Sunday, 15 Sep 2019

Where to stay in Malta: an insider’s guide

Malta is often overlooked by backpackers, but this dinky archipelago has a whole lot to offer, not least its abundance of great hostels and guesthouses. To get you on your way, we’ve picked the best area to stay in Malta.

Many assume this destination is most suited to a fly-and-flop break. But while Malta isn’t without its package resorts, it has much more than sun, sea and sand (though, of course, there’s plenty of that too). The Maltese archipelago is made up of a trio of breathtaking islands in the Mediterranean, and each has its own particular character.

Malta is the largest of the three, wowing visitors with its rugged coastline, fishing villages and the 16th-century capital of Valletta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its entirety. Most travellers focus their attention on this island and the large volume of wonders it manages to cram within its rocky shores.

Despite the island’s small size, its towns and neighbourhoods maintain their own individual vibe. There’s Valletta, of course, whose backstreets peel off from a buzzing centre filled with galleries, museums and Maltese restaurants. Then there’s Sliema, right across the water, whose café culture and art scene gives it an atmosphere that contrasts with that of the quaint capital.

A little further north, in St Julian’s, you’ll find the best nightlife on the island, plus loads of hostels and spots to hang out by the water. Further north still, St Paul’s Bay area is best for beach bums after a relaxing escape.

You’ll probably want to spend some time on Gozo too. While some parts of Malta have become built up over the years, Gozo remains gloriously free of high-rises. It’s characterised by its unspoilt countryside and coastline, and has a food scene dominated by local producers.

When it comes to accommodation, you’ll find cool hostels in Sliema and St Julian’s, while Valletta and the St Paul’s Bay area tend to have more budget hotels and guesthouses. On Gozo, you’ll find a handful of both.

Base yourself in any of the areas below and you’ll be blessed with decent bus and ferry connections to other parts of the island. Bus routes criss-cross Gozo too, though you’ll have a little have more freedom if you rent a car. Ferries also connect Gozo with both Comino and Malta itself.

Wherever you choose to set up camp, you’re sure to be charmed by this Mediterranean isle – to get you started, here’s our area-by-area guide on where to stay in Malta.

where to stay in malta - view of land by the sea

Photo by Ferenc Horvath

Jump straight to:

Valletta: the best area in Malta for the big sights and cultural attractions

  1. What to do in Valletta
  2. Places to eat in Valletta
  3. Best hostels in Valletta

Sliema: the best area in Malta for shopping and seafront strolls

  1. What to do in Sliema
  2. Places to eat in Sliema
  3. Best hostels in Sliema

St Julian’s: the best area for nightlife and hanging with the cool crowd

  1. What to do in St Julian’s
  2. Places to eat in St Julian’s
  3. Best hostels in St Julian’s

The St Paul’s Bay area: the best area for beach days and exploring Malta’s north

  1. What to do in St Paul’s Bay
  2. Places to eat in St Paul’s Bay
  3. Best hostels in St Paul’s Bay

Gozo: bonus area

  1. What to do in Gozo
  2. Places to eat in Gozo
  3. Best hostels in Gozo

 

Valletta: the best area in Malta for the big sights and cultural attractions

Malta’s capital may be compact, but you could spend days on end soaking up everything the city has to offer. One of the most popular bases for travellers, Valletta is Malta’s cultural heart. Whether you’re after a dose of history or a taste of modern Malta, you’ll find it in Valletta – the city is at once a living history museum, with its fortified walls and age-old churches, and a hotbed for contemporary culture.

A stint as European Capital of Culture in 2018 breathed fresh life into the city and its Baroque buildings house art galleries, cultural centres, traditional Maltese restaurants and more.

Valletta is also a transport hub, so roving backpackers can easily access other parts of the island, from the villages of southern Malta to the beaches of the north. If you’re not planning on renting a car during your travels, staying in the capital still allows you the freedom to explore.

Unsurprisingly, there’s a bounty of places to stay too –Valletta boasts everything from chic boutique hotels to more down-to-earth options perfect for backpackers. Be aware, though, that given Valletta’s popularity, accommodation can sometimes be pricier than elsewhere – especially during the high season (June–August), you’ll also need to book well in advance to ensure you get your first choice.

 

where to stay in malta - harbour view with sunset Image by Kirk Fisher

What to do in Valletta

If you want to kick off your Maltese adventure with the big-hitting sights, then head to St John’s Co-Cathedral. It’s not uncommon to see a queue outside this 16th-century building with its glittering Baroque interior and its paintings by Caravaggio. If you see only one historic sight during your time in Valletta, make it this one.

For the best views in the city, make a beeline for Upper Barrakka Gardens. This flower-filled oasis is free to enter and you’ll be granted breathtaking views of the Grand Harbour. You’ll also be able to spot the imposing Three Cities that sit across from Valletta: Cospicua, Senglea and Birgu. The garden’s mighty arches are a favourite spot for photographers too.

But while Valletta has attractions aplenty, the best way to soak up the city is simply to wander its backstreets. Drink in the honey-coloured buildings with their colourful balconies and catch glimpses of the ocean as you peer down narrow lanes. Valletta’s streets are set out in a grid pattern, so they’re easy to navigate – wear sensible shoes though, as the city’s pavements can often prove a little precarious. Along the way you’ll stumble across the usual side-street cafés and bars, plus surprises like Blitz, a pocket-sized indie gallery tucked away in a townhouse.

Art-lovers will also love the Centre for Creativity (or Spazju Kreattiv). This cool space in the St James Cavalier fort attracts Valletta’s hipster crowd with its arthouse cinema and its contemporary art exhibitions. The more traditional art museum MU?A, which opened in 2018 in the Auberge d’Italie, is also worth a peek.

When night falls, the best place to be is on Valletta’s Strait Street. Once nicknamed “the Gut”, this low-lit street was synonymous with prostitution and drunken debauchery. Today it’s the home of hip bars, restaurants and live-music spots – Tico Tico and Rocks Wine Bar are both popular venues.

Be sure to check out what’s on at the Pjazza Teatru Rjal too. This open-air music venue in the city centre was built from the ruins of the old Royal Opera House, and it often holds free shows.

Given Valletta’s excellent transport links, the city is the perfect base from which to explore other parts of the island. Take the bus in a south-westerly direction to the Blue Grotto, a network of beautiful caves to be explored by boat. The caverns are famed for the way light plays on their walls, causing them to take on hues of blue and orange. You could also travel west to fortified Mdina, once Malta’s capital.

The fishing villages of the south also offer a taste of traditional Maltese life. Marsaxlokk is a popular stop, known for its bustling Sunday fish market and its waters dotted with luzzu (traditional Maltese fishing boats). If you’re left wanting to explore more of the south, you could overnight at the Xrobb L Ghagin Hostel, which is situated in the nature park of the same name.

where to stay in malta - view of valletta overlooking the sea

 

Places to eat in Valletta

Traditional Maltese food is generally comforting and fuss free – think meat and fish stews, soups, and plenty of bread and pastry – and you’ll have no trouble sampling it in Valletta. You’ll find pretty much every kind of Maltese delicacy hiding amid the city’s streets, and restaurants range from cosy traditional spots to quirky venues serving up international cuisine.

A dish you’re guaranteed to see cropping up on menus across the city is stuffat tal-fenek, or rabbit stew. One of Malta’s most traditional delicacies, this warming stew is made from red wine, root veggies and plenty of onions and garlic. Ravjul tal-fenek (rabbit ravioli) is another popular choice. Try it at Nenu the Artisan Baker: despite the name, this relaxed restaurant offers a long string of Maltese meals from rabbit dishes to imqarrun il-forn, a kind of moreish baked macaroni dish.

Also, worth a try is ftira, a Maltese bread found at street-food spots and laid-back cafés and restaurants. A perfect lunch on the go, it’s usually crammed with fillings such as tuna, capers and olives. Nenu also does a mean ftira, while hip café 67 Kapitali wash theirs down with a great selection of craft beer.

The Maltese food scene is also heavily influenced by Italy (not surprising given its location in the Mediterranean) and Valletta has a high concentration of great Italian restaurants. A must-try is Pastaus, a fresh pasta bar off Strait Street: choose your pasta, add your sauce, then wait in the restaurant’s artsy surrounds as it’s whipped up fresh for you.

A great option for groups, meanwhile, is the Valletta Food Market: Is-Suq Tal-Belt. A string of tempting vendors collects in this covered food hall on Merchants Street. Stop by Ta’ Kelinu to sample some traditional Maltese pastries and sweet treats. It’s the perfect opportunity to try a pastizz, a well-loved Maltese pastry usually filled with ricotta or mashed peas.

 

Best hostels in Valletta

While Valletta has little shortage of places to stay, it’s not the best area for traditional backpacker hostels (most of these are located in nearby St Julian’s and Sliema – see below). However, if you have your heart set on staying in the capital, there are some more down-to-earth accommodation options for those travelling on a budget.

Palazzo Sant Ursula is an affordable guesthouse minutes from Valletta’s main plaza, St George’s Square. The sun-drenched communal roof terrace means you still get the hostel vibe and can share tips with your fellow travellers. Rooms are quaint and cosy with dark wood, patterned bedding and eclectic artworks.

Another good option is the simply named British Hotel. Close to Valletta’s pedestrianised centre, this no-frills hotel is family owned and budget-friendly. There are also comfy communal areas like a television room and a rooftop terrace, so you can meet other backpackers if travelling solo. The rooms are basic but comfy and you might even end up with a sea view.

 

Sliema: the best area in Malta for shopping and seafront strolls

where to stay in malta - sliema - inside a church

Image by photosforyou

Right across the water from Valletta, Sliema is a more modern area packed to the rafters with restaurants, shops and places to stay. Where the capital is filled with quaint 16th-century buildings, Sliema is better known for its sleek retail outlets, high-rises and contemporary café culture. It’s also more of a residential area than Valletta (which has only around 6,000 permanent inhabitants).

Travellers are drawn to Sliema for its buzzy, laid-back vibe, mostly down to the promenade that hugs the coastline. Here tourists rub shoulders with locals in waterside cafés with sweeping views out to sea. If it’s those traditional Maltese backstreets you’re hankering after, you’ll still find them away from the waterfront. Towards Sliema’s centre, large modern buildings give way to sandy-coloured houses with balconies reminiscent of Valletta.

Prices are slightly lower in Sliema than they are in the capital and, unlike in Valletta, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to hostels.

Sliema is well-connected too. The ferry to the capital takes less than 10 minutes, and it’s just €2.80 for an adult day return. From the capital, buses will whisk you wherever you want to go. Boats heading out to stunning destinations like Gozo and Comino also sail off from Sliema.

 

What to do in Sliema

Sliema is lighter on historical and cultural attractions than Valletta, but there’s still plenty to keep you busy. And, in any case, Sliema’s principal draw is its epic views. The waterfront area where ferries leave for Valletta is where you’ll get your postcard-worthy views of the capital – in fact, it’s worth riding the ferry for the vistas alone. Elsewhere, Sliema’s shores grant jaw-dropping views of the open ocean.

Spend a pleasant afternoon or evening strolling along the waterfront promenade, which stretches out next to busy Tower Road. The route will take you right round Sliema’s coast from around G?ira to buzzy St Julian’s – you’ll have Sliema’s rocky beaches to one side, and a generous helping of bars and cafés on the other.

Many locals and backpackers also choose to take a dip in the ocean at Sliema. This part of the coast is characterised by large hunks of sandstone jutting into the sea and it’s common to see sunbathers resting on the rocks. At various points along the coast, there are also metal railings or stone steps down to the water for swimmers, and even full “Roman baths” – man-made pools cut from the rock.

Shopaholics will feel right at home in Sliema, whose retail offerings run the gamut from little local boutiques to big high-street brands. You’ll find the most options around the Tigné Point area and along Bisazza Street and Tower Road.

Lovers of contemporary art will also appreciate Sliema’s handful of indie galleries. A standout is the Lily Agius Gallery, which showcases contemporary works by Maltese and international artists, and hosts readings and yoga sessions too. There’s also the intimate Christine X Art Gallery, which focuses on up-and-coming artists.

Time your trip with the Sliema Art Festival in summer, when street artists brighten the city with works painted on giant billboards. There are also street-food stalls and live music sets. Keep an eye out for quirky murals around the area the whole year round too.

If you like being out on the water, it’s also well worth joining one of the Grand Harbour boat tours that leaves from Sliema. It’s a little touristy, yes, but it’s not to be written off – you’ll enjoy stunning vistas and discover the rich history of this part of Malta.

 

Places to eat in Sliema

You’ll certainly not go hungry in Sliema. This modern slice of Malta is a foodie’s delight, with trendy spots serving global cuisine as well as more traditional restaurants.

Look out for venues that serve Maltese platters. Many places offer these tasting plates as a starter and they usually include Maltese cheese, olives, bread and sausage, plus dips like bigilla, which is made from broad beans.

Easy-going bistro Ta’Kris offers a tasty Maltese platter and also serves staples such as Maltese ricotta ravioli (one for veggies), haruf il-forn (oven-braised lamb shanks) and bragioli, a dish of beef stuffed with more minced meat and herbs, then doused in rich tomato sauce.

Struggling to pick between those waterfront cafés? Opt for Mint, a bright, modern option with a focus on local and organic produce. Expect fresh dishes borrowed from the world over, from veg-packed salads to Moroccan tagine.

If you’re after lunch or a snack on the go, Sliema is the place for international street food too. A handful of popular vendors dot the city, including the beloved Bavarian Sausage cart (which does what it says on the tin) and Krepree, which doles out sweet and savoury crêpes.

Often tipped as the best pizza place on the island, Vecchia Napoli is certain not to disappoint. The pizzeria sources their flour and their mozzarella from Italy, and staff have been trained in both Naples and Milan. Their speciality is Calzone Capo di Monte, with prosciutto, truffle cream and four Italian cheeses.

 

Best hostels in Sliema

When it comes to hostels, Sliema is one of the best areas on the island. Options run the gamut from boutique lodgings to more down-to-earth family-run places. They also tend to be fairly quiet and laid-back – these are hostels where you can rest your head and hang out with fellow travellers, rather than raucous party spots. But, given Sliema’s vibrant nightlife, that doesn’t mean you have to have a quiet night.

One of Sliema’s smartest offerings is Two Pillows Boutique Hostel. You can choose to stay in one of the neat dorms or treat yourself to a private room (they’re decorated with abstract art and bright statement furniture). Despite the hostel’s undoubtable elegance, it manages to maintain its relaxed vibe. Soak up the atmosphere in one of the common areas, from the chilled-out lounge to the outdoor BBQ area.

Hostel 94 is another modern pick with clean, spacious dorms, a sun deck and a lounge. A converted townhouse, it has a slightly quieter feel than Two Pillows, but plenty of friendly staff are on hand to help you out. This one’s ideal for travellers looking for a welcoming retreat from Sliema’s notorious buzz.

You can’t go wrong with Granny’s Inn Hostel either. Great for sociable travellers, the hostel has a rooftop where you can spend time with other backpackers and enjoy a drink or a barbecue. It’s also an easy walk from Sliema’s attractions, and the murals and potted plants are nice touches too.

 

St Julian’s: the best area for nightlife and hanging with the cool crowd

Night owls should base themselves in feel-good St Julian’s, a coastal town right next to Sliema. This bustling slice of the island is best known for its throbbing bars and nightclubs, which are mostly collected in an area called Paceville.

St Julian’s is thoroughly geared up for travellers too – there are oodles of places to stay, but it’s also a popular place for locals looking to let their hair down and soak up the nightlife. Perhaps due to the high concentration of holiday-makers here, the area has an infectious, upbeat vibe. Uber-luxurious hotels share the area with cool backpacker hostels, and restaurants run the gamut from trendy cafés to fine-dining spots.

Water babies will love St Julian’s seaside location too – the area offers a taste of the beach life with its long promenade and a man-made sandy nook popular with swimmers. Think sun, sea and the promise of cocktails at sunset.

where to stay in malta - st julian's view of harbour with boats and promenade

Image by DorianPro

What to do in St Julian’s

St Julian’s isn’t the best spot for sightseeing. But what the area lacks in historical and cultural attractions, it more than makes up for with its night spots, food scene and slew of places to hang out by the seaside.

A favoured place to while away an afternoon is St George’s Bay. Malta is not known for its sandy beaches, with much of the coastline made up of rocky shorelines – but man-made St George’s bucks the trend. Its sweep of golden sand draws sun-seeking tourists and students in the area, who bask under umbrellas between dips in the sea.

Much like Sliema, St Julian’s is best enjoyed with a walk along the broad promenade that hugs the coast. As you walk look out for luzzu – traditional Maltese fishing boats – as well as glitzy yachts that conjure up dreams of the high life.

You can wander right round to Spinola Bay, a lovely part of St Julian’s with waterfront restaurants strung with fairy lights and bobbing boats. Grab a drink here – it’s especially pretty at night – or just sit on one of the many benches and relax a while.

You’ll also see plenty of travellers here collected around the Love Statue – big stone letters spell out the word “LOVE” at the harbourside and it’s a stop spot for backpackers seeking that perfect Instagram shot. One of the prettiest architectural feats in St Julian’s is the Baroque-style Spinola Palace nearby, so be sure to take a peek while you’re in the area.

Come nightfall, make for Paceville, the most happening night spot on the entire island. If you’re into clubbing, Sky Club is one of the biggest venues in the whole of Malta with dance music pumping until the early hours and the occasional live music set too. Havana 808, with its R&B and hip-hop sets, is another local favourite.

Prefer a bar? There are heaps of those across St Julian’s too. Top picks include casual pub Saddles, roaring twenties-style cocktail bar The Thirsty Barber and super laid-back Native Bar, which also runs free salsa classes.

 

Places to eat in St Julian’s

When considering the sheer variety of places on offer here, St Julian’s is one of the best places to dine in Malta. The streets are crammed with restaurants, which spill out onto the sidewalks and towards the water’s edge, and you can find everything from Asian cuisine to fresh Mediterranean dishes.

A great lunch option is the trendy Carob Tree food court in the Spinola area. This sleek food hall is favoured by young locals looking for a quick lunch or a spot to meet friends. Options here include TukTuk, a modern South Indian street-food vendor serving dosas and kati rolls, and Brass and Knuckle for burgers and steaks. Round it off with a sweet from Ina’s dessert parlour (think artisanal ice cream and a bounty of cakes), plus craft beer from Lot 61.

Dinner by the water is a must-do in St Julian’s, but the volume of places can make it hard to choose a venue. Gululu restaurant sits right at the water’s edge and is one of the top picks in the area. It’s an affordable spot whipping up Maltese staples with a modern flair. Sample the Maltese-style pizza, warm and cold mizè (Malta’s answer to mezze), or entrées such as fenek moqli (rabbit fried with garlic and thyme). If there’s no room outside, the cheerful interior is still a lovely space.

Piccolo Padre, close to Sliema, is another great waterside restaurant. The menu is filled with pasta and fresh-baked pizza, plus a few Maltese classics like bragioli.

St Julian’s café culture is alive and well too. You’ll spot plenty of locals in Café Ole, a no-frills option serving decent coffee, as well as soups, ftira and pies. Italian-style Crudo is another good coffee stop that also serves breakfast, focaccias and wine.

 

Best hostels in St Julian’s

You’re guaranteed to find a great place to stay in St Julian’s. There’s an abundance of brilliant hostels in this area and choices range from hip boutiques to bohemian retreats. As in Sliema, hostels here generally have a chilled-out vibe, which you’ll welcome after experiencing St Julian’s bustle.

One of the top options is the Marco Polo Hostel, a friendly pick great for meeting fellow travellers, where you can choose between a sleek private room or a bright dormitory. The hostel’s major draw is its spacious rooftop terrace complete with slouchy sofas, picnic benches and pot plants – come up here for a nightcap or one of the lively BBQs organised by the hostel. Also be sure to get involved with the group trips planned for guests – these range from pub crawls to excursions to Comino and Gozo. The folks at Marco Polo also own Hostel Malti: this spot has a similar vibe, with colourful dorms, a roof terrace and even a hot tub.

Inhawi Hostel is another popular base for backpackers. This boutique hostel is a little quieter than Marco Polo, with a terrace and even a swimming pool perfect for relaxing after a day’s sightseeing, or before a night out in Paceville. Dorms are minimalist and stylish, and you can even fill up on a free breakfast to start your day.

Another relaxing retreat is Boho Hostel. This place, with its lush garden and courtyard and cosy communal areas, is a peaceful refuge from thrumming St Julian’s. It’s still a sociable spot, though: the friendly staff can help you plan your Maltese itinerary and they also put together group tours and activities where you can meet other travellers. It’s a great pick for social butterflies who value a little quiet time too.

 

The St Paul’s Bay area: the best area for beach days and exploring Malta’s north

Fewer backpackers stay in this region during their travels, but the St Paul’s Bay area makes a great base for exploring Malta’s northern reaches. Northern Malta has some of the island’s prettiest beaches and you’re also within easier reach of neighbouring islands Comino and Gozo.

The wider municipality of St Paul’s Bay includes the town of St Paul’s Bay itself, plus the adjacent villages of Bu?ibba and Qawra, both of which are popular with holidaymakers. While St Paul’s Bay is on the quieter side, both Bu?ibba and Qawra attract plenty of travellers with their buzzy vibe and plethora of cafés and restaurants. A paved promenade connects the three towns, so you can roam between them if you wish.

If its history and a definite sense of Maltese culture you’re after, St Paul’s Bay might not deliver – but if it’s a feel-good holiday vibe and good connections to some of Malta’s natural attractions you want, this area is well worth considering. A great bus network means it’s a breeze to go beyond the towns themselves and soak up some other corners of the island.

It’s worth noting, too, that you’ll find more hotels here than traditional hostels, but many are affordable on a backpacker’s budget.

where to stay in malta - st paul's bay area - beach view

What to do in the St Paul’s Bay area

This area is more geared up to giving travellers a good time, than it is to showcasing heritage and culture, but there are a handful of historical sights you could visit if you fancy. The most interesting is Wignacourt Tower: a hulking, 16th-century fort offering incredible views across the bay. For wildlife lovers, the Salina Nature Reserve is also worth a visit – in this scenic spot, you can watch a variety of bird species frolic over the salt pans.

Ta` Fra Ben Beach (also known as Qawra Point Beach) is the most popular strand in this particular area. You’ll find both locals and tourists on this rocky and pebbly stretch and the generally calm waters make it a perfect place for a swim. If you’re hankering after a sandy alternative, there’s Bu?ibba Perched Beach too. True, this strand is made with artificial sand, but it’s still a picturesque spot for a couple of hours of sunbathing.

Once you’ve exhausted the sights and sands in the immediate vicinity, make the most of the great transport connections here and strike north. G?adira Bay can be easily reached by bus from this area, and it’s among Malta’s most popular beaches for a reason. It’s a lovely sandy sweep with plenty of cafés and bars, and you can also try sea kayaking or windsurfing here – be aware that it can get busy, though. The G?adira Nature Reserve is also a stone’s throw from the beach.

Those after something more tranquil should take the bus westward to G?ajn Tuffie?a, a slightly less touristed spot known for its soft reddish sand and epic sunsets. Here you’ll also be close to the busier but equally beautiful Golden Bay too.

For some of the best views on the island, make it to Ras il-Qammie?. It’s a little bit more of a trek to get to this viewpoint, but you’ll be rewarded with stunning views out to sea, made even better by the setting sun.

 

Places to eat in the St Paul’s Bay area

Mediterranean and specifically Italian restaurants prevail in St Paul’s, Qawra and Bu?ibba, with a few good Maltese restaurants in the mix too. While you’ll find plenty of tourist traps here, each town also has their fair share of gourmet delights if you know where to look.

Little restaurant La Stalla falls into the latter camp. A no-frills Mediterranean restaurant with reasonable prices, it serves pizza, pasta, seafood and more. Intimate Ta’ Bertu restaurant, meanwhile, is tucked away from the waterfront and serves Maltese specialities such as spaghetti with rabbit sauce.

If you’re looking to treat yourself, there are few pricier spots that are worth the price tag. Lovage Bistro, with its fresh Mediterranean-inspired menu, is one of them. Choose between duck breast, sea bass or vegetable and chickpea patties.

For the sweet-toothed, Sottozero – The Gelato Factory is one of the most popular ice-cream parlours on the island. They make traditional Italian-style gelato and their impressive list of flavours ranges from forest berries to Ferrero Rocher.

 

Best hostels in the St Paul’s Bay area

Unlike in Sliema and St Julian’s, you’ll find far fewer backpacker hostels in the St Paul’s Bay area. But, in their place, there are plenty of budget-friendly hotels and guesthouses that will suit backpackers passing through. The best options in this locale can generally be found in Bu?ibba.

A top pick is the Maltese Cross Guesthouse, located in Bu?ibba. While rooms are private, the communal rooftop, lounge area and kitchenette add to that hostel feel, plus hosts here go above and beyond to make travellers feel comfortable and welcome. You’re also in the heart of town, and just moments from the sea.

An additional budget-friendly pick is The San Anton Hotel. Rooms are pared back but comfy with traditional detailing, plus there’s an outdoor pool, a sun deck and bar where you can swap tips with fellow travellers.

A little more pricey, but a nice option if you’re just passing through, is the Buccaneers Boutique Guesthouse, also in Bu?ibba. Expect chic rooms, a pool and complimentary breakfast. Look out for regular offers that drive the price down too.

 

Gozo: bonus area

While Gozo is separate from the main island of Malta, it’s still a part of the Maltese archipelago, and most backpackers will take the time to visit it as part of their travels. Gozo packs heaps of attractions and a whole lot of natural beauty into its small expanse and you’ll really need more than a day to get to grips with the island.

This is the perfect place to get back to nature. Gozo is blessed with a stunning coastline made up of dramatic rock formations, caves and sandy beaches, and its rural areas are laced with hiking trails.

Life moves at a slower pace here too. Gozo as a whole is less built up than its sister island Malta, meaning its sandy beaches are quieter and the farmhouse-studded countryside is pristine. There’s also plenty of history to discover, with the stories of bygone years preserved in incredible archaeological sites.

Gozo is also a foodie’s paradise. It’s all about the hyper-local here, with many of the island’s small-scale producers welcoming guests to come and see their traditional processes. Travellers can discover makers of olive oil, ?bejniet (a cheese product made from sheep’s milk), salt and more.

Stay in Gozo for a change of tempo, a treat for the taste buds and true sense of tradition.

where to stay in malta - gozo - rock formation by the sea

Image by JanneG

What to do in Gozo

To kick off with some epic Gozo vistas, head to Dwejra Bay. One of the most dramatic portions of the coast, Dwejra is made up of rugged cliffs and curious rock formations. The famed Azure Window sadly collapsed in 2017, but this is still an area of astonishing natural beauty. Fungus Rock, a hulking rock formation out at sea, is especially striking, not least when silhouetted by the sunset.

Dwejra (and specifically the Blue Hole here) is also a popular scuba diving site. If diving’s your thing, other top spots include Reqqa Point and Billinghurst Cave.

Travellers will find some of the archipelago’s best beaches here on Gozo too. A perennial favourite is Ramla l-Hamra, a beautiful orange stretch surrounded by rolling countryside. It remains completely unspoilt and sees far fewer tourists than the most sought-after beaches in Malta – its calm waters are perfect for swimming and snorkelling too.

Sadly, nearby Calypso Cave, which affords stunning views over the strand, is currently off limits to the public. If you’ve got your heart set on visiting a Gozo cave though, make for Ninu’s Cave in the rural town of ix-Xag?ra (which is worth a wander in itself). Roam among the caverns marvelling at the stalactites, stalagmites and natural columns.

Another thing not to miss are the ?gantija Temples. These gargantuan limestone structures are thought to date to the 3000s BC, and legend has it that they were built by giants. They would most likely have been used for rituals and ceremonies, and the absorbing Interpretive Centre here helps add some context to these man-made wonders.

It’s also well worth visiting the beautiful tapestry of salt pans on Gozo’s northern coast. Come in summer and you’ll likely see local workers gathering up the salt.

Gozo is the place for outdoor adventurers too: take a horseback ride through the countryside, kayak around Gozo’s tranquil bays (check out tour operator Kayak Gozo) or discover the climbing hotspots along the island’s rocky coast.

While staying in Gozo, many travellers will also take a trip to Comino, another Maltese island. Ferries leave from Gozo’s M?arr Harbour and Comino’s highlight is the beautiful Blue Lagoon, a breathtaking beach area with white sands and turquoise waters.

 

Places to eat in Gozo

Food is an experience in Gozo. There are plenty of traditional restaurants, where you can sample local delicacies and fresh produce – but you’ll get the best taste of the isle’s incredible food scene if you visit local farms and producers.

Gozitans are fiercely proud of their produce, with locals making goods from sun-dried tomatoes and olive oil to cheeses and chutneys. Must tries include ?bejniet (or cheeselets) served soft as they are, or hardened with herbs, salt and/or pepper.

A cool agritourism experience is a visit to the beautiful Ta’ Mena estate, which produces wine, plus olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes, jams and more. You can get involved with a guided tour and tasting, plus fun activities like their summer barbecues and pizza nights. The stunning vineyards, olive groves and views of the Marsalforn Valley are an attraction in themselves too.

As in Malta, you’ll find plenty of pastries on this island, including the famed pastizzi. Many dishes also make use of rabbit and Goza’s wonderful seafood, while veg-packed Mediterranean-style dishes abound.

One of the most revered restaurants on the island is Tmun Mgarr. It’s not the cheapest spot, but it won’t break the bank either, and the restaurant is rightly hyped for its fine seafood dishes.

Ta’ Rikardu, meanwhile, is nestled away in a rustic space (think exposed brick and wooden tables) and the owner produces his own cheese and wine. Plump for the platter of cheeses, olives and more for a perfect taste of Gozo.

Oenophiles should definitely sample some Gozitan wine while here as well. Pay a visit to Massar Winery, a beautiful boutique estate that offers visitors tours and tastings. Beer lovers will not be disappointed either: the artisan Lord Chambray is a microbrewery that offers tours and tastings too.

 

Best hostels in Gozo

Gozo has plenty of accommodation options perfect for backpackers. In keeping with the island itself, lodgings tend to be laid-back, with plenty of places to soak up to Gozitan sunshine. Choose between boho hostels and rustic guesthouses, all with an affordable price tag.

The Santa Martha Hostel is one of the island’s main backpacker hostels. It’s basic but super comfy, with private rooms and a complimentary breakfast. Airy communal areas are the ideal place to escape the Gozo heat.

Prisca’s Place Gozo is also a great option. You’ll find it in the old town of Victoria, Gozo’s historical capital, and it’s an easy walk to the area’s top attractions, bars and restaurants. The hostel itself is unassuming from the outside, but clean and bright on the inside, with a pair of six-bed dorms. Hang out in the communal kitchen in the morning and plan your itinerary with your fellow guests.

Those after a little more privacy will love the Lantern Guesthouse too. It’s situated in scenic Marsalforn, a popular destination for Maltese and Gozitan locals on their summer holidays. It’s family run and the hosts will make you feel right at home from the get-go, offering tips for exploring Gozo, plus meals if you should want them. The whole place will feel like a home-from-home with touches like colourful scatter cushions, artworks and cosy patterned rugs. All rooms here are private.

 

We hope this guide has inspired you to explore this often-underrated archipelago – and that it has helped you discover the perfect place to set up camp. Whether you’re after a beach retreat, a foodie escape or a trip rich in history, you’re sure to find your ideal slice of this Mediterranean isle. Check out our full list of hostels in Malta and get planning that trip.

If you’ve stayed in one of our recommended neighbourhoods, or you know of another area that fellow backpackers won’t want to miss, do let us know in the comments below. And, of course, happy travels!

About the author:

Jacqui is a freelance travel writer and editor. When she’s not on the road, you’ll find her eating her way around north London or stalking dogs on Hampstead Heath. Follow her adventures in the USA, Europe and beyond on Instagram and Twitter

 

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