When we headed to Malta for Easter break, the one place my kids couldn’t stop rabbiting on about was Popeye Village. Set in the north of the island, it’s an excellent example of recycling, because when Hollywood built a film set for the Robin Williams Popeye film, it wasn’t simply destroyed, but turned into a colourful attraction for a quirky family day out. So what’s it like?
Essentially it’s a beautiful outdoor museum. Walking down the hill from the ticket booth you pass Popeye’s fishing boat, then you suddenly see this wonderfully picturesque cove surrounded by the cutest, most colourful wee village imaginable. It’s picture perfect, and that’s unsurprising because it’s a film set. It was built to be as cute as a button. Everything is constructed at eye-catching angles, so it’s beautifully lopsided and adorably idiosyncratic, but that’s how life is in the movies. We visited on overcast day and it still looked idyllic.
Turns out that to construct this authentic wooden village, 165 international construction crew worked with tree trunk logs trailered from Holland, and wood shingles from Canada. An access road and breakwater were also built before filming commenced in January 1980. It was a huge undertaking.
As we walked down to the village, waiting to meet us was Popeye himself, Olive Oyl and Captain Bluto having their photos taken with smiling youngsters – except mine of course, who refused to be photographed. Go figure.
After rejecting the Popeye characters we stuck our heads inside every home to discover what was inside. Some houses from the film set are frozen in time, as if the actors have just called it a wrap. Another house has a small Cartoon Museum inside, telling the story of Popeye’s creator, E C Segar, and how the famous comic strip came into being. It initially started with the characters Olive Oyl, Castor Oyl and Olive’s boyfriend Ham Gravy (I am not making this up), Popeye was a relatively late addition to the story, but this character made Segar a rich man. The museum also contains Popeye memorabilia and screens the Robin Williams film on a loop.
Star in your own Movie
We left the museum and were invited to join the actors for an animation. I foolishly thought we’d watch them act in character, then we were told we’d have to join in. What followed was totally unexpected but I’d recommend it.
Two normal, unassuming families were dressed in costume and we somehow ended up acting out a five minute film in the centre of Popeye Village with other customers looking on, and laughing. It took about 30 mins to shoot and we were given clear, easy instructions. The result was screened at the Popeye Village Cinema, and for €5 we received a copy for posterity. It’s such a surreal memory.
In the cinema every visitor receives a poke of popcorn and can watch a short documentary about Popeye and the film set. A nice break from the hot sun or the rain.
At a covered outdoor play area, the kids received balloon animals, got their faces painted, and played with toys such as giant jenga and a child sized spiders web maze. The staff were really patient and quite a good laugh too.
We went on to see Popeye’s Bedroom, and Olive Oyl’s kitchen. We also dropped into a traditional jewellery shop where the silversmith was creating filigree jewellery with lots of stars of Malta for sale.
Food & Drink
Popeye Village has two cafés within the ticketed area, both with indoor as well as outdoors seating providing excellent views over the cove. I think on sunny days grabbing a soft drink in the heat and taking in the scenery would have been a pleasure. In the summer months you can even chill out on sun loungers, sunbath and swim, so a visit during the hotter months could potentially take up an entire day of lounging, exploring, eating, swimming and basking. Need to return for that.
Boat excursions also run in good weather, taking visitors out into the cove. When we visited the boats weren’t operational so do check in advance if you’ve got your heart set on it. I know that my boys would have loved a wee jolly out to sea so I’m a bit gutted we missed it.
Summer & Christmas – Visit when the Package is Right for You.
On a cloudy day I was glad we took part in the movie as it extended our visit and replaced the boat trip, otherwise I think we would have wrapped up too soon. We also stumbled across a Christmas Village, which is clearly only open over the festive period.
Each season Popeye Village offers a different ‘package’ so take a peak to see what’s available when you’re visiting – for example summer visitors can enjoy boat rides, water trampolines, sun bathing decks and a beach lido. Also look out for special events at times like Easter and Halloween. You can even hold your wedding at Popeye Village! Now that would be different.
A very reasonably priced gift shop sells a range of Popeye goodies. Every adult receives a free Popeye postcard, and I picked up a couple of t-shirts for the boys as they were pretty Popeye obsessed by the time we left.
When you leave Popeye Village there’s another complex featuring a third café and soft play. Free entry for the kids was part of our ticket. This was ideal for us. We had a coffee as they flung themselves over two floors of padded toys. Peace.
After they ran riot we returned to our hotel where they told anyone who’d listen that they’d been to Popeye Village. They still refuse to eat spinach…
Watch the DVD at home before you visit. It’s not the best film ever made but it really got the kids excited about visiting. I’d say the village looks better now and more colourful than it did in the movie.
When we visited it was relatively quiet so there was a short queue to get in. Whilst I haven’t experienced high season, it’s generally good advice to arrive early to avoid the crowds. Guests can pay on arrival, or it’s possible to buy tickets online here.
Popeye Village is located in Anchor Bay, just two miles from the village of Mellieha. As we were staying nearby we used an app called Bolt to call a cab – this app was recommended to us by a local and it was super efficient
For all those travelling to Popeye Village by Public Transport, you can reach Ghadira (Mellieha Bay) with bus numbers
From Valletta: 41, 42
From Sliema : 222
From Bugibba : 221
then Mellieha Centre / Mellieha bay to Popeye Village : 101
Opening Hours : Nov to Mar: 9.30 – 16.30 / Apr to Jun, Sep & Oct : 9.30 – 17.30 / Jul & Aug : 9.30- 19.00
Contact information: E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Telephone Number: (+356) 2152 4782 / 3 / 4
We flew direct from Aberdeen to Malta, staying at DB Seabank hotel in Mellieha. We visited Popeye Village as a family day trip, catching a cab to and from our hotel.