For a small island, Malta boasts plenty of history, attractions and culture. This means deciding where to stay in Malta can be a challenge. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered with this comprehensive guide to the best places to stay in Malta.

Coming from Australia, I was totally shocked to discover the teensy size of Malta. At 316 square kilometres, it’s less than 10% of the size of Kangaroo Island, a small island off the coast of my home state.

Despite Malta’s size, it packs a huge punch. Thanks to its location between Africa and Europe, it’s been fought over for centuries. The result is a fascinating island soaked in unique history and culture.

Another great thing about Malta is that due to its size, it’s easy to get around and see a lot of the island in a relatively short amount of time. 

However, you’ll still want to choose the best place to stay in Malta so you can have easy access to everything you want to visit.

Which island to stay on in Malta?

A beautiful, plant-laden street in Rabat, Malta
A street in Rabat, Malta

Although Malta is often referred to as an island, it’s actually three major islands (as well as a few smaller ones). They are called Malta, Gozo and Comino. 

Don’t be worried about travelling between them – the ferry is super easy (and cheap) to catch. You can easily make it from the largest island (Malta) to Gozo or Comino and back in a day.

For this reason, I recommend staying on the island of Malta. As the name would suggest, it’s the biggest one and home to the capital Valletta, the Three Cities, and Mdina.

If you have more time in Malta (the country, not the island), you might want to add Gozo on to your list.  Things are slower in Gozo and there’s less to do, but you can relax in a beautiful and charming old homestead and just watch the days tick by.

Where to stay in Malta

Although it’s easy to get around the islands, it’s still a good idea to put some thought into where to stay in Malta. The traffic can be pretty bad, so staying central means more time for doing fun stuff and less time in traffic jams (not fun at all).

(Rough) map of where to stay in Malta

To help give you some perspective on Malta’s main regions, here is a rough map of the areas recommended below.

The best place to stay near Valletta

Valletta is Malta’s capital, even though it feels more like a town than a city. It’s also home to Malta’s best cultural attractions and plenty of amenities. 

If you are looking to experience culture in Malta (does that kind of rhyme?), then I recommend staying near Valletta.

The best place to stay in Malta on a budget: Sliema

Cat at the ferry stop in Valletta
Crossing the ferry from Sliema to Valletta I was greeted by this cat! Clearly the highlight of staying in Sliema.

If you’re on a budget then the best place to stay in Malta is Sliema. You certainly won’t be lonely in Sliema – it’s where a huge percentage of the tourists in Malta stay.

Sliema is located across the harbour from Valletta, so to get across you need to take the ferry. I was a bit worried about this being a pain to do, but I was pleasantly surprised. The ferry comes regularly and is safe, clean and efficient. 

It also goes from the early morning to late at night, so you’ll have plenty of time to explore Valletta.

Sliema is also a great destination in itself. Its waterfront esplanade is filled with great restaurants, bars and cafes. I loved dining out while seated along the street, enjoying the beautiful Mediterranean weather.

If you choose to stay in Sliema in Malta, you’ll also be easily connected to other places including Mdina, St Julian’s Bay and Gozo.

In a nutshell: The best all-rounder, Sliema gives you great bang for your buck.

Where to stay in Sliema, Malta
  • Two Pillows Boutique Hostel (Budget) – I loooooved this gorgeous boutique hostel in Malta. It is SO stylish and perfectly clean, with cozy common areas including a great kitchen. They do both dorm rooms and private rooms as well.
  • D Townhouse Boutique Suites (Mid-Range) – For a perfectly located, comfortable place to stay in Malta, this is a great choice. The hotel is 3.5 stars and within easy walking distance of the ferry across to Valletta.

Valletta

View towards Valletta with church dome in light
View towards Valletta

If budget is no concern, then another great place to stay in Malta is Valletta. 

The capital is ultra-charming, and you’ll be a stone’s throw away from the best of Malta’s attraction like St John’s Co-Cathedral.

Even though Valletta is a capital city, it doesn’t really feel like one. It’s got a relaxed, peaceful atmosphere where you don’t need to rush. At times, it feels like you’re walking through an open-air museum.

As the capital of Malta, Valletta has plenty of amenities like restaurants, cafes, bars and shops. You’ll certainly never be bored if you choose to stay in Valletta.

From Valletta, you’ll also find it easy to get to other places like the Three Cities and Sliema.

In a nutshell: If you’re all about location, location, location then Valletta is a great choice.

Where to stay in Valletta, Malta
  • Luciano Valletta Boutique (Mid-range) – a charming, historic hotel in downtown Valletta, Luciano will give you the location without breaking the bank. Sure, it’s not the most modern property – but why would you want modern in historic Valletta?
  • Hotel Phoenicia Malta (Luxury) – if budget is no concern, you’re sure to fall madly in love with this stunning hotel. I can’t imagine a much more beautiful view, and the hotel itself is stylish and luxurious as well.

The Three Cities

Street in Birgu with flower pots and a motorbike
Birgu, one of the best places to stay in Malta

One of the most charming places to stay in Malta is the Three Cities of Birgu, Senglea and Bormla. 

Each of these cities has a more residential feel, and are a bit removed from the busier (by Malta standards, at least) hotspots of Valletta and Sliema.

Of the three cities, Birgu (sometimes called Vittoriosa) is the oldest and, in my opinion, the most beautiful. It really is one of the most stunning towns I’ve ever visited. I could really picture myself living behind one of the gorgeous ornate doors.

As the Three Cities are, first and foremost, residential areas there is less choice when it comes to accommodation. That said, it certainly exists.

Birgu in particular boasts several lovely boutique hotels and B&Bs. While there aren’t as many restaurants and cafes as Valletta or Sliema, there are certainly a few and they have authentic local vibes.

In a nutshell: While it’s a bit quieter and harder to reach, it doesn’t get much more magical than the Three Cities, and particularly Birgu.

Places to stay in Birgu, Malta
  • Twenty Antika (Budget) – being on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t stay somewhere pretty amazing! There are three studio apartments, which feature charming little balconies where you can enjoy the stunning views.
  • Seagull II Luxury Historic Static Charter (Luxury) – it doesn’t get much cooler than staying on an amazing old boat! It’s no simple old boat, either, but a stunning luxurious vessel that is absolutely enchanting. Perfect for a special occasion!

St Julian’s

Boats in Malta
Boats on the water can often be seen around St Julian’s – of all shapes, sizes and colours!

If you’re visiting Malta for a sun-soaked holiday and not really planning to stroll far from the pool, then St Julian’s may be a good choice for where to stay in Malta.

Critics of St Julian’s argue that there’s not much in the way of Maltese culture here, and that’s probably true. 

That said, Malta is so small and easily navigable that you could easily find yourself in the heart of Valletta in about half an hour.

The  benefits of St Julian’s is that it has plenty of amenities aimed at tourists. In particular, St Julian’s is a popular place with Brits looking to escape the cold English winter, and there are a lot of restaurants and chains aimed at this audience.

I wouldn’t really recommend this area for those looking to spend a lot of time enjoying cultural attractions. It will be a long drive daily from St Julian’s, with that pesky traffic. However, if you are just wanting a gorgeous beach break, this is a good option.

In a nutshell: if you’re looking for beaches, home comforts and nightlife, St Julian’s may be your go-to.

Places to stay in St Julian’s, Malta
  • Marco Polo Party Hostel (Budget) – the hint is in the name – if you’re looking for a place to stay in Malta to party, then this hostel is probably ideal. The outdoor terrace is a particularly popular place for meeting other travellers.
  • Hugo’s Boutique Hotel – Adults Only (Mid-range) – if you’re travelling without kids, this is a fantastic base in St Julian’s. Sip a cocktail by the pool before exploring Malta’s attractions. It’s a modern, comfortable hotel that’s ideal for couples.
  • Hilton Malta (Luxury) – If you’re staying in St Julian’s, chances are you want to take advantage of the gorgeous Mediterranean weather. You’ll have every chance at the Hilton, with its two dazzling pools. Inside, the hotel is stylish and modern.

Central/North Malta

Things are a bit quieter away from Valletta, but they’re no less beautiful. While these towns are still easy day trip distance from the capital, keep in mind that Malta’s traffic does make driving between them a bit of a pain.

Rabat/Mdina

Entrance to Mdina with blue sky and clouds
Entrance to Mdina

One of the places I most recommend visiting in Malta is the “Silent City” of Mdina. There’s also nearby Rabat, which is charming in its own right. Both have distinctly Arabic influences, and are a really interesting and beautiful place to explore.

Cons of Rabat and Mdina first: they are a fair bit away from Valletta and Sliema. You can certainly visit in a day, but traffic means it could be about an hour between them. 

Therefore, I wouldn’t recommend Rabat and Mdina if you are hoping to see a lot in the capital. However, for one night they are absolutely beautiful.

Within Mdina the options for hotel accommodation are really limited. There’s only a couple of hotels actually within the city walls, and they’re expensive. That said, the location is pretty jaw-dropping.

There’s more to choose from in Rabat. Rabat isn’t as pretty as Mdina, but it’s got a more authentic, local feel and it’s an easy walk to the Walled City.

In a nutshell: if you fancy waking up in a living, open-air museum and have the budget to pay for it – Mdina is pretty special.

Hotels in Mdina and Rabat
  • Point De Vue (Lower mid-range, Rabat) – just the outside of this hotel is absolutely gorgeous – and it’s great if you’re on a budget. Inside, the decor is quite elegant and traditional, while there’s also an onsite restaurant serving up traditional meals.
  • The Xara Palace Relais & Chateaux (Upper mid-range, Rabat) – another beautiful and historic hotel, the inside of the Xara is much more elegant and luxurious. There’s also a sauna and a swimming pool for guests of the 17 rooms to enjoy.
  • Guard Tower (Luxury) – this is one of the only accommodation options actually inside the walls of Mdina Old Town. If you want to be central to this stunning place, this is your best bet! It’s also a self-contained apartment that’s totally charming.

St Paul’s Bay

Another option if you’re visiting Malta in search of sea and sun is St Paul’s Bay. Located about 15 kilometres north of Valletta, St Paul’s is a popular resort area.

While the area is generally referred to as St Paul’s Bay, it’s actually made up of various distinct neighbourhoods. Bugibba and Qawra are two that are particularly popular with visitors.

Like St Julian’s, St Paul’s has its critics. St Paul’s has lots of all-inclusive resorts, and a lot of the nearby restaurants are chains. If you want to see “authentic” Maltese culture, St Paul’s Bay is probably not ideal.

That said, if you want to stay in a family-friendly area within walking distance of a beautiful  beach, then St Paul’s Bay is a great option.

Just keep in mind with traffic you’ll want to leave a minimum of 45 minutes to an hour to get from St Paul’s Bay to Valletta or Sliema.

In a nutshell: if you’re happy to swap culture for fabulous beaches and resort amenities, St Paul’s is a great option.

Mellieha

Coastline in Mellieha
Coastline in Mellieha

If you don’t like the sound of St Paul’s Bay but you want to explore the main island’s northern beaches, Mellieha is a great option.

Mellieha never quite experienced the tourism boom of nearby St Paul’s, meaning that it still feels a lot more authentically Maltese. It’s got that gorgeous, historic feel that I’m totally obsessed with.

The town also boasts a pretty impressive hilltop location, which gives you gorgeous views. However, be warned: walking around Mellieha is a bit of a workout!

As well as being a stone’s throw from the beach, there’s a reasonable selection of shops and cafes on the main street. 

Overall, however, things are pretty quiet in Mellieha. For nightlife, you’ll want to head over to Valletta, Sliema or St Julian’s – and it’s going to be about an hour on the bus if you hit traffic.

In a nutshell: who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too? For beaches and culture, head for Mellieha.

Where to stay in Mellieha, Malta
  • Maritim Antonine Hotel & Spa (Budget) – who says being on a budget means you can’t have nice things? This resort offers great value for money, with a wellbeing spa that includes a sauna.
  • Ramla Bay Resort (Mid-range) – another place to stay in Malta that offers great value for money is the Ramla Bay Resort. It’s got a pool, jacuzzi and even its own private beach for guests.
  • Radisson Blu Resort & Spa Malta Golden Sands (Luxury) – even the luxury option in Mellieha is good value for money. With an absolute beachfront location and luxurious furnishing, it’s a great option if you’ve got a little more cash to spare.

Other islands in Malta

Scared off by the tourist crowds of the mainland? How about one of Malta’s other, less developed islands?

Gozo

Boats in Gozo
Gozo

As mentioned, Gozo is actually a separate island to the main island of Malta. Even from Valletta, it can easily be accessed on a day trip – but you might be considering staying overnight.

I can certainly see the appeal! Gozo is a quieter, more traditional island that just oozes charm and character. 

Not only is it dotted with gorgeous old farmhouses and restaurants serving up family recipes, but the nature is beautiful as well. Gozo is home to many beautiful sea caves, for example.

While there’s plenty to love about Gozo, the downside (or maybe the best bit of all) is that there’s not as much to do and it’s not as easy to get around. 

While the main island has at least a bit of a cosmopolitan feel, this isn’t the case on Gozo. So, it’s ideal if you’re looking for a totally relaxing break, far away from the hustle and bustle of everyday city life.

In a nutshell: if you dream of running off to a picturesque, deserted island and living in a farmhouse – Gozo might be just right.

Where to stay on Gozo, Malta

I recommend staying in a self-contained or homestay property so that you can make the most of Gozo’s quiet and relaxing atmosphere.

  • Maria Giovanna Guest House (Lower mid-range) – A comfortable and charming guest house with seventeen rooms, this well-regarded property has a homely and laidback feel in Marsalforn.
  • Tal-Masklu farmhouse (Luxury) – Staying in an old farmhouse is pretty much the perfect way to experience Gozo. This is a gorgeous property, complete with a swimming pool to cool off in.
This grumpy cat in Birgu was probably my favourite thing in Malta, tbh

Tips for where to stay in Malta

  • At the risk of sounding like a broken record, don’t underestimate the traffic in Malta. It can be really bad, as the island is really not made to deal with the crowds of local and overseas traffic. Leave plenty of time for travelling even relatively short distances, and walk wherever you can.
  • The size of Malta means it is really easy to see multiple things in a day. I’m a fan of slow travel myself, but if you don’t mind filling up your itinerary, you can easily visit several of these neighbourhoods in a day.
  • If you do stay in one of the larger resorts, consider making your way out to some of the local attractions and businesses in Malta. Although I didn’t think Malta was as crowded as some destinations (*Venice*, the patron saint of overtourism), tourism still puts a strain on locals and supporting as many businesses possible is a way to give back.

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