Find out where to stay in Malta with our in-depth area guide. Discover the best areas and neighbourhoods to stay in Malta for sightseeing and book your accommodation in a convenient location.
Malta is a central Mediterranean three island nation gem just south of Sicily, Southern Italy. What makes it unique to other mid Med destinations is that unlike most other islands in this sea, it is a sovereign nation, which happens to be one of the smallest on earth with a territory of only 125 square miles.
Yet packed within the sunny corners of this island are so many sites and treasures to see that you can not realistically hope to do them all justice in a single week long visit.
Apart from the sun, sea, and sand, the island is justly famed for being the 300 year long home of the great building crusader Knights of St. John. This enterprising group arrived in the 1530’s and stayed until nearly 1800 when Napoleon at last drove them out.
In those three centuries, the Knights kept busy building 365 historic churches around the islands (to have one for every day of the year), over a dozen castle forts up and down the islands, three walled cities including the new capital Valletta and the old capital Mdina, and numerous palaces, charming villas, traditional Maltese houses, and formal gardens.
The islands are a feast for the eyes, with the beautiful wild flowers nearly as common as the architectural and artistic delights that cover the islands.
There is something here for everyone, from worshippers of the sun, to nightlife lovers, to nature walkers and everyone in between.
Be sure to bring your walking shoes whatever you do, for from cities like Valletta and the Three Cities to Mdina, Mellieha, and Victoria, this is a country that was made for walking and exploring by foot and on bus.
In the rest of the article, we look at the various areas in Malta and where to stay in Malta.
Where to Stay in Malta: Best Areas
There are three main areas in Malta where tourists stay and several other minor ones. The big three most popular areas in which to stay in Malta while visiting are Sliema/St. Julian’s/Gzira, Bugibba/St. Paul’s Bay/Qawra, and Valletta/Floriana.
The good news is that all areas in Malta are safe for tourists, for either men or women traveling alone and in small groups alike.
1. Sliema, one of the best places to stay in Malta
Sliema is the commercial capital of Malta and a great place to do some shopping while visiting. It is also home to some of the more exclusive and expensive hotels in Malta along with neighbouring St. Julian’s to the north.
Sliema is an excellent choice for a place to stay in Malta for those people who love a variety of fine and casual dining options, as it has a plethora of both.
This is not the best area stay in Malta for those who are backpacking and looking for hostels, but for the upper mid to high-end budget range, it is a perfect choice.
From Sliema, visitors have an unimpeded view across the harbor to Valletta, whose stunning medieval walls and churches are all lit up every night.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN SLIEMA
2. St Julian´s, where to stay in Malta for nightlife
St. Julian’s is a former colourful fishing village turned high-end tourist lodging town, making it a fun place to stay in Malta. The highest building here is known as the Beckham building, where David Beckham long owned the top floor penthouse.
Visitors here will find a decent sandy beach on the north end of town at St. George’s Bay, many mostly high-end four and five star hotels, a beautiful seafront promenade that extends down into Sliema (and is the longest continuous stretching walking promenade in Europe).
Two picturesque bays make up the town of St. Julians’ which nestles in between and around them, and you can still see the colourful Maltese fishing vessels in both Balluta Bay and Spinola Bay as they ply their ancient fishermen’s trade.
For those who thirst for edgy nightlife, this is the place to be and where to stay in Malta. Neighbouring Paceville is the hands down, purpose built nightlife capital of the islands. There are bars and nightclubs here ranging from swanky and trendy to down right sleezy to suit all interests.
A high-end shopping mall and several shopping streets provide a more docile form of entertainment for those who like to call it a night earlier.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN ST JULIAN´S
3. Valletta, best place to stay in Malta for sightseeing
This is the walled fortress city capital of Malta, dotted with over 28 historic churches, the Inns of the Knights of St. John, interesting national museums, and several impressive fortresses and palaces as well.
From the Upper Barrakka Gardens you can enjoy free million dollar views over Grand Harbour into the Three Cities and the imposing Fort St. Angelo, still commanding the harbour vantage points and still held by the Knights of St. John (and occupied by them on the top floor of the three story fort) to this day.
There are not so many hotel options within Valletta city limits itself, though a few four and five star hotel choices do exist inside and immediately outside of the walled city environs.
The one square mile charming city holds the distinction of being the smallest capital city in all of Europe for good reason, and it was honored as the European Capital of Culture for 2018.
The city always has something going on, and is an excellent venue for walkers and backpackers, though it does not offer many budget accommodations for them.
Ferries are available to take visitors across the Grand Harbor to the Three Cities’ Vittorioso and also across to Sliema the commercial and shopping center of the island.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN VALLETA
4. Il-Gżira and Msida, budget price accommodations and local experience
These two towns are much more Maltese residential areas. Gzira is immediately south of and adjacent to Sliema but is definitely much more of a working middle class town.
It looks over to Manoel Island, a causeway linked mid-harbor island that features exhibitions and a late medieval era fortress.
There are several more budget priced accommodations and hotels for visitors interested in watching their budget in both Gzira and Msida.
Msida has a lovely marina filled with hundreds of sail boats and a beautiful historic church also overlooking the harbor. Backpackers and hostel seekers are more likely to find success in these towns.
Good public transport in the form of the national bus line Tallinja connects these two towns with both Sliema/St. Julian’s and Valletta the capital, which can be seen across the harbor from many coastal parts of Gzira.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN MALTA IN IL-GAZIRA AND MSIDA
Read Also: Best things to do in Malta
5. Mellieha, where to stay in Malta for a beach vacation
The beach capital of Malta, Mellieha Bay is wall to wall full of hotels ranging from mid range to high-end in price, all sitting directly on the bay and beaches. The town itself sits up on a high plateau overlooking the beach far below.
Mellieha is a charming out of the way settlement with as many people living here as in the capital.
It was honored as a European Union Tourism Destination of Choice for 2014, and remains a solid draw for those visitors to Malta who do not want to be in one of the three main overcrowded tourist centers of the island.
With over a dozen nationally regarded restaurants and pubs, it offers a decent selection of dining establishments and a far tamer form of nightlife here than St. Julian’s and its wild neighbour Paceville.
The main draw here is the beach and walks around the fairly large and most scenic town in Malta.
Backpackers will be in heaven here with a range of high hills and verdant vistas, and they will also find affordably priced accommodation suitable for their budgets.
Mellieha is only not a great choice for those who crave a thriving and wilder nightlife, as it is a sleepier town where the bus service shuts down around 9 pm each night.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN MALTA IN MELLIEHA
- ($$$) Radisson Blu Resort & Spa, Malta Golden Sands (in Golden Bay)
- ($$) db Seabank Resort + Spa All Inclusive
- ($$) Maritim Antonine Hotel & Spa
6. St. Pauls Bay, Bugibba and Qawra, where to stay in Malta for families
The northern nightlife center of Malta is based around the three towns on St. Paul’s Bay— Bugibba, St. Paul’s Bay, and Qawra.
A favourite settlement among expats as well as the local Maltese, this is a place where visitors are just as likely to rub shoulders with British party people and expats as they are with working Eastern European and Balkans residents.
As far as accommodation goes, this area has long drawn in budget conscious travellers from Great Britain and Northern Europe especially.
Any remnants of a fishing industry are long gone here, as the area has enthusiastically given itself completely over to its calling as a full-scale tourist area and resort.
There are a few high-end hotels here, but most establishments are definitely on the budget friendly and backpacker side of the price range.
The area really caters to those looking for sun, sea, and overflowing alcohol in abundance in a relaxed, seaside, non-stop party-like atmosphere.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN ST PAULS BAY, BUGIBBA AND QAWRA
7. Mdina and Rabat, the original capital of Malta
Mdina and Rabat were originally a single town, the original capital of Malta from at least Imperial Roman times. First the Arabs and then the Knights of St. John separated Mdina from Rabat with a wide water moat and a bridge across it from Rabat to Mdina.
Vistas from the top of Mdina ramparts provide beautiful countryside and city-scape views of nearly half of Malta.
The area is mostly populated by locals and feels extremely residential, though bus loads of tourists come in on day trips from the hotels and cruise ships most everyday.
Hotels in either Mdina or Rabat are scarce, smaller and more personable, and higher-end.
It is definitely not the hostel or backpacker set of digs here. Only 300 people populate Mdina, and many of their families’ ancestors have been resident within the walls for hundreds if not thousands of years.
Nightlife here is non-existent other than some really fine and pricey restaurants, as every night the towns return to their original and more familiar sleepy roles of being traditional Maltese countryside residential communities.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN MDINA AND RABAT
8. Three Cities: Birgu, Senglea and Cospicua
The first headquarters of the Knights of St. John when they landed in Malta and prepared for the inevitable Turkish Great Siege, today’s Three Cities are far sleepier than they were 500 years ago.
Lodgings here would tend to be much more guesthouses or bed and breakfasts than hotels. The middle class Maltese residential areas are favorites of the locals with their sweeping views of Grand Harbor across to Valletta.
Another place where nightlife might mean a single lonely bar or pub, the Three Cities are not for the the wild nightlife set or the young at heart.
Aside from a few restaurants (and not really too many of these even), these local communities boast walks along charming steep Italian looking narrow streets more than beaches, parties, night life, or even shopping.
The towns are definitely busier and livelier during the days when the day trippers spill out from the buses coming from area hotels and cruise ships than after dark at night when a person can have a street all too himself if he so desires.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN MALTA IN THE THREE CITIES
9. Marsaskala, where to stay in Malta on a budget
Marsaskala is one of two unique working seaside fishing villages turned towns in modern day Malta.
A significant working fishing fleet still plies these waters leaving Marsaskala Harbor early every morning before sun up and returning each morning laden with fresh fish that they proceed to sell still quite fresh and right off of the quayside.
One or two mid range hotels dot the town, which features more guest houses and rooms for rent than hotels.
The town sits astride not one but two bays Marsaskala Bay and St. Thomas Bay, each with a lengthy and enjoyable promenade, making Marsaskala popular with the backpacking and beach combing sets.
For a town of less than 15,000 people, the fishing port actually offers three night clubs scattered around town, a number of late night Irish and English pubs, and dozens of good nationally renowned restaurants.
In summer time, the population rises by around 50 percent as both foreigners and locals come to spend weeks, months, or the entire summer down in Marsaskala.
Between the town’s two beaches, promenades, restaurants, and nightlife, and even a 500 year old castle fort of the Knights still standing guard faithfully over the now becalmed Mediterranean Sea.
Marsaskala offers something for every interest and taste, except of course for high-end, expensive, or large hotels, all of which it is surprisingly (and refreshingly) lacking.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN MARSASKALA
10. Marsaxlokk, where to stay in Malta in a fishing village
The other serious working fishing village oozing with lots of authentic seaside charm, Marsaxlokk still resembles the fishing port that remains at the mainstay of its locally based economy. Residents of this far southern locale are mostly Maltese.
Day trippers swell the population of the town as they come down for the twice-weekly market, to try the famed seafood restaurants along the seafront, and for walks along the sea and views of the colorful traditional Maltese seaside fishing fleet of little boats and a few larger ones.
Hotels here are practically non-existent, and Marsaxlokk has this in common with Marsascala its relative neighbor of the South.
Guest houses and rooms for rent fill the smaller demand for places for visitors to stay in lower to mid-end budget accommodations.
The South remains a backpacker’s paradise and delight with some of the island’s best unspoiled nature, and visitors will see many of them haunting such interesting local landmarks such as St. Peter’s Pool and the Blue Grotto in Zurrieq.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN MALTA IN MARSAXLOKK
11. Gozo, excellent place to unwind and lose track of time
Gozo is totally unique in this island nation. The sister island to Malta has been accurately described as “the land that time forgot.” Visitors are just as likely to see a donkey pulling a vegetable cart to Victoria the capital here as they are hordes of crowds relentlessly combing the island.
Gozo may be one-quarter the size of neighboring Malta, but it has only around one-fifteenth of the population of its larger neighbor.
This means that visitors can backpack or drive until their hearts content, enjoying sparsely populated beaches, lonely green hills, abandoned rocky cliffs, and a fortress citadel capital in Victoria in the island’s heart.
There are places in Gozo where one can even enjoy a stretch of countryside all alone, a rarity in this most densely populated of European nations.
Places to stay in Malta in this small island range from guest houses and farm houses for rent, on up to mid range and high-end four and five star hotels mostly found in the popular several beach side resorts like Marsalforn or the intentionally centrally located capital of Victoria.
The island is an excellent place to unwind and even lose track of time. This means that nightlife is scarce though, so for those looking for more exciting night time pursuits or more abundant shopping opportunities, Gozo may not be the best choice of home base while staying in Malta.
For those looking for a secluded beach, enjoyable family run restaurant, or winding Victoria city streets separated by rolling green hills, this slower pace of life locale is the place to live like a local and take it easy on vacation for a change.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN MALTA IN GOZO