St. Paul’s Bay is the largest northern town in Malta, much of it made up of vacation homes and resorts where tourists come to enjoy the seaside. It’s split up into many small zones, the most popular of which are adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea. It’s equal parts lazy and fun, making it enjoyable for a few days’ stay. But would it be a good place to live?
St. Paul’s Bay is definitely a beach town. All you can expect to do there is eat, drink, and catch some sun. It’s more like Key West and less like Mykonos in that the locals tend to be older, like this is the slice of heaven they chose to spend their final years and open up a British sports pub. Even in late June, it kind of felt like high season had not yet started. This is nice, because living in a place that gets uncomfortably overcrowded some months of the year is no fun. And surprisingly, it has a lot going on. So much so, that the music from the pubs was keeping me awake at 3 and 4 am. Those old British guys can party. I imagine that in the winter months, when it’s too chilly to enjoy the outdoor cafes and the beaches, the city is probably kind of boring.
Like everywhere in Malta, the different parts of St. Paul’s Bay are well connected to each other and to the rest of Malta by bus. You can even take a direct bus to the airport 11 miles away. The downside of using this public transportation is that the number of tourists in the area or passing through on the way to Gozo make it really annoying to take the bus. If you’re staying in a small zone like Bugibba, you can pretty much get around on foot. It’s all relatively safe, even at night.
The food in the area is similar to what you’ll find in Valletta, perhaps with slightly less variety. There are British pubs everywhere, so fish and chips are ubiquitous. Also on the menu, almost as if by law, ravioli, rabbit, and pizza. It’s the perfect place to have a hedonistic carb-filled vacation before going home and starving yourself for three weeks. Despite the fact that I’m perpetually craving Maltese pizza now, as a permanent or semi-permanent place to reside, I’m sure the cuisine would get old. As the tourist haven that it is, the drinks are also on the heavy syrupy side, always served with an umbrella or a palm tree stirrer. I don’t mean to sound like a cocktail snob, but if I go to a place that’s highly rated for “Good cocktails,” I don’t want a premixed highlighter yellow margarita.
The cost of St. Paul’s Bay is probably its best draw. For being a seaside town in Europe, where seasides are scarce, it’s totally affordable even in the summer. You can rent a place for 300-400 euro a month. Or better yet, buy a condo for 50,000 euros and rent it all year round. That’s literally half the cost of my master’s degree, and probably a far better long-term investment, especially because Malta is one of those places that has been on the verge of exploding in popularity for years. Restaurants and bars aren’t as expensive as the location would have you believe.
Total Livability Score 4/10
As much as I love the ocean, beach towns never seem to do it for me as a place to settle down. I think the top reason I would ever consider moving there is so I can tell people I live in Bugibba.