So you've made up your mind: you've decided to move to the beautiful Mediterranean country of Malta. Now it's time to make a big decision: where do you want to live? Despite this small nation is only 316 square kilometres, it can still be hard to choose between all the towns and villages. The following are the top Malta property locations.
The easiest way to start is by dividing the country into six different zones:
- The "Harbour", which is made up of St. Julian's, Sliema, and nearby villages
- The capital city of Valletta
- The "Central" zone. This includes large settlements like Birkirkara, Mosta and Naxxar, as well as smaller villages
- The "South" zone. Towns here include Birzebbuga, Marsaskala and Marsaxlokk
- The "North" zone, including Bugibba, Qawra and Mellieha
- The island of Gozo, which is smaller but still has plenty of its own towns and villages to choose from
Extremely popular with expats, the Harbour consists of Sliema and St. Julian's, as well as the villages of Gzira, Ta Xbiex, Msida and more. Plenty of international companies have set up shop in the Harbour, so the community here is very cosmopolitan in comparison with the rest of the country. If you want to rub shoulders with other expats, Sliema can be a good choice. You'll also find a number of shops, restaurants, services, etc - Valletta may be the capital of Malta, but Sliema is far livelier.
As you can imagine, Sliema is more expensive than the rest of the country. You can pay up to twice as much rent as you would elsewhere, and groceries, restaurants and other services may cost you more, too. Living in the centre of the action doesn't come cheap, unfortunately.
If entertainment is important to you, then St. Julian's could be a good choice. There are plenty of bars in Sliema, but St. Julian's is home to the famous Paceville area of nightclubs, where revellers gather every night to go wild. However, not all of St. Julian's is as crazy: you'll also find other businesses and a few residential zones where things are quite a bit more relaxed. Again, things are pretty expensive here. On the plus side, as in Sliema, everything that you need is within walking distance, so you'll rarely have to rely on public transport or a car.
For a cheaper alternative that's not far from the action, nearby villages such as Pieta, Msida, Swieqi and Ta Xbiex are all popular with expats and not as expensive as living right in the heart of the Harbour. You might find that you need to take the bus more often, but you will save on rent.
On the other side of the bay from Sliema you'll find Valletta, the capital of the country. It's very quick to get there by ferry - just 5 minutes, in fact. This means that many people choose to travel by sea rather than take the car, as the drive between the two settlements can be between 20 and 40 minutes, depending on the time of day.
Valletta is famous for its stunning architecture. It's so beautiful, in fact, that the entire city is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Surrounded by old, well-preserved city walls, it is mostly pedestrianised and the perfect place for taking a walk.
But, while Valletta may be a popular choice for day trips, it's probably not an ideal spot for relocating. With a population of 7,000, it has fewer businesses than other parts of the island. Yes, there are cafes, restaurants and bars, but it's also packed with tourists at all times, and many services are aimed at them, rather than residents.
If you want to live in Valletta, you might be better off looking at the nearby villages, which include Floriana and Pieta.
The Central Zone
Just to be clear, the zones which we're discussing in this article are not official geographical designations in Malta. As such, the borders can be a bit hazy - but for the purposes of this Malta property article, "Central" refers to Birkirkara, Mosta, Attard, Lija and Naxxar, as well as the villages nearby. We'll discuss Bugibba and Qawra separately.
Birkirkara is the largest town, and the Central zone in general is the most populous part of the country, although here there are more Maltese than expats. However, although there are plenty of options when it comes to finding a place to live, it's not as buzzing and lively as Sliema or St. Julian's, so keep that in mind if it's important for you when you're choosing a place to settle.
Advantages of moving to the Central zone include the fact that accommodation is significantly cheaper than around the Harbour, and being in the middle of the island means that it shouldn't take too long to get anywhere. On the other hand, you can't walk to shore as you can in many other places, so if a daily swim is on the agenda, you'd be better off looking somewhere else.
There are plenty of small settlements around the South, which is where you'll find Malta's only airport - which could be useful if you are planning to travel on a regular basis. The largest villages here are Marsaskala, Marsaxlokk and Birzebugga. It's a pleasant area which attracts far fewer tourists than the Harbour.
The South is generally one of the cheapest places to find accommodation, and there are also a lot of bars and restaurants nearby. However, don't expect to find nightlife on a par with the Harbour. If the beach is important to you, it's a good choice, because some of the island's best beaches can be found here, and a few of them are right in the centre of towns. However, job opportunities are hard to come by in this zone, and if you depend on public transport, then it won't be easy to get to Valletta or the Harbour. You may have to take an unreliable, slow bus service, so be sure to do your homework before making a choice.
Also in the South zone you'll find towns such as Marsa, which is further inland and is rarely considered by expats, as it's most populated by factory workers.
The North can be divided into two separate parts: Buggiba/Qawra and Mellieha. To start with. Buggiba and Qawra - towns which are connected - are incredibly popular with tourists. They are full of hotels, restaurants, bars and other tourist attractions. On the one hand, there's plenty to do in these areas, but on the other, the constant crowds of holidaymakers can be a bit hard to take.
Although it's not quite as expensive as the Harbour area, you will find that rents are going up in Bugibba, so don't look at it as a bargain. The seafront here is long and pleasant, but it's often overcrowded, especially in summer.
Mellieha, on the other hand, is popular with expats, particularly British retirees. Here you'll find plenty of holiday homes and villas, and things are a lot quieter than in Bugibba/Qawra. There are some great beaches here, too, not only in Mellieha but also nearby in Ghan Truffieha and Armier Bay.
Gozo, a smaller island to the north of the Maltese mainland, is also worth considering if you're planning to emigrate. However, the first thing to think about is jobs. It can be hard to find employment in Gozo. In fact, many of the people who live here commute daily to the main island. If the thought of taking a ferry between the islands twice a day doesn't appeal, then you might want to forget about Gozo.
However, if you're looking to retire or working from home, it can be a good choice. The capital, Victoria, is inland, as is Xaghra, while coastal towns like Xlendi, Marsalforn and Mgarr are also very pleasant. In general, it's a lot quieter and relaxing than the mainland.
Taking a ferry between the islands is cheap - in fact, it's cheaper for people who live on Gozo - and takes less than half an hour. Many retirees who come here relish the seclusion and quiet.
Making Your Mind Up
Malta may be a small country, but depending on where you choose to live, your experience could be very different from other expats'. When it comes to luxury properties in Malta, it's hard to select one particular zone as the perfect spot for an expat looking to make a move. It all depends on your personal circumstances and needs. Consider what's most important to you - do you want to be in the heart of the action, even if it costs you a bit more? Would you rather be somewhere more secluded and quiet? How important is it for you to be near the beach, and how high is your tolerance for tourists? Once you've answered those questions, you should be able to find a part of Malta that suits you perfectly.