Given that Malta is the fifth smallest country in Europe, it’s unsurprising that the Maltese capital city of Valletta is tiny too. It has a population of around 6,000 residents and covers a measly 0.61 square kilometres of land. Figuring out where to stay in Valletta and what neighbourhoods in the city are the best isn’t difficult. There’s only one!
That’s why most of the city’s visitors stay in neighbourhoods around Valletta and even elsewhere in Malta. Malta International Airport is just as close to the city of Mdina as it is to Valletta. And with Malta’s phenomenal public transport system (both buses and boats), it’s super easy to get around the entire country no matter where you’re staying.
So, if it’s quick and easy to travel around Malta from anywhere, how can you choose the best area to stay in Valletta (or near it)? Well, not every Valletta neighbourhood is by the sea if that’s a priority for you. And only some Valletta hotels are within walking distance of the best nightlife strip in the country. Others are in quieter, residential areas. Some overlook Valletta’s grand harbour and others are close to all the city’s top cultural sites.
This guide will cover all types of Valletta accommodation options including where to stay in Valletta on a budget, the best place to stay in Valletta2023, Malta with kids and where to stay in Valletta for first-timers. You’ll also learn the best Valletta neighbourhoods, the ones to avoid, and the ones near all the best Valletta and Malta attractions.
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Sliema – Where to Stay in Valletta for First Timers
Malta’s capital is a city almost entirely surrounded by sea. Many of the best places to stay in Valletta are just a short boat ride away! Sliema (pronounced slee-ma) is one of these neighbourhoods. The Sliema/Valletta ferry runs every half hour, on the half-hour, from early morning to early evening. In summer, it runs until late at night. Return tickets cost less than €3 and the journey is a quick 10-minute sail.
Miss the last boat or prefer to travel by road? Buses leave the Sliema ferry terminal every 10 to Valletta which is only a 20-minute drive. Its proximity to Valletta is one of the reasons why Sliema is a great choice for first-time visitors to Malta. Some of the other reasons include its beaches, huge choice of hotels, hostels, and apartments, and plenty of dining options. Sliema is like a compact resort town and what it doesn’t offer, Valletta will.
It’s not the best place to stay if you’re backpacking because most of the accommodation options are hotels and resorts, not hostels. AX The Palace is a surprisingly affordable (and beautiful) 5-star hotel with modern interiors and stunning views over Manoel Island. Sliema Marina Hotel is right next to the ferry terminal and 248 Boutique Studios is ideal if you prefer to stay in apartments when you travel.
Where to Stay in Sliema
St. Julian’s – Where to Stay in Valletta on a Budget
On the other side of Sliema is St. Julian’s. If you want to know where to stay in Valletta on a budget, this is a perfect choice. It’s a slightly larger neighbourhood than Sliema on the coast yet it takes even less time to reach Valletta city centre. Direct buses to the capital leave St. Julian’s every 15 minutes and they only take 12 minutes.
Because St. Julian’s is effectively a sprawling seaside town, it has more things to do. Spinola Bay is where you can find all the Instagrammable colourful fishing boats. You can relax on Balluta Bay Beach or take a diving trip. But one of the best reasons to stay in St. Julian’s is that it has the best nightlife in the entire country. In Paceville (or Partyville, as visitors call it), you can find lots of nightclubs, bars, and casinos.
It has everything you could want if you are looking for an exciting city break with your friends or if you don’t want to blow your bank account on accommodation. You’ll find the bulk of Valletta’s hostels in this neighbourhood (including Inhawi Hostel and Marco Polo Hostel) as well as budget guesthouses. There are more expensive hotels in this area too, like the Hilton Malta, in prime locations looking over the water.
Where to Stay in St. Julian’s
Valletta Historic Centre – Where to Stay in Valletta for Culture Vultures
Ah, Valletta’s only official neighbourhood! It’s surprising just how many museums, parks, churches, and other historic buildings fit into such a small city. Of course, you won’t need to take a bus or boat if you’re staying at a hotel in Valletta. If you don’t have any accessibility needs then it’s quick and easy to walk around. Valletta’s streets have a grid system to allow the tall buildings to cast shade over the roads. It also means the sea air (Valletta is a windy city) can travel through the streets and cool everyone down during the blistering hot summers.
If you do have accessibility issues, Valletta’s cobbled streets and many hills with staircases aren’t ideal. Consider using taxis as the capital doesn’t have much of a traffic problem but parking spaces are tough to find. But if you can walk around, you will enjoy the multi-coloured window boxes and Christian icons that adorn the limestone city’s facades. Staying in Valletta means you will also be close to the National War Museum at Fort St. Elmo, St. John’s Cathedral, Upper Barrakka Gardens, and the lively restaurants on Strait Street. Valletta has tons of accommodation options but they are on the pricier side.
Where to Stay in Valletta Historic Centre
The Three Cities – Where to Stay in Valletta With Kids
Hop over to the other side of Valletta’s Grand Harbour and it’s like night and day. Birgu, Senglea & Cospicua are collectively known as The Three Cities because they all protrude into the water from the southern side of Valletta. Plus, they’re very small neighbourhoods (yes, even smaller than Valletta!) with similar traits so it makes sense to group them.
Whereas Sliema and St. Julian’s on the northern side are lively resort towns, the Three Cities are quieter and enjoy a slower pace of life. If you’re wondering where to stay in Valletta with kids, all three are fantastic options. Driving from Birgu to the main parking lots outside of Valletta’s city walls takes less than 20 minutes. And if you have older kids, buses to Valletta depart from Birgu every 30 minutes and they’re only a 30-minute ride.
Birgu, Senglea & Cospicua all have their own attractions too. Valletta has a long and diverse military history so you could explore Fort Ricasoli and Fort St. Angelo. You could also enjoy strolls along the Birgu waterfront and the Kalkara marina.
There are fewer hotels and guesthouses on this side of the harbour but enough to have some choice. Palazzino Birgu Bed and Breakfast is undoubtedly one of the best. Plus, there are a few dreamy static boats in the harbour here. You can stay on the Seagull II Luxury Historic boat and pretend to be rich and famous for a night!
Where to Stay in The Three Cities
Tarxien & Paola – Best Valletta Neighbourhoods to Live Like a Local
En route from the Three Cities to Valletta, you’ll pass through the neighbourhoods of Tarxien and Paola. They’re both side-by-side on Valletta’s doorstep and only a 15-minute ride away via a bus that departs every 15 minutes. Both of these areas are like Valletta’s suburbs but with labyrinthine cobbled streets. You’ll also find lots of residential apartment buildings and houses, small churches, supermarkets, and locals going about their business.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t cool things to do in these areas. If you didn’t already know, Malta is an archaeologist’s paradise. There are so many sites with artefacts and structures dating back to prehistoric ages around the country. Tarxien is home to the megalithic Tarxien Temples dating back to 3600 BC. And just around the corner is the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum. This is an underground burial site with cave paintings dating back to 4,000BC.
As you’d expect, this is the perfect place to stay near Valletta if you want to book an apartment rather than a hotel. But there are guesthouses in the area that bridge the gap between these two types of accommodations. Check out the Dhara Guest House, Monreal Boutique Townhouse, or the Nocturne Family House.
Where to Stay in Tarxien and Paola
Mdina – Where to Stay in Malta With a Car
Hiring a car to travel back and forth from Valletta is unnecessary for most travellers when you’re staying in one of the nearby neighbourhoods. But if you want to explore other places around Malta as well as Valletta, you should consider staying in Mdina with your rental car. It’s only a 20-minute drive to Valletta from Mdina and there are two sizable parking garages right outside the capital city’s gates.
Mdina is Malta’s former capital city in the middle of the mainland. It’s just as close to Malta International Airport as Valletta but it’s a better-located base if you want to explore Popeye Village, Comino Island, and other hot spots around the country. The walled city (also known as the Silent City) offers exceptional vistas across the entire country, the historic Cathedral of St Paul’s, and lots of Game of Thrones filming locations.
Mdina’s sister city of Rabat surrounds the city and has lots of shops, restaurants, and, of course, parking lots and petrol/gas stations for your convenience too. This smaller city’s quieter vibe will appeal to older couples seeking comfort and luxury. If that appeals to you, there’s no better hotel than The Xara Palace Relais & Châteaux. Casa Azzopardi and 100 Boutique Living are two more affordable options.
Where to Stay in Mdina
St Paul’s Bay – Best Malta Neighbourhood With a Beach
Being an island, there are a lot of strong contenders for the best neighbourhood with a beach! St. Julian’s and Sliema are both fantastic, but St Paul’s Bay beats them. And though it may look far from Valletta on a map, it’s still only a 30-minute drive away. It would take you far longer than 30 minutes to get from one side of London to the other!
St Paul’s Bay is blessed with many beautiful beaches including Buġibba Perched Beach, Qawra Point Beach, and Fekruna Beach. This neighbourhood covers a long stretch of coastline where you can hire boats or just relax on the sand. Though it has many restaurants and bars, it doesn’t have the thriving nightlife of St. Julian’s or the crowds of Sliema. This makes it a desirable place to stay near Valletta if you are travelling as a couple or a young family.
And there are many great hotels and resorts in this neighbourhood, most of which are budget-friendly. Park Lane Boutique Aparthotel is perfect for families or those who want more space. And if you did want to splash out on a luxury or boutique hotel, check out Seaview Hotel Malta or Dolmen Hotel Malta. Both have gorgeous interiors and panoramic sea views.
Where to Stay in St Paul’s Bay
Bonus: Neighbourhoods to Avoid in Valletta and Malta
There are very few neighbourhoods you need to actively avoid during your trip to Valletta. Crime rates across the country are low and every area has its fair share of abandoned and dilapidated buildings.
But you might want to avoid staying in the neighbourhoods of Ta’ Xbiex, Gzira and Kappara which are close to St. Julian’s and Sliema. You may even mistake these districts for being part of the two bustling seaside resorts, but they definitely aren’t. There are fewer accommodation options in these neighbourhoods and there isn’t much else going on either.
At a push, Gzira isn’t the worst choice if you’re booking last minute and have no other options. But it’s still a 20-minute walk away from Sliema ferry and most of the bars and restaurants. You’ll be hopping in taxis back and forth for your entire trip and they aren’t as cheap in Malta as you’d expect. Hotels and apartments in Gzira are around the same price as accommodations in Sliema anyway. It makes more sense to just stay in Sliema if you can!
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