Where to Stay in Malta – What’s the best place for me?
Knowing where to stay in Malta can make the difference between having a trip you’ll fondly remember and a Malta holiday you won’t enjoy.
There’s no one size fits all when it comes to suggesting the best places in Malta to stay, but I’ve done my best to provide you with a number of options based on the many requests for info I receive on this topic.
Here’s what I’ve put together in this article:
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Best places to stay in Malta for…
Best places for couples
- The Buġibba, Qawra and St. Paul’s Bay area is a good option for a regular holiday: You get a good selection of hotels and other accommodation, a variety of restaurants and bars/pubs and a few places to swim (although mostly rocky). The area is well connected with several bus routes to the most popular places around. The downsides: Touristy and busy in summer, not practical if you’re renting a car (unless parking facilities are included with accommodation)
- St. Julian’s and Paceville are good for dining and nightlife, with a decent choice of hotels although the only beach nearby (St. George’s Bay) isn’t the cleanest/nicest place to swim. Head over to nearby Sliema for swimming (rocky bathing areas and lidos with pools). The downside? Paceville is pretty noisy and busy (also thanks to a few big construction projects ongoing), particularly in summer and it’s not a great place to explore Malta from (or to stay at if you’re renting a car).
- Sliema is a more modern place, with good hotels, dining options and bars/pubs around. Rocky beaches and lidos with pools are good for swimming and there are easy ways to get to Valletta and Comino/Gozo over sea. The downsides: Sliema is one of the busiest places in Malta with heavy traffic congestion and notoriously difficult to find a parking spot in. It’s not easy to reach the best sandy beaches from either.
- If you’re looking to explore Malta and swimming/beaches are less important, consider staying at Malta’s capital city, Valletta. Drenched in culture and history, great restaurants and wine bars, good quality accommodation and well connected with other parts of Malta through public transport.
- Another good option for exploring the country is Mellieħa, where you’re far closer to the best sandy beaches, you’ll be staying in a genuine Maltese village, it’s easy to reach other parts of the island and it’s pretty peaceful there. The downside? For some might be too quiet. There are great restaurants around, as well as a few bars, but there isn’t much to do in terms of nightlife.
Best places for Senior couples
- Although it’s Malta’s capital city, Valletta is not as busy as you’d expect and apart from good quality accommodation and great restaurants, there’s plenty to explore in terms of culture and history. All bus routes start and terminate in Valletta, meaning it’s an easy place to get around from.
- Mellieha is a charming, quiet village in the North of Malta, with good options for hotels and restaurants and several smaller (sandy) beaches where it’s quieter to swim if Mellieha Bay (largest beach) is too busy for your liking. I recommend hiring a car if you’re considering staying here.
- Mdina (old bastion city full of history) and Marsaxlokk (a quiet fishing village on the East coast of Malta) are alternatives to consider as well, although you’ll definitely need to hire a car if you decide to stay there.
- Gozo (smaller island) is also an option to consider. Quiet, largely rural, yet offering several places to explore, it’s a charming place to stay. Although public transport is available, it’s recommended to hire a car here as well.
Most places listed recommend hiring a car. Since these areas are relatively quiet, driving won’t be nearly as challenging as in the busier parts of Malta.
Best places for families with kids
- Without a doubt, Buġibba and Qawra are your best bet. There’s a good choice of hotels around with pool facilities, a good selection of family-friendly restaurants and it’s a safe area. Bathing areas (artificial sandy beach of Buġibba and Ta`Fra Ben at Qawra) are child-friendly and you can board hop on hop off buses and boat excursions in the area. There are also a large playground, the national aquarium, a cinema and other places of entertainment around.
- If you’re looking for something a little quieter, there are a few all-inclusive resorts close to the beach at Mellieħa you could also consider. Renting a car is recommended here, though.
Best place for nightlife and single people
If you’re looking for clubbing, pub crawls and nightlife, Paceville (St. Julian’s) is the place to be. If you feel adventurous or you’ve got your own transport, there are open air clubs located in the countryside (surroundings of Mdina and Rabat) that open during the summer months that are a must to party at.
One downside: Drunken brawls are not uncommon here, but as long as you stay out of trouble you’ll be fine.
Best place for beaches and sun/sea holidays
If hanging out on the beach and sunbathing are your top priorities, these are the options to consider:
- Staying at Mellieha means you’ve got Malta’s largest beach at your doorstep and smaller (sandy) beaches further up North. It’ll also be easy to cross over to Gozo to check out beaches like the beautiful Ramla l-Hamra beach.
- Want to combine a beach holiday with staying in a proper Maltese village? There are apartments rented out privately in Mġarr and Manikata that allow you to be close to some of the best beaches around and also give you a taste of Maltese village life. You’ll definitely want to rent a car, however.
- Super lazy and have spare cash to burn? The Radisson Golden Sands hotel sits right on the edge of one of Malta’s best beaches: Golden Bay.
Popular places to stay in Malta
Bugibba and Qawra
St. Paul's Bay
St. Julian's and Paceville
Buġibba and Qawra
Recommended for: 1) Family holidays and 2) couples of all ages
Not recommended for: Culture seekers
Buġibba and Qawra are located adjacent to each other and are considered to be one of the larger tourist resorts in Malta. Located on the North shoreline of the island, Buġibba and Qawra offer a variety of hotels and self-catering apartments (mostly privately rented) and host various bars, clubs and other places of entertainment like a cinema and a casino.
Buġibba and Qawra are a good compromise between staying in more central and busy places (such as St. Julian’s and Sliema) and spending your holiday in more remote places such as Mellieħa, or Golden Bay. Having a bus terminus, Buġibba and Qawra are an easy holiday base to visit other parts of the island with public transport.
- Good for family holidays
- Busy during summer months, quiet in winter
- Good options for going out: (Sports) bars/pubs, restaurants, nightclubs, cinema and a casino
- Choice of accommodation – Hotels but also self-catering apartments
- Good public transport connections with direct bus routes to other parts of the island and major tourist hotspots.
- Boat trip operators nearby for excursions to Comino (and the Blue Lagoon)
- Relatively few bathing areas. One (artificial) sandy beah
- Very little culture and not really offering a feel of life in Malta
- Busy during summer months
St. Paul’s Bay
Recommended for: Couples of all ages
Not recommended for: Culture seekers
St. Paul’s Bay is located adjacent to Buġibba and Qawra and is a relatively quiet alternative to those places. Nightlife is limited to quiet bars and restaurants, though Buġibba and Qawra’s pubs, clubs and restaurants lie within walking distance.
This place is far less touristy than its neighbouring villages, and although not exactly a typical Maltese village, you get a much more genuine feel of daily life in Malta.
St. Paul’s Bay offers a few places to swim along its rocky shoreline but doesn’t have any sandy beaches. However, the town is pretty close to an area of the island where most larger sandy beaches are found (Mellieħa Bay, Golden Bay and Għajn Tuffieħa – my personal top 3 of best beaches in Malta). Having good public transport connections, it’s easy to get to these beaches and most can be reached in 30 minutes by bus.
The tricky bit about St. Paul’s Bay is that it’s a place of compromises. It’s a quiet place to stay and a good base to explore the country from. However, for nightlife and restaurants you’ll need to walk/drive, for sandy beaches you depend on public transport and although it’s not a very touristy place, it’s not a very cultural a place either. I’d recommend that you rent a car if you plan to stay here, but whatever you do make sure your accommodation of choice offers private parking. Particularly during the summer months, public parking spaces are hard to come by.
- Relatively quiet, yet close to Buġibba/Qawra nightlife as well as beautiful sandy beaches
- Easy to reach other parts of Malta, good public transport connections
- More genuine feel of a Maltese village
- Boat trip operators nearby for excursions to Comino (and the Blue Lagoon)
- Good place for snorkeling and diving
- Limited choice of hotels, best bet is privately rented apartments
- Limited choice of bars and restaurants in the direct vicinity
- Hiring a car? It’s hard to find parking here in summer
St. Julian’s and Paceville
Recommended for: 1) Young couples, 2) Singles, 3) Club/Pub crawlers
Not recommended for: 1) Families with kids, 2) Mature/older couples, 3) Culture seekers
If nightlife is an important part of your holiday, St. Julian’s (and neighbouring Paceville, the island’s centre of nightlife) is your best bet. The area is jam-packed with pubs, bars and nightclubs which are easily accessible and offer relatively cheap nights out.
St. Julian’s isn’t just about nightlife, however. There are plenty of restaurants around, offering a mix of good value food but also some fine dining opportunities waiting to be discovered.
Moreover, the bustling nightlife is concentrated in Paceville, whereas the village of St. Julian’s (in the direction of Sliema) is quieter and can be enjoyed as a nice evening out with a stroll along the promenade which leads you into Sliema, an adjacent town (also popular among tourists).
Having said that, St. Julian’s is not a place that gives you a genuine feel of what Malta’s like, however. It’s very much a more modern part of Malta and is developing further away from what the small Maltese fisherman’s village once was. Much to the dismay of the locals as well, there’s a lot of activity in terms of construction projects in the area at the moment.
The close vicinity to Sliema also provides the benefit of being able to hop on a bus and take a ferry (at Sliema Ferries) to Valletta or get a boat tour around Grand Harbour or even day trips to Gozo and Comino. Public transport connections in St. Julian’s are adequate, although the Sliema-facing side is a little less well-served by passing buses.
Bathing areas and beaches
There are few places to swim in the sea, even though it’s a place that lies along Malta’s Northern coastline. There’s a small artificial sandy beach located on the Paceville side of town, at St. George’s Bay, which is O.K. as long as the local council keeps cleaning up regularly. Other than that the coastline is pretty rocky and the best places to go for a quick dip will be on the Sliema side of town.
- Great place for dining and relaxed nights out – Varied selection of restaurants, bars and pubs and nightclubs
- Good choice of hotels – from value to 5-star deluxe
- Paceville is the place for nightlife in Malta
- Quite central – easy to reach other parts of Malta
- Not suited for a peaceful and quiet holiday and not really child-friendly, particularly in the Paceville area and Sliema side of town, especially with construction works ongoing in the area. Exceptions are the resorts located on the northern side, near Pembroke.
- One artificial sandy beach near Paceville (St. George’s Bay), but not always clean in summer (despite best efforts to clean up by the authorities) after having been littered by club crawlers and students diligently studying human anatomy in the dark the night before.
- Little culture/history, more modern part of Malta
- Incidents and petty crime are not uncommon in Paceville, mostly drunk brawls and pickpocketing.
Sliema (and Gżira)
Recommended for: Couples of all ages
Not recommended for: 1) Culture seekers, 2) “Sun and sea” holiday goers
Sliema (and the neighbouring town of Gżira) is one of Malta’s most popular locations for tourists, being located along the Northern coast of Malta, neighbouring St. Julian’s. With its central location, Sliema is a good option for those who wish to visit other parts of the island but at the same time be close to the sea and enjoying going out for dinner and drinks in the evening.
It’s a busy/bustling, modern part of Malta, which attracts foreigners working at a number of online gambling companies that operate from nearby towns Gżira and Ta` Xbiex. To the locals it’s also a popular shopping destination with some of the bigger retailers around, as well as having a few small shopping centres.
Possibilities for swimming are limited, though if you don’t mind rocky beaches (perfectly suitable for sunbathing) you can still enjoy bathing in the crystal clear waters along the shoreline of Sliema. There’s a good choice of bars and restaurants around, offering entertainment and inexpensive food and drinks for fun nights out.
Several route buses pass through Sliema, and although it’s a busy place you can get pretty much anywhere by bus. A big benefit is the Valletta ferry and boat tour organisers operating from the Valletta-facing side of town.
The area is notorious for its lack of parking so if you’re set on renting a car, make sure you have access to private parking.
- Good choice of hotels
- Charming character, which British visitors in particular appreciate about Sliema
- Easy to reach St. Julian’s and Valletta
- Boat trip operators offer excursions around the Harbour area, to Comino (and its Blue Lagoon) and Gozo
- Long promenade along he coastline for long walks and nice sea views
- Good for shopping (although don’t expect to find bargains)
- Touristy, most parts of Sliema are modern and don’t offer a real feel of a genuine Maltese village
- Direct bus routes to sandy beaches available, but expect longer bus trips (1+ hours)
- Hiring a car? Expect traffic congestion and parking problems – Sliema is notorious for both
- No sandy beaches, although easily accessible (rocky) bathing areas around
- Not much culture/history around, although Valletta is easy to reach (regular ferry trips across the harbour).
Recommended for: 1) Couples of all ages, 2) Family holidays with kids, 3) “Sun and Sea” travellers, 4) Culture seekers – Maltese village feel
Not recommended for: Young couples and singles looking for nightlife
Mellieħa is a relatively quiet village which offers more of a peaceful Malta holiday experience, with its slightly remote location in the North of Malta and giving almost instant access to Malta’s largest sandy beach at Mellieħa Bay. Other popular sandy beaches such as Golden Bay and Għajn Tuffieħa are also located in this part of the island.
The village has little nightlife with mostly bars and pubs around, though Mellieħa is considered to be a destination for those seeking peace and quiet rather than the hustle and bustle of popular tourist locations.
Having good access to public transport, Mellieħa is a good base for exploring the rest of Malta although travel times will be longer, with a bus ride to Valletta taking 1 hour and 15 minutes, for example. Renting a car is always quicker, obviously, but if you’d like to explore Malta above anything else there are more centrally situated locations that might be a better choice.
Nevertheless, Mellieħa is an excellent choice for families with children and more adventurous couples who don’t like tourist resorts. It’s also a good place to hop over to Gozo and at Comino to explore those places.
- Great for beach holidays
- Good choice of hotels (although not a large number to choose from)
- Good selection of restaurants around
- Easy access to Gozo and Comino
- Good balance between tourism and village life in Malta
- Not overly touristy
- Limited nightlife but several bars/pubs around
- A little remote – not ideal for exploring the rest of Malta, unless you hire a car
- Early booking required – limited accommodation. Alternatively look for privately rented apartments, which are available in the area
Recommended for: 1) Mature and older couples and 2) Culture seekers
Not recommended for: “Sun and sea” holiday goers
Malta’s capital city Valletta was built by the Knights of Malta, who intended for it to be a “city for gentlemen” which becomes apparent in the intricate detail with which its buildings were adorned.
Many historical buildings still feature prominently in the streets of Valletta, giving the city a genuine feel of awe. Although relatively quiet in the evenings, Valletta is a great location for those who want to avoid a typical sun and sea holiday. Centrally located, other parts of Malta are easy to reach (especially considering the main bus terminus is located at its doorstep) and there is plenty of history and culture to be soaked up.
Be sure to visit the Valletta Waterfront in the evenings. There are some good dining and nightlife options available here with beautiful views of the Grand Harbour. Inside Valletta, you’ll also find some great choices for restaurants and wine bars.
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- Centrally located, full of character
- Good holiday base to explore Malta’s history and culture, hub of public transport – all bus routes start/terminate in Valletta
- Good quality and diversity of accommodation available
- Good choice of restaurants and (wine) bars
- Accommodation limited, so early booking is recommended
- Limited nightlife, although renovation of the Valletta Waterfront (within walking distance) has improved this
- No sandy beaches nearby – requires a trip by bus with pretty long travel times (1+ hours)
Decided on where to stay in Malta? Next steps!
Great! Here are a few next steps with more tips and recommendations to:
- Decide on when best to go and other tips for your Malta holiday
- Book your flights to Malta (and getting the cheapest deals)
- Choose from the best hotels in Malta and other options for accommodation
- Explore options to hire a car and getting tips on driving in Malta