Why All the Gays Are Going to Malta This Summer

by Emell Adolphus

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday June 22, 2022

Why All the Gays Are Going to Malta This Summer

Malta, the tiny island country in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, attracts an estimated half a million visitors each year to its glittering beaches, unmatched archeological attractions, and well-appointed party scene. But for an increasing number of LGBTQ+ travelers, the country's appeal lies in its acceptance.

Ranked No. 1 on the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) Europe Rainbow Index for seven consecutive years, Malta has become a sunny safe haven where LGBTQ+ travelers can slow down during the summer Pride circuit. Surrounded by more than 20 countries, Malta's annual Pride celebration, held Sep. 2-11 this year, attracts revelers from European, Middle Eastern, and North African regions where LGBTQ+ rights and tolerance tend to be fraught and fragmented. Recognizing this, Malta prides itself on being a colorful port of call — so much so, that the country will host all of Europe next year during its EuroPride Valletta celebration on Sept. 7-17, 2023. Event organizer Allied Rainbow Communities is calling it "the largest gathering of love and diversity Malta has ever seen," but LGBTQ+ travelers don't have to wait until next year to feel the love. Before adding Malta to your travel itinerary today, here's a preview of what makes the country so special.

A Taste of Maltese Cuisine

Malta is a country of contrasts: Seaside and city, horse carts and luxury cars, stillness and high spirits. The fastest way for LGBTQ+ travelers to quickly dig into it all is through the island's varied cuisine. At the center of varied regional food influences, Malta's dining scene seems to take the best of many worlds. How else to explain the island's five Michelin Star restaurants?

But not every restaurant needs a star to be sumptuous. The Quality Assured Restaurant Award, overseen by the Malta Tourism Authority, also gives recognition to high-quality standards in service, hospitality, food, and ambiance, and there are many restaurants that carry high marks.

At Zafiro Restuarant, you will find all the Maltese staples: Bread, oil, salt, and seafood. Attached to San Andrea's hotel, the restaurant's menu draws inspiration from Mediterranean cuisine and applies it to typically Maltese dishes. Try the fresh Aljotta, a traditional Maltese fish soup, or the Gozo cheese ravioli to situate your tastebuds to the local fare.

The Chophouse is the epitome of international cuisine, offering guests a modern space with breathtaking panoramic views of Malta's Capital, Valleta. The Chophouse sources its ingredients locally to create a mouth-watering menu of steak preparations — all cooked to your liking. Not to mention the restaurant's beautiful bar that boasts a range of local whiskies.

Then there is Noni. Once a bakery, Noni is now known for breaking boundaries when it comes to fusing together a menu of traditional Maltese and Mediterranean cuisine.

Malta Pride History & Heritage

The first-ever Pride March in Malta took place in 2004, when around 50 demonstrators, most of them straight allies and a few politicians, marched along the Capital City of Valletta. Organized by the Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement, the event birthed Malta's annual Pride Week and Pride March, according to Malta Pride organizers Allied Rainbow Communities. The documentary "Equality From The Heart" delves a lot into this story, and the island's queer history, from the point of view from a few of its pioneers, and it is worth a watch.

From 2016 until present, Pride March participation has increased year after year. In 2019, 8,000 people, approximately 2% of the population of Malta, participated at the Pride March & Concert, with over 22 other events also held during Pride Week. This year's Pride Week is expected to draw close to 10,000 participants.

Framing each experience and putting context to Malta's Pride celebrations are its various prehistoric archeological sites and historical structures located across the island, including the Skorba Temples, the Borg in-Nadur Temples, the Clapham Junction of historical cart ruts, and the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, a labyrinth of underground chambers thought to be used as both a burial site and a temple.

On Malta's sister island, Gozo, the history continues. A 25-minute ferry trip from the Cirkewwa terminal, the island makes for a great day trip or overnight trip, and has a quieter and quainter feel from the mainland. Sparsely populated, the island's rural scene still keeps many of Malta's old traditions, offering visitors the opportunity to milk goats and sheep, and help prepare traditional Gozitan cheese. In addition to hosting five-star hotels and hostels, the island is also home to the world's oldest free-standing temples of Ggantija, a UNESCO world heritage site.

The history doesn't stop on the shore. Just under the island's pristine waters is a seabed studded with shipwrecks, lost planes, statues, and other historical structures, including the HMS Maori and the Um El Faroud. With boat dives of various depths to choose from, everyone has the opportunity to tap into their inner deep sea explorer. Or, you can choose to park yourself on one of Malta's 12 beaches and bake while laying in the golden sand.

Night & Day Stays

Many locals describe Malta as being "one big city," and it's easy to enjoy what the island has to offer when the views are great no matter where you are sitting — or staying. Whether you want to go luxurious or laid back, Malta's hotels run a range of tastes at great locations.

The Radisson Blu Resort & Spa, Malta Golden Sands features 144 rooms and 164 suites for business or leisure travelers, complete with free Wi-Fi and in-room services. Out of Malta's hotel offerings, it's pricier but purposeful. The hotel sits on the northwest coast of the island on the Golden Bay Beach near Mellieha. Amenities include a five-star spa, a private-feeling beach, and local attractions such as the Mosta Dome and St. Paul's Bay, which are just a short walk away.

While we are on the subject of St. Paul's Bay, it's a good time to mention the spectacular Dolmen Hotel Malta, situated along the Qawra coast of St. Paul's Bay. the hotel has spectacular sea views and spacious grounds that seem to press right up against the water. From there, it's a short stroll to the Malta National Aquarium and the buzzy Bugibba Square. The towns of St. Julian's and Malta's Capital City of Valletta are also close by, making Dolmen the perfect hotel for a couples getaway or a family retreat.

When the sun goes down, Malta really comes alive. There is an array of wine bars, clubs, casinos (yes, casinos!), theaters, and restaurants to choose from that will keep you entertained well into the night.

The Chamber of Mysteries is a cheeky take on a magic variety show, combining wizardry, wonder, and wine to create a one-of-a-kind experience that locals and visitors can enjoy. Come with an open mind, and you'll leave ready to experience more of the island's magic. Located in the heart of Malta, the show is held in an 18th Century building chamber that has been transformed into an intimate performance space.

After a show or two, be sure to save some magic for Portomaso Casino. Located in St Julian's, among the luxurious and premium Portomaso towers, the casino feels like the setting of a James Bond film. The casino offers a standard set of gaming options, including Texas Hold'em poker, roulette, blackjack, and punto blanco. (Foreign nationals must be 18 years old to play.) But don't spend all of your money on the tables; spread some around in the relaxing Portomaso lounge, or grab a bite to eat at the brasserie.

When you're ready to dance into the night, there are two words all LGBTQ+ travelers in Malta should know: Michelangelo Club. Yes, Malta has a gay club, and yes, it is the only gay club on the island. But when you step inside you will see Michelangelo has everything you need, and more. On weekends, the club is packed with patrons identifying under every letter of the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Two floors with separate bars and dance floors gives the club a sense of movement, and there is always a drag show or a special party night to enjoy if you check the club's calendar before you come.

When you're ready to move on, you can easily walk to other nearby bar offerings or just take things slow and enjoy the sounds of the city on a romantic walk to the shore. Malta is intimate and friendly, so you're bound to find a place where you will want to sit and stay awhile. But if you're exploring the city the right way, you won't want to stay put.