The Essential Bugibba Travel Guide - 9 Essential Tips for holidays in Malta

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Buġibba - 9 Essential Travel Tips and Things to do during your Malta holiday

One of the major holiday hotspots in the North of Malta is Buġibba, Qawra and the whole St. Paul's Bay area (from the hamlet of Salina up to and even including Xemxija). This is a seaside cluster of towns which have traditionally consisted of the holiday homes of the local population - but has now evolved to become a major touristic destination where many of Malta's visitors stay, thanks to the great selection of accomodation which is available all throughout the year.

Sunset over Bugibba, Malta

 

The area has recently also seen an drastic increase in its population thanks to major number of expats living in the area.

The whole cluster of towns has all been built in the last 50 or so years, so this isn't a traditional Maltese village by any means - with few historical sites or culture, but it's a great destination nonetheless, particularly for those who are looking to enjoy and explore the North of Malta, maybe even visiting Comino and Gozo.

Given that the sea is a major feature of the area, one of the major attractions of the area is the promenade. The area is always breezy and cool at night, even during the hot summer months, so plenty of people will enjoy a lazy stroll and mingling on the sidewalk.

The promenade stretches from the Sunny Coast Hotel in Qawra, mostly unbroken to il-Bajja ta' l-Ghazzenin (the lazy bum's beach) in St. Paul's Bay - almost 3km of promenade, which tends to get quite busy in the summer, particularly the area between the Malta National Aquarium in Qawra, down to the Buġibba Square and going right up to the Gillieru area.

After you've enjoyed your stroll, just settle in one of the plenty of restaurants, bars, gelaterias which can be found in the area - many of whom also have outdoor areas, particularly the ones right next to the sea, so you can keep enjoying the breeze and the smell of the sea.

Between the nightlife, several gift and other shops, thousands of locals who move to the area for the summer months and a large variety of places for entertainment - Buġibba becomes a bustling area and social hub for the Maltese and visitors to the islands alike.

Here are some of the top tips if you're planning to spend your holidays in Malta, in Buġibba or the surrounding areas.

1. Laze along the Seafront Promenade

With Malta's weather getting into the mid to high-20s even at night, if you're not cooling off in an air-conditioned space, your best bet to staying cool in Malta is a stroll along the coast.

This is one many of Malta's coastal towns feature long, wide promenades, which are just the perfect way to enjoy the refreshing summer breeze and the salty smell wafting from the sea.

Buġibba boasts one of the longest and most popular seafront walks in Malta, with literally thousands of people enjoying the long stretch from the edge of Qawra right up to the edge of St. Paul's Bay - a distance of nearly 3km - making it perfect for a stroll or a jog.

As you make your way along the promenade, early in the evening you can enjoy all of hues of typical Maltese sunset over the sea, whilst walking right next to a number of beach inlets, rocky beaches and a man-made, or artificial, "perched" sandy beach. 

If you start your walk from the side of Qawra, you'll probably walk along the Ta' Fra Ben area and Qawra Tower, today a pizzeria, bar and restaurant, but also a small inlet protected by a small island, which is very well-sheltered from almost all of Malta's prevailing winds.

Moving onwards you'll get to Cafe del Mar and the Malta National Aquarium Complex - (beautifully designed as a starfish, do try to catch a glimpse of it as you fly-in or out of the island). From there head on towards the Buġibba Square, where on the way you'll encounter the "perched beach" right in front of the Dolmen Hotel.

From here onwards, you'll encounter plenty of restaurants, gelaterias, bars and various other outlets, until you get to the Buġibba Square - the hub of the area - also a bustling square brimming with outlets, so if you feel like you're done with your walk, and want to grab a bite or a cold one, you have plenty of choice.

If you're still up for the rest of the walk, keep to the coast and head towards the slight incline and keep to the coast. Again, you're spoilt for choice anytime you feel like stopping to take it all in, or just enjoy the summer breeze.

As you start heading down towards the Gillieru area, you'll get to a small harbour, sheltered by a breakwater (locally known as "il-Pont ta' Buġibba") typically full of traditional Maltese fishing boats. To the side are a number of Roman-era salt-pans. Beyond the Gillieru Harbour, shops get a bit sparse, until you get to the Sirens area.

If you're looking to end your walk near a historical landmark, you can keep on going until you reach one of the Wignacourt Towers, a series of lookout towers built during the time Grandmaster Wignacourt, and which are dotted around the coast of the Maltese islands.

(Fun fact: if you're near a Wignacout tower, you should be able to see at least two other towers - one to the East and one to the West. The idea of the towers was that when a sea invasion was spotted by one of the towers, a smoke signal would be sent. This would ensure the message (and warning) passes down from one tower to the other, so that all of the island is prepared for the attack). 

Doing all of the walk at a brisk pace you'll probably take about an hour and half, in fact, the promenade is a very popular area for joggers.

The front is mostly made up of modern buildings, with a bit of a construction boom also happening the last few years, regenerating the areas slightly older buildings.

2. Top 10 Popular Buġibba Hotels

Given that this is a major tourist destination, there are plenty of good hotels in Buġibba - so you'll find it quite easy to find one which suits your preference in location and budget. There are quite a few seafront hotels, whilst others are literally just a few minutes walk away from the coast - in reality, given the relatively small size of Buġibba, and the surrounding areas and the fact that these towns are literally touching the coast, most hotels will be very nicely located.

There most central area is the Buġibba Square, but of course, most hotels are going to be walking distance from the square anyway.

It's advisable to keep commuting by personal car in and out of Buġibba down to a minimum, unless your hotel has parking, because finding parking spots in summer is quite a challenge. Given that the locals tend to flock to Buġibba both during the week, but particularly in the weekends, finding parking is not always straightforward.

Use the generic search below to find a suitable hotel the Buġibba area which you prefer. Or have a look at our pick of top hotels in Buġibba. ChoiceHolidays can always guarantee the cheapest package prices (flight + hotel) so grab yourself a bargain now.

The below are our pick of a range of hotels which ideally located in the area.

1. Topaz Hotel (Mid-range)

Found in a very central location, minutes away from all amenities, walking distance from the square and the coast, or public transport, this is a great hotel at fantastic value.

Check for availability

2. Qawra Palace (Mid-range)

This sea-front hotel is actually located in the Qawra area on the periphery of Buġibba, but with a great location on the seafront, this is a good hotel to stay if you don't mind a 20 to 30-minute walk to the Square. If you don't there's still plenty of restaurants and bars around the hotel itself.

Check for availability

3. Dolmen Hotel (Mid-range)

Another seafront hotel, centrally located hotel with plenty of rooms. If you're looking for good entertainment both at the hotel and in the area, this is a good choice.

Check for availability

4. DB San Antonio (All-Inclusive)

The DB San Antonio has been renovated and significantly expanded in the last few years, making it one of the best restaurants in the area. Plenty of great restaurants, bars and entertainment both within the hotel and within a few minutes walking.

Check for availability

5. Gillieru Harbour Hotel (Mid-range)

The Gillieru Harbour hotel is placed right on the water's edge, literally touching the Harbour. It is strategically situated such that it is within walking distance of the Square but not right in the middle of all the hustle and bustling crowds.

Check for availability

6. Seashells Resort at Suncrest

The Seashells resort is also situated in the periphery, at Qawra - but with the group managing the hotel also managing a number of restuarants in the vicinity, it makes this spot both not too crowded yet still with a few places of entertainment to visit with a couple of minutes walk. The Luzzu, Cheeky Monkey, Duo, Ocean Basket and a few other restaurants are all within walking distance. The Square is also within walking distance, about 20 to 30 minutes away by foot.

Check for availability

7. Santana Hotel (Mid-range)

The Santana is a great mid-range hotel, very central close to all amenities, great reviews and an all-round good choice.

Check for availability

8. San Anton Hotel (Budget)

If you're looking just for a place to crash and planning to spend most of your days sunbathing or partying the night away, the San Anton is great if you don't have high-expectations.

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9. Buġibba Hotel (Budget)

Again, if you're not looking for a fancy place to stay, centrally located with easy access to most places, this hotel gets the job done.

Check for availability

10. Bella Vista Hotel

The Bella Vista is also on the periphery of the area, located in Qawra, close to Kennedy Grove. It has splendid country-side and sea-views if a bit dated.

Check for availability

 

3. Apartments, Guest houses and other budget stays

 

4. Top Bars, Restaurants and nightlife

The nightlife in this area is quite lively, particularly in summer - there are tens of places of entertainment, particularly plenty of bars, restaurants, cafe's and more. There's a cinema in Pioneer Road and of course, for the families with kids, or for everyone really, there's the Malta National Aquarium.

Really and truly, while there isn't much clubbing, there is everything else to be found in the area. 

From the edges of Qawra right up to Xemxija, there's plenty of places of entertainment - there's also direct transport to other Malta hotspots, so really you'll be very well-served. 

1. Tarragon

Tarragon is a one of the top, fine-dining restaurants in Malta. Located close to Sirens, it is directly at the Water's Edge with open views of the sea - which is great if you're looking for a great romantic atmosphere for a nice dinner.

2. Cheeky Monkey

Fine-dining in a luxury atmosphere is great, but it's not for everyone all the time. If you're looking for a great gastronomic experience, but in a much more casual atmosphere, Cheeky Monkey is definetely a spot you you need to visit. With burgers to die for and (literally) sacks of peanuts to munch on, whilst catching the latest football, match - the place is great for a fun, casual night out.

3. Sottozero

Holiday + Malta = lots of ice-cream. And when looking for a great ice-cream, Sottozero is definetely one of the places you need to visit.

4. Pepe Nero

Although it won't be hard to find pizza, we like to get a specific kind of pizza - one which pretty much follows the italian style, and specifically a Napolitan style of pizza. Pepe Nero is another restaurant found exactly at the water's edge, but it's the pizza which is what really attracts us to this place. Thin crust, wood-oven, and just fanstastic all round.

5. Lovage Bistro

This is a bistro which has earned it's reputation for great food in a cosy atmosphere at very fair prices. If you're looking for a good meal, you won't go wrong here.

6. Duo Restaurant

Duo is another very genuine Mediterranean cuisine restaurant which we love to visit when we're around the area.

7. Ocean Basket

This franchise from South Africa has recently opened it's doors in Malta. Whether you're in the mood for Sushi, a nice fish fry-up or a good ocean catch, Ocean Basket has got you covered.

8. Tagine

Tagine is a Morroccan style restaurant found as part of db San Antonio hotel. As one of restaurants of the hotel, you can expect the level of the quality to match the quality of one of the good hotels in the area.

9. Fat Harry's

Your typical English pub, beer, music, sports on multiple screens and an all-round great atmosphere. You can't miss it, just off the Square. If you fancy a meal, or a good English Breakfast, done the proper way, pop right next door to Mirabelle's.

10. O'Reilly's

Not a restaurant, rather an Irish pub. Once again, great for good clean fun - both with the locals and with visitors. 

4. Getting there

Given the fact that the north of Malta and St. Paul's bay and Bugibba being such a popular destination, getting there is very easy, with plenty of different options available.

Malta Airport to Bugibba

The trip from the Malta International Airport to various places in the North of Malta, including the bus terminus found close to the Dolmen hotel is about 18km. By car, it would normally take between 30 mins to an hour at peak times. By public transport, this would translate to 1 hour to 1 hour and a half most times.

There is a direct bus which goes to Cirkewwa but passes close to Bugibba, stopping at the Kennedy bus stop, from where you'll have about 10 to 15 minutes walk to get to the Square and most other places in the area.

The fare costs €1.50 in winter, €2.00 is summer, and €3.00 for the night service if you buy cash tickets. Prepaid cards are usally cheaper in the long-run, so if you're planning to do some travelling by bus, you might want to check out the cards available on the Public Transport website.

Taking a cab is faster, but pricier option, with fares starting at about €24 with pre-booked private cabs such as eCabs. Alternatively, you can catch a White Taxi directly from the stand at the airport, but you'll find that at peak hours you might find yourself waiting. Booking beforehand is recommended.

Shared shuttle services such as those offered by MaltaTransfer from the airport to Bugibba cost about €20 and should also be booked beforehand.

You can also get to the area by private car (if you've hired a car), but finding parking is very difficult in summer - with traffic wardens dishing out fines for any parking contraventions (not parking within white boxes). It is highly advisable to ask for parking at the hotel or accomodation where you are staying, or find a paid parking area close to your accomodation to avoid wasting time looking for a parking spot.

Cafe del Mar has a paid private parking, whilst close to the Hotel Santana, there is a large public area which is typically used for parking. There are other parking spots and quite a few white parking bays, but finding them, particularly in the evening in summer, is elusive. 

Other than from the airport, getting to Bugibba is very easy. Most tourist services will offer transport to and from your hotel. Public Transport also is very well connected to the area.

Hop-on / Hop-off and Open-top buses

As with most major towns and tourist destinations, you'll find that Hop-On, Hop-off are a regular feature here. In fact, open top buses are a great way to discover Malta and visit the most interesting places if you don't have much time on the island, given that most of the year you'll be able sit outside comfortably - you're actually more than likely to get a sun-tan even just by staying on the bus. 

The North Route passes through the Square and near the Malta National Aquarium besides a couple of other spots. 

A full day ticket costs €20 and is a great way to enjoy Malta's top sights.

6. Beaches in Bugibba

Bugibba perched beach

Just as we've said above, this seaside town was built specifically as summer residences so you'll find that most of this location is all within walking distance of the sea. Most of the coastline, is publically accessible, with a few areas which are more popular. Ta' Fra Ben and the recently developed artificial or "perched" beach are very popular with sunbathers.

Besides these two beaches, the most popular Maltese sandy beaches are only a very short distance by car from the area. Head to Golden Bay or Mellieha Bay, both of which are easily accessible and very well-connected by bus, with regular trips both ways.

The whole area gets very popular in summer, with many locals actually visiting both the beaches and the promenade.

You'll also find paid beach clubs, such as Cafe del Mar, Amazonia Beach Lido, and the Sunny Coast Lido. If you're looking for something to do for the kids, there is the Bugibba Water Park a few away off the Square. There's also the Splash and Fun Park, in Bahar ic-Caghaq, which is just a couple of kilometres away on the Coast Road, going towards Sliema.

Bugibba Water Park

7. Things to do

When you've gotten enough sun and sea you might eventually find some time for visiting a few points of interest, or one of the things to do in Bugibba.

Unlike most towns in Malta, you'll find that churches in Bugibba are not so common and the ones which there are very modern, so they don't carry much history.

So you'll find that the things to do here are more on the lines of entertainment than culture.

1. Malta National Aquarium

The National Aquarium and the square right next to it is one of the fairly recent attractions having been opened only a few years back. This is a Quality-Assured Visitor Attraction which is a perfect place for kids and families.

It's great because many of the attractions combine the history of the island with the actual aquarium, so you're bound to spot a prehistorical template like structure as the backdrop to the aquarium.

Tickets are €14 for adults and €7 for children up to 12 years old.

Malta National Aquarium

2. Malta Classic Car Collection

Run by classic car enthusiast Carol Galea, this is a great place to visit if you're a fan of classic cars. Most of these cars have been lovingly restored by the owner and founder of the collection.

At the price of €9 this is well worth a visit if you're into this sort of thing.

3. Bird Park Malta

The Bird Park is another attraction for visitors and families. This is a Conservation Park for endemic Maltese birds and other wildife. It is home to 200 species of birds and other wildlife. Guided tours, feeding experiences and interaction with the birds is also possible. The entry fee is €8 for adults (13+) and €5 for children.

4. Salina Park and Salt Pans / Kennedy Grove

The Salina Park, part of the Kennedy Grove area is a children's and family park. 

The Salina salt pans are another hot spot for bird-watching. Besides plenty of species of seagulls, you'll also find a number of migratory species during the migrations (around March / April) and (September / October). If you're really lucky, you might actually spot a Flamingo making a stop here.

The Salt pans are beautiful for taking pictures in the morning.

Kennedy Grove is man-made small grove, also designed for family entertainment, which gets very popular in the weekends in the winter months.

5. Wignacourt Tower

If you're close to the coast in Malta, in a place where there is good visibility of the coast, you're more than likely to encounter one of the plenty of watch towers built to protect Malta from sea-based seiges. Grandmaster Wignacourt, added his own touch to the series of towers built by Lascaris and DeRedin - with a difference though. 

While the towers built by Lascaris and DeRedin were watchtowers, the (six) towers built by Wignacourts can be considered as strongpoints or fortresses, built specifically to strengthen the defences of that particular part of the island. 

One of the Wignacourt towers stands at the very edge of the Bugibba area, a few metres up from the Sirens. This is one of the four remaining Wignacourt towers.

The tower is very well preserved from the outside and has been recently restored. 

Wignacourt Tower is generally opened daily between 10am to 1pm Mondays to Saturdays and the first Sunday of each month, pending volunteer`s availability. Visitors should contact DLH (an NGO which maintains this an plenty of other historical monuments in Malta) offices on 21225952, 21220358 when planning their visit to this Tower.

8. Interesting Facts about this location

When we visit a place, we typically like to learn quite a bit about it - the stories which we learn and the interesting facts give you a better understanding of the local culture and makes your visit even more memorable. It's also great for telling stories when you're back home. 

  1. A megalithic temple was built in what is now the grounds of the Dolmen hotel (hence the name of the hotel - Dolmen is a megalithic structure which consists of two standing megaliths, which support a horizontal "table").
     
  2. The population of the area trebles in the summer season. From about 22,000 residents, the populations balloons to more than 60,000 locals and visitors for whom the area is their summer residence.
     
  3. From most of Bugibba, you'll be able to see the islands of St. Paul, or "il-Gżejjer ta' San Pawl". This is reputed to be the location where the Apostle Paul was shipwrecked on his way to his execution to Rome. St. Paul is known as the figure who brought Christianity to Malta during the few days he spent on the island - although these days, it is believed that the shipwreck might have actually occurred in the south of Malta.
     
  4. Bugibba was originally a surname of known Arabic origin. Altough the name survives as the name of this area, the surname is no longer in common use.
     

9. Frequently Asked Questions

As somebody who is looking to visit, here's are some common questions you might have.

  • Should I stay here as part of my holiday? Yes, if you enjoy staying in a "busy" area - espeically in summer and other peak holiday seasons. Although location is in the north, it is very well connected and popular with tourist operators so you're bound to find all you need as a visitor.
     
  • What's the weather like? Malta has a relatively small geographic area so you'll find that the weather does not vary much from one town to the other. In all likelihood, if the weather says it's going be nice and sunny in Malta, that's what the weather will be like in Bugibba. (Why not have a look at our weather breakdown by season in our Best Time to Visit Malta article?)
     
  • Is it safe? Malta has few if any no-go areas which are not safe. The crime rate is very low and generally speaking the country remains one of the safest, but it's never a bad idea to keep an eye out for your and your companions' safety. If you find yourself in an area or situation which looks and feel dodgy, get yourself to more popular areas quickly.
     
  • Can I find free Wi-Fi? As with most places you'll find that most bars, restaurants and cafes offer free connectivity. The Maltese government also has a program of providing free Wi-FI in squares and public gardens - so look out for MCA Free Wifi to get connected for free.
     
  • Can I eat cheaply? Absolutely, if you go to the right places. There are ways and means of shopping around for the right prices. Visiting any of the small kiosks, pizza stands and other such food stalls should result in a good bargain and any very local eatery will provide snacks and food cheaply (and yes, it is very safe to eat there, despite the fact that they might look grubby). Alternatively, you can do some shopping are grocery stores or Supermarkets such as Piscopo's, or Scott's.

If you've still got questions, we'd love to hear from you!

Why not book your holiday to Malta now?

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