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Where to stay in Malta: The case for Valletta

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Is is just me or is Malta having a bit of a moment? Having just got back from a week, it’s really not hard to see why – but I found it surprisingly hard to research compared to most European cities.

If you’re in a similar boat and wondering where to stay in Malta, I really don’t think you can go wrong with Valletta. Here are 9 reasons why it’s one of the best places to stay in Malta.

#1 It’s the capital of Malta

Being a capital city wouldn’t normally be a good reason to stay somewhere – if anything, it would usually put me off. But when you’re considering where to stay in Malta, you shouldn’t overlook it.

Valletta isn’t just any old capital city. With around 6000 inhabitants, it’s the smallest capital in Europe, and the best way to get the full Malta experience. 

Unlike other parts of the island, which have become tourism-first destinations catering more to visitors than locals, Valletta is still very much a working capital city. When you’re in Valletta, you know you couldn’t be anywhere but Malta.


RELATED READ: Photos of Valletta from a week in the Maltese capital.


#2 It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Centre

There are three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Malta and the city of Valletta is one of them!

The other two are the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum and the Megalithic Temples of Malta (a collective of seven prehistoric temples across six sites), meaning Valletta is the only one you can stay in. It’s well worth taking a tour of the island’s temples, even if you’re not intro history.

Valletta is home to some 320 monuments, including Saint John’s Co-Catherdral, the Manoel Theatre and the Grandmaster’s Palace. This wealth of history and the city’s compact size mean Valletta is one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world.


Malta street photography - a local Maltese woman sends a basket of money down to the street to exchange for bread


#3 It’s full of culture 

Before travelling to Malta, I’d heard mixed opinions about the tiny European island. Very mixed reviews. While some people told me it was stunning, photogenic and the food was amazing, others told me it felt “too English”. 

And I’ll be honest – based on that feedback, I worried that Malta was going to be lacking any real culture. 

I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised, though. Far from feeling “English” or “touristy”, Malta had a very unique and distinctive culture to me. It felt a little bit Italian, a little bit Middle Eastern and a little bit Greek, but ultimately it felt very unique. 

I believe part of that was because I stayed in Valletta. Valletta is a buzzing city and very much deserved its title of European Capital of Culture 2018.


#4 The architecture

If you’ve seen any photos of Valletta, you probably noticed one thing: the balconies. Nothing says “Valletta” more than hilly street lined with Maltese balconies.

Maltese balconies are colourful and ornate, and stick out proudly from the buildings they decorate. As you walk around, you’ll notice yourself staring up in awe – even after days of exploring the city.


AX The Saint John hotel in Valletta Malta with Maltese balcony

Our room in Valletta even had its own Maltese balcony!


#5 It’s home to some incredible hotels 

Valletta doesn’t have loads of options when it comes to accommodation. But for what it lacks in quantity, it certainly makes up for in quantity. 

If you’re staying in Valletta, choose one of the city’s boutique hotels. We stayed at The Saint John, just off the city’s main street, and we couldn’t have chosen anywhere better to stay in Malta. Our suite was so homely that it was pretty hard to leave. Plus, it came with a Maltese balcony – so we could enjoy Valletta’s iconic architecture from the inside and out.

Next to The Saint John is The Rosselli, a brand new hotel also owned by AX Hotels. We checked in there and enjoyed a welcome glass of Prosecco in the impressive atrium, and we also checked out the rooftop pool. 

Both hotels offer the perfect blend of luxury and heritage – something it’s hard to find elsewhere in Malta.


AX The Saint John boutique hotel in Valletta


#6 Enjoy the full Maltese experience 

There are certain places you go for a few days of sun, sea and utter relaxation. Most of those places to be islands: Ibiza, Menorca and Antigua to name a few.

And while some resorts in Malta may fall into a similar “island break” category, there’s so much more to Malta than its beaches. So much, in fact, that it would be a shame to visit and not soak up the local culture. 

Staying in Valletta means you can enjoy the best of both worlds. It’s near plenty of beaches – including the popular Sliema area – but you won’t feel stuck in resort life. You’ll feel like you actually got to learn about the country, too.


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#7 It’s the perfect base

If you open a map, Valletta doesn’t look very central. But when it comes to transport, it’s the easiest place to explore from. 

The main bus terminus is just outside the Valletta city walls, meaning it has excellent transport links to all over the island. Wherever you want to go, there’s pretty much always a direct bus route there! And, since Malta is such a tiny country, nothing is ever more than an hour or so away from Valletta.

We bought a one week bus pass for 21 Euros and used buses to get everywhere from the fishing town of Marsaxlokk in the south east to Bugibba in the north. It was easy, efficient and allowed us to see a surprising amount.

You could very easily spend an entire week just exploring Valletta, but there’s so much to see in Malta that I wouldn’t recommend. Instead, use Valletta as a base and take a few day trips to other parts of Malta to explore.


Malta fishing boats in Marsaxlokk

You can take a direct bus from Valletta to most of Malta, including the cute fishing village of Marsaxlokk.


#8 It’s quiet at night

I realise this might sound like a negative to some people, but hear me out! 

Malta is an unusual of sleepy and bustling, all at the same time and at all times of day. While other cities come to life at night, though, Valletta is very much a daytime city.

During the day, Valletta’s streets come to life but they never feel overly busy – even in peak season. Come night time, they’re almost silent. Valletta still has plenty of bars when you fancy an Aperol Spritz, but they’re cosy rather than crazy.

Staying in Valletta means you get the best of both worlds. You can enjoy a really good night’s sleep (especially in those comfy boutique hotel beds!) and then wake up in the middle of the action. 

Plus, if you fancy a night out, Sliema is only a short taxi, bus or ferry ride away.


#9 It’s not far from the airport 

When I was choosing where to stay in Malta, it was tough choice between Gozo and Valletta. Those were the two places recommended to me – and they’re both so different!

In the end, Valletta won and I’m SO glad it did. We visited Gozo on this boat day trip and, while super fun, I don’t think I would have enjoyed staying there as much. It’s beautiful, but it’s kind of out of the way and I loved how easy it was to explore from Valletta.

Valletta is also pretty close to the airport. It’s about a 20 minute bus ride from the stop directly outside of the arrivals hall, which means getting to your hotel couldn’t be easier. It also means you don’t waste a couple of hours travelling to and from your hotel when you arrive and leave, so you essentially get more time to enjoy Malta.

I really liked Gozo (although not as much Valletta!) but it is pretty tricky to get to.


A shop in Valletta Malta

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