus terminus and ferry facilities to Silema, The Three Cities, and even Sicily.
Why avoid Valetta
As wonderful as Valetta is, there are a few key reasons to avoid it, namely the lack of budget accommodation. Valetta is full of boutique hotels and luxury 5-star resorts and can even be short of those during peak season so booking early is key - this is a base for those looking to splurge. It’s also not ideal for those looking primarily to enjoy the beach as the nearby sandy beaches require travelling for over an hour or people looking to dance the night away as the nightlife consists mostly of restaurants and bars.
Where to stay in Valletta
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Silema – An exploration hub with plenty to offer
Why stay in Silema
North of Valetta, Silema is the more affordable area that caters to everyone. You’ll find plenty of budget and mid-range hotels here. It’s also got get excellent transport links, much like Valetta but with the added bonus of boat trips to Comino and Gozo. If you’d like to be near the coastline for your trip, then Silema is an excellent choice with plenty of promenades and seaside walks to take. It’s also very quick and easy to get to Valetta on the main ferry meaning you can enjoy all of the culture there is on offer there. There are plenty of restaurants and good shopping in Silema so it really is the best of both worlds.
Why avoid Silema
It’s a popular tourist destination and it does very much cater to its visitors; lacking some of the charm, history, and typical Maltese life that other locations have. Fort Tigne is worth a visit but if you’re looking to be right in the middle of the historical sites, this won’t suit you as they’re mostly elsewhere. It’s also incredibly congested and difficult to park so not recommended for people who want to rent a car as you might spend a good portion of your trip in traffic. Finally, despite the lovely beach walks on offer in Silema there aren’t any sandy beaches so sunbathers look elsewhere!
Where to stay in Silema
Gzira – A quiet, local experience
Why stay in Gzira
Gzira is for people looking for a far more local experience but still want to be close to all the benefits of Silema since it’s a short walk or bus ride away. There are still some local amenities in terms of restaurants and bars and a pretty waterfront to walk along in the evenings. You can also visit Manoel Island with the remains of a Fort and a duck farm meaning you get off the beaten track a bit while still being very close to the popular parts of Malta. The congestion is also far better here if you’re looking to rent a car.
Why avoid Gzira
If you like being in the middle of the action then this isn’t for you; it’s a sleepy area with a laidback local vibe that largely serves as a quieter budget area to stay. There aren’t many local amenities compared to Silema and while it’s easy to get to and from there this could get tedious if you’re travelling every day.
Where to stay in Gzira
St Julian's Bay – Party central that reminds of home
Why stay in St Julian's Bay
West of Silema, this is a great choice if you’re looking for a winter escape with plenty of resorts on offer. Also, those into the clubbing scene will be happy here as it’s very close to the buzzing nightlife of Paceville but away from the noise which generally puts people off staying there. Valetta is only a bus ride from here for some Maltese history and culture and Silema is a quick ferry ride away to enjoy all the amenities there so this a great base for travelling from. There’s a good range of luxury to budget accommodation and plenty of choice in terms of restaurants and bars.
Why avoid St Julian's Bay
It’s not the choice for people looking to learn about the Maltese way of life or those looking for local culture in general; it’s for people looking to unwind. While Valetta is a day trip from here there isn’t anything on your doorstep and the historical aspects of Malta you might be familiar with are instead replaced with clubs and casinos. There aren’t many beaches here, except St George’s Bay which is maintained but can be overcrowded and isn’t the cleanest at times.
Where to stay in St Julian's Bay
Three Cities - A fabulous trio of history and culture
Why stay in Three Cities
This is a more unconventional choice, which makes it perfect for those looking for a unique off-the-beaten-path place with plenty to offer. Three Cities is made up of Birgu, Senglea, and Cospicua, three areas each with their own attractions. You can visit all three within a day so whichever part you choose you’ll be able to walk to the other two parts easily. Birgu is the old capital of Malta so there’s plenty of history to explore in Three Cities but if you need more cultural spots then Valetta is only a bus- or ferry ride away. There are plenty of opportunities to experience traditional Maltese life around the Grand Harbour and the choice of restaurants, cafes, and street food is more than adequate. This is the place for people looking for an authentic, cultural getaway.
Why avoid Three Cities
It’s at the opposite side of Valetta to Silema and St Julian’s so if you’re looking to explore those areas or would like to experience some of the more modern aspects of Malta this may be a bit out of the way for you. Also if you’d like to be close to Malta’s nightlife scene or beaches then this will be a bit out of the way for you.
Where to stay in Three Cities
St Paul's Bay – A coastal hub with lots to see
Why stay in St Paul's Bay
If you’re looking to explore the northeast coast of Malta than this is one of your options. St Paul’s Bay is broken up into neighbourhoods like Buġibba and Qawra and provides a good base for exploring from. There’s plenty of mid-range and budget accommodation to choose from and it’s an excellent transport hub as there’s a bus station with access to the whole island. You’re also in a perfect location to access the beautiful sandy beaches and swimming further up north. If you’re looking to explore Comino and Gozo then there are lots of boat tours leaving so it’s a very convenient place to be for further exploration.
Why avoid St Paul's Bay
It’s very quiet during the off-season but extremely busy during the summer, and while it’s technically close to Valetta, it does take at least an hour by bus so if you’re looking to explore there for more than a day this may become an issue. There’s not much in the way of history, authentic culture, or local cuisine and the area is largely catered to the vast amount of tourism this part of the island gets. While this a great point to access the beaches of the north, there aren’t many local beaches except one artificial beach.
Where to stay in St Paul's Bay
Mellieha – Village atmosphere for exploring and swimming
Why stay in Mellieha
This is a great alternative for people who want to stay in the north but would like a less tourist-focused option than St Paul’s Bay. Also, if you love beaches then this is your spot because of its close proximity to Mellieħa Bay, which is Malta’s largest sandy beach, and its short distance to Gozo and Comino. There is a lovely village atmosphere and some spectacular views to be had here with the parish church being one of the highlights. There are plenty of bars and restaurants on the main road and a range of budget to mid-range accommodation options to choose from.
Why avoid Mellieha
It’s a little removed from the rest of Malta, meaning if you’re hoping to spend some time exploring Valetta and the other big sights and don’t have a car, you may find yourself spending a lot of time on public transport. While there are lots of accommodation options, there are few luxury stays due to its local vibe. There’s also little nightlife aside from the bars and restaurants.
Where to stay in Mellieha
Gozo – a rural island paradise
Why stay in Gozo
The second-largest of Malta’s islands with Comino (home of The Blue Lagoon) being the third, Gozo provides a more rural and authentic vibe than the main island. Victoria is technically the centre but there’s no particular area that’s better due to the island’s relatively small size and convenience. The island is full of history and one of the must-see attractions is the Citadella, a fortified citadel nestled amongst the winding streets and alleys. The island is largely untouched and offers beautiful beaches and diving, the rock formation of the Azure Window is perfect for underwater exploration. It’s also very pleasurable to drive around if you’re thinking of renting a car. Gozo is ideal if you want to escape and have a quiet holiday.
Why avoid Gozo
Gozo is best avoided for those who want to be in the middle of all the action since this is more for your rural escape type trip or for those who want to explore a lot on the main island as this wouldn’t be a convenient base. Many people stay on Gozo for a couple of nights and then base themselves on the main island for the best of both worlds. Although Gozo is very popular, it doesn’t have a particularly wide range of accommodation options so it’s best to book early, especially during peak seasons.