“You want to go to a gay bar in Malta? Pick any one you come across and you'll be just fine!”
So said our Maltese gay friends when we asked them about the gay scene. But we get their point. When it comes to gay friendliness, Malta is killing it! This tiny island nation in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea is frequently named as one of the most gay friendly countries in the world and we can totally see why!
What used to be one of the most religious places in Europe (for example, up until 2013, divorce was illegal in Malta!) the country did a 180-degree turn to pass some of the most LGBTQ progressive laws in the world, quickly becoming THE gay haven in the Mediterranean region.
We visited Malta as part of a trip with Teletext Holidays to discover the gay scene and what makes it so appealing to LGBTQ travellers. We left with a strong thirst to return and see more. The people are open-minded, super friendly (Maltese guys – heLLO!), the queer community is very visible and even though it's such a small nation of just 400,000 people, it still has a vibrant gay scene to check out.
We've put together all our findings in this gay guide to Malta as we explored the country from Valletta to Mdina, Gozo to Camino and Dingli to Xlendi.
Experience Malta's gay scene with a local guide
One of the best ways to learn more about the gay scene of Malta and quickly make new friends is by doing a night-time walking tour with a local gay guide. We guarantee you'll quickly become the Pride of the island! Remember this is a very small nation with an even smaller LGBTQ community where everyone knows everyone, so it helps to have a gay local guide who will quickly take you to the heart of it!
Gay rights in Malta
They are extremely progressive!
…or to quote the United Nation's Equality and Non-Discrimination team:
“Malta has become the gold standard of LGBTQI reforms – a beacon of human rights for LGBTIQ issues!”
This says a lot for a country where up until 2013, divorce was illegal. This gives you an idea of just how Catholic and religious Malta used to be. It all began in 2013 when the progressive centre-left Labour Party came to power and prioritised gay-friendly policies led by the proactive Minister for Equality, Helena Dalli. They began by passing a full range of anti-discrimination laws, recognised civil unions and also passed adoption laws within their first year in power.
The progressive Labour Party then went on to ban conversion therapy in 2016, becoming the first country in Europe to do so. Then in 2017, the Maltese government gave the LGBTQ the ultimate prize: gay marriage!
In relation to transgender rights, Malta is also ahead of the pack. The right to change legal gender was introduced in 2015, and since 2017, a third gender option “X” is permitted/recognised in identification documents. In addition, the government has changed the language used to refer to domestic and family relationships in legal documents, making them gender-neutral.
Landing in Malta soon?
We hate having to try and navigate public transport with all our luggage in a new city. Luckily, our favourite private airport transfer service, Welcome Pickups, operates in Malta! When you book with them a professional and English-speaking driver will be waiting for you at the airport, ready to whisk you off to your hotel so you can concentrate on having fun.
Is Malta safe for gay travellers?
A big HELL YEAH!
There is good reason why we rate Malta as one of the most gay friendly countries in the world. This is one of the few places in the world where we felt comfortable with public displays of affection almost everywhere. And that's saying a lot: we rarely do this unless we're in a “known” gay part of town like in Chueca in Madrid or Soho in London. Yet walking through the streets of Valletta, we felt totally comfortable with public displays of affection, and frequently saw other gay couples also doing the same.
Of course, as with anywhere in the world, you do need to be cautious, especially when heading to more remote/rural areas outside of the big cities where attitudes are more conservative.
The gay area of Malta
There is no official gay area in Malta. That being said, there are a handful of bars/clubs spread out across the island, though most of them can be found in Valletta, which is itself a tiny city (just 900 by 600 metres!) with a population of fewer than 6,000 people.
We would argue that Malta is generally such a gay friendly place that it doesn't really need a gay area. Though the frank reality is that it's just too tiny to have one. By way of comparison, other gay friendly destinations with official gay neighbourhoods are usually large cities: London: 8.9 million, New York: 8.6 million, Barcelona: 5.5 million, Toronto: 3 million, Montreal: 1.8 million, Amsterdam: 850,000…Valletta's population? A mere 5,800!
Yet despite its small size, Malta packs a punch when it comes to its gay scene. Public displays of affection were never an issue for us in any of the bars we visited on the island.
Explore Valletta with a gay guide
Valletta is the capital of Malta and a fascinating ancient city. You can join a historic walking tour with a gay local guide to learn all about the history of Valletta, as well as visiting gay-owned businesses and doing a spot of shopping.
Gay hotels in Malta
Depending on where you want to base yourself, there are plenty of gay friendly hotels in Malta to pick from. If you want to be right in the middle of everything, we suggest booking a place in Valletta. Otherwise, Sliema or St Julians just outside of Valletta are also excellent bases with more local life.
Further afield there are also a handful of excellent gay friendly hotel options in Mdina, Rabat and Gozo, which although further away, are more secluded and less touristy.
Why we love it
- Stunning luxury hotel in a historic building
- Gorgeous views from the rooftop restaurant
- Outdoor swimming pool with amazing views
- Bedrooms with big bathtubs or private saunas
Located in a 17th-century building formerly owned by a member of the Knights of Malta, the Rosselli hotel is a five-star gay friendly luxury gem!
The brand new hotel combines Baroque architecture with modern facilities. Not to mention the views! There's a roof garden terrace where you can enjoy food and drink from the restaurant while you admire the panoramic views over Valletta. The outdoor pool also features stunning vistas of the city skyline.
The rooms are spacious and elegant, decorated with marble or floral wallpaper. If you splurge on one of their executive rooms you'll even have your own private sauna and rain shower in the luxury bathroom. Some of the superior rooms also have luxurious round bathtubs in the rooms which are oh so romantic! The staff are incredible: offering a glass of prosecco and fresh facecloths when you arrive, as well as giving detailed advice and helping you plan out your holiday in Malta.
The hotel's restaurant, Grain, is rated for its delicious Mediterranean cuisine. As well as the rooftop, there's also a relaxed ‘street' section (where breakfast is served) and the more formal ‘under' Grain which offers a menu inspired by classic French cuisine. Rosselli is conveniently located right in the heart of Valletta, making it an ideal base to explore this super cute city.
The Waterfront Hotel
Why we love it
- Lovely 4-star hotel on the waterfront
- Most rooms have balconies with sea views
- Indoor swimming pool and rooftop terrace
- On-site restaurant with delicious food
Located in Sliema, just outside of Valletta, right by the waterfront (hence the name!), you know that you're going to get some pretty sweet views from a sea-facing room! We loved this the most about the Waterfront Hotel and highly recommend it to couples looking for a medium budget gay friendly hotel in Malta.
Sliema is just a short 5-minute ferry ride to Valletta – which is itself a highlight you need to do, particularly in the evening when the city is all lit up.
This is also a great place to go for morning runs, especially to the nearby remote Manoel Island, which has a direct view of Valletta's fort and a few hidden rocky beaches.
The Regatta Restaurant serves up a pretty decent buffet breakfast as well as a very popular buffet lunch that attracts patrons who aren't staying at the hotel. The lobby bar is also a wonderful spot for a cocktail before heading out to party. The staff here are so friendly and helpful that they'll make you feel right at home from the moment you arrive.
All the rooms at the Waterfront Hotel feature balconies to enjoy, but you do need to book specifically for harbour views for a sea view. There's also a big indoor swimming pool to get some laps in, as well as an upstairs outdoor terrace to sunbathe and enjoy the views across the harbour.
STAY WITH A GAY LOCAL
Misterb&b is the Airbnb equivalent for the LGBTQ community. Unlike on Airbnb, you know your host is gay, avoiding any nasty surprises when you check in. It is also a great way to meet gay locals and discover the underground gay scene. Click below to get 10 € (or $10) off your first booking.
Why we love it
- Beautiful and affordable hotel in Valletta
- Balcony or terrace rooms have stunning views
- Cool plunge-pool and fitness centre
- Elegant and delicious in-house restaurant
If you want to stay right in the heart of Valletta without forking out a ton of cash, then La Falconeria is an excellent choice.
Located just 300 metres from the beautiful Upper Barrakka Gardens, La Falconeria also has stunning views over the city, particularly if you get a room with a balcony. The best splurge here are the superior rooms and executive suite, which have a private rooftop terrace.
The rooms are finished with traditional Maltese flooring and all the mod-cons. We love the little extras for luxuriating, like the free slippers, bathrobes and toiletries. There's a small plunge pool inside an underground cave, which is perfect for cooling off after a day of wandering around the city. Next to the pool area is a small fitness centre for getting in a few push up sessions.
We loved having a drink in the bright lobby bar before heading out for the night. The in-house restaurant L’Artiglio serves exquisite fresh and seasonal Mediterranean cuisine, plus the restaurant itself is divine! Everything is deep blue with gold accents, elegant and sleek. You can either enjoy your breakfast at L'Artiglio, or in the hotel's cute interior courtyard.
Marco Polo Hostel
Why we love it
- Fun hostel with an incredible rooftop terrace
- Regular fun events and activities
- Excellent location close to bars and clubs
- Shared dorm and private rooms available
We know what you're thinking, does everywhere in Malta have incredible views?
Well, the Marco Polo Hostel sure does. And what better way to enjoy it than on the fantastic sun terrace complete with barbecue and bar.
One of the things we love most about the Marco Polo Hostel is that it's a fantastic place to come and meet other like-minded travellers, sweetened by the free drinks on the terrace every night.
The Marco Polo Hostel is one of the best gay friendly budget hotel options in Malta with a choice of dorm beds or affordable private rooms to choose from. Since it's located in the St. Julian's area, you'll also be close to lots of excellent nightlife as well as one of our favourite restobars: the Two Buoys (see more about this below). The Marco Polo helps encourage guests to socialise with some pretty fun and raucous pub crawls.
Staff at the Marco Polo Hostel are so lovely and welcoming, working hard to make the vibe super-chilled. You can keep costs down by using the hostel's kitchen and laundry facilities, plus you can hire bicycles to explore the island.
MisterBnB Private Room with Balcony
Why we love it
- Beautiful views from the balcony
- Private hot-tub in summer!
- Lovely gay hosts
- Experience a more local side of Malta
We're big fans of MisterBnB, the gay alternative to AirBnB where you can stay with gay locals to really get to know a place and not need to worry about going back in the closet.
This clothing-optional private room listing is located in the charming town of Mellieha, which is in the north of Malta. We found it very convenient for fun things to explore off the beaten path and it's close to the famous Popeye Village as well.
Mellieha is often overlooked as a place to visit on Malta, except as a stop on the way to Gozo Island, but our stay here showed why you shouldn't overlook Malta's most northern town. Melliha Bay is the largest sandy beach on the island so it's perfect for lazy days in the sun. The Ghadira Nature Reserve directly opposite is filled with salt marshes and a lake, providing ample opportunities to spot native wildlife. And all this is not even mentioning the beautiful sandy buildings of the town itself!
Hosts Staydar and his boyfriend are friendly and helpful. Guests can enjoy a private bedroom (with balcony) and a private bathroom, so there's plenty of privacy. In the summer months a blow-up hot tub is added to the balcony and trust us, there's nothing better than sitting there overlooking the beautiful town and bay while having a glass of wine with your love.
Gay bars in Malta
Remember Malta is a teeny tiny nation of just 400,000 people. This is not the place to come expecting tons of gay bars clustered together as you'd find in Barcelona's Gaixample or Fort Lauderdale's Wilton Manors. However, there are a handful of places we loved and think you need to check out.
Handy tip: if you don't want to go solo, then you can join a gay night tour with a local guide.
Located in the town of Rabat – around 15 mins drive west from Valetta (10km), The Birdcage Lounge is one of our favourite gay bars in Malta to come for live music, to belt out a few karaoke corkers and watch some awesome drag shows. They make a mean cocktail here, but the real highlight is the whisky: they have over 70 different types, so if like Stefan you enjoy a few Old Fashioneds, then you'll also love it here. The Birdcage Lounge is located on Triq il-Kbira and is open every day from 8pm until 4am.
The Brunch Bunch
This is a Sunday all-day monthly event that takes place at various locations. The one we attended was at the Aussie-inspired Two Buoys restaurant run by cutie Jessie from Melbourne. If you're in Malta during one of these events, then make sure you go. We spend the entire day with the cream of the crop of the island's LGBTQ community, complete with a drag show, live music, cuuuute Maltese guys and plenty of banter. For the latest info about their next event, check their Facebook page.
Maori is a cool lesbian-owned bar located right on the waterfront of St Elmo Bay overlooking (and named for) the wreck of the HMS Maori. They host monthly queer dancing nights like LipGloss Chrome, which usually takes place on Saturday. It's a popular hangout for local artists, poets and musicians who come to drink, dance and trade inspiration. Seby, in particular, loved lazying in the hammocks they have outside right beside the ocean attracting a few of the resident cats… Located at Maori Triq il-lanca, Maori is open Wednesdays to Sundays and is open….(in the words of owner Simone Falzon): “from around sunset 'til whenever”.
We loved this bar! The staff are super sweet and love having a bunch of gays take over the place! They have one of the largest collection of gins we've ever seen. They're very passionate about their gin and will tell you everything about it one. It's definitely worth a visit for this alone. We also love the cute peacock decor, like the Katy Perry song: “wanna see your peacock-cock-cock”! Located at 32 Strait Street in Valletta, Yard 32 is open Wednesday-Sunday from 6.30pm until 1am.
This is a very unique lounge in Valletta, serving up some pretty magical cocktails. Alchemy has a modern and sleek style, while the cocktails are served in quirky shaped glasses. It ain't cheap though, but the drinks are absolutely impeccable! They are made from the finest ingredients, some of which are really unique mixtures. Our favourite was the Elements cocktail, which combines cognac, Alchemy’s eucalypt bitter, beetroot juice and mandarin ash…bet you've never encountered all that lot before in a cocktail! Located at 92-94 Strait Street, Alchemy is open daily from 2pm until 2am.
The Thirsty Lawyer (Permanently closed – updated 7/15/2020)
The Thirsty Lawyer is a fun gay friendly bar right in the heart of Valletta. We had a few fun nights out here and met lots of gay Maltese locals. Look out for the one-off drag show they host. As an ex-lawyer, Stefan's quench was certainly satisfied here (hehehe – see what we did there?) with the yummy cocktails on offer like the Apple Pie Old Fashioned, the Toblerone and Seby's favourite, the Breakfast Margarita. The Thirsty Lawyer is open daily until around 1/2am and is located at 97-98 Strait Street.
Gay clubs in Malta
Lollipop and S2S lead the way when it comes to gay parties in Malta. Look out for their monthly dos 'cause they are a ball! Otherwise, the other main gay club in Malta is Michelangelo. Another practical tip is to join a gay nightlife tour with a local guide who will have the latest info about what's cooking on the Malta gay scene.
We love the Lollipop parties! They always attract a fun crowd of both locals and foreigners. They are definitely our favourite gay parties in Malta but sadly only happen 1-2 times each month. If you're in town during one of them, then just go to it. They're FABULOUS! Think a colourful swirl of pop music, glitter and loads of sequins, with the odd leather body-harness thrown in for good measure. For Lollipop updates check out their Facebook page or Instagram.
Every few months, S2S throw a huge themed gay party. Some of the best are for Pride in September, the Dia de los Muertos in early November and the parties in Rabat during the summer months like Super Bordello in mid-August. Check the events section on their Facebook page for details of the next event.
Michelangelo Club Lounge
Located in St. Julian's, Michelangelo is the official gay club of Malta open every night from 10pm. It's around 20 minutes drive from Valletta and gets particularly popular on weekends, especially with their themed nights. Michelangelo is located at Qube Level 1 on St. Rita Steps, a pedestrian-only alley off St. George's Road.
Gay Pride in Malta
Just when the summer Pride season across Europe and North America has quietened down, along comes Malta Pride in September to keep the party atmosphere alive. From its humble beginnings, Malta Pride has grown to become one of the country's best events, with more and more people attending each year.
Malta Pride takes place in mid-September each year. It is a week-long event featuring street parties, pool parties, stand-up comedy, concerts, film nights, talks, workshops and lots more fun-filled activities. Of course, there's also a fantastic parade, which fills the streets of Valletta with colourful floats and music.
The after-pride dance party is also a must, featuring top local & international DJs and performers. Check out the Malta Pride Facebook page for the most up-to-date info about the next one.
Gay beaches in Malta
There are no official gay beaches in Malta, but there are a handful of secluded ones which are popular with nudists and the LGBTQ community. One thing to point out is that there are no facilities at any of these, so bring your own food and drinks.
Located in the town of Pembroke (north of the St Julian's area) this beach is known as the main gay/nudist beach in Malta. It's a very rocky beach, so don't expect soft sand and do bring a thick towel to sit on. But it's a beautiful spot to relax, swim and make new friends! It's located on the rocky area, just behind Madliena Tower.
Riviera Beach, also known as Għajn Tuffieħa Bay, has a smaller secluded beach located to the left of the main cove, which is where local nudists and gays often go to relax. Although it's not officially a gay or nudist beach, the authorities don't worry about it so you won't be disturbed. Be aware that you'll need to walk down quite a few steps to reach the beach area.
Ras il-Qarraba isn't actually a beach but a rocky outlook nestled between Gnejna Bay and Ghajn Tuffieha Bay. Gay locals like to hang out on the west side where big fallen rocks provide privacy for a spot of nude sunbathing. You can only get there by hiking from Ghajn Tuffieha Bay, but you'll also be treated to some fantastic views.
Mġiebaħ (or Imġiebaħ Bay) is a gorgeous sandy beach near Selmun which is quite hard to reach. The upside is that it's quite secluded, with few visitors. You will need a car or a taxi to get there though, as you need to drive down a narrow country road, then walk a bit.
Gay saunas and spas in Malta
Malta does not have any gay saunas as you'd find in big cities like Berlin or Barcelona. However, it does have a few all-male spas worth checking out:
A popular spa for men located just outside of Valletta. They offer a full range of man-to-man massage services, including massages for relaxation and even erotic massages. It is stunningly designed, with opulent furnishings and marble floors. With all-natural ingredients and guaranteed discretion, this is a must for anyone with sore muscles who wants a relaxing experience with a professional male masseuse!
Located close to the Just Men Center, Men Massage & Spa offers grooming services as well as body massages. This is run by one man, Adrian, who lived and studied massage in India. There's also a Jacuzzi to relax in after your massage or treatments. Choose from pedicures, beard grooming, eyebrow shaping, body waxing or shaving, and more!
Things to do in Malta
With eerie underwater caves, stunning temples and medieval architecture everywhere you look, there's definitely no shortage of fun things to do in Malta. These are some of our favourite things to do in Malta:
Gay tour of Valletta
Valletta is the capital of Malta, a pretty walled city that's also a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site. Established in the 1500s by a Roman Catholic order called the Knights of St. John, we loved getting lost down the little side roads and spotting remnants of the city's past. Many streets contain stone steps that were built from the hardest stone available in order to withstand the tramping feet of all those knights clad in all that heavy armour! The best way to explore Valletta is on a gay walking tour with a knowledgable guide so you can learn all about the city's rich and diverse history.
Upper Barrakka Gardens
The Upper Barrakka Gardens were also built by the Knights of St. John as a spot for them to relax and escape the heat. It's also one of our favourite romantic spots. Coming to the Upper Barrakka Gardens is a must if you want to enjoy gorgeous panoramic views over the harbour, or to just chill and grab a snack from the kiosk. Tip from us: try to come here either at midday or 4pm as this is when the cannons are fired from the Saluting Battery in the Lower Barrakka Gardens. The cannons herald back to a time when they were used as the main defence of the harbour as well as a way of greeting foreign dignitaries. Today, of course, it's a fun re-enactment for you to include in your next Insta Story.
St John's Co-Cathedral and Museum
Behold, the “Crown Jewel of Valletta”! While the exterior might not be too impressive, once you head inside St. John's Co-Cathedral you'll start to understand how important religion and worship were to the Order of the Knights of St. John. The church interior is a breathtaking spectacle of stone hand-carvings, gilded in 24-karat gold, opulent murals and stunning marble floors. Mattia Preti was the Italian artist (and later member of the order) who did much of the incredible work on the cathedral. We highly recommend you also visit the attached museum to see tapestries and other divinely gorgeous objects.
Fort St. Elmo War Museum
The Knights of the Order of St. John built Fort St. Elmo to defend the harbour from attacks by the Ottoman Empire. It helped them withstand the Great Siege of 1565, although it withstood a great deal of damage. Since then the fort has been fully restored and now houses Malta's National War Museum. It's definitely worth a visit to enjoy stunning views across the harbour, as well as to learn more about the Knights and how many of them fought to the death to protect the altar in the chapel. You can even see the original George Cross. which is part of Malta's national flag. It was sent to the people of Malta by King George V of Great Britain in 1942.
The Three Cities
The fortified cities of Cospicua, Senglea and Vittoriosa, commonly known as “The Three Cities” can be seen across the harbour when you're in Valletta. Visiting the three cities will give you a glimpse into more traditional Maltese life as well as the island's history, in particular, Vittoriosa island, which is older than Valletta. There are more pretty gardens, museums, churches and forts to explore here, as well as the Inquisitor's Palace. You can join a tour of the Three Cities, which as well as exploring the charming narrow streets, also includes wine tasting at the Marsovin Cellars where you can sample some delicious Maltese wines, breads and cheeses.
The main port of Valletta, also known as the Grand Harbour, is a natural harbour that's been in use since prehistoric times! Of course, it has been substantially modified since, with docks, forts and wharves. There are many places in Valletta or the Three Cities where you can enjoy beautiful views of the harbour, but you should also make sure to see the cities from the harbour as well. We found this harbour cruise so much fun, as you get to see both the Grand Harbour and Marsamxett Harbour from onboard a traditional Maltese boat. The cruise is very informative and there's also a fully stocked bar to enjoy.
Mdina is a small fortified city in the heart of Malta, which was actually the capital from antiquity to the medieval period. Sometimes called “The Silent City”, Mdina is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which has become very popular as a tourist destination, especially since it was used for filming during the first season of Game of Thrones. Notable scenes depicting King's Landing were filmed here, particularly at the Mdina Gate. Game of Thrones fans will not want to miss this awesome Game of Thrones filming locations tour, which includes Mdina, but even if you're not a fan of the show, you will love this extremely photogenic city.
Explore Valletta on an eco-friendly scooter
We mentioned that Valletta has a lot of steps, and many of the streets are also quite steep. If you think you might struggle to walk it all, or just want to traverse the city in a fun and unique way, you can actually explore Valletta on really cool ‘SmarterScoots'! You can choose from three or two-wheel varieties, then head off to visit places like the Upper Barrakka Gardens, Fort St. Elmo and St. John's Co-Cathedral. These scooters are also good for the environment as they're 100% electric. Valletta can get pretty hot in that fierce Meditteranean sun, so exploring by scooter will also be literally cooler than walking!
Discover Dingli on a Segway
If you like riding on quirky types of transport then you'll also be excited to know that you can experience some of Malta's most picturesque scenery on a Segway. This particular tour takes place in and around the quaint traditional Maltese village of Dingli. If you organise to go on an evening tour you'll be treated to some very romantic sunset views over the sea, plus the temperatures won't be so high. We loved exploring this part of the island on our Segways and seeing things that we probably wouldn't have if we were on foot.
Malta is one of the best places in Europe to do scuba diving. Fact! With warm waters, reefs, caves and even shipwrecks to explore, there are dive sites suitable for beginners to advanced divers. If you've never dived before you can have a beginner's scuba diving lesson in St. Paul's Bay, while more experienced divers will want to head to the Blue Lagoon on Comino. You can also explore the wreck of the HMS Maori right in Valletta Harbour. If you want to dive with a gay friendly company we recommend Diveshack Malta in Sliema, which has a fabulous Divemaster! They offer lessons, packages and even training to become a PADI instructor.
On the west coast of Malta, 253 metres above sea-level, are the Dingli Cliffs. These cliffs are actually the highest point on the whole island and an incredible spot to gaze out over the ocean towards the uninhabited island of Filfla. There's a small 17th-century chapel dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene perched on the edge of the cliffs, plus well-marked walking trails for you to wander along. We saw quite a few gay couples strolling there hand in hand when we went. It's especially nice if you come here for sunset, then have dinner at the nearby restaurant called: The Cliffs.
Comino and the Blue Lagoon
Comino is a small island in between the islands of Gozo and Malta, most famous for its beautiful bay known as the Blue Lagoon. With crystal-clear waters, the Blue Lagoon is ideal for swimming, snorkelling and just general beach Vitamin Sea relaxation. It does get very busy here, but you can visit the Blue Lagoon on a catamaran with underwater windows, sun loungers, bars and three water slides. Other bucket-list highlights of the Blue Lagoon include the moon-like surface of the island, the Santa Maria sea caves and the unique rock formation known as “Elephant's Head”.
Riviera Beach is one of our favourite beaches to head to as a day trip from Valletta. It’s only around 21km (13 miles) from Valletta and easily accessible by scooter or car. It’s located close to the Dingli Cliffs on the west coast of the island, which means you get some killer sunsets. Also known as Għajn Tuffieħa (which is Maltese for ‘Apple’s Eye’), this beach does actually have a snack bar off to one side, where you can also hire sunbeds and umbrellas to lounge around for the day. While many of Malta's beaches are very rocky, this one has beautiful smooth sand and crystal-clear waters that are perfect for swimming.
Gozo is the second-largest island in the Maltese archipelago, with many gorgeous beaches and popular seaside resorts. It was home to Malta's famous Azure Window limestone arch until it collapsed in 2017 after a heavy storm. We recommend visiting Gozo as a day trip or spending a couple of nights if you have time. Not only is it home to some of the best diving spots in Malta, but there are also many limestone caves to explore, as well as otherworldly natural salt pans protruding into the sea. The fortified Citadel in the town of Victoria offers panoramic views of almost the whole island from the battlements.
You might know the 1980 movie Popeye because it was the late, great Robin Williams' first movie role, but did you know it was also filmed in a purpose-built set in Malta? The set still stands today and has become one of Malta's most popular tourist attractions. You can wander among the ramshackle wooden buildings, experience shows, rides, museums and even play areas for children. We particularly loved the boat trip you can take around Anchor Bay so that you can get photos of the town from the water. You can get a ticket for Popeye Village which includes transport – handy 'cause it's quite far away from Valletta.
Where to eat in Malta
Maltese cuisine reflects the diverse influences on this archipelago of islands located at the crossroads of Europe, Africa and the Middle East. We experienced some excellent gay friendly restaurants during our visit, which we've set out below:
Just a short walk down the promenade from the Sliema ferry wharf is Balance Bowl, an incredible gay-owned and run vegan restaurant/cafe! Even non-vegans will love this place as the food is absolutely delicious, from the vegan cheese platters (pictured) to the luscious chocolate cake to the unlimited nutrition bar where you pay once and can eat as much as you like. Open every day for breakfast (try one of the yummy smoothie bowls), lunch and dinner, there's also a really cool chill-out area upstairs with beanbags for working or just hanging out. It's a popular hangout for LGBTQ locals and one of our favourite spots for a meal.
La Sfoglia Restaurant
In the heart of Valletta, La Sfoglia Restaurant is one of the best on the island for delicious fresh seafood (and also a great spot for people watching on the outdoor terrace). They serve superb seafood like wild sea bass, king prawns or marinated octopus, as well as other options such as traditional Maltese rabbit stew, beef, duck and pasta dishes. The service is impeccable, with friendly waiters who will recommend wines to accompany your meal. But make sure you leave room for some of their mouthwatering desserts, like the ricotta and Nutella cake or their famous pannacotta.
Two Buoys is an Australian inspired restaurant serving up breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner in the hip St. Julian's neighbourhood. It's owned and run by three friends, including cute Maltese lad Jessie who grew up in Melbourne. The restaurant's catchphrase is “where Melbourne meets Malta” and it's not far off! Many dishes on the menu are named after Melbourne neighbourhoods, like the ‘Footscray Fritters' or ‘St. Kilda Linguine'. There are also plenty of yummy Mediterranean dishes as well as vegan and gluten-free options to enjoy as you look out over Spinola Bay.
Located in Sliema on the roof of the stunning AX The Palace Hotel, TemptAsian is one of the best restaurants in Malta for Asian food. Since you're nine floors up you get to experience magnificent panoramic views of Sliema and Valletta’s Harbour while you dine on a variety of Asian cuisine. With a huge selection of food that will transport you to China, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Korea, Vietnam and even India, this a lovely spot for a special occasion. There's an outdoor terrace next to the hotel pool where we enjoyed some divine sushi and cocktails at sunset, sooo romantic!
Located right by the City Gates in Valetta, Rampila Restaurant is a very romantic and unique space which serves Mediterranean cuisine made using the freshest local ingredients. What makes it so unique is its historic location in part of the city's ramparts. The outdoor terrace is absolutely divine, or you can sit inside the cool domed tunnel part of the building. The meals are rustic but exquisite, like the braised beef cheeks or the mouthwatering crab and lobster ravioli. Look out for the fascinating exhibition showing the history of the building.
Dinner in the Sky Malta
Considered by many as one of the best restaurants in Malta, Dinner in the Sky is truly a one-of-a-kind experience where you get to dine literally in the sky! You sit on a 22-person platform that is then lifted up by a crane 40 metres into the sky. Then you get to see your hosts prepare your food and drinks in front of you, as well as incredible views over Valletta. The seven-course set menu is simply superb! They also aim to accommodate all diets including vegan, gluten-free and lactose-free. We definitely recommend booking the ‘flight' at sunset so you can see the city in daylight, during sunset and then lit up at night.
For yummy local food in a cosy atmosphere, you can't go past Rubino in Valletta. The building was originally a confectionary store (so don't be confused when you see Rubino Confectionary over the door) established in 1906 and is now a restaurant serving classic Mediterranean fare. There are lots of historic memorabilia on the walls of this family-run spot. The menu is written on a blackboard as it changes regularly based on what's in season. We loved the simple yet delicious dishes, like fresh calamari on a bed of seaweed and the spaghetti with sea urchins.
If you're looking for a good vegan-friendly option in Valletta, make sure you give No. 43 a try. This healthy cafe serves plenty of vegan and vegetarian dishes from a tiny little hole-in-the-wall cafe. But don't be put off because the food here is ah-mazing! It's only open until 5pm but you will often see people lining up at lunchtime for their delicious build-your-own salads, smoothies, chia puddings and more. There's a small outdoor seating area, which we thought is the best spot. They also do takeaway, so you could have a little picnic, perhaps at the nearby Upper Barrakka Gardens…
Plan your trip
We've put together some handy hints and tips to help you plan your own trip to Malta. Read on to find out everything the gay traveller should know before they go.
How to get there: Since Malta is an island you can only reach it via boat or flying. Flights to Malta depart from most major airports in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. You can reach Valletta from the airport in around 20 minutes via bus, taxi or with a private transfer. We usually like to organise a private airport transfer so we don't need to worry about navigating public transport in a new country with all our luggage.
Visa requirements: Travellers from the UK, USA, Canada and Australia don't need a visa to stay in Malta for up to 90 days as a tourist. You will, however, need to show that you have a return/onward travel ticket if you arrive by plane and a passport that's valid for at least six months from when you arrive. Citizens of EU countries don't need a visa since Malta is part of the Schengen Zone. You can check your personal visa requirements here.
Getting around: Malta is a small island, so it's quite easy to get around using the public buses, ferries and taxis. You can also easily walk around in Valletta if that's where you're staying. Find more information and bus routes on Malta here.
Power Plugs: The power plugs in Malta are Type G, which is the same as those throughout the United Kingdom. If you're travelling from any other country, then you'll need to bring a travel adaptor with you.
Travel insurance: We never travel without travel insurance and definitely recommend you get one for your trip to Malta so that you will be protected in the case of injury, illness, theft or cancellations beyond your control. We've been using WorldNomads Travel Insurance for years and absolutely love them. Their cover is very comprehensive and it's easy to make a claim online when you need to.
Safety and Security: Even with the security of travel insurance, sometimes when travelling you can get into a situation where you need immediate help. We use the CloseCircle “virtual bodyguard” app when we're abroad, as they provide support or security alerts wherever you are, just at the touch of your phone. Their service covers everything from advice to evacuation in the case of weather emergencies or terror attacks. Read more about why we love CloseCircle in our article on how gay travellers can stay safe while travelling.
Vaccinations: Before travelling to Malta, you should be up to date with routine vaccinations like measles, mumps and chickenpox. Some travellers may also need to be vaccinated for rabies, yellow fever, Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B, but you should talk to your doctor or check the latest information on the CDC website before you go.
Currency: The currency used in Malta is the Euro, as it is part of the European Union. $1 US converts to around 86 euro cents while £1 is worth about €1.16.
Tipping culture: Tipping is not obligatory in Malta but it is customary to tip around 5-10% of your bill for good service at restaurants, bars, hotels and cafes. If a service charge has already been included in the bill, then a tip is not necessary.
Internet access: There are 192 free WiFi spots across Malta, as well as in most hotels, restaurants and coffee shops. You shouldn't have any issues getting online but if you know you're going to require a lot of bandwidth then you might like to bring a portable WiFi device or purchase a local SIM card at the airport when you arrive.
Online privacy: Gay dating apps like Scruff and Grindr aren't banned in Malta, so you'll have no problems connecting with gay locals while you're there. If you do want to keep your online activities private then we recommend ExpressVPN for affordable and reliable privacy protection.
Accommodation: There are many more gay friendly accommodation options in Malta aside from the ones we've mentioned here. We always use Booking.com to find the best hotels since they have excellent 24/7 online support, the online booking process is really easy to use and many places provide free cancellation if needed.
Sightseeing and adventure: There are lots more fun things to see and do in Malta as well. We like to use GetYourGuide to find the best things to do when we're travelling because they have really good online support, so many choices and an easy to use online booking system.
When to visit: Malta offers generally pleasant weather all year round, although it does get hot in summer. We find that travelling during the shoulder seasons of spring or autumn are the best times to visit if you want to avoid the crowds or extreme heat.
Gay map of Malta
Here's a gay map of Malta which includes all the gay bars, clubs, hotels and sightseeing highlights we've mentioned in this post. Use it to plan your own amazing gay trip!
For more inspiration:
- Check out these unique and unusual things to do in Malta
- For more fabulous Mediterranean islands, read our gay guide to the island of Mykonos
- If you love a spot of nude sunbathing, these are the best gay nude beaches around the world
- Or perhaps you just want to visit the best gay beaches in Europe to show off your speedos?
- To see a lot in a little time, these are the best gay cruises around the world
- As well as the best gay nude cruises for the truly adventurous
- Make sure you check out the biggest gay pride events in the world
- Then get inspired by these fabulous gay pride outfit ideas
- And finally, don't forget to pack these must-have gay pride accessories!