St. Julian’s and Paceville travel guide and tips
The area is also a popular place for dining out and for some of its entertainment venues. In Paceville you can find Malta’s largest cinema complex, a bowling arena, a shopping complex, a number of hotels and a small man-made beach at St. George’s Bay.
Although Paceville offers a few good restaurants, there’s a wider variety of choice in other parts of St. Julian’s as well, particularly Spinola Bay, which you’ll encounter along the promenade as you walk into the direction of Sliema.
Despite the various package deals offered for St. Julian’s, the town is mostly popular among couples and groups of travellers who are looking for entertainment, good food and nightlife as an important part of their holiday. It’s also popular among singles and groups of youths for its nightlife around the Paceville area.
Hosting a few of the country’s biggest English language schools around the Paceville area as well, it’s a relatively young crowd that frequents the area.
- Population of 10,000+
- 30 Minutes drive from Malta International Airport
- Town with largest concentration of hotels, restaurants, clubs and bars
- Paceville is the place in Malta to go for partying all night
- St. George’s bay is the only beach in St. Julian’s that is convenient for swimming.
If you’re wondering what the best place is to stay in Malta and whether St. Julian’s is the place for you, here are a few reasons for/against staying there, to help you decide.
Why stay in St. Julian’s?
- Great for nightlife and entertainment.
- Good choice and variety of restaurants in the area, often with nice views to boot.
- Some of the best hotels on the island can be found in this area.
- Well connected with public transport network with a small bus terminus on the edge of Paceville.
- Reasonably easy to reach popular tourist destinations like Valletta, Gozo and Comino, from Sliema Ferries by boat (which is quick/easy to reach by bus from St. Julian’s)
Why not stay in St. Julian’s?
- Some love the hustle and bustle, others prefer a more peaceful holiday. One downside most agree with is that there are too many construction projects ongoing in the area.
- Paceville is busy until the early morning and although generally safe, crime rates are relatively high in this particular part of town. Some hotels are situated on the edge of Paceville or right in the centre so keep that in mind when booking accommodation in the St. Julian’s area.
- Although St. George’s bay offers a (man-made) sandy beach, it’s not the prettiest nor the cleanest. If beach life is a priority for your holiday this may not be the best area to stay in. Expect a fairly long (1h) commute to get to some of the better sandy beaches.
- St. Julian’s is a more modern part of the island, especially on the seafront so not the place to be to get a taste of typical life in Malta.
How to get there
- To/From the airport: Use the TD2 bus that goes directly from and to St. Julian’s (26 min) or use either the X1 or X2 buses (these can take in the region of 1 hour). Alternatively, you can choose to get an airport transfer. A private taxi transfer costs around €20 and a shared shuttle bus around €14 for 2 adults (one-way fares in both cases).
- To/From Valletta, you can take the following routes: 13, 14, 15, 16 (33 to 37 min) and the N12 by night.
- To/From Mdina/Rabat/Ta` Qali Crafts Village use Bus 202 (60 min drive)
- To/From Bugibba/Qawra, you can take the following routes: 222, 212 and 225 (33 to 49 min)
- To/From Ċirkewwa (to grab the Gozo ferry) use Bus 222 (1 hour 15 min)
For other methods of transportation, such as grabbing a taxi or hiring a car, refer to my article on transportation in Malta.
Tip: When staying in a hotel in St. Julian’s, make sure the hotel offers parking if renting a car. Public parking is notoriously limited in this area.
Places of interest
St. Julian’s is a modern town that developed rapidly after the 1960s. Before that, it was mainly agricultural land used as hunting grounds by the Knights and later by the British. So, in contrast with other areas in Malta that are overly rich in interesting places to visit, in St. Julian’s you will only find a handful. Though, in any case, if culture and exploration are very important on your holiday, this wouldn’t be the best place to stay for you anyway.
- Lapsi Church started as a small chapel originally built by the Knights of St. John in circa 1560. It was demolished and rebuilt several times. The building seen today dates to around 1716.
- Spinola Palace was built in 1688 by Fra Paolo Raffaele Spinola, a knight of the Order of St. John and Grand Prior of Lombardy. The palace was enlarged in 1733 by the nephew of the original owner, Fra Giovanni Battista Spinola. French troops occupied the palace in 1798, damaging the Order’s emblem atop the clock on the façade. This was reconstructed in recent years. The palace was also used as a military hospital between 1860 and the early 20th century, and was known as Forrest Hospital. Nowadays, the palace is not open for public but its architecture can be admired from the gate in front of the gardens.
- St. Julian’s Parish Church in Lapsi Street, is a modern church built in 1961 overlooking Balluta bay . Built in neo gothic style, the church is dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. It’s the parish church of Balluta and belongs to the Carmelite monastery. It is open everyday for visits and services.
- The Portomaso Tower is the tallest building in Malta. It stems out of the Portomaso complex and marina – a complex including the Hilton Hotel, a number of luxurious apartments, matching marina and many stylish restaurants. The place is good for just walking around and enjoying the view of the boats and the marina.
Hotels and Accommodation in St. Julian’s
Some of the best hotels in Malta are located in St. Julian’s. For all of my recommendations have a look at this article: St. Julian’s hotels.
These are a few quick recommendations for some of the more popular hotels:
- Hilton Malta – Located at the Portomaso Complex. Facilities include Spa, 4 outdoor pools, conference centre, marina and surrounded with many restaurants and cafes.
- InterContinental Malta – Very close to St. George’s Bay, offering bar service on the beach. Facilities include lagoon styled outdoor pool, private sandy beach. With six restaurants and six bars.
- Le Meridien St. Julians – Well placed for restaurants, bars and shopping along the promenade. Sea views overlooking Balluta Bay, with spa and indoor and outdoor rooftop pool.
- Marina Hotel Corinthia Beach Resort – Amenities include restaurants, cafeterias, pool with pool bars, spa, fitness centre, diving school and a watersport centre.
- Radisson Blu Resort – providing 3 restaurants, terrace bar, gym, 2 outdoor pools, indoor pool, 2 tennis courts, spa and wellness centre, diving school, conference facilities for groups and corporate travellers.
- The Westin Dragonara Resort – Guests can make use of Indoor and outdoor swimming pools and whirlpools, beach lidos and sundecks, restaurants and bars, steam room, sauna and indoor whirlpool, tennis court, table tennis, 24-hour casino, diving school, conference centre.
You can also find some great self-catering apartments (also budget-friendly options as hotels can be pretty pricey in the area) on Airbnb, of course.
Restaurants and Bars in St. Julian’s
Restaurants in St. Julian’s are everywhere, on every street and on every corner. To give you an indication of cost for starter and main course with basic drink, I’ve marked each restaurant with Euro symbols ranging from € (€15-20 pp) to €€€€ (€50+ pp).
This is a list of personal favourites:
- The Barracuda Restaurant (Main Street, St. Julian’s. Tel: +356 2133 1817 | €€€€) – well known for its seafood cuisine, this restaurant is housed in an 18th century villa, located just over the water’s edge and overlooking the spectacular view of Balluta and Spinola bay.
- The Blue Elephant (Hilton Hotel, Portomaso. Tel: +356 2138 3383 | €€€€) – Located within the Portomaso complex, offering food from Thailand in an alluring setting, complete with koi pond, Asian style architecture and décor.
- Waterbiscuit Part (Intercontinental Hotel. Tel: +356 2376 2225 | €€€) – This highly-rated restaurant has an interesting dining menu with Mediterranean flavours and is also a great option for a proper lunch.
- Two Buoys Bistro (106, Triq Spinola. Tel: +356 2122 2221 | €€€) – A lovely restaurant with a terrace overlooking Spinola Bay and offering a variety of Mediterranean dishes. A popular choice for its fresh fish among locals as well.
- U Bistrot (27 Triq Censu Tabone. Tel: +356 2311 2361 | €€-€€€) – Another great choice for Mediterranean flavours, with Balluta Bay as a backdrop to your dinner. Hearty, flavourful food and attentive service make it an easy recommendation to make.
- Wigi’s Kitchen (Main Street, Balluta Bay. Tel: +356 2137 7504 | €€-€€€) – Offering a dynamic menu of simple and uncomplicated traditional Mediterranean food.
- Carob Tree (Triq Mikiel Ang Borg. Tel: +356 99470460 | €€-€€€) – Part of a small retail and residential complex, this is a food court with different local restaurants serving a variety of cuisines from Italian to Asian to Indian, fine steaks and burgers, seafood, and more. Great option for a group with different tastes.
- 1927 (St. George’s Road. Tel: +356 9925 1459 | €€-€€€) – Small restaurant within the St. Julian’s Band Club, overlooking Spinola Bay. They have a very small menu that focuses on fresh seasonal Maltese food – the speciality of the house is pan-fried local rabbit served with house made potatoes with garlic and rosemary.
- Emperor of India (Triq Elija Zammit. Tel: +356 2137 4595 | €€-€€€) – My favourite Indian restaurant in Malta, with tasty food, mean curries and very friendly and helpful staff.
- Ir-Rokna (Triq il-Knisja. Tel: +356 2138 4060 | €€) – A family run business which opened in 1975 and specialises in thin-crust pizza. In fact, it’s officially Malta’s oldest pizzeria. Great for casual dining.
- The Avenue (Triq Gort. Tel: +356 2135 1753 | €€) – Another casual dining restaurant that’s popular among locals, with a variety of mostly Italian dishes. By no means fine dining but offering tasty and hearty meals in a homely environment.
My Top 10 list of Bars in St. Julian’s
- Chalice Bar & Lounge (2 Dobbie Street) is one of the more sophisticated bars/lounges in the Paceville area, with a great selection of liquors and cocktails served in a relaxed setting.
- The Thirsty Barber (Triq Ball) offers a pretty unique atmosphere with a 1920’s US prohibition style interior and service. With a menu of high-quality gins, whiskys, cognac and brandy and more types of liqour it’s a great place to step in for a couple of rounds.
- Hard Rock Cafe (Level 2, Bay Street Complex) offers a mix of classic American cuisine mixed with local favorites as well as handcrafted cocktails with some proper music in the background.
- Hugo’s Terrace (Triq Dragunara) is a very popular bar attended by locals and visitors alike. Located in St George’s Road, St. Julian’s, the bar offers lounge music in a modern setting. It’s a pretty popular place, especially on weekends, so book a table in advance! Tel: +356 2137 6767
- Happy Dayz (Triq Spinola) is a laid back little bar at the end of Triq Spinola. Great for a chat and a drink in a relaxing, colourful place.
- The Dubliner (Triq Borg Gorg Olivier) is a great little Irish pub with friendly bartenders, with a nice variety of draught beers and ales and offers some tasty pub grub to boot.
- Saddles Pub (Spinola Bay) is a popular bar in St. Julian’s and long-time favourite with locals. The pub is spread over two floors with the main bar and a pool table downstairs, a bar, terrace and a smoking area upstairs. Plays different styles of house music ranging from funky, electro, progressive and tribal house. Saddles is also a sports bar screening different games on three big screens.
- The Nordic Bar (St. Rita Street) offers cocktails by the sea while listening to chill-out music delivered by its resident DJs. The best-attended nights are Friday nights.
- The Drayton Pub (Triq Elija Zammit) is a typical English, proper English pub and a firm favourite among locals.
- City of London Pub (Triq Ġorġ Borg Olivier) is a similar English pub with a little terrace outside and a feel good vibe.
Nightlife and clubbing
Paceville is the place to be for clubbing and a bustling nightlife, with a mixed audience and various styles of music. Different clubs offer different styles of music, from R&B to Trance, Hip-hop to Rock. Most places have free entrance which makes Paceville ideal for simply hopping from one bar/club to another. At a handful of others you have to pay a low entrance fee.
St. Julian’s offers mainly restaurants, wine bars and pubs, which all come in different flavours and in the case of restaurants, cater for different budgets.
Feast in St. Julian’s
It is obvious, from the name of the town, that the patron saint of St. Julian’s is in fact none other than St. Julian. Like many other Maltese and Gozitan towns, St. Julian’s holds celebrations in honor of its patron saint. The St. Julian’s festa is held late in August, with the participation of two band clubs – St. Julian’s Band Club, formed in 1927 and Spinola Band Club, formed in 1987.
The bands provide merry music in the streets, while fireworks are shot off a raft in the middle of Spinola bay.
Lapsi Feast is an annual event held in June and organised by the St. Julian’s local council in collaboration with other local entities. During this feast, the streets near Spinola bay are transformed into an exhibit of folklore and traditions, with music and food and lots of activities.
There are three bays in the St. Julian’s area – Spinola Bay, Balluta Bay and St. George’s Bay. The first two are used mostly to berth fishing boats, giving the area a very distinctive feel but not favouring swimmers. St. George’s Bay however is very popular for swimming, offering a small sandy beach that is often packed with people until very late at night. St. George’s Bay is located on the Paceville side of St. Julian’s.
If you’re living within the area and don’t feel like taking a trip to other beaches around Malta, you could make use of a large number of swimming pools – most hotels offer paid entrance to their swimming pool where you can spend a day relaxing by the pool.
Dive Centres in St. Julian’s
Scuba diving in Malta and Gozo is a popular outdoor activity. Whether you’re on your own or with friends, you can join one of a number of diving schools based in St. Julian’s that offer diving packages for everyone. Their offerings range from instructor led scuba diving courses for beginners to expert level experiences. Planning, logistics and equipment are taken care of by the respective diving centre, so all you have to do is plan your dive days.
The following is a list of diving centres In St. Julian’s:
- Cresta Dive Centre, Cresta Quay, St Georges Bay, St Julian’s +356 21371459 – +356 99820460
- Divewise Dive Centre Malta, Westin Dragonara Complex, St. Julian’s, offering Scuba & Snorkeling, Tours, Outdoor Activities, Boat Tours & Water Sport – +356 21356441
- Dive Malta Scuba Diving Centre – San Giljan Aquatic watersports Club, Triq George Borg Olivier St Julian’s Mob: +356 79525308 Tel: + 356 21369994
- Neptunes Diving Malta – Triq Gorg Borg Olivier, Balluta Bay, St Julian’s Tel: +356 21376865 Mob: +356 99436209
- Starfish Diving School – Radisson Blu Resort , St Julian’s Tel: +356 23751199 or Marina Hotel at the Corinthia Beach Resort, St George`s Bay, St Julian’s Tel/Fax: +356 21382995 Mobile: +356 99463544
Although there are over 10,000 residents in St. Julian’s and many more visitors during the year, supermarkets in St. Julian’s are not that common. The following are a selection of the best available options:
- Scotts Supermarket in Spinola Bay is open from Monday to Saturday between 7.30am and 7.30pm and on Sunday till 12.30pm. This supermarket is very central and has free parking for Scotts clients. This store includes a manned fresh fruit and vegetable section and butcher.
- Arkadia Foodstore in Portomaso Triq il-Knisja, St. Julian’s is open from Monday to Sunday between 8:00am and 10:00pm including public holidays. The supermarket offers parking facilities at a charge – parking fees for stays of less than 2 hours are complimentary for any purchase of €15 and more.
- Corner Food Store in Triq Il-Qasam, Swieqi sells many food items including fresh bread and vegetables.
- Miracle Foods in Swieqi Road, Swieqi is open from Monday to Sunday from 8:00 am to 9 pm (till 7pm on Sundays). They sell different types of frozen meat, vegetables, ice-creams and cakes but have also a small selection of fresh products and drinks.
St. Julian’s is a relatively young village which was practically undeveloped until the 1800’s, having traditionally been a fisherman’s village. The area where today lies St. Julian’s started being used for hunting by the Knights of St. John, who also built the first chapel (known as Lapsi) in about 1580. This was later demolished and rebuilt several times until the final version was erected in around 1716. During this time, the village continued to grow slowly.
The construction of Spinola Palace, overlooking Spinola Bay, started in 1688 and proved to be a first step in the slow development of the coastal area of St. Julian’s. Under British rule, St. Julian’s was transformed into an important seaside village boasting several prestigious residences. The St. Julian’s parish church in use today was built in 1961.
How far is St. Julian's from Sliema and how do I get there?
St. Julian’s is within walking distance of Sliema – the two towns are separated by a mere 2-kilometre walk (less than half an hour away). If you enjoy walking, you could try the promenade, a lovely stretch of pavement that joins the two towns on their sea facing sides.
How far is Valletta from St. Julians?
Although there’s only a few kilometres separating St. Julian’s and Valletta, there’s the harbour to take into account. It separates the two cities and to walk around takes an hour and a half.
You can take a bus, which takes about 30 min. You can also walk the short distance from St. Julian’s to Sliema and then catch a ferry boat and cross the harbour. The ferry trip takes around 10 mins.
Should I stay in St. Julians or in Sliema?
St. Julian’s might not be the best choice if what you’re looking for is ultimate relaxation. The nightlife in Paceville tends to fill the evenings and nights with quite a lot of commotion and you should avoid staying in the area if you’re not into clubbing and partying.
Compared to St. Julian’s, Sliema is much quieter and relaxed.