Pride on the Horizon: How Malta Became Europe's LGBTQ Holiday Hot Spot

by Matthew Wexler

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Sunday July 4, 2021
Originally published on July 2, 2021

Pack your sunscreen and Speedos, Malta is waiting. Offering luxury and boutique hotels, 300 days of sunshine per year, history, gastronomy, nightlife, and more, Malta — and its sister islands Gozo and Comino — has emerged as a go-to destination for LGBTQ travelers.

Malta has long been on the radar of queer European vacationers who gravitate toward the pristine coastline and LGBTQ-friendly locals. Located about 50 miles south of Sicily and easily accessible by plane from most cities throughout Europe, the country has also made headlines for its progressive attitude toward LGBTQ rights.

In 2016, Malta became the first country to criminalize conversion therapy. The bill also stated "neither sexual orientation nor gender identification can be classified as a disease, disorder or shortcoming of any sort." In addition, same-sex marriage was legalized in 2017, preceded by civil unions in 2014. Even with 83% of the population identifying as Catholic, the country with a population of less than half a million has struck a balance between religious freedom and equality for all. What's more, Malta ranked number one on ILGA-Europe's recently-released annual human rights review, which evaluates 54 countries throughout Europe and Central Asia across a broad range of topics from health and human rights to free speech, asylum, and foreign policy.

Another ranking to brag about? As of publication date, Malta has the highest vaccination rate in Europe.

Our Favorite Things to Do in Malta

Get Wet — Malta's diverse coastline offers sandy beaches, coves, and bays to catch some rays and bliss out. Head to Għajn Tuffieħa for people-watching or for a remote location, St. Peter's Pool, tucked away on the island's southeast peninsula. For those with a more adventurous spirit, Malta's Dive Trail guides divers through the Azure Reef, Blue Hole, and Coral Gardens.

Culinary Convergence — Maltese cuisine tends to draw more influence from southern France rather than its closer Sicilian neighbor, though plenty of Italian ingredients make their way onto local menus. Malta is home to several Michelin-starred restaurants, including the enchanting Bahia, nestled in a 200-year-old farmhouse.

Take a Step Back in Time — Dating back to the 16th century, Malta's capital city of Valletta offers a pristine example of Baroque architecture or head to Gozo for ancient temples dating back to 3600 BC.

When the Sun Sets — Step aside, Mykonos, Sitges, and Ibiza. Malta's vibrant nightlife scene offers something for everyone, whether you're looking to dance the night away at the two-story Michelangelo Club, chill out at its sister property, the alfresco Michelangelo Lounge, or discover the queer-centric disco pop-up Lollipop. Malta is also becoming a go-to destination for EDM musical festivals. Head to the island for the Glitch Festival (August 14-16, 2021) or AMP Lost & Found Festival (September 1-4, 2021).

Rainbow Proud

Pack your rainbow swag because Pride will be going full throttle in Malta this September! The long-awaited return of Malta Pride descends on the island from September 10-19, 2021. Following the footsteps of this year's WorldPride, Malta has adopted the theme #YouAreIncluded and has also secured the exclusive sponsorship of HSBC Bank Malta to throw the ultimate comeback party.

Scheduled events include a pre-Pride party, Pride march, concert, and after-party — so bring plenty of wardrobe changes (no thongs, though, as they're against Maltese law)!

Where to Stay in Malta

The best places to stay in Malta run the gamut from international brands to boutique properties with plenty of character. Need some jumpstart? Here are some of our favorite picks:

Hyatt Regency Malta — Hyatt's brand-new property in the heart of St Julian's resort offers contemporary accommodations, floor-to-ceiling windows or balconies to take in that gorgeous coastline, and a rooftop pool.

Lure Hotel & Spa Mellieha — Be one of the first to stay in this new design-centric hotel featuring contemporary four-poster beds, luxe architectural details. Book an advanced rate package and be greeted with a chilled bottle of Moët & Chandon!

Mayflower Hotel — One of Malta's most affordable new hotels, the Mayflower puts guests in the middle of the action with easy access to the central bus station to provide transport throughout the island.

The Phoenicia Malta — Art deco luxury comes to life at this gorgeous 5-star hotel, which was recently recognized as a 2021 TripAdvisor Travellers' Choice award winner. The new Deep Nature Spa is the ideal spot to unwind after a day of exploring the islands.

Ready to discover more?

Matthew Wexler is EDGE's Senior Editor, Features & Branded Content. More of his writing can be found at Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @wexlerwrites.