It’s not big, but it’s darn enthralling – that’s the mantra down in Malta, a diminutive archipelago nation that’s washed by the warm waters of the southern Mediterranean right on the fringes of Europe. History in these parts talks of Turkish sieges and zealous Knights Hospitaller fighters. The cities – mainly Valletta, the capital – are crowned by honey-hued citadels and some of the most audacious churches on the continent, but also fizz with life on chic marinas and offer tasty Maltese food in hidden tavernas. Outside of the towns, rugged coastlines beset by grottoes and lagoons abound, and so do wild hills scented by thyme and juniper, or ancient castle settlements built by the Moors. This one promises to be a holiday filled with adventure!
Airbnb has a whole mezze platter of rentals on offer across the country’s islands. Some sit in the bustling heart of the main cities. Others whisk you out to wave-bashed cliffs and sunny beaches. This guide has all the info you need to pick the top neighbourhoods and areas around Malta, along with some hints on the hottest Airbnbs of all. Let’s get started…
You don’t have to worry about booking your holiday accommodation in Malta via Airbnb – the service is perfectly legal for travelers keen to explore the muscular Christian castles and yacht-bobbing marinas of the island. The Maltese government does ask that all property owners register their place with the local tourism board. There’s been talk of harsher punishments against those who try to dodge that. However, all those responsibilities are on the host, not the guest. You should be aware that you might be liable to pay a tourism tax in any rentals rated with four stars and above. That could be up to €2 per person, per night.
Where should I stay in Malta Airbnb?
Valletta(1) is the world-famous fortress-capital of Malta, where you’ll spy out spine-tingling Caravaggio paintings and see a grand medieval citadel over the sea. The modern towns of Saint Julian’s & Paceville(2) are north of that. They’re the island’s happening nightlife hubs. Sliema(3) is just a little closer, with its luxury Airbnbs and vibrant shopping precincts. For even more – and older – history, you could also make for the maze-like erstwhile capital of Mdina(4). For a rustic escape filled with hiking and good wine, Gozo(5) is a great option. Finally, families eager to relax by the Med often love Buġibba(6) on the north coast.
History everywhere you look
Bustling streets filled with cafés
Not very big – a couple of days might be enough here!
Valletta is for the history lovers and the architecture buffs. Steeped in grand buildings, the whole city rises above the Mediterranean like a castle. Delve between the medieval walls and you’ll find the Palace of the Grand Masters – the onetime fortress of the knights that commanded Malta throughout the 16th and 17th centuries – and the Co Cathedral of St John – home to a particularly haunting Caravaggio. The streets around those are inundated with more chapels, bulwarks, and towers than you can shake a guidebook at, but many are now boutique B&Bs and European cafés.
There’s a dash of Ibiza about these buzzy districts to the north of Valletta proper. Billed as the haven for nightlife, they have cool cocktail bars spilling down to pebble coves and sparkling Mediterranean waters, along with pumping nightclubs with roof terraces and in-house DJs. Saint Julian’s is the first part of the area you’ll encounter as you leave the capital. It’s spread across a craggy inlet and hosts good-vibes sunset bars and refined Maltese bistros. Next comes Paceville proper, which touts stunning Spinola Bay and it’s happening array of cafés and kitchens, all next to hedonistic strips of Irish pubs, fast-food joints, and karaoke bars.
Stylish and energetic, but still just a little quieter than the out-and-out party neighbourhoods to its north, Sliema is an affluent corner of Malta that’s packed with handsome mansions and beautiful seafront homes. A salt-sprayed promenade that’s dotted with 17th-century fortifications weaves its way around the district, encircling a hillside where shopping malls meet rows of enticing tavernas and craft stores. Swimming spots cluster along the shore, but you’ll need to be ready to jump straight off the rocks!
Once the capital of Malta, Mdina is a time-stood-still place that will transport you all the way back to the first Roman colonisation of the islands. A maze of a city, it’s got narrow lanes that shoot this way and post box-wide alleys that go that. When the bus trippers aren’t in town, the place is known to be hauntingly quiet (Mdina is nicknamed ‘The Silent City’). If you can find it, the main Piazza San Pawl hosts a brilliant Baroque cathedral and honey-tinged mansions. Bastion Square is also beautiful, especially for the sweeping views of inland Malta that are on offer atop the bulwarks.
Gozo is the second island of Malta. You’ll see it languishing in the Med just off the north-west tip of the main isle. Famed as a quieter, more rugged, more rustic part of the country, you can come here to tour pre-historic megaliths (some of them older than the Pyramids of Giza, no less!) and drive through rolling farm fields bisected by drystone walls. The coastline of Gozo is also spectacular. In San Blas, there are turmeric-tinted sands and high cliffs. Meanwhile, the Wied I-Ghasri Gorge has jaw-dropping sea views and spurting blowholes.
If you’re after that classic bout of Mediterranean sun, sand and sea, Buġibba has you covered. This is arguably Malta’s best family resort. It’s actually the hub of three major vacation-friendly bays, which include Qawra and St Paul’s in the vicinity. Buġibba itself juts out on a headland that’s threaded with oodles of dive-in-me swimming spots that have azure waters. For sandy stretches, you’ll have to drive around 15 minutes out to Golden Bay or Riviera Beach to the west. When you’re finished soaking up the rays, be sure to hit the Malta National Aquarium or go hopping bars on lively Buġibba Square.
What could be better than capping off days of sightseeing through the old Knights’ castles of Malta’s capital than a bathe in your very own hot tub? Well, this deluxe apartment offers just that, with a breezy rooftop terrace and a shared Jacuzzi bath that overlooks the UNESCO harbour area of the city. Inside, the pampering continues, as guests get their own bathrobes and comfy lounge with touches of authentic Maltese tiling.
Rent yourself a 250-year-old mansion near the charming fishing village of Marsaxlokk by choosing this character-rich home. It’s clad from head to toe in Malta’s trademark honey brick and has a trio of bedrooms inside. The piece de resistance has to be that outdoor pool. It’s completely private and comes ringed with shaded terraces where you can lose yourself in a good book.
Not only does this charming flat take care of all the necessities when it comes to family holidaying on the Med (air conditioning, multiple bedrooms, generous living-room space), it also promises to whisk you and the crew to Malta’s best resorts. Beaches like Golden Bay and the rocky swimming spots of Buġibba are just a stone’s throw from the pad, making it a fine choice for a tan-topping trip between May and August.
Crammed into a small alleyway in the sleepy town of Ix-Xewkija, this five-bedroom farmhouse conversion is your chance to reward your whole travel crew with some hard-earned R&R. The property is centred on a large private pool and a series of sun-kissed patios. Inside, it’s been beautifully restored, retaining its age-old masonry work with vaulted ceilings and arched doorways. There’s a total of five bedrooms with capacity for up to 12 guests at a time.
A tight travel budget doesn’t mean you have to forgo a location close to the historic jewels of Valletta and the pumping nightlife of Paceville. Not with Airbnb options like this shared dorm bed in the posh hostel of Two Pillows. Expect excellent value for money in the form of clean-look rooms with gorgeous stonework, along with access to a shared kitchen and a lovely veranda that has al fresco seating.
We think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the cost of Airbnbs in Malta. Nightly rates for self-catering stays in the city of Valletta and resort towns like Buġibba tend to be lower than in hotels of comparable quality. On top of that, you can cook for yourself in these pads, to save on eating out. And you can bag multi-room villas and townhouses that make sharing the cost of your holiday accommodation all the easier.
Naturally, Airbnbs offer less service than classic hotels. You won’t be waking to fresh-cooked breakfast buffets in a private pad, or get daily housekeeping and room service. If that’s the sort of thing you’re after, you could consider booking somewhere like Hotel 1926 instead. It’s a sumptuous, modern hotel in vibrant Sliema, close to the party hubs and the history. It also has an infinity pool overlooking the Med and all manner of frills on top.
Malta is a magical country, spread over islands in the southern Mediterranean. Delve in to discover swashbuckling tales of sieges and medieval knights, see glimmering coastal lagoons, and party the night away near bobbing millionaire yachts.