After a week traveling around Malta, I understand much better the geography and dynamics of the island; and with that, I think I can help Decide Where to Stay in Malta. It's just that, for me, and despite the island being relatively small, it was very difficult to choose (not the hotel, but the area).
The answer, as almost always, depends on what you want for your trip. To take the best option, it is essential to realize the atmosphere of each of the different regions. The goal? Find the Malta area that is your face (and thus did not make the same mistake I did, I chose a zone that had little to do with me).
The island of Malta is quite small - I repeat - but assuming that you do not travel with a rental car (in this case the location is less relevant), I recommend stay in the Valletta region. If you do, you will have great ease of access to public transport, which are indispensable to visit the island. Or, alternatively, stay in Rabat (I loved the city).
Note that by "Valletta region" I mean the capital Valletta proper, plus the satellite settlements around the capital, called "Three Cities" - Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua; and still the most touristy Sliema and St Julian's. Note, therefore, my opinion on where to stay in Malta (bearing in mind that there are not many cheap hotels on the island).
Finally, regardless of where to stay in Malta, always keep a few days to spend the night on the smallest island of Gozo. Let's go.
Where to sleep on the island of Malta
The capital Valletta is the seemingly obvious choice to stay on the island of Malta. It is a capital with a vibrant historical center (a few years ago it was a desert from mid-afternoon but changed a lot); it has easy access to all public transport (you will lose less time in the trips); and if you get away from the main pedestrian streets, stuck with tourists during the day, you will have peace.
When I looked for where to stay in Malta, Valletta was my first choice. I just did not stay there because of the prices of hotels and apartments, notoriously higher than in other areas of the island. They are, of course, often palaces or historic buildings renovated with discretion - a fact that can justify the average value of the daily.
So, if your budget is generous (or if you find a bargain or promotion not to be missed), I recommend that you base your base in Valletta. In that case, see the nice House Lapira, the elegant (but more expensive) Sightseeing, the charismatic Tano's Boutique Guesthouse or even the studios Mac Kay Studios e West Street Apartments. They are all fantastic and very well located hotels in the heart of the Maltese capital.
2. Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua (The Three Cities)
For those looking for more peace and quiet, an environment devoid of mass tourism and an accurate local atmosphere - including not touristy restaurants - staying in Vittoriosa (also known as Birgu), Senglea or Cospicua is a very interesting solution.
I confess I did not consider this hypothesis when I looked at where to stay in Malta, because it seemed too far from Valletta. But once on the ground, I found I was wrong. Staying "on the other side" of the old town of Valletta has many advantages, and allows you to get into a more "pure" Malta. If it were today, I almost certainly would have slept in this area (pondering the quality / price ratio of hotels, it is very probably the best area to stay in Malta).
If you choose Vittoriosa, Senglea or Cospicua, I recommend the cozy bed & breakfast Julesy's e Nelli's or pride House Birmula (all in Cospicua). Or even the simplest but cleanest No. 17 Birgu (in Vittoriosa). You will not regret it.
Much of the published opinions suggest Sliema or St. Julian's as being the best area to stay in Malta. I disagree. Not that Sliema is a bad part of town, none of it. It is well-arranged, it has a well-kept outskirts, many restaurants, sufficient transport (albeit a lot of traffic) and numerous lodging options.
The problem is that it lacks a bit of the traditional environment that appeals to me in the cities (perhaps because it has countless airbnb with tourists rather than Maltese inhabitants). That said, bearing in mind these features, Sliema is a good place to stay. It's a matter of expectations.
In Sliema, watch out Backstage Boutique Townhouse; and not fantastic Two Pillows Boutique Hostel, which I also recommend without reservations. Also because Sliema is one of the less expensive places to stay in Malta (near the capital Valletta). Finally, for more open wallets, the stylish Palazzo Violetta is always a wise choice.
4. St. Julian's
Unless you are a traveler under thirty and willing to have fun at night surrounded by other tourists, I do not recommend St. Julian's as a base for staying in Malta.
If, instead, your goal is that, St. Julian's is perfect. Stay in the Extraordinary The Stonehouse, not popular Hotel Valentina; or highly praised and cheap Hostel Med e Inhawi Boutique Hostel. And have fun (but do not complain about the confusion)!
5. Rabat (near Mdina)
Finally, consider the possibility of to stay in Rabat (near Mdina). There you will be assured of seeing more men chatting in the taverns of the city than tourists at night; and with relatively easy access to the rest of the island of Malta.
Note that the small and walled Mdina has only two boutique hotels inside, and I do not think it justifies paying the price of staying inside the museum-city. Rabat is next door and has more local life. Among the best hotels in Rabat are the View, or Villa Vittoria or My Travel House.
In short: what is the best area to stay in Malta?
In summary, in the area of Grande Valletta:
- Stay in Valletta if you prefer transport facilities (all buses depart from there) and feel the renewed environment of the Maltese capital. On the negative side, hotel prices are higher and during the day Valletta is full of tourists. All in all, it remains one of the best areas to stay in Malta. Search for hotels in Valletta.
- Stay in one of the Three Cities if you prefer to go into quiet and traditional Malta, with locals instead of being surrounded by tourists; all within walking distance of Valletta. Relying on the price factor is most likely the best area to stay in Malta (note that it may be too "stuck" for some people). Search for hotels in Three Cities.
- Stay in Sliema if you prefer to be in a more lively area, well served by transport to Valletta and with numerous restaurants. As long as you do not mind seeing many tourists. Search for hotels in Sliema.
- Finally, stay in St Julian's only if the focus of the trip is the nightlife. Search for hotels in St. Julian's.
Outside of Grande Valletta, consider also the hypothesis to stay in Rabat (near Mdina), if you try to be in a smaller city, less affected by tourism and with relatively easy access to all parts of the island. Search for hotels in Rabat.
One last recommendation: stay where to stay in Malta, book your hotel in advance. Doing so will greatly increase the likelihood of finding quality accommodation at a good price.
Book a few days to stay in Gozo
Instead of staying on the island of Malta for the duration of your stay, consider staying in Gozo a couple of nights. You will see that you do not regret it, since Gozo has a different soul - quieter and more traditional than most of Maltese territory.
No post Island of Gozo, the best of Malta lives here find my recommendations for sleeping in Gozo. Anyway, by way of summary, I suggest one of the magnificent hotels in Victoria, namely the elegant The Duke Boutique Hotel e Casa Gemelli Boutique Guesthouse; the loving ones Ikhaya Lami e Anna Karistu; or the traditional Tavern Farmhouse.
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