On a recent trip to Malta we had the pleasure of meeting Clayton Mercieca, the Community Manager & Coordinator for a non-profit organization called Allied Rainbow Communities (ARC), the organizers of Malta Pride, which takes place in September. Besides Pride, they also organize regular events for the LGBTQ community, provide information about news and events through their media channels, and provide consultation to the private and public sector. Clayton and his husband Chris are also dads to Sebastian, who is around 2 years old.
What annual LGBTQ events should visitors plan on taking part in when they visit Malta, and when do they take place?
Malta’s biggest LGBTQ event is definitely Malta Pride, which takes place in the capital city of Valletta between the 1st and 2nd weekend of September. However, other events take place throughout the year. There’s a fun themed-party called Lollipop which happens monthly, the Easter Eve Party and the Bordello Foam Party organized by S2S Events, and the Live Final Eurovision Screening Party organized by ARC, which happens during May. Other one-off international events take place in collaboration with the team at Michelangelo Gay Bar. A comprehensive list of events are uploaded on our website www.gaymalta.com
What LGBTQ groups or organizations are there in Malta that welcome visitors to their events, and when do they take place?
ARC hosts frequent meet-ups on a monthly basis, which are more directed for folks interested in socializing and networking, rather than clubbing. The meet-ups are usually held in LGBTQ-friendly bars in Valletta. We also hosts women-led parties such as karaoke and ladies-only club nights. Other events are also held by ARC such as country walks, film nights, and more.
Lollipop is a super-inclusive, fun, and themed LGBTQ club night that takes place once a month.
The Malta LGBTQ Rights Movement (MGRM) hosts monthly coffee meet-ups at their offices in Mosta and sometimes games for people who like participating in sports.
For those who are spiritual and would like to meet like-minded individuals, there’s an LGBTQ faith based group called Drachma, which meets twice a month.
S2S Events produces between 4 to 6 parties each year around the time of Easter, and in July, August, September, November, and December.
LGBTI+ Gozo, is based on the island of Gozo, and hosts a number of events throughout the year.
Michelangelo, a Gay Bar, in Paceville is open most days of the week and holds themed nights every weekend.
All events are posted on www.gaymalta.com
What LGBTQ owned bars, restaurants, hotels, or shops should people visit when coming to Malta?
Although Malta has just one official gay bar, Michelangelo, most businesses are gay-friendly. As an organization, we advocate for better staff training in diversity for the hospitality industry and other fields to ensure everyone is welcomed and accepted. In addition, the Government is launching the #ALLWelcome campaign, where various businesses will don a rainbow colored sticker showing they are LGBTQ friendly.
ARC is also building a Pink Directory of LGBTQ owned and friendly businesses.
What are some of your favorite places to go for cocktails and/or dinner?
Me, my husband, and our friends usually love hanging out in Valletta for cocktails and dinner. I can never get enough of the capital city. It has a charm to it that is found in very few other cities. We also love hanging out in smaller towns like Mdina, Rabat, and the Three Cities.
What is the best time of year to visit Malta and why?
I would say May – September are the best months if you’re looking to spend most days by the beach, dining out, clubbing, and celebrating Pride. Spring and autumn are the best to relax, unwind and visit cultural sites.
What are the best places (beaches, parks, etc,) to truly enjoy the natural beauty of Malta?
The northwest part of the island is where the best beaches are, including Golden Bay, Ghajn Tuffieha Bay, and Mellieha Bay. This area of Malta also has a great natural reserve called Majjistral Nature & History Park, where people can roam freely and appreciate nature. Gozo is a beautiful, smaller island with amazing beaches and great spots to enjoy nature.
What cultural attractions are a must see for LGBTQ visitors?
The capital city of Valletta is like a giant museum filled with architectural baroque beauty. In Valletta, one can find a number of museums that LGBTQ visitors will certainly enjoy, including MUZA, The National Museum of Archeology, and Casa Rocca Piccola. Other must-visits include Mdina, a beautiful medieval town that has a number of museums and noble houses; and also the Three Cities, which many LGBTQ expats have made their home.
A friend is coming to Malta for the first time. Please describe the perfect weekend.
On Friday I would take them to Valletta for the day and start with breakfast at one of the boutique hotels, and a visit to the Barakka Gardens. Then we’d take a stroll down Republic Street and visit one of the museums. Afterwards, we would take the ferry to the Three Cities, walk around or rent one an electric car to explore the area, and have a late lunch or an early dinner by the Senglea or Birgu waterfront. I would then take them to Dingli Cliffs to watch the sun set over the hills with breathtaking views.
On Saturday, we would go to Gozo and stop to see Popeye’s Village along the way to the harbor. Then I would take them to Comino by private boat for a swim at the Blue Lagoon. After, we’d head back to to Gozo to visit the Citadella in Victoria, The Tal-Mixta Cave in Nadur, and a lunch break in Ramla il-Hamra Bay to enjoy the Gozitan Pizza called Ftira Ghawdxija. Afterwards, we would visit Dwejra, a popular Game of Thrones site, and then back to Malta to spend the evening in Mdina and dine there.
On Sunday, I would take them to the fishing village Marsaxlokk, visit the prehistoric cave of Ghar Dalam, and take a boat ride around the Blue Grotto in Zurrieq before dropping them off at the Airport close by.
Hidden Gems: What are some of your favorite places that are not part of the usual tourist itinerary?
Fomm ir-Rih Bay is definitely a beautiful hidden and hard to reach beach in Bahrija (northwest of Malta), as well as Selmun Bay.
L-Mtahleb (North West) is also a very beautiful, hard to reach hamlet with amazing views and surroundings.
Il-Maqluba in Zurrieq is a natural wonder (google map it and you’ll understand why)
Some core inland towns like B’Kara, Hamrun, Qormi & Zebbug also deserve some attention due to their historical architecture, although they’re often overlooked by those who don’t appreciate history.