The Best Places To Live In Malta For Expat Retirees
A complete overview of the most popular expat locations in Malta from modern vibrant towns to traditional quiet villages to even quieter island retreats - find your perfect home in Malta
Exploring Malta can be a wonderful experience. However, finding the right place to live demands a more serious approach – from trying out different locations to finding out about the local infrastructure and amenities, to researching the local property market and talking to other expats living in the area to get their opinion.
Malta is one of those countries where the traditional and the contemporary live side by side. There is definitely a more modern feel in the north than the south.
The northern part of the island is more urban and populated, while many southern parts have a distinctly rural feel to them.
With the majority of the population living in the northern region, the quietness and rural tranquility of the south can be really welcoming for those seeking peace and calm.
There are many locations in Malta already favoured by expats; you should have little problem finding what suits you best, be it a lively colourful city, a marvellous beach destination, or a truly quiet and peaceful old little fishing village.
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Valletta is one of the smallest capital cities in Europe and is also the southernmost European capital. As Malta is a country of towns and villages, and only the capital can qualify as a city, Valletta is known as Il-Belt (the City) in Maltese.
Despite being a capital city, Valletta is pretty quiet and tranquil. There is no active nightlife to speak of – being a UNESCO World Heritage Site imposes certain obligations and restrictions after all. But the city still feels quite bohemian and is certainly culturally rich – it was named European Capital of Culture in 2018.
Valletta is not the most popular choice for expats; the expat population in the capital, although growing, is still relatively small. But if you are into culture, history and arts, you will find it all here.
Manoel Theatre, Royal Opera House, National Museum of Archeology, National Fine Arts Museum, etc., all of these and other cultural sites are available in Valletta.
The Auberges, the former residences of the knights of St John, are probably the most visited buildings in Valletta.
Many of them now house museums or government departments and have lovely traditional wooden balconies, a characteristic feature of Vallettan architecture.
Although the capital, Valletta is not the most expensive location in terms of property. However, the choice is good, from small modest one-bed apartments in one of the older apartment blocks to opulent and luxurious converted palazzos.
If you’re after a more active social life, then look around the Harbour Area. Harbour Area is also known as Greater Valletta and is situated around the Grand Harbour, one of the most fabulous natural harbours in the world.
Malta’s most sought after areas are there: St Julian’s and Sliema and the three cities off the Grand Harbour: Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua.
It is a very lively and cosmopolitan place to live, full of shops, bars and cafes. It is built up, often congested with traffic, and busy all year round. Also, nightlife flourishes along the seafront.
A property’s proximity to the seafront has a great impact on its price.
Keep in mind that Grand Harbour and the areas around it are very much favoured by tourists and young people, so if you’re looking for a quieter place to retire abroad, it is worth looking elsewhere.
The northern side of the Grand Harbour has for a long time been the most fashionable place to live in Valletta. If it seems too expensive for you, look at the opposite end – the south side of the Grand Harbour.
There are museums and plenty of entertainment options there.
There is a regular ferry from Valletta going both to the north and south of the Grand Harbour. Ferries are pretty reliable, frequent and a fun form of public transit in Malta.
West of St. Julian’s, lying inland, is a little town of Swieqi. It is a quiet residential area just 15 minutes by bus from Sliema and within a walking distance of Paceville and St. Julian’s.
Due to its location and peaceful character, the area is very popular with the local upper-middle class. It also has all the necessary amenities and facilities to make life there comfortable and convenient.
To the north of Swieqi lies the coastal town of Pembroke. It is conveniently close to Paceville, too, giving the residents of Pembroke the opportunity to enjoy the facilities of both neighbouring towns.
The coastline of Pembroke is relatively undeveloped and rocky, and there are numerous paths for hiking available along the coast. There are also trails leading to the historical Madliena watchtower.
Pembroke used to be a British military base lined with a set of barracks and buildings constructed for officers. Most of these buildings are still in use, with many having been transformed into residences.
To the south and east, a small residential area has sprung up, with large terraced houses and some more recent apartments dominating the scene.
Terraced houses, villas and maisonettes are the main property types found in this location.
Mellieha, St Paul’s Bay and Buġibba (pronounced ‘boojibber’), all towns in the north of the island, also attract a lot of expats.
Mellieha is very popular with British retirees and is famous for its beaches and picturesque scenery, which epitomises old-style Malta. The town neighbours Il-Majjistral Nature and History Park and has a ferry connection with the island of Gozo.
Buġibba is a busy and vibrant place, which offers a lot of nighttime entertainment, while Mellieha and St Paul’s Bay are quieter towns.
Property in these towns is cheaper than in the Harbour Area.
All three locations offer a good choice of various properties, both older houses and new developments, suited to various tastes and budgets. That said, Buġibba and St Paul’s Bay are generally a bit cheaper than Mellieha.
A little west and inland is the lovely little town of Madliena, which is situated at a high elevation and has fabulous views of the northern bays.
Being in close proximity to both St Paul’s Bay and St. Julian’s means that Madliena residents can take advantage of the beaches of the former, and entertainment and shopping of the latter.
The town of Madliena owes its origin to the 15th century Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene. The Victoria Lines, Madliena Fort and The Batteria San Giovanni are considered to be local attractions.
Madliena is mainly a villa residential area where you will find detached villas, semi-detached villas, and bungalows.
Villas are quite an expensive type of property on the island due to the natural lack of land. It is possible though to buy a cheaper villa built in the seventies and then refurbish it.
There are also luxury apartment developments, as well as maisonettes, available in the area. Some of the views from these properties are stunning and go as far as St. Paul’s Bay.
Ta Xbiex is a small town in the eastern part of Malta that overlooks a beautiful Marsamxetto harbour and is mostly known for its stunning marina, and a number of foreign embassies including those of Egypt, Italy, France and the British High Commission.
The town is a very sought-after place to live, popular with both locals and expats, and one of the most expensive places in terms of property in Malta.
Ta Xbiex has an exquisite villa area with some unique villas worth millions of euros and is favoured by yacht owners because of its modern marina.
Ta Xbiex Marina has a convenient central location and shelter afforded from the prevailing north-westerly winds. It is also naturally protected from other wind directions, while the breakwater protects against a north-easterly swell.
The town offers all the facilities and amenities necessary for a comfortable modern life. It also hosts a number of law and insurance companies, along with accountancy firms.
Great restaurants and cafes along the coast take advantage of the location and offer spectacular harbour views.
Further down the coast is the pretty fishing village of Marsaxlokk, where some of the best seafood restaurants on the island can be found.
Marsaxlokk is famous for its big Sunday fish market and its many decorative “eyed” painted boats called Luzzus.
If you want to find a fine beach destination away from tourists and holidaymakers, Marsaxlokk is the right choice. Tourists don’t usually flock there because of the shipyards and power station. Malta’s main power station is located there and Oiltanking Malta Ltd. also operates from Marsaxlokk.
Marsaxlokk has a small sandy beach on the east side. There is also the amazing St. Peter’s Pool located at Delimara within a 20-minute walk. The pool is framed with smooth, weathered limestone ledges, which make good sunbathing spots.
The waters of St. Paul’s bay are perfect for diving, snorkeling and cliff jumping.
You can either totally fall in love with Marsaxlokk for its serene and quiet character, or totally hate it because there’s not much to do.
Northeast of Valletta, along the northern coastline, is a little seaside town of Marsascala, set around a gorgeous inlet called Marsascala Creek.
Originally Marsascala was an ancient fishing village. Today it’s a little town stretching on both sides of the bay.
Marsascala’s bay has an amazing promenade that continues all the way to St Thomas Bay with views of low shelving rocks, colourful fishing boats and saltpans. The local expat community uses the promenade as their favourite meeting place.
In summer, the village is buzzing with life and the population rises, for not only tourists but also many Maltese families come to spend summer months in this gorgeous little town.
Marsascala has a range of modern leisure facilities, banks, restaurants, small shops/supermarkets, bars and restaurants. The newly opened family park (free to the general public) is great for all ages.
However, Marsascala is even quieter than Marsaxlokk. Other than to chill out, it does not offer much else. It’s a good and quieter alternative to avoid the hustle and bustle of busy tourist resorts like Sliema, St. Julian’s and Bugibba, but really only if you’re looking for a quiet life by the sea.
Both Siggiewi and Qrendi are quiet southern villages, full of rural Maltese charm and character.
Siggiewi is a little village just 10 km away from Valetta.
It is a lovely place with a unique L-shaped church square, typical narrow village streets and lots of character, with locals mingling in the many bars around the square.
One of its many attractions is the Inquisitor’s Summer Palace, which today serves as the Maltese Prime Minister’s official residence. The Limestone Heritage Park and Gardens are also one of the main attractions of Siggiewi. Just outside the city lies the famous Malta Falconry Centre.
Another famous spot, Ghar Lapsi, a little rocky inlet below a stretch of Dingli Cliffs, is a popular beauty spot, used by divers and rock climbers. It is also a natural swimming pool that attracts numerous snorkelling enthusiasts, divers and tourists. This natural cove offers extraordinary blue-green waters safe for a sheltered swim.
Qrendi is a small southern village famous for two well-known Neolithic temples, a number of lovely traditional Maltese houses “with a character”, a few old towers in and around the village, and numerous chapels.
The village, although small, is popular with new settlers, and there are modern suburban developments being built to offer a choice of properties for potential buyers.
Both places have a small, mostly British expat community.
Gozo is a small island just north of Malta, accessible via regular ferries. Ferries run every 45 minutes between Mġarr on Gozo and Ċirkewwa on Malta. It takes approximately 25 minutes to cross to the other side.
Gozo is full of charm and natural beauty, with baroque churches and old stone farmhouses dotting the countryside.
The island features rugged landscapes and spectacular coastlines with some of the Mediterranean’s best dive sites.
Gozo offers clean air and a traditional rustic way of life. Popular areas of Gozo include Marsalforn, Xlendi and the historic capital Victoria.
Gozo is very quiet and life there has a slow, rural feel to it. Gozo is rather popular with retired people; it has all the amenities one would normally need for everyday life. The road network on Gozo has recently been improved to a high standard and there are regular ferries to Malta.
Malta is a brilliant place to retire: it has warm winters and an abundance of sunshine. It is also within a few hours’ flying time from the UK – convenient for family visits. It is quite safe and more laid back than Britain and the better weather means a healthier and more active outdoor lifestyle.
Maltese towns and villages are diverse and each has its own character. Some are bustling and active, others are more culturally oriented, and quite a few look more like a perfect yoga retreat. Choose wisely and Malta can become your perfect home in retirement.