Malta Things to do
The landscapes of Malta are wild and rugged, so it’s no surprise it’s been used as the setting for famous movies like Gladiator, Game of Thrones, and Troy. It’s also a melting pot of culture (between Italy and Tunisia and a former British Colony). You can see the influences of this in the food and the architecture; you can even find the red English telephone boxes on the streets of Valletta! Here are the best places to visit in Malta.
Valletta is one of the most important historical cities in the world and the first-ever planned city in Europe. The exceptional history means the entire city is a UNESCO world heritage site. Although it’s one of the smallest capital cities in Europe, it still has the wow factor, and it’s great for a weekend city trip.
What to visit in Valletta
As you wander through the city, you’ll be surrounded by beautiful limestone houses with rainbow-colored window boxes. Best of all, the beautiful hillside streets mean there is always a beautiful view, wherever you go. Here are some of the top sights in Valletta:
St John’s Co-Cathedral – Must see in Malta!
St John’s Co-Cathedral might not look like much from the outside, but the inside will stay in your memory forever. It’s probably one of the most luxurious cathedral interiors, with incredible marble, artwork, gold gilding, and ceiling murals. The entrance fee to the cathedral is 15 EUR.
Upper Gardens & Lower Gardens
Both these parks are beautiful places to relax and watch the world go by on your trip to Valletta, Malta. The Upper Gardens has a particularly great view as it’s situated high up, looking over the Grand Harbour and ‘The Three Cities’: Birgu (also known as Vittoriosa), Senglea, and Cospicua.
You can take the historical ‘Barrakka’ lift back down to the Lower Gardens for just 1 EUR.
Tip: At noon every day, a 500-year-old tradition takes place. Military officials fire cannons to commemorate the navy and tell locals the time of day.
The Grandmaster’s Palace was one of the first buildings built in Valletta, so it’s one of the most historical places to visit in Valletta, Malta. The government has always used the palace as an office, whether that was the knights, the British governor, or the president.
As it dates back to 1571, the architecture is spectacular. Wander inside to see the grand courtyard, luxurious furnishings, artwork, frescoes, and armor. It costs 6 EUR to enter and it’s definitely worth a visit!
Birgu is the oldest of the three cities just across the water from Valletta (also known as Vittoriosa). It was also the capital city at one point before it was moved across to Valletta. One of the best things to do in Malta is to jump on the local boat, cruising around the city’s edges before arriving in Birgu. The traditional Maltese boats are painted in bright primary colors and look very similar to those in Venice.
Once you’re in Birgu, enjoy the charming village atmosphere, wander the tiny narrow cobbled streets, find cute wine bars, or enjoy a candlelit dinner on the waterfront.
How to get to Birgu
You can take one of the gondola-style water taxis across the water to Birgu for 2 EUR (in 7 minutes). Alternatively, for a more scenic route, choose the slightly longer 30-minute harbor tour.
3. Visit Malta’s beaches
Malta has great beaches for sunbathing, cooling down, and spending the afternoon. The island’s beaches are mostly rocks (some with small pools) and a handful of sand beaches. The most popular beaches are Mellieha Bay and Golden Bay.
The best beaches in Malta:
- Mellieha Bay
- Golden Bay
- Riviera Beach (Għajn Tuffieħa)
- Fond Għadir Beach – Rocky beach in Sliema
- St. Peter’s Pool
- The Blue Lagoon
- Paradise Bay
- Ġnejna Bay
- Armier Bay
- Ta’ Fra Ben (Qawra Point)
4. Popeye Village
The Popeye Village is an unusual location, created specifically as a movie set for the 1980 film ‘Popeye’, starring Robin Williams. Now, it’s been turned into a theme park for families to relax and see the picturesque views out over the water. Although you have to pay for the park, the viewpoint is free to visit.
The quirky style of houses against the cliffs and the Caribbean-looking water is a sight to remember. A must-see on your trip to Malta!
5. Mdina (One of the best things to do in Malta)
The ancient city of Mdina looks like something straight out of the pages of a historical novel (it’s no surprise why it was used as a movie set on the Game of Thrones!). The dusty walled city sits high on a hill overlooking the surrounding countryside, making it the perfect place to watch out for invasions.
For this reason, it was originally the capital until it was decided to move it to Birgu. This is when Mdina became virtually uninhabited and known as ‘the silent city’ of Malta.
Now, although there are people living here, silence is still respected, with very few cars allowed inside the city walls. This gives visitors the unique experience to see a city that is incredibly peaceful and well preserved; it feels like stepping back in time!
Make sure to make a stop at the Palazzo Falson. It’s the second oldest building in the city, a former palace, and a museum open to the public. It’s beautiful from the outside, but inside you’ll also find historical belongings and beautiful antiques.
6. Rabat, Malta
The name Rabat literally translates as ‘suburb’. It was given this name as it used to be a suburb of Mdina (the old capital city). Now it’s a small village located in the southwest of Malta that sits above the city of Mdina with beautiful views below.
Must-sees in Rabat, Malta
The history of Rabat is fascinating, known in the past for defending against pirate attacks. Visit:
- The Catacombs: an underground cemetery that is the earliest sign of christianity in Malta. (5 EUR to enter)
- Casa Benard Palace: you can take a tour to see how Maltese nobility once lived. In fact, the same family still live there now!
- Howard Gardens: a beautiful public garden that divides Rabat and Mdina. It’s one of the largest gardens in all of Malta.
7. Meridiana Wine Estate
Malta has an amazing climate and many days of sunshine. These conditions and the soil make it a great place to produce wine. The Meridiana Wine Estate is a traditional winery with a farmhouse at the center, surrounded by beautifully neat vineyards. Book a tour to taste delicious wines and learn about how wine is produced in Malta.
8. St. Peter’s Pool
St Peter’s Pool is an iconic spot and a great thing to do on Malta to tick off your bucket list. The natural pool shape has been created by the white rock arch surrounding it, and it’s a beautiful place to spend a day. Climb down the ladders into the refreshing turquoise water to cool off from the hot sun or snorkel and see marine life. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, skip the ladders, and jump straight from the edge into the deep pool below. Bliss!
Marsaxlokk is a charming traditional fishing village in the southeast of Malta. Most of the fish you’ll see for sale in Malta have been caught by fishermen from this village, so it’s very well known on the island. It has a rich fishing history which you can really feel from the harbor, with the colorful Luzzu boats bobbing in the background. On the front of the boat, you’ll see the fisherman have painted an ancient Egyptian symbol that protects them while they’re out at sea.
If you’re in Malta on a Sunday, visit the famous Marsaxlokk fish market which takes place close to the water.
10. Comino Island
Malta is made up of 3 islands, and the smallest of the islands is Comino, situated between Malta and Gozo. It’s incredibly remote and beautiful, with wild nature and very few people living there. Its name means ‘cumin’, and you’ll see the flowering plant growing all over the island, as well as many other wildflowers and herbs. Go hiking across the rocky and wild landscapes. There are no proper roads, and the secluded feel can make you feel like the only person in the world!
What to visit on Comino
- Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is one of those bucket list things you have to see while in Malta. It’s intensely blue and feels like total paradise. However, it’s one of the most popular attractions in Malta so please note that in peak season it will be very busy!
- Crystal Lagoon. The Crystal Lagoon is lesser known than the Blue Lagoon so it’s a bit more peaceful for swimming. It’s also rockier, and not quite as intensely blue, but it’s still a beautiful place to visit and the remoteness of it is very special.
- Santa Maria Caves. Malta really has it all: Caribbean-style beaches, turquoise lagoons, and even beautiful caves! The Santa Maria Caves are a famous spot for snorkeling; it’s a unique spot where a variety of marine life live. The journey to get there is interesting too, as you have to pass through a cave tunnel from Santa Maria Bay.
How to Get to Comino
Some ferries take you between the islands or from Malta mainland to Comino. The most popular boat leaves from the harbor at Marfa Bay. It only takes 10 minutes and is 13 EUR for a return ticket.
The alternative is to join a Blue Lagoon boat tour, which may be a bit more expensive but gives you the benefit of having the boat to jump from instead of looking for a spot on the shore.
11. Gozo Island
The second biggest island is Gozo, which sits the farthest north. Although there is still a lot going on in Gozo, it’s a bit more relaxed, quieter, and more natural than the main island of Malta.
Attractions in Gozo, Malta
The island is full of incredible beaches, some of which are the most beautiful on the archipelago. Expect to find mammoth limestone arches, beautiful cliffs, epic snorkeling spots, and a fantastic network of caves. The island was most famous for the Azure Window Arch: an arch created naturally by the elements and the sea. Sadly, it collapsed in 2017, but the rocks in the water have now created a very diverse diving site.
How to Get to Gozo, Malta
Gozo Channel Ferry is huge and allows the option to bring your car. It takes just 25 minutes, but it leaves from the northern tip of the main island of Malta which is a bit inconvenient. See the ferry schedule here.
The ticket price for the Gozo Channel Ferry is currently 4.65 EUR for a return ticket. You have to pay for this ticket on your way back from Gozo, meaning there is no payment required at departure from Malta.
Gozo Fast Ferry
The fast ferry is a relatively new option. It leaves from Valletta, which is very convenient and only takes 45-minutes. It’s a passenger ferry, so it is not possible to take your car, but it’s perfect for visiting Gozo on a day trip. It’s also just a lovely way to travel, with beautiful views from the deck for the entire journey. The price for a ticket is 10 EUR online and 12 EUR at the counter. See schedule and book tickets.
Getting around Malta
The majority of the island can be reached by using public transport. However, a rental car is useful to be flexible and get anywhere you like. Luckily both options are very affordable so it shouldn’t cost you much to get around Malta.
Rent a car or motorbike
Hiring a car means you are free to explore all the sides of the island. Public transport is great but a car would help you to get to those gems. Beware that driving in Malta is on the left-hand side of the road.
There are many ways to get from A to B in Malta. The public transport is very affordable with busses connecting the entire island. The ferry between Sliema and Valletta runs every 30 minutes, takes 15 minutes, and costs 2.80 EUR.
Where to stay in Malta
There are plenty of great hotels to stay in Malta. However, it depends on the type of trip you’re looking for. For example:
- Valletta is a great place to stay for a city trip, with a buzzing atmosphere and plenty of bars, restaurants, and culture. Prices are often higher in Valletta. See all hotels in Valletta.
- Sliema is more affordable, has lots of shopping and easy access to the Valetta ferry (The ferry takes 15 minutes). Addionally it has many good rock beaches to relax. See all hotels in Sliema.
- Saint Julian’s has lots of great restaurants, bars and clubs. See all hotels in Saint Julian’s.
- Birgu / L-isla is where you stay to be away from the busy streets. There are handful of new hotels and restuarants (and more opening). The new ferry going from Valetta to Birgu is very convinient too but the experience of taking a local boat can’t be beaten! See all hotels in Birgu.
Best Time to Visit Malta
Malta has a fantastic climate all year round. The summers are hot and dry, and the winters, although a bit cooler, are still warm and sunny. It’s a popular European summer destination, so the beaches can become crowded during the summer, especially as many are fairly small. Because of this, it’s a great idea to visit in the shoulder seasons, during the spring or the fall.
Best Restaurants in Malta
There are lots of local delicacies to try in Malta, whether it’s the local wine or the ricotta-filled pastries called Pastizzi. Some of our favorite restaurants were:
- Trattoria Romana Zero Sei (Italian)
- Aaron’s Kitchen (Maltese)
- San Paolo Naufrago (pizza)
- Papannis Restaurant (Italian)
- Il Pirata Senglea (pizza)
- JuFu (Asian)
- Mint (Fresh, homemade, vegan)
- Il-Kartell Restaurant est 1973 (on Gozo)
How much does Malta cost?
Malta is an affordable holiday destination. Going out for lunch or dinner and local busses and taxis are all relatively cheap. Accommodations on the other hand are about 150 USD per night on average.
- Hotels: 80 – 300 USD / night
- Hostels: 20 – 75 USD / night
- Price per meal: 10 – 35 USD / night
- Transport: 4 – 20 USD / day