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Regions and Cities for Expats in Malta

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: November 2013

The state of Malta is an archipelago consisting of 18 islands, although only three of these are of any size and actually inhabited. The country is named for the island Malta, the largest and by far the most populous island. Malta Island greatly dominates the country in terms of administration, commerce, employment, culture and most other matters. For statistical purposes, Malta is divided into three regions.


Area (km2)


Density (per km2)

Malta Xlokk




Malta Majjistral









Malta Xlokk (pronounced like ‘schlock’, the Maltese for ‘sirocco’, which originally meant ‘east wind’) comprises the south-eastern third of the island and contains 25 of the country’s 68 local councils. Malta Majjistral (‘ma-yee-stral’, from the Maltese word for ‘mistral’) is the north-western two-thirds of Malta Island and contains the largest number of local councils at 29. Gozo, the smallest region, has 14 local councils.

In practical terms it is probably more useful to divide the country into urban and rural Malta and Gozo. Urban Malta consists of Greater Valletta, once a collection of towns and villages clustered around the Grand Harbour that merged to form one continuous conurbation.

At the heart of the conurbation is Valletta, the capital of Malta, a walled city built by the Knights of St John. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its entirety. Valletta is the administrative and cultural heart of the country but has recently undergone population decline as people have moved out into other areas of the conurbation.

Sliema, and the nearby St Julian’s (Maltese: San Ġiljan), west of Valletta, is the most important area for commercial activity and tourism on the islands. On the other side of the Grand Harbour stand Cospicua, Senglea and Vittoriosa, the Three Cities. Once the administrative centre of the islands, the cities are now chiefly known as tourist attractions.

Rural Malta includes Mdina, the beautiful walled former capital, now depopulated and known as the Silent City. Apart from local access, no vehicles are allowed to enter. There are also several seaside resorts which are quieter than the Grand Harbour area, such as Marsaxlokk in the south and St Paul’s Bay (Maltese: San Pawl il-Baħar) and Mellieħa in the north.

Gozo and Comino are considerably greener and more rural than Malta. Gozo has preserved this character despite recent development on the island. The island still has its fair share of tourists, including some from Malta Island, escaping the more frenetic pace of the Harbour area. The capital of Gozo, Victoria, acts as the commercial hub of the island and is also a major tourist centre. Many locals still call it by its former name, Rabat.

Gozo contains the Ġgantija (juh-gantia), one of the country’s seven ancient megalithic temples. Built 7,000 years ago, they are the oldest still-standing structures in the world. Together they comprise a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The only other of the 18 Maltese islands of any significant size is Comino, which lies between Malta and Gozo. The full-time population is around 10, though the island is popular with tourists.



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