A Complete Malta Travel Guide

A Complete Malta Travel Guide

Malta is a tiny island-country in central Mediterranean between Sicily and the North African coast. The rich history and Natural beauty of this archipelago attracts almost 2 million visitors a year.It has a laid-back tropical vibe with amazing diving sites. Surprisingly, Malta has the highest density of historic sights on the planet! Here is the complete Malta Travel guide for you.

We visited Malta in February 2019 with our one year old son. Malta was exactly what we were looking for to escape Finnish winter – a safe, warm, child-friendly destination with friendly people and medieval cities. Malta is one of the popular destination in winter due to its warm weather.

Here is the month-wise weather information taken from Holiday-weather. It shows that you can get warm weather  around the year. We traveled in February to escape from Finnish winter. If you are a beach lover, surely February is not the ideal month for you. So plan accordingly. Go through this Malta travel guide to know more about Malta.

 Fun facts about Malta:

  • Mdina, the walled & former capital of the country, allows only residents to drive on its roads.
  • Valletta, Europe’s first planned city has a total area of 0.8 square km. It took nearly 15 years to build the city.
  • Malta does not have any river or forest.
  • There are more Maltese people in Melbourne, Australia than Malta.
  • When tourists arrive in the country during peak season, its population triples
 

Malta Travel Guide - Top Destinations in Malta

Top 10 destinations malta

Malta offers you glorious variety in its small archipelago. In our 7 days stay we explored almost every corner of the island with a rented car. There were plenty of interesting sites across the island. Here in Malta travel guide I am listing my preferred 10 must see destinations in Malta. 

1. Valletta - The Capital of Malta

Valletta, the Capital city of Malta, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. In 1830 former British PM Benjamin Disraeli described it as “a city of palaces built by gentlemen for gentlemen”. 
Though small it is packed with several tourist attractions. These are my take.

St. John’s Co-Cathedral 

The most impressive churches of 16th century in Malta. One of the greatest treasures of this cathedral is Caravaggio’s famous painting- “The Beheading of Saint John.”

St. John's Cathedral in Malta - malta travel guide
St. John's Co-Cathedral

Grand Master’s Palace

This was originally the residence of the Grand Masters of the Knights of St John. The palace is surrounded by beautiful courtyards with fountains and statues.

Grandmaster's palace in Malta - malta travel guide
Grandmaster's Palace - Valletta

Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens

Upper Barrakka Gardens, located in the centre of Valletta is one of the capital’s major attractions. This is a perfect place to take rest in warm sunny day. Every day at 12.00 there is cannon shooting ceremony.

The Lower Barrakka Gardens, a bit further along the seashore, is close to the Fort Saint Elmo.

Upper Barrakka in Malta
Upper Barrakka - Valletta
Lower Barrakka in malta
Lower Barrakka - Valletta

Republic Street and Merchant Street

These are two main shopping street in Valletta. Several cafes and restaurants to offer delicious Maltese & International dishes. If you want to buy souvenir this is the right place for you.

National Museum of Archaeology

The National Museum of Archaeology is in Auberge de Provence. It is small but well organized.  “The Sleeping Lady” and “The Venus of Malta” are the most notable pieces of art in this museum.

sleeping lady in valletta meuseum - malta travel guide
Sleeping Lady - Valletta Meuseum

2. Three Cities - Fortified cities in Malta

The three cities – Bormla (Cospicua), Senglea (Isla) and Birgu (Vittorioso) can be seen across the Grand Harbour from Valletta. You can take marvelous panoramic lift from upper Barrakka Gardens to the Lascaris Ditch and then ferries or water taxis to the Three cities. The cities are well connected by public transport from Valletta and it takes 15 minutes to reach there. The best option to explore the area is walking down the street. It is recommended to take a guided tour for better understanding of the area.

- malta travel guide
From Upper Barrakka - Flickr Image

3. Mdina - The Silent City of Malta

Mdina, popularly known  as ‘The Silent City’ is a fortified city in Malta. It looks mysterious with its golden lime stone citywall, cobbled streets and historical building. The narrow alleys of Mdina will literally take you back to the medieval age. Must visit places in Mdina are St. Paul’s Cathedral, Chapel of St. Roque, The National Museum of Natural History, Archbishop’s Palace. Guided walking tour is highly recommended.
Mdina-Malta
Mdina , the silent city
The Siltent city of Malta
Mdina alley Malta
Alley of Mdina

4. Rabat - The Old Capital

Rabat, the neighbourvillage of Mdina is known for its quiet, rural character and natural beauty. St. Paul’s and St. Agatha’s Catacombs are must visit in Rabat. Both contain a typical complex of interconnected, underground Roman cemeteries that were in use up to the 4th century AD. Yet another place with full of Maltese history. It is recommended that you walk across the bridge once you come out from Mdina and immediately you are in Rabat. You can pay a visit to Howard Garden, Roman Villa, Wignacourt meuseum, Collegiate Church of St. Paul if you have enough time. 
Collegiate Church of St. Paul-Rabat-Malta
Collegiate Church of St. Paul at night

5. Marsaxlokk - The Fishing Village in Malta

Marsaxlokk is a small, traditional, tranquil fishing village on the South coast of Malta. The place is famous for its fish market, colorful boats known as luzzus and seaside restaurants. Take a boat trip in Marsaxlokk bay on a luzzu boat. If you are a fish lover this place is for you. Enjoy fresh fried or grilled fish in seaside restaurants. 
Every Sunday, the open fish market in Marsaxlokk is very popular among tourists. Mainly local people buy fresh morning catch from the market. Seasonal fish like mackerel, awrat, octopus, squids, prawns, shrimps, and even sea snakes are common in the market.
There are several cheap but quality souvenir shops around the area. Several organized day trip are conducted by tour operators from Valletta to Marsaxlokk.

Marsaxlokk , the fishing village

6. Popeye village - An Old Film City

Popeye village, located on a cliff at Anchor Bay, is a theme park with open air museum, Santa’s toy town, few restaurants, a sea side resort and a water park. With deep blue water, cliff, colourful wooden houses it looks like a dream village.

Popeye Village tour in Malta
anchor bay in popeye village
anchor bay in popeye village

7. The Blue Grotto

This is a network of 7 caves in Mediterranean sea. You can book a boat trip which will take you into the caves to enjoy the glorious colors of the varying shades of blue. Please check the time for boat trip before hand. A comprehensive write-up on Blue Grotto is available at Malta Uncovered.

8. Dingli Cliff - The Highest point in Malta

The Dingli Cliffs are the highest part of Malta situated in west coast. The place will delight you with its stunning panoramic coastal views. It’s a great point to observe sunset. The whole area looks magical in the light of setting sun.

9. Comino and the Blue lagoon

The Blue Lagoon is considered as one of the most attractive places in Malta. You can take ferry or book a boat trip from Valletta or from Gozo to Comino. It is an ideal place to spend a whole day, enjoying sun bath on sandy beach, diving, swimming or snorkeling in the crystal-clear water of the blue lagoon.

Blue Lagoon in Comino , Malta
Cittadella of Rabat in Gozo
Cittadella of Rabat - Gozo

Malta’s sister island Gozo is much greener, quieter and peaceful. It is believed to be Calypso’s isle, described in  Homer’s Odyssee. The island is known for its wind-swept stone formations.

Take the ferry from the port of Cirkewwa in Malta to Mgarr on Gozo. The ferry takes about 20 minutes.

Few must visit places in Gozo:

Cittadella of Rabat

The Citadel in Rabat (Victoria) – a beautiful fortified city, situated on a hill near the centre of the island. This city was fortified during the Bronze Age, around 1500 BC. The views of the island from here are amazing.

Cittadella of Rabat in Gozo - malta travel guide
Cathedral of the Assumption

Dwejra 

Dwejra is a natural site in Gozo with cliffs, caves, diving sites, stunning natural monuments which turn it to a unique place. The location once known for the Azure Window, which was featured in Game of Thrones, sadly collapsed in 2017 because of bad storm.

fungus rock in gozo - malta travel guide
Fungus Rock in Dwerja - Gozo
Sunset in Dwerja , Gozo - malta travel guide
Sunset at Dwerja - Gozo

Marsalforn Saltpans

The salt pans of Xwejni Bay near Marsalforn coast are produced sea salt from ancient age. The families who manage the pans sell homemade sea salt near salt pan. Enjoy blue sea coast and the beautiful view of salt pan.

saltpan in gozo - malta travel guide
Saltpan - Gozo

Ta’ Pinu Basilica

This basilica is one of the best Church in Malta, located in the village of Gharb in the North Western Part of the island. Ta’ Pinu Basilica is famous for its annexed museum. The surrounding is perfect for driving.

Ta' Pinnu basilica in gozo - malta travel guide
Ta’ Pinu Basilica-Gozo

Ggantija Temple

Ggantija Temple complex is one of the most impressive archaeological sites on Maltese Islands. This is a UNESCO-listed prehistoric site  from the early period of human life 3600 BC to 3200 BC.

ggantija temple in Gozo - malta travel guide
Ggantija Temple - Gozo by Flickr

Rambla Bay

Ramla Bay is the largest beach on the Island of Gozo. It has a wide shore covered in fine reddish sand which is not common in Gozo.

Ramla bay in Gozo - malta travel guide
Ramla Bay - Gozo

 Surprising facts about Malta:

  • It is believed that the cave that Homer wrote about in The Odyssey is Calypso Cave.
  • According to UNESCO, Valletta, the capital is one of the most concentrated historical areas in the world. 
  • Hagar Qim, the best preserved lime stone temple in Malta dated back 5000 years.
  • The underground necropolis Hal Saflieni Hypogeum was excavated around 2,500 B.C. 
  •  Malta is one the most popular destinations for big-budget movie productions.
  • Around 17,000 years ago, the Maltese islands were the mountain tops of a single landmass which connected  Malta to Sicily to mainland Italy
  • Malta has been inhabited since the early Neolithic period of 5000 BC.
  • Malta was known as the Nurse of the Mediterranean because during World War I, as large number of wounded soldiers were accommodated on the island.
  •  There are more than 365 churches  in such a small country. Effectively you can have a new church everyday to pray across the year.
  • The entire country is mainly made up of limestone
 

Malta Travel Guide - Where to stay in Malta

Considering the size of the island, practically you can stay anywhere and travel everywhere in Malta. We stayed in St. Paul’s Bay. If you rent a car St. Paul’s Bay can be better option over many places.  

Valletta is Malta’s capital city– a perfect place to stay. Though it is a small old city, it is lively and vibrant. As a center of historical and cultural point it is quite expensive though. Have your wallet ready.

Valletta - malta travel guide
Valletta - Malta

Sliema  is one of the most popular places for staying among the tourist as most of the attractions are easily accessible from here. There is wide range of accommodation options and cheaper than Valletta.

St Paul’s Bay  is around 13-14 km away from the capital. If you are in budget tour you can check this area as it is easy to find cheaper but quality accommodation here. The open sea gives some extra mileage to your vacation.

St. pauls bay in malta - malta travel guide
St. Paul's Bay - Malta

Mellieha – One of the few places in Malta with sandy beaches. Though it is in the far north but easy to access Gozo, Comino and the Blue Lagoon from here.

St Julian’s Bay is situated to the north of Sliema. The area is famous for its nightlife. There is plenty of the pubs, fast-food chains, clubs and casinos.

St. Julian's Bay in Malta - malta travel guide
St. Julian's Bay - Malta

Gozo – is more peaceful and scenic than the main island. If you want to spend your vacation away from hustle & bustle of the city and enjoy nature then Gozo is the better option. Else, you can stay one or two nights in Gozo while visiting Malta.

If you are looking for a deal in Malta check below. Don’t worry it doesn’t cost you extra.

Malta Travel Guide - What to Eat in Malta

Maltese cuisine shows strong Italian and English influence. Pizza and Pasta are very common in Malta. Traditional Maltese dishes include Lampuki  Pie(fish pie), Rabbit Stew, Bragioli (beefolives) and pastizzi (savoury ricotta filled pastries). 

Don’t forget to try traditional Maltese Platter. We had an opportunity to taste it in Mdina with local goat cheese gbejniet, bread, sun-dry tomatoes,sausages ,capers,and bigilla dip. 

Traditional Dish in Malta
Traditional Maltese Platter

Marsaxlokk is known for Fish. Having fresh-catch fried/baked fish with your favorite drinks (homemade wines are available) by the sea is an experience to cherish. 

Seafood is very common in Malta. Seafood paella at Mallieha beach is highly recommended.

You may find Cisk- the local beer and Kinnie-a soft drink made of bitter oranges everywhere

Malta Travel Guide - How to explore Malta

The biggest advantage of being a tourist in small country like Malta is you can explore the entire country in no time. Malta offers a cheaper, reliable, modern public transport system consist of buses and taxi services. You always have the option to hire a car if you look for more convenience.

Public Transport

Getting around in Malta by bus may not be the fastest way but surely it will get you anywhere in Malta during its operating hours. Malta Public Transport website is handy to plan your trip. A two-hour single journey costs 2€ in summer,1.5€ in winter and 3€ during night. Summer rates apply between mid-June to mid-October. Bus route in pdf format is available here.

Renting a Car

This is the best option when you want to uncover the hidden places in Malta. I would not experience one of the best sunset in Dingli cliff if I relied on public transport. You can compare and book a car before your arrival in the island to make it cost effective.

Things to remember:

  • Left side driving
  • International Driving Permits are legal in Malta
  • The roads in Valletta, Sliema are really busy during peak hours.
  • English road signs are saviour for tourists.

Pin Malta Travel Guide if you like it!!

Popular Places to visit in Malta

Though Malta is a tiny Island, it is difficult to squeeze everything into a single Malta Travel Guide. I will write articles with more details in future. Signing off till then.

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Moon Ray

A Traveller with Nomadic soul.

This Post Has 30 Comments

  1. This is one gorgeous place that has been high on my list. Mdina was what I was targetting but you share such amazing parts of its capital too. The cathedrals and the palaces definitely make it worth a stay for at least 2 days. Did not realize that you can do the Blue Grotto from here.

    1. The Blue grotto is really amazing place. There is another Blue Grotto in Capri. Are you referring to that one ? In my opinion 2 days are not sufficient for Malta. You need at least 7 days to enjoy the history and architectures of this amazing country.

  2. Great article. It brought back lots of memories when we took our boys there in the early 20s. They still say they want to return. We did not make it to Gozo so it is high on our list. We loved the food and the people and there is so much to see and do.

    1. Thanks!!! You must visit Gozo if you are in Malta again :).

  3. Malta has been on my list for a long time. It’s beautiful- and is especially love to visit the Blue Grotto that you mentioned. I had no idea that there were so many historic sites there! As a history lover and teacher, Malta sounds like a dream destination!

  4. Malta has so much to offer which is really beautiful. You have taken wonderful photos of all the places! It looks pizza and pasta are very common and easily found here. Thanks for sharing all detailed information.

    1. Thanks Yukti. Yeah … this country definitely has Italian influence on Food.

  5. A friend of mine visited Malta a few years ago and couldn’t stop praising it! Since then, I’ve wanted to visit. I love the gorgeous coastal views and while Valletta is a definite visit, being the capital, I’d love also to explore the three fortified cities that you mention about and Rabat, the old capital. Not going there in Feb though, it is still too cold to be in water and I know I would want to jump into those gorgeous blue seas.

  6. Malta is an amazingly gorgeous country. We went on a short trip here, a few months back. I just couldn’t believe there is so much to see and do in this tiny little country. We didn’t have too much time and we were staying in the south of Malta, so we couldn’t head to Gozo and Comino. So, thanks for this virtual tour and overview of the places that you visited in Gozo and Comino. Unfortunately we also missed the boat tour, coz the sea pretty rough the day we went!

    1. The boat tour is something not to miss when you are in Malta , of course if weather permits. The sea was rough during our trip. But it gave another dimension to the tour. We enjoyed it thoroughly.

  7. Malta is a country that not many even bothers about visiting it. But Malta looks stunning in your photos. It definitely looks a place to spend a week at least.

  8. I’ve always wanted to visit Malta. The Blue Lagoon is incredible and my kids would love swimming in that water! I think they’d also enjoy the caves.

  9. We went in 2016. I wasn’t able to see the Fishing Village, Dwejra, or the Salt place. But, I believe, you missed the Azure Window that had ccalready collapsed by the time you went.

    1. We just had the opportunity to see Azure ruins as it already collapsed in 2017. But watching sunset from the place was a fantastic experience.

  10. Malta has been on radar for view years now since I have some friends who live there. It looks amazing! I didn’t quite realise that there city there is so big and there is so many things to see. This really showed me that one week there will go fast. Prior I only had heard about the Blue Lagoon but all these other interesting places are new to me.

  11. Beautiful photos. Can you comment on how good snorkeling is in Malta, e.g. as compared to the Caribbean?

    1. Thanks Rudy!!! I did not get a chance for snorkeling as water was cold in Feb. There plenty of places for Snorkeling & diving. You can definitely give a shot.

  12. Malta looks so beautiful. I would love to visit but I don’t know if I’d be driving on those small streets on the left side. The blue lagoon looks lovely. I really want to visit!

  13. Malta is such a gorgeous place! One of my favorite place to visit in Europe. And its also because of some place are been used for scene location of Game of Thrones <3

  14. Malta looks great and I havent heard of some of those places but I’d now love to visit the silent city. Was it expensive?

    1. I would say Malta is cheaper than many European cities.

  15. What a beautiful city! Thanks for sharing!

  16. Malta is on my list. I think I would stay in Valletta, for the history and culture of the capital city. Would a few days be enough to see most of Malta?

    1. Valletta is wonderful place to stay in Malta. Sliema is equally good.

  17. Malta does look like the perfect escape from a Finnish (or Chicago) winter. The fortified walls make Malta look so grand, and the perfect weather adds to that easy living kind of feel. I’d love to check out the fishing village and was probably most surprised to read about Rabat – I would never have thought to place somewhere like Rabat in Malta!

  18. What a gorgeous place and the pictures are so enticing for us to visit. I am putting it in my bucket list. Thanks for sharing all this informative information.

  19. Thanks for this wonderful guide. Malta looks like a heaven and worth visiting.

  20. The Blue Grotto in Malta has been on my bucket list for years! I desperately want to go experience the vast blueness in real life and how peaceful it is there. I love to road trip when I’m in foreign countries so I definitely would rent a car and visit the capital and quaint fishing villages.

  21. Malta is on our list! If we can get a housesit there, we’ll go later this year! Thanks for the tips.. pinned for later reference!

    1. Thank you!!!! Good luck for your trip!!

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