Strait Street, also known as Malta’s infamous Red Light District throughout the 19th and mid- 20th century, is one of those places that deserves both a daytime and a nighttime visit as the vibe changes considerably according to the hour of the day.
But first, a bit of history. Throughout both World Wars, Malta was very much at the centre of the action, acting host to a plethora of British and American sailors. Now, we all know that sailors on shore leave are after one thing – entertainment. And there was plenty of that to be had in Strait Street, with its lovely bars and lovely ladies within said bars.
With Malta being highly Catholic, it would have been very difficult for overt prostitution to take place, so Strait Street bar owners devised a clever system whereby sailors could ‘buy drinks’ for the women in attendance at the bar. The rest we leave to your imagination, but should you wish to find out more about the colourful history of Strait Street, local bookstores carry a number of related publications.
Strait Street – today’s nightlife
Today, Strait Street is far from the seedy prostitution area that is used to be known for under British rule. After years of dereliction, a regeneration project has turned the entire street into Malta’s most happening place for those who want to hit the town at night.
Expect to find a vibe that is very similar to the likes of London’s Soho and Berlin’s Hakescher Markt, with glam cocktail lounges, Michelin restaurants and live music venues. In truth, the action never stops and you’re just as likely to find crowds even throughout the day and early afternoon, when many bars host special offers on drinks and cocktails. However, things start reaching a climax after the clock strikes 8PM, which is when the music kicks off and continues until the early hours.
The street is also the location for one of Valletta’s bigger commercial hotels, The Embassy, with its adjoining cinemas. Further down, The Splendid is a small townhouse that has been transformed into a theatre and arts venue, although it does not keep regular opening hours.