The tiny archipelago located between Sicily and Tunisia has more than 4,000 years of history. With more than 300 days of sunshine, visiting one of the islands should be on your European bucket list. Most people visiting Malta prefer to explore the three main islands: Malta, Gozo and Comino.
When visiting for the first thing, the chances are that you would stay on Malta Island. Valletta and St Julian’s are usually the preferred base for tourists. The main island’s capital, Valletta, is a multicultural city with thousands of years of history. Founded in 1566 by the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, the town is packed with tourists from May to October. It’s nice to visit during the low season, especially if you want to avoid the mass of tourists and have the city practically to yourself!
Malta is a lovely destination for all types of travellers. Whether you are travelling solo, as a couple, with friends or family, there will be something to please each one. If you love nature, the sea, food, architecture, history, and culture to those who enjoy having a good time, you would love Malta.
This Malta travel guide is made to help you plan your trip to the island and make the most of it.
Getting to Malta
Travelling to Malta is simple, with several direct flights from London. British Airways, EasyJet, Ryanair and Air Malta offer flights to Malta from several cities in the UK. Check out fares here.
The airport is well connected by bus to the main areas. Here are some options for buses to catch:
- X1 to Cirkewwa – ideal for the ferryboat to the islands of Gozo and Comino
- X2 bus to Sliema and St Julian’s
- X3 to St Paul’s Bay (Bugibba and Qawra)
- X4 to Valletta
You can also reach the island by boat from several Italian cities like Pozzallo in Sicily or Civitavecchia and Genoa.
Getting around Malta
Malta is an archipelago of three main islands: Malta, Gozo and Comino, and five small islands. Getting around the different islands is also simple. You have several options, including a rental car, public transport and a ferry. All of these will, of course, depend on your budget and preferences.
Walking is sometimes the only option, especially in some smaller towns or villages like the citadel of Mdina. Valletta is best explored on foot too.
Malta has an excellent public transport network (check out Malta Public Transport for more info on fares and routes). A single ticket costs €2 (€1.50 reduced rate). If you are planning to stay only on the main island and using mainly public transport, I recommend purchasing a booklet of 12 tickets. For only €15, it offers the best value for money.
You can take a ferry from Cirkewwa or Mgarr to the Island of Comino and Gozo. The full schedule can be found on the Gozo Channel website. The main island can also take ferry boats between Sliema and Valletta or Vittoriosa (Three Cities) and Valletta.
Renting a car is ideal if you plan to visit the islands of Gozo and Camino. You can opt to rent a car for the entire length of your trip or just for a day or so. Rather than hiring a car, we decided to book a private guide to explore Gozo. I will document the experience in another post, but let’s say that it wasn’t the best experience. Ferries to Gozo depart from the port of Corkewwa. You only pay the return to Malta, which is about €15.70. The journey is around 30minutes, with ferries leaving every hour, especially during the high season.
You can also get around the island by taxi. I would choose Bolt and eCabs over taxis to avoid being scammed.
How long should I stay in Malta?
Anything from 3 days to 5 days would be significant. However, the longer you stay, the more chances to explore the island entirely. If you only have three days, I recommend focusing on your stay in Valletta and the surrounding cities. Even if you don’t rent a car, you will still be able to explore a lot thanks to the excellent transport links.
Here are some suggestions for a three days stay in Valletta.
- Discover valletta, Malta’s small capital
- Wander in the Three Cities – Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua
- Experience Malta’s nightlife in St Julian’s & Sliema
- Travel back in the medieval times in Mdina & Rabat
In 5 days, you can add more places, including:
- Discover the fishing village of Marsaxlokk and St Peter’s Pool
- Gozo and Comino islands
If you have a whole week to spend in Malta, you will be able to enjoy the island entirely. Within a week, you could add:
- Mellieha bay and Popeye Village
- Blue Grotto
When to travel to Malta?
Like many Mediterranean destinations, the high of summer is to be avoided. First of all, the destination will be overcrowded and secondly because it will be scorching. As a guide, temperatures are on average 30 degrees in Juin. So, let’s not imagine the temperature in July/August! Opt for out of season trips, especially as Malta enjoys 300 days of sunshine a year!
Malta Travel Guide – Best Places to Visit in Malta
Here are our top things to do in Malta.
Explore the old town of Valletta
Valletta is one of the smallest capital cities in Europe. It’s worth spending a day or two to get a sense of the historic city with a Mediterranean atmosphere through its streets, honey-coloured buildings, and imposing fortifications.
While in Valletta, be sure to see these unique places.
- Barrakka Gardens – Valletta has two lovely gardens giving people a panoramic view of the sea and the Three Cities: Cospicua, Senglea and Vittoriosa. The Upper Barrakka Gardens is located on the upper side of the city. In contrast, the Lower Barrakka Gardens is located on the lower side.
- Admire the Maltese Balconies – Valletta has unique architecture thanks to the city being in the hands of Arabs, French, Italians and British. The architecture is, therefore, a mix of all these influences. So, in the city, you will find Gothic buildings and picturesque balconies. You can see a concentration of them, head to St Paul Street.
Explore the Three Cities
Exploring Valletta and the citadels is like stepping back in medieval times. Located opposite Valletta are the 3 fortified cities of Vittoriosa (Vittoriosa), Senglea (Isla) and Cospicua (Bormla). Getting lost in the cities, admiring the beautiful architecture, stepping inside the small shops and stopping by a cafe are some of the best things. Getting to the three towns from Valletta is simple. Just catch a shuttle boat or one of the traditional boats at the bottom of the Upper Barrakka Gardens.
Visit Rabat and Mdina, the Silent City
Mdina is a timeless citadel known for its fortifications and quiet atmosphere. The Maltese nobles favoured the former capital until the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem arrived and moved the capital to Valletta. Exploring the medieval city is the best thing to do. Getting lost in the empty winding streets lined with medieval and baroque style buildings is like going back into medieval times. The highlight of the visit is the walk on the rampart and the fantastic panoramic views it offers of the countryside. The Cathedral of Saint Paul is also worth a visit.
Visit the colourful fishing village of Marsaxlokk
The fishing village of Marsaxlokk is a must-see when in Malta. It’s the most important fishing port on the island. There you will find the Luzzi and traditional fishing boats. Each of the baits has important details: two eyes painted on the front of the boat to protect the boat and the fisherman.
Marsaxlokk is best visited on a Sunday since it’s the day of the market.
Be amazed by the blue grotto: Wied iż-Żurrieq
Malta’s blue grotto is a wonder of nature. If you do not plan to visit Gozo and its blue grotto, I highly recommend adding this one to your itinerary. First, get to the viewpoint and admire the beauty of the grotto. Once you have had your fill of the stunning landscape, then head down to get on a boat. Tour lasts about 10 minutes and costs about 8€. It’s a fantastic way to discover the coasts and enjoy the natural beauty of the grottos and the turquoise water.
Breathe some fresh air at the Dingli Cliffs
The Dingli Cliffs are natural ramparts in the northern part of Malta. With an altitude of 250m, they represent the highest point on the island and delight visitors with their charm. The rocky slopes overlooking the waves create a stunning landscape. The Dingli Cliffs are best visited during the summer and even more during sunset. The strong winds are then gentler.
Visit Popeye Village
Popeye Village is the film set of the movie of the same name. It’s a fun place to visit both for kids and adults. The location is well maintained.
Top things to do and see in Gozo
If you are visiting Malta for a short time, it might not be necessary to visit Gozo as you will be missing out on some nice areas on the main island. That being said, Gozo has lots of things to do and see, despite its small size. It’s packed with cultural activities and beautiful landscapes. It would be best to stay at least two days to know the extent of what Gozo Island has to offer. We only made a guided day trip to Gozo; therefore, this list is not exhaustive. We were nonetheless able to see some charming sights.
Visit ir-Rabat and the citadel of Victoria, the capital of Gozo island
Rabat, the capital of Gozo island, was baptised Victoria after Queen Victoria; however, the locals still call it by its old name. Just like Rabat on the main island, the citadel of Victoria is slightly perched on a hill. Although not as charming as the other town of the same name, Victoria is a lovely town to visit and has many attractions, including a beautiful cathedral and museums.
The sandy beach of Ramla Bay is a must while in Gozo. Ramla takes its name from Ir-Ramla l-Ħamra, which means red beach in Maltese. The reddish sandy beach with crystal waters is famous for leisure and culture.
Lunch in Marsalforn
The seaside town of Marsalforn is a great place to visit during the summer months. It has many restaurants and bars. Marsalforn is worth a visit, especially to see the salt marshes used to make Gozo salt.
Visit Ta’Pinu Shrine
The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of Ta’ Pinu (better known as Ta’ Pinu Shrine) is a Catholic religious building located in Għarb, Gozo. The shrine has many miraculous healings that have been said to have happened at the chapel. As more prayers started to visit the shrine, it received over the years several iterations. It is now an architectural masterpiece visited by many pilgrims and religious people. Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis visited the basilica. There is a museum inside the basilica. Outside, you’ll find beautifully crafted mosaic pieces on either side of the church.
The landscapes of Gozo are sumptuous, well preserved and invite visitors to hike. From the salt marshes, like those at Marsalforn, which glisten in the sun, to the white cliffs caressed by the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean, the number of hiking trails and viewpoints to admire are endless. The cliffs of Ta’Ċenċ and Dingli are the highest in Gozo (140 m and 250 m) and the most spectacular. They are also one of the best sites in Gozo to admire the sunset.
Where to stay on Malta Island
Knowing where to stay while in Malta is essential for your trip planning. As always, the area you will choose will depend on your preference and the type of traveller you are. The island of Malta is small, but there are lots to see and do.
For sightseeing/short break
If you are visiting Malta for a short holiday, then Valletta is a great town to base yourself. The city has lots of activities and beautiful sights. The walled town is perfect for admiring the Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens, visiting the Three Cities or admiring the typical Maltese balconies. As the capital, Valletta is well connected in terms of public transport. Therefore, it makes moving around the island quickly. There is an excellent choice of accommodations. However, cheap accommodations are hard to find.
For a quiet and romantic stay, nothing beats the sister towns of Mdina and Rabat. Mdina, the ancient capital and Rabat display beautiful medieval architecture with preserved streets worth strolling after a lovely romantic dinner. Another town to consider would be Vittoriosa. The old town is an excellent destination with charming boutique hotels and stunning architecture. Lastly, although more modern than the other cities, St. Julian’s is also good. The town has one of the most expansive choices of restaurants, drinking places and clubs. Plus, with a small beach nearby and a lovely promenade, it makes an excellent place for a romantic stroll.
St. Paul’s Bay and Bugibba are best for families. The resort town caters for people and families looking for a relaxed atmosphere by the seaside.
For the beach
If you are looking for the best beaches in Malta, then head to Mellieha Bay. The sandy beach of Mellieha Bay is one of the most beautiful on the island. The relaxing town has a variety of hotels ranging from mid-range to high-end, with some excellent restaurants and bars.
Without a doubt, St. Julian’s is the place to be for fun and nightlife. The former fishing town, especially Paceville, has many restaurants and bars to suit everyone. Besides good restaurant choices, the neighbourhood is home to high-end four and five-star hotels. There is an excellent choice of accommodations for all budgets. The neighbouring town of Sliema also offers some good options.
Sliema is the commercial centre of Malta; therefore is the best place to stay if you are into shopping. The shops located along the town’s pedestrian streets and the malls will be sure to please shopaholics. The city is also suitable for drinks, especially along the promenade, which links to St Julian’s.
The smaller island of Gozo is a good base for those looking for a quiet stay away from the crowd. Accommodation choices are not as varied, but there are good options for guest houses.
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