Made up of a small cluster of tiny islands sitting between the coast of Sicily and the North Africa, Malta has a reputation for being a quiet spot in the sun and a perfect get away for a short break. Malta recently was named one of Lonely Planet’s top 10 places to visit in 2018?
A short flight from the U.K and you land on this archipelago of three islands. Sunny, extremely chilled out and a beautiful place to relax with blue skies and the cobalt Mediterranean sea. Flights from London to Malta take just over 3 hours.
Most of the population lives on the largest island of Malta, while the second largest, Gozo, is known for its beaches and scenery. Comino, the smallest island, is just 3.5 square kilometres.
With over 7000 years’ worth of history under its belt, good weather, and beaches it’s an excellent place for a lazy holiday, or a cultural city break.
The capital of Malta is Valletta, a very small city covering less than a square kilometre and perfect to explore on foot.
Malta is having a worldwide moment, even despite the loss of one of its most famous tourist attracts, the Azure Window, which crumbled into the sea amidst strong storms in 2017.
When to go
With a typical Mediterranean climate, the country enjoys pleasant weather throughout the year. Summers are generally hot, with temperatures peaking to 30 degrees in July. April to October is the best time to go if you’re visiting for the beaches. All three of the islands have some truly spectacular beaches, and the water’s particularly clean for swimming in. Winters are mild, with an average temperature of around 15 degrees. It might be a bit too cold for the water.
Where to Stay in Malta
Recommend picking a central location so opt for Valletta, Sliema, or St. Julian’s for their access to other points in Malta and ease of various transport modes.
St Julian’s – Central , Nightlife , Luxury.
We stayed in St Julians and if you’re planning a child friendly holiday this was the perfect location.
Our hotel – The Corinthia was perfect with both indoor and outdoor pools and a stones throw away from the city centre. A 5-minute walk from one of the nicer beaches in Malta, Corinthia Beach Resort is one of the best value for money hotel in Malta.
Sliema: Proximity to Valletta and St. Julian’s, harbour views, shopping.
Valletta: Capital of culture, good food, quiet nights and leisurely walks.
A bus service operates on Malta and Gozo with a selection of passes for bus travel (and some ferry services). Go back in time and take a ride on the famous Maltese bus.
Gozo Channel operate a ferry service between Malta and Gozo. A ferry service between Malta and Comino is operated by the Comino Ferries Co-Op. Taxi’s available and quite affordable. Traffic in Malta can actually be quite bad during rush hour. Malta is one of the most densely populated nations in the world, with around 400,000 people living on an island of less than 100 square miles. Still, since the only other option to get around Malta is by bus or taxi, you’ll be stuck in traffic anyway. So, you might as well have the freedom to pull over and take photos, which I guarantee you’ll want to do!
Must See and Visit
The Blue Lagoon
Just off the coast of Comino, the extremely photogenic Blue Lagoon is the country’s most popular spots. It’s on the route between Malta and Gozo, so sailing boats from both islands regularly stop in the lagoon’s turquoise waters. Avoid the crowds by going either early morning or late afternoon.
The Blue Grotto
One of Malta’s most beautiful natural sights is the Blue Grotto. A series of sea caves on south coast of the main island and a treat you interested in scuba diving.The best time to visit the Grotto is during the morning – up until about 1pm – as that’s when the waters are at their most brilliantly blue. The blue colour is caused by sunlight shining through the caves at the right angle to illuminate the phosphorescent marine life under the water.
Silent City of Mdina
A perfectly preserved walled city found on a hilltop secluded, peaceful and full of history. A pedestrian town with very few cars allowed this has earned the nickname of “the Silent City”. Up until the mid-16th century, Mdina was the country’s capital, and home to many of the Mediterranean’s most wealthy people. After the capital was moved to Birgu (and then Valletta), it went into decline. It’s remained largely unchanged since its heyday, so there are some fascinating historic houses and palaces to explore.
The fortified city of Valletta is one of the most stunning sites in the Mediterranean. The moment you pass through its giant city walls, you’ll understand why Valletta is so crucial to Malta’s history and identity. The streets of Valletta are very distinctive with historic buildings, baroque-era architecture and houses with colourful balconies. You get a great view of the city and its harbour from the Upper Barrakka Gardens.
There are several fascinating museums around Valletta with a collection which includes items dating back to 5000 BC. You really don’t have to be a history buff to get into Malta’s past, but if you’re really not one, or you’re travelling with kids, you can see a brilliant overview of the islands’ history in Valetta’s 5D cinema. The main site that you shouldn’t miss in Valletta is the St. John’s Co-Cathedral, where an exiled Caraveggio’s masterpiece “The Beheading of Saint John” is displayed.
The church is also unique for its tombstone-covered floor, where the epitaphs of over 400 knights and officers of the Order of Saint John were buried after having fallen during the Great Siege protecting Malta.
A few other spots of interest in Valletta include the Casa Rocca Piccola, an ornate house dating back to the late 16th century, and the Valletta Waterfront.
Malta’s beautiful churches
There are more than 360 beautiful churches dotted around this island and that’s more than one every square kilometre.There are two particularly famous churches: the domed Rotunda of Mosta, found in the north-west of the main island, inspired by Rome’s Pantheon and Valletta’s St John’s Cathedral, often named as one of the most beautiful Baroque buildings in Europe. Dating back to the 1570s, it was founded by the Knights of St John. The cathedral’s impressive art collection includes famous works by Caravaggio and Peter Paul Rubens.
Being so close to Sicily, there’s a definite Italian influence to Maltese cuisine. You’ll find pasta, pizza and other Italian classics in many of Malta’s restaurants. Malta’s own national dish is stuffat tal-fenek, a rabbit stew. But if you only try one traditional Maltese dish during your trip, make it a Pastizzi. The small pastries are traditionally filled with ricotta cheese or mushy peas.
Must try Cafe Cordina http://www.caffecordina.com.
Caffe Cordina has a long and prestigious history, founded in 1837, the Cordina family started off from a small outlet to specialise in the baking and preparation of traditional Maltese sweet and delicacies. Still made in the traditional way, these are available for takeaway at selected outlets throughout Malta and Gozo. But what stands apart is the flagship coffee shop in Valletta.
Eat some very fresh seafood
You won’t go short on seafood on this Malta. Favourites include lampuki (also known as dolphin fish or mahi mahi), which is often served in a pie. The best place to try Malta’s freshest seafood is in the village of Masaxlokk, on the main island’s south-east coast, the picturesque village hosts the country’s biggest fish market every Sunday.
Shake a leg in Paceville
Malta’s entertainment district, just outside the resort town of St Julians you’ll find this area famous for clubs/bars and restaurants. During the summer months, much of the nightlife action shifts to open-air clubs, which are found in towns around the main island.
Visit a film set
Some very famous movies have been shot on the islands including Gladiator, The Da Vinci Code and The Spy Who Loved Me. Game of Thrones also shot much of its first season in Mdina. The Sweethaven village set from the 1980 Robin Williams-starring Popeye was left intact after filming finished and has now been turned into one of Malta’s most popular family attractions. Popeye Village park offers some picturesque views, as well as theme park-style live shows.
Grand Harbour Boat Tour
There is no better way to experience the Grand Harbour than by experiencing it by boat. Sit back and relax, or if your like me, frantically take photos while the tour takes you around Malta’s majestic natural harbour. The spectacular Grand Harbour is without question a must-see. There are loads of elevated vantage points in Valetta where you can get spectacular views over the harbour, but there’s nothing quite like experiencing the harbour, from the inside out as it were.
A dgħajsa (pronounced Dice-ah) is a traditional Maltese taxi-boat, pretty much the Maltese equivalent of Venice’s famous gondolas, but much cheaper to experience. These little wooden boats give you a more authentic tour of Malta’s historical past.
Visit the Dingli Cliffs
The Maltese islands are known for their beautiful sheer cliffs which are made of layer upon layer of sedimentary rock. The Dingli Cliffs are on the west coast of Malta with impressive sights during the day but what I would recommend is aiming for a sunset here.
There is so much more to see and do in Malta and I could go on and on but these are my top tips for this Great Island.
My Top Tips…
Swim in Comino’s Blue Lagoon.
Get mesmerised by the panoramic views at Upper Barrakka Garden.
Eat some fresh fish in Marsaxlok.
Walk the streets of the Silent City of Mdina.
Play at the Popeye Village and taste a film set.
Step inside St. John’s Cathedral and feel the bliss.
Wander the Streets of Valletta and get lost n time.
Discover the ruins of Domus Romana.
Dine at a traditional Maltese with the taste of a rabbit stew.
Eat lots of Pastizzi the local favourite.
Enjoy a refreshing sip of Ċisk the local Beer.
Boogy the night at Paceville.