When I was a little boy I hated spinach until I saw the Popeye cartoon. It became my favorite show. I remember asking my parents to buy me spinach so I could get really strong from it. But it needs to be the one from the can otherwise it won't work :) ... sadly true, it didn't work even from the can.
Marina's dad first mentioned something about an old film set being open somewhere in northern Malta. After a quick Google search, results of a "Popeye Village" film set of the 1980 musical came up.
Even though I'd never heard of the a musical based on the cartoon (staring Robin Williams!) I knew I need to see the village and get back to my childhood dream. I made this my priority and told Marina that this is the #1 priority for our first week here.
It's little complicated to get there with bus from Buggiba, so it took us forever. When we finally got there, we payed 10,50 Euros per person to enter the village. The price is definitely higher than we expected, but it includes a free post card, a printed out photo with Olive Oyl, and free spiked punch.
The whole village was made for the musical (above), which is incredible. Houses are fully equipped with old props, a local post office, the local fire department, bar, bakery... everything. Even an adorable grocery stand with plastic vegetables and fake wine.
For kids it all sounds like heaven, but a heaven much less crazy than Disneyland. The old Sweethaven set has a kind of magical atmosphere which I've never seen or felt anywhere else. And I'm not even a kid anymore (even if Marina says otherwise)! For adults, the attraction has some nice amenities during the winter, such as the aforementioned spiked punch, a mini golf area, and beautiful views of the bay and its surrounding cliffs.
As you can see from the photos, there's a lot to see as you walk through the old houses and explore. In the comics museum you can see how the cartoon was made and read all the Popeye comics on display. There are even a few collectible vintage figurines. If you haven't seen the musical yet, there's also a little cinema inside. Oh, and the best part! Popeye's good ol' cans of spinach, exactly how I imagined them.
Winter is Malta's less popular season for tourists, so we got to explore the village pretty much by ourselves. But in the summer Popeye Village is a much more popular attraction, with a swimming area for kids, a fifteen minute boat ride, a small beach, and bar with burgers. You can easily spend the whole day there with your kids. You can meet Popeye, Olive Oyl, and other characters from the musical. They have singing and dancing reenactments in the main square almost every hour. A little awkward, since the employees seem to be our age, but maybe I just didn't get it.
Oh, and one more thing; if you plan on visiting Malta around Christmas, there's a Santa's Village with little houses where you can see how Santa and his buddies are making presents. Pretty entertaining but definitely too creepy for anyone with a doll or elf phobia. The figurines all move when triggered by the sensors on the doors, making those little guys looks like a scene out of a bad horror movie. Olive Oyl's house is also turned into Santa's house. Not sure how that correlates, but okay.
We had a great time there, and when my brother came to visit with his girlfriend, we made sure to stop one more time. I highly recommending it, even for those of you who aren't kids anymore. It's worth the walk around, even just to escape reality for a while.