Why Malta is Europe’s hottest LGBTQ+ destination: From queer rights to Pride spectaculars

Malta's world-famous Blue Lagoon.

Summer 2022 feels very different to the last couple of years, doesn’t it?

With the pandemic restricting travel for so long, so many unforgettable plans were altered or cancelled altogether. But now, most of Europe has opened its doors once more.

With the prospect of a summer filled with much-needed travel and exploration, making up for lost time, what is the current landscape in Europe for LGBTQ+ people? Of course, LGBTQ+ people deserve to feel safe and have their rights respected everywhere – as tourists or permanent residents. But we know that some places are ahead of others in making that vision a reality.

In May, ILGA-Europe released its annual Rainbow Europe Map. The list ranks 49 European countries based on 74 different criteria, such as inclusivity, equality, legal gender recognition, hate crimes, hate speech and asylum. Each country is awarded a percentage between zero and 100. (Forget Eurovision, this is the most important ranking there is).

Malta took the top spot for the seventh year in a row, with an impressive score of 92 per cent for 2022.

The small island nation was an impressive 19 per cent ahead of Denmark, which placed second with 73 per cent, with Belgium placing third with 71 per cent.

What is Malta doing right?

Malta has a long history of queer acceptance and is one of few nations where LGBTQ+ rights are recognised at a constitutional level. It has shown itself to be ahead of the curve when it comes to expanding LGBTQ+ rights and repealing discriminatory legislation – for example, LGBTQ+ people have also been allowed to serve openly in the military since 2002.

Two women dining on a Maltese street

Malta is incredibly welcoming to LGBTQ+ people. (Visit Malta)

Same-sex marriage and civil unions are legal, and in 2016 Malta became one of few countries to introduce progressive gender recognition reforms, which remove unnecessary bureaucracy and surgical requirements for legal gender recognition. In other countries, such reforms have become “culture war” issues, whereas Malta pressed ahead without furore or fanfare. Similarly, conversion therapy is also banned for adults and minors.

Having topped the Rainbow Europe rankings for the last seven years consecutively, Malta is still striving to expand LGBTQ+ rights, rather than resting on its already-strong reputation.

Malta is ready for summer

Like other countries across Europe, Malta has dramatically scaled back COVID restrictions and life has largely returned to pre-pandemic normality for locals and visitors alike.

The only requirements for tourists are a certificate of full vaccination, proof of recovery from COVID-19 in the past six months or a negative COVID-19 test, while masks are no longer obligatory on flights or in public spaces (though some may feel more comfortable wearing one – the choice is yours).

A woman under an arch

Malta is open to all. (Visit Malta)

This ease of access is just as well, because there is so much that Malta has to offer this summer, from the International Wine Festival, where the world’s best wines are celebrated (23-26 June), to the International Arts Festival (18 June-3 July), where people can enjoy all types of visual arts ranging from music to dance to theatre.

For music-lovers, the island has something for everyone: the Malta Jazz Festival (11-16 July) showcases an eclectic group of diverse jazz artists, while for those whose taste in music is more eclectic, multi-platinum artist French Montana and award-winning DJ Marshmello will both be performing at the Isle of MTV 2022 music festival (19 July).

For LGBTQ+ visitors, it’s going to be a rainbow summer

If a late summer getaway is on the cards, Malta’s Pride Week runs 2-11 September. The theme of this year’s celebration is #LiveYourTruth, which will be reflected in all shows, marches, concerts and other events. The Malta Pride March, scheduled for 10 September, will be the flagship event aimed at celebrating diversity and LGBTQ+ people from all backgrounds.

Fisherman and passenger boats in Marsaskala bay in Malta early in the evening

Malta is picturesque. (Visit Malta)

If you’re already fully booked for summer 2022, don’t worry, because Malta’s commitment to inclusivity doesn’t end here. The island will host EuroPride Valletta 2023. This is a unique event which aims to offer LGBTQ+ people across Europe, but also from North Africa and the Middle East, a safe place to express themselves and discuss human rights. It will take place in Valletta and run from 7-17 September, 2023. The event will feature a fabulous opening ceremony and attendees can soak up the arts, culture, parties and community that the EuroPride Village has to offer.

In Malta, acceptance is an all-year-round priority

With communities across Europe and the world facing challenges and setbacks, Malta is an example of how quickly things can change in a deep, meaningful way – without outside interference and political obstruction. Nowhere is perfect, but right now, Malta is a testament to the fact that LGBTQ+ people aren’t going anywhere. In adverse times, places like Malta will continue to strive to offer LGBTQ+ people the legal protection, acceptance and sanctuary they deserve.

Check out Visit Malta to find out more.