St. Paul’s Bay (Malta): Travel Tips and Things to Do
Traditionally, St. Paul’s Bay was known as a fisherman’s village, similar to Marsaxlokk, although it’s lost a little of its character with the area’s development as a popular tourist destination.
The village’s name refers to Saint Paul’s shipwreck. According to the Bible, he was shipwrecked on an island while travelling from Caesarea to Rome and it is believed that this island was Malta. Saint Paul is believed to have introduced Christianity to the Maltese.
Being a quieter town in comparison to its neighbours, St. Paul’s Bay still retains a little Maltese village life, with a higher concentration of Maltese people living there permanently. Buġibba and Qawra are a little more popular among foreigners living in Malta and more summer residences are bought by the locals there as well.
Accommodation-wise, there are fewer options here and you’re more likely to find privately rented out apartments and a few B&Bs at most.
- Resident population of around 22,000 people
- Traditionally a fishing village, with a history of civilisation dating back to 2000 BC
- Not as busy or touristy as Buġibba and Qawra, although not exactly a typical Maltese village
- It still gets busy in summer, meaning finding a parking space can be a big challenge
- Believed to have been the location of Saint Paul’s shipwreck.
What’s St. Paul’s Bay like and should I stay there?
Of the three neighbouring villages, St. Paul’s Bay is probably the quietest, even though a fair bit of traffic passes through its main road. Although quieter and less touristy, it’s not really a typical Maltese village.
If you’re looking for all-inclusive comfort, you won’t find many options here. It would only really make sense to stay here is if you’re a couple looking to explore Malta and wanting to take benefit from the good location but without being right in centre of the busiest parts of the area. Renting an apartment or room via Airbnb is probably your best bet.
How to get there
Via public transport
It’s pretty easy getting to St. Paul’s Bay, being one of the major localities in Malta. Using the country’s only type of public transport, a system of bus routes, you can easily get to St. Paul’s Bay with most routes passing through the village and terminating at Buġibba bus terminus.
It takes around 45-60 minutes to get to St. Paul’s Bay by bus from the airport
Main bus routes:
- From the airport: Route X3 (1h)
- From Valletta: Routes 31, 45 and 48 (45 mins)
- From Sliema and St. Julians: Routes 203, 212, 222 and 225 (45-60 mins)
- To Mdina: Route 186 (30 mins)
- To Golden Bay and Għajn Tuffieħa (popular beaches): Routes 223 and 225 (30 mins)
- To Mellieha Bay (popular beach): Routes 42, 221 and 222 (30 mins)
Using an airport transfer
Getting a Malta airport transfer can be a pretty convenient option. A private taxi ride will set you back around €20 while a shared shuttle bus (which is likely to be packed heading to St. Paul’s Bay during the summer season) costs around €14 for 2 adults (one-way fares in both cases).
It’s pretty easy getting to St. Paul’s Bay from different parts of Malta, with road signs pointing to the village’s name. It normally takes 30-45 minutes to get to St. Paul’s Bay from the airport by car (or by taxi).
Map of St. Paul’s Bay
Things to do and Points of interest
- Wignacourt tower was the first of six watch towers to be built under the reign of Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt (of the Knights of the Order of St. John who ruled the island for centuries and left their mark on the islands). Its construction was completed in 1610 and is the oldest surviving tower in Malta. The tower underwent restoration in 2015 and is open to the public from Mon-Thu (9am-1pm) and Saturdays (10am-1pm).
- St. Paul’s Bay is the only village in the area where a traditional Maltese festa (village feast) is held, to celebrate Our Lady of Sorrows, usually at the end of July. It’s a fairly modest festa compared to some of the larger villages on the island, but you can still get a taste of what it’s like with band marches, procession and fireworks.
- Xemxija and its bay are worth a visit, although really only for those looking to go for a stroll and maybe a bite to eat – There are a few nice restaurants along its main road, as well as a wine bar with an outside terrace and view over the bay.
- Malta doesn’t know many nature reserves, with a big part of the island having been developed (and sometimes over-developed). At Xemxija, you can find one of these nature reserves, called is-Simar. It’s a reserve managed by Birdlife Malta and is a Special Area of Conservation within the EU Natura 2000 network. The reserve is open to the public from the 1st November until the end of May on Sundays only, between 10am and 4pm. Entrance is free of charge, although usually a small donation is left to help support the reserve.
- There’s a primary school along the seaside and on the same road, you’ll find a so-called bocci club (bocci is a game similar to English Bowls). Its restaurant serves some tasty Maltese snacks like Ħobż biż-Żejt (a sandwich made with Maltese bread and a variety of ingredients, usually olive oil, salt/pepper and tomato paste to start with).
- In the same area, there’s a really small patch of sandy beach. If you’re lucky you might find a spot and go for a quick swim there.
- Xemxija and its bay lie just outside St. Paul’s Bay and apart from being worth it going for a stroll, you can easily reach the Xemxija Heritage Trail on foot. It’s not the Roman road remains or the punic tombs that are the big attraction, it’s the view over the bay that’s the real payoff. Great sunsets too if you’re there at the right time of year.
- If you’d like to try some freshly baked Maltese bread, head over to Gormina bakery in the main road of St. Paul’s Bay. Eat it while it’s warm! They also sell a few types of pasti if you’re curious to get a taste of a few local sweet pastries.
St. Paul’s Bay history
Based on archaeological finds it seems the area of St. Paul’s Bay was inhabited as early as 4000 BC with remains having been found of a megalithic temple in Buġibba. So-called cart ruts (tracks cut into the rock, presumably used for transportation of heavy loads on carts) and a punic tomb were discovered in the area as well.
St. Paul’s Bay is thought to have been an important harbour during the Roman period. On the hill of Xemxija one can find remains of a Roman road while on the seabed of its bay Roman ship anchors were found.
The area was considered unsafe and vulnerable by the late Middle Ages, with corsair raids becoming increasingly common. The Knights of the Order of St. John built several fortifications in the area to help safeguard the population of Malta. The Wignacourt watch tower and Qawra Tower at Ta` Fra Ben were built in the first half of the 17th century and still stand today.
Is there a beach at St, Paul’s Bay?
There isn’t a proper beach, although there are various places along the seaside where you can go for a swim, even though it’s a rocky shoreline. You’ll find ladders for easy entry/exit in these places. If you’re looking for a sandy beach, some of Malta’s best sandy beaches (Golden Bay, Għajn Tuffieħa and Mellieha Bay) are within easy reach with public transport (see below) and by car.