Discover Mellieha: A Wonderfully Varied Location
Mellieha is where a modern tourist resort meets authentic Maltese village life, local culture and pristine nature. One thing is certain: you’ll not be in want for things to do in Mellieha. There’s plenty of history through the ages surrounding this area that was first inhabited in around 3000 BC. Plus the northern coast offers a beautiful natural environment that’s ideal for a nature walk. Head into the countryside and you may stumble across megalithic remains, troglodyte caves, a fort or a historic palace. Get your camera at the ready for spectacular views including coastal cliffs, beaches and bays. Try the different bars, cafes and restaurants, some of which offer delicious Mediterranean cuisine. Mellieha is an absolutely stunning spot; a true indulgence for all the senses.
Where is Mellieha Malta?
The locality of Mellieha covers the entire northern section of the island of Malta. It is one of the largest but least densely populated areas; a place of natural Mediterranean beauty. To put things in perspective: Mellieha has a population of around 10,000 within an area of 22.6 km², while Sliema has double the population within just 1.3 km². The Parish Church at the centre of the village is 4.8 km from the Golden Sands Resort & Spa and 5.9 km from the Gozo ferry, placing charming Gozo within easy reach. At just a 25-minute ferry crossing from Gozo and a 25-minute drive from Valletta and Sliema, give or take a few, Mellieha perfectly bridges the laid-back, traditional lifestyle and where it’s all happening. And that’s exactly its own character.
Top things To Do In Mellieha
From holy shrines, history and leisure in the village core to troglodyte caves, forts and palaces in secluded scenic spots, Mellieha is a great place to experience.
1. Discover Mellieha’s Spiritual Roots
As you’ll quickly discover, the story of Mellieha ties in strongly with the Catholic faith. The Parish, the Sanctuary and the Grotto are all major attractions in the Mellieha centre. The most characteristic feature in the village of Mellieha is the Parish Church and the area surrounding it. A labour of love, the locals built it with their own hands between 1883 and 1930. When the church is lit up at night, perched upon a hill, it looks much like a Disney Palace! The nearby square offers stunning views across Mellieha Bay and the cliffs of the Marfa Ridge. Photo opportunities!
One of the first ten parishes recorded in 1436, Mellieha’s first church was the cave where, according to tradition, St Luke had painted a figure of Our Lady in 60 AD; the 16th century Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mellieha catered for pilgrims flocking to the cave, which was consecrated in 409 AD. This is not to be confused with Our Lady of the Grotto that was later hand-carved into the rock face below the Sanctuary as one Sicilian merchant’s ‘gift’ to the pilgrims. Interestingly, however, the statue of Our Lady of the Grotto seems to be a source of many miracles. On the other hand, the origin of the current 11th century Marian icon in the Sanctuary is unknown.
2. Explore The Village Core
Inside the village core, the main street in front of the Parish remains relatively undisturbed by the activity of the parallel busy road running down towards Mellieha Bay. This road features several restaurants, bars, cafes and all kinds of shops. An interesting and unique feature of Mellieha are the many stairs connecting this newer area to the upper and older part of the village.
3. Relive Social History
While in the centre, do visit the Mellieha Air-Raid Shelter, another witness to the social history of Mellieha. With over 500 metres of corridors dug entirely by hand during World War II, it remains one of the largest bomb shelter complexes in Malta.
Indeed, if a glimpse at social history is what fascinates you, the Tunnara Museum also revisits the life of Mellieha’s inhabitants of the past. The Tunnara museum tackles the subject of fishing for tuna, a common local activity; the curator also lends information about the history of the 1715 tower which houses the museum and other local attractions.
In addition, a quirky unadvertised attraction that is quite unique to Mellieha is the Ghar u Casa. The cave-made-house bears testimony to the long history of cave dwelling in Mellieha from ancient times until quite recently. Look out for a yellow facade in the cliff face across the valley from the Sanctuary. There are also several neolithic caves scattered around Mellieha’s outcrops and valleys, if you fancy some exploration; ask the locals to point you in the right direction.
4. Ramble Through The Countryside
The Mellieha countryside should surely not remain unexplored. This is an opportunity to truly discover the Mediterranean flora and fauna as well as admire impressive seascapes. The natural reserves include the Majjistral Nature and History Park and the Ghadira Nature Reserve, which you can visit. The Foresta 2000 Riserva and Koperattiva Rurali Manikata also make an interesting day trip where you can learn about local agriculture, trees and flora with farmers; plus a visit to some archaeological remains. Otherwise just head into the woodland at il-Mizieb or along the rugged coast at Marfa Ridge, locally known as L-Ahrax, or Selmun with its view of St Paul’s Islands. See if you can find the Coral Lagoon on Marfa Ridge, a sea-cave with a collapsed roof.
5. Admire The Legacy Of Military History
If forts and fortifications are your thing, the best bit is that most of these are located in wonderful country locations that afford extraordinary views! There are plenty dating from the Knights of the Order of St John and the British. The Knights began the fortification of the northern coast of Malta with Saint Agatha’s Tower, which was completed in 1649; it offers grand views of Mellieha Bay, Comino and Gozo. Ghajn Hadid Tower and Armier Tower were built as smaller watchtowers in 1658. The 18th century saw the arrival of a series of coastal batteries, redoubts and entrenchments by the Knights, including the Mistra Battery, Vendome Battery, Wied Musa Battery and Westreme Battery, which still survive.
The British built Fort Campbell in Selmun; you will also see the privately commissioned 18th century Castillo de Selmun as you enter Selmun. The British are also responsible for the building of Mellieha Fort and a number of smaller pillboxes that were used as lookouts against invasion.
6. Get Playful With Popeye
If it’s getting too serious, tone it down a little with some lighthearted fun. Through all this, Mellieha’s most popular attraction is Popeye Village, the original movie set from the 1980 musical. While the film was not short of a flop, the movie set remains a delight for people of all ages. There are various seasonal activities, including Santa’s Toy Town in winter and water games in summer. There is children’s animation, the possibility to partake in your own Popeye movie, and even wine-tasting and artisan demonstrations at the souvenir shops. Another plus is that it’s a great location to photograph, especially at sunset.
7. Enjoy The Good Things In Life
Now we’re talking about the best Malta beaches and some really good food to satisfy your senses. Most of Malta’s sandy beaches are in Mellieha. These include Golden Bay and you can count in the adjacent Riviera Bay, although it is technically in Mgarr. Further north you’ll find, from west to east: Anchor Bay, Paradise Bay, Armier Bay, Little Armier, Slugs Bay, Mellieha Bay and Imgiebah Bay. Some of these include facilities such as food and beverage establishments, public convenience and water sports while others are completely secluded. Sunbathe, play on the beach, build a sandcastle or immerse yourself in the clear waters – each beach is a piece of heaven.
When you’ve worked up an appetite from the sunshine and salty air, eat at one of the bars, cafes and restaurants in Mellieha. You’ll find Maltese food, Oriental food, fish restaurants, pizza, pasta & grill, and beachside diners. Plus the traditional pastizzeria if you want street food on the go. We recommend a meal at One80 – a good quality restaurant with a terrace looking upon one of the most extraordinary sunset views in Mellieha.
Do take your time to explore Mellieha. It’s certainly one of the top things to do in Malta and you’ll be glad to discover what authentic Malta is all about.