Often when I travel, what I crave more than anything else is a good, unexpected surprise.
After all, there’s nothing more thrilling than peeling back the layers of a new destination, thinking you ‘get it’ then bam, being thrown a curveball that leaves your head spinning.
And just when I thought I had wrapped my head around the honey washed limestone buildings of Malta, brimming with history and intricate tales of conquests come and gone, just like that, my curveball came.
And that curveball was called Popeye Village.
Yes, Popeye. The spinach binging, bulgey-armed hero of comic book fame. His village… a colourful cluster of run-down fishing shacks, all huddled along the turquoise waters of Malta’s Anchor Bay.
What at first glance looks like a strange glitch in the country’s programming is actually a legacy of the Popeye movie that filmed here decades ago in the 80s… today reborn as a venue for tourist visits, birthday parties and what I can imagine are some seriously wild corporate retreats. A theme park with admirable dedication to its theme.
Most often, giggly visitors will stop for a quick photo opportunity en route to the Gozo ferry. I mean, with the set’s Disney-perfect appeal, it’d be rude not to. BUT, with an attraction as unique as this, how could a curious girl just snap a photo and move on? I needed to know what was inside. For real, what was this place?
As we entered the park, I caught my first glimpse of the colourful cast, led by a smirky, squinty-eyed Popeye. Behind him, a squad of actors and dancers (some dutifully in costume, others in yoga pants), waiting.
Then out of nowhere, the music hit… and I kid you not, they erupted into dance.
3 rows, Madcon blasting… rhythmic foot shuffles and dramatic air trumpets. Add on the fact that Popeye was basically teaching the dance to his squad, I almost melted into a puddle of stupid joy. This was real. This was actually happening. I couldn’t believe it.
I just stood there, smiling like a crazy person. Sure, the dancers weren’t all in sync… In fact, I’m 90% sure it was like a training day for new cast members because one left-footed fella in the back barely moved his body at all… BUT, I loved this moment because in my mind, it’s brilliantly imperfect moments like this that lend a place charm, quirk and character. The chirpy girl playing Olive Oyl (Popeye’s main squeeze), explained to us in a shrill voice “ohhhh! Visitors!! Don’t mind us. We’re just rehearsiiiiing.”
Nah Olive girl. I’m watching this free show.
Our tiny off-season crowd (in the morning no less) meant that the cast to visitor ratio was almost 1:1. Besides myself, my boyfriend and guide, there was a handful of families, a noisey group of youths and what appeared to be a straight-up, extreme biker gang.
Have you guys even seen leather-clad motorcyclists emotionlessly sip beer at a Popeye theme park? No? I assure you – it was wild.
Make no mistake – Popeye Village is a destination probably best enjoyed in the summer, when sunshine permits the boat rides, giant water inflatables, mini golf and amusement park rides that make this place the perfect family outing. BUT, even in the rainy off-season, on a drizzly morning when we had the park almost all to ourselves, I still had an absolute ball. In fact, it’s one of the memories from my trip I find myself constantly talking about. After all, where else in the world would you find something like this?
Each day, the park organizes a schedule of events, from cast meet and greets to actual filming opportunities. Besides that, there’s (weather dependent) boat rides, a 15 minute documentary on the history of the park and yes, a room where they do nothing but screen the ENTIRE movie in full.
… I spent longer in that room than I care to admit.
The rest of our short visit was spent exploring the insides of set houses, complete with plastic props and memorabilia. For lovers of Popeye, this would have no doubt been an explosion of childhood dreams come true. For me, more of a Pokemon and Tin Tin girl, it was still a fun novelty. From the cast members dutifully in character spooking and messing with guests, to a variety of random freebies like a postcard, souvenir photo and small sample of wine punch, I’d say Popeye Village is a sure recipe for a fun time, especially for kiddos (or emotionally immature non-adults like myself).
So, while on this particular day, the off-season wind and rain meant the closure of most activities, I still got a feel for makes Popeye Village so darn interesting and special. For Popeye lovers, it’s a place to wallow in nostalgia and indulge one’s inner child, for families, it’s a charming kid-centric outing, and well, if you’re just a random overly-curious blogger, there’s discoveries for you too.
… Just don’t forget to snap a cheesy photo!
So tell me, what’s the most random discovery you’ve made on your travels?
A huge thanks to the Malta Tourism Authority for hosting me during my visit! Stories, experiences and words are of course my own ☺
30 thoughts on “Inside Popeye Village: Malta’s Most Surprising Attraction”
Hahaha, nice! Sounds like you had a fun day! I consider myself a emotionally immature non-adult as well, so I guess I’d love it there too. 😀 It looks pretty old, but still colourful and I love your photos! Guess we’ll have to add it to our must-see list when visiting Malta. 😉
The oldness is intentional haha! I think the film set was built that way since the village Popeye’s from is run-down and whatnot. SUPER cute and colourful though. Definitely check it out, even from above. It’s a really neat sight to see!
This sounds like such a fun place! I love visiting this kind of stuff and now I really want to go to Malta! haha I love this pictures, too!
Right?! Quirky attractions like this are my favourite. Plus, Malta has loads of other super cool places to visit. Hope you get to see for yourself, sometime 😀
Oh my God, I would LOVE to go there! I’d actually forgotten all abut Popeye until I read this post. Brings back loads of childhood memories.
Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
Haha you would seriously love it then! So much Popeye everything. <3
This place sounds amazing and hilarious at the same time! I am determined to visit it when I’m in Malta this September! Thanks for all the info!
You are going to love Malta!! Hopefully in September all the Popeye Village summer activities will still be running 😉 Thanks for reading, Ania!
Ha! Very cool!! Adding this to my travel list for sure! 🙂
Right? Such a random attraction, but super neat. Thanks for reading, Erika!
It looks like such a fun place to visit! I was planning to go there on my last day in Malta but ran out of time. Your post is really making me wish I had gone!! Hopefully someday.
Love the photo of you with the sailors! 😀
Ahh no, that’s a shame!! It’s tough with Malta because there’s so much cool stuff to see. I was there for four days and desperately wanted more time haha. Guess we both just have to go back hey? And yeah that photo was SO random. I wanted one with Popeye and as I meandered over, that other guy was just like “you want photo?” so I awkwardly said yes and got one with the both of them hahah. I have no clue who that other guy even is lol.
This. is so. awesome. I have no idea if I will ever visit Malta but the sheer existence of places like this make me happy 🙂
Ah I know! Same for me. Random spots like this really give a place character, in my opinion 🙂
what a fun place! I watched Popeye cartoons when I was a kid:)
Then you would absolutely love visiting! Hope you get to sometime, Tanja 🙂
This looks amazing! I definitely wouldn’t expect this kind of attraction to be in Malta, haha.
My thoughts exactly haha. When I came across it in my research, I knew I had to go!
What a unique experience! I would love to go there. Going to these types of places during the off-season is the best imo!
Totally. Especially Malta as a whole, the off-season means less crowds and milder weather. Definitely an off-season win 🙂
I want to visit Popeye’s village so badly! Your photos are gorgeous. I only discovered this spot a couple of months ago when considering a trip to Malta and I fell in love. Your post definitely helped to fuel the wanderlust. Absolutely gorgeous photos!
Thanks, Madi! Did you end up choosing Malta for a future holiday? You should… it’s really such an amazing country!
I want to go here so badly and was excited about it when I first discovered it! Pinned! #blogpostsaturday
Haha me too! I was like “what! how is this place real!” Hope you get to see it for yourself sometime 🙂
Hahahaha this is so random! I think I’ve figured out where I’ll go in the next couple days here.
Are you in Malta right now? So jealous haha. Hope you have a great time!
Omg, this looks like such an adorable surprise! It sort of reminds me of some of the sections from Universal Studios. Looks like it was heaps of fun!
Yeah it was exactly like that!! except ALL Popeye haha. Super cute. Thanks for reading, Stephanie! 🙂
How have I never heard of this place?! Adding to my list of places to go immediately! My brother and I LOVED Popeye growing up. I even used to force myself to eat spinach (which I detest by the way) just to be big and strong like Popeye haha. But, then again, what kid didn’t do that? Great post!
Hahah that is so cute. At least it convinced you to eat veggies 😉 Sounds like you would LOVE a visit here. Thanks for reading, Colby!