If you know me by now, you might just know that I do adore anything a bit kitsch. The kind of places some travellers would probably turn their noses up at. Screw snobbery, this a girl’s a tourist and proud. Which is why Malta’s best-loved tourist attraction, Popeye Village, was incredibly up my street. We visited on a sunny afternoon after lazing by the pool, and I had the actual best time there. Tacky? Maybe. But it also had a lot of heart, happiness, colour and warmth. That, I can definitely get behind.
In the 1908s, Malta’s Anchor Bay was a film set. The film in question? Popeye, quite obviously. To be honest, although I was familiar with the cartoon, I hadn’t actually seen the movie myself, but it didn’t stop me from having an awesome adventure there. (Plus, if you really want to catch up, they actually show the film in one of the buildings.)
I actually had way more fun skipping through Popeye Village than walking the streets of Valetta (which are v.slippery), and it was a charming and quirky way to spend an afternoon. Here are some of the main reasons I loved spending the afternoon there…
Anchor Bay is SO very pretty
After a bus journey that felt more like a rollercoaster ride (that’s just how Maltese bus drivers roll, we discovered), we arrived at Popeye Village and picked up our tickets. With no real idea what to expect, we walked round to the village entrance and…wow. Ahead, we saw stretching cliffs above blue, shimmering sea. To our right, a collection of wooden buildings made up Popeye Village – and far ahead, the ocean stretched out before us. Beautiful.
You can swim, relax and play on giant inflatables
I was expecting Popeye Village to just be an attraction where you spend an hour or two looking round – but actually, people stay there for the whole day. Swimming in the blue water, or relaxing beside the cliffs, it’s easy to while away the hours. AND they have water trampolines.
I got to meet Popeye and Bluto and Olive
POPEYE CALLED ME A UNICORN AND MY LIFE IS BASICALLY COMPLETE.
The level of detail makes it feel like a proper village
All of the buildings and houses through the attraction are super detailed – even the ones you can’t go into. Obviously, the film set would have had to look as real as possible, but the level of detail they’ve kept the village too is pretty impressive. From signs on the walls to even the toilets having a themed exterior, it’s a really immersive place to be.
The food is surprisingly edible and affordable
Usually at tourist attractions, you expect to pay the equivalent of your flight costs to get a cardboard-y meal and some undercooked chips. Thankfully, the cafe at Popeye Village do actually do some decent grub – I really enjoyed my pizza, and the burgers aren’t bad at all. Obviously, it’s not gourmet dining, and you could take a picnic, but eating here is a totally fine option. Oh, and there’s beer. *thumbs up emoji*
There’s Mini Golf. And it’s CHRISTMAS THEMED, all year round
Need I say more? Alright, it’s pretty shoddy quality, and we ended up going round the wrong way through lack of numbers, but it’s FUN. Well, apart from the part where I lost.
There’s loads of Popeye merchandise and props to check out
If you’re a fan of the film, or just a Popeye fan in general, you’ll love all the memorabilia on display. From comics to toys to novelty spinach cans, it’s really interesting to see the Popeye influence in pop culture over the years. The gift shop is also pretty good (and reasonably priced!), so if you want a Popeye mug or soft toy to take home, you can pick some cool things up here.
You can star in your own movie, with a DVD to take home
Sadly, we didn’t get to try this as we missed the session – however, this sounds pretty cool! The fact that you get given the DVD rather than charged for a copy is a lovely touch, as with most attractions you pay a lot to get your pictures and videos afterwards.
You can explore Olive Oyl’s home
I definitely did not put on an Olive voice and swoosh around. Noope. Also, in one of the rooms, there’s a pretty interesting documentary on a loop about the making of the movie. Said room is also beautifully air conditioned.
You’ll get to go out to sea in an included boat trip
This was SO FUN. As I mentioned above, Anchor Bay is beautiful, but the 15 minute boat trip let us see it from a whole different angle. Plus, the old boat + bouncy sea = a bit of an adrenaline rush.
The entrance fee includes a couple of freebies
For the €14.50 adult entrance fee (less in winter and for kids), you also get a free postcard and a ‘glass of wine’. Unfortunately, the ‘glass of wine’ is actually a tiny shot of ‘Popeye punch’, which tasted like bad, watered down rose. But the postcard will be a great addition to my scrapbook.
There are performances on all day
Lose your inhibitions and dance with the gang. Orrr…just watch some hilarious comedy fight scenes as Popeye and Bluto battle each other for Olive’s affections. Embrace the ridiculousness of it all, and it’s pretty damn entertaining. Especially if you plan on visiting with kids. Also if you’re lucky, the captain might just sing some R Kelly down the microphone again. Possibly my favourite moment of the day, because who doesn’t love a bit of Ignition while they chow down on their pizza?
Popeye Village probably isn’t for everyone (Conor definitely wasn’t as into it as I was), but I loved the place. It’s the kind of honest, family fun place that excites the kid in me that still feels way too much wonder at the silliest of things. And there’s actually plenty to do – even if you’re just sunbathing/sipping a drink and enjoying the stunning views.
Sure, it’s small and kinda…ramshackle? It’s certainly not got the technical wow-factor of large-scale theme parks. But, if you’re like me, you’ll find a real sense of charm in the village street and enthusiasm from the characters who greet you – it’s pretty hard not to feel your heart warm a little when you’re there.
Triq Tal-Prajjet, Il-Mellieħa, Malta
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