Malta is a small island in the Mediterranean sea, which is known as one of the most mystical and interesting small European destinations. Beautiful scenery, mystical history, stunning architecture, amazing heritage, medieval culture, fun and posh places, party, wineries, relaxed island mood – all of it makes Malta wonderful place to discover and learn more about it’s secrets. At first i was little confused what to see and do here apart from exploring it’s beautiful capital city Valetta. After spending almost 2 weeks exploring Malta i can say that with so many options you will definitely have a great time here. So get ready to explore a lot of small cities in Malta with me now! In this article i will share some really great things to see in Malta!
Here is my list of the best experiences and places not to miss in Malta!
Valetta is the first place that comes to mind when you hear Malta. The capital city of the island is the main cultural and historical hub of the island, UNESCO World Heritage Site and the busiest place during the day. Valetta was built in a very special way: all the streets are completely straight. It was made to protect the buildings in case of invasions from the sea. Malta got a strategic location in the Mediterranean and was always a sweet spot for invadors. It’s history knows a lot of examples, when all the precautions were worth the efforts. Now Valetta is a stunning and pretty touristy city, worth browsing here and there.
The main places to see in Valetta are St John’s Co-Cathedral, Grand Master’s Palace and Upper Barracca Gardens, which got stunning views to the harbour. These are the places worth visiting with a plan, but i suggest to spend most of your time here simply browsing around, looking for details around, people watching in cafes and just enjoying yourself.
Visiting Valetta at night is completely different experience. During the day it is really packed, but almost everyone leaves till 5pm and the city became empty. Make sure to extend your time here or visit it twice to feel absolutely different vibe.
The best view in Malta
Upper Baracca Gardens in Valetta got one of the best views in the island. You can see the harbour and at least 3 cities next to it (and maybe more) including the Fort, which is the property of Maltese cross, one of the most mystical countries in the world. The place is a photographer’s dream and definitely tops a list of best photo spots in Malta.
Move between 3 cities by foot
After seeing these 3 citifies from the viewpoint, it’s time to check them closer. Malta is a small island and the cities here are also small. You can easily move between them by foot even without realising that you have crossed the border. You don’t have to move far to have this experience: three fortified cities Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua are next to Valetta. The most classical (and convenient) way to do it is having a regular boat from Valetta, which will bring you to the area. Browse around the cities, have some coffee, enjoy the views and go back to Valetta by the boat. The cities feels close, but i don’t recommend you to walk there or taking a bus: better enjoy it with the boat.
Mosta is a small and charming city in the heart of Malta. It is mostly known for it’s incredible Dome, located in the heart of it. Mosta Dome (or Rotunda of Mosta) once was the the 3rd largest structure of it’s kind in the world and was build based on Pantheon in Rome. The design of the Dome and the structure itself is incredible and the atmosphere inside is magical. During WW|| The Mosta Dome was hurt by the bomb while there were 300 people inside of it. But the miracle has happened: the bomb did not explode and no-one was heart. The bomb is still on display inside of it as an evidence of this miracle.
Mosta itself got convenient transport connection in Malta, so if you plan to explore Malta, it’s worth considering staying there to minimise traffic. If you plan to move from one place to the other, there is chance you will have bus connection in Mosta, so you can easily check the Dome on your way.
Mdina is the second most famous spot in Malta. This is a medieval charming city, which is surrounded by walls. There is no traffic inside of it, apart from some horse carriages for tourists and there are only around 300 people who live there. Almost all of them are nobles. Now Mdina works mostly as a beautiful and well maintained tourist attraction and huge medieval festival is held there very year in early May. The city is really nice to browse around, enjoy it calmness and silence of the old streets. The structure of it feels a bit chaotic and similar to famous arabic Medinas, which was probably the reason why it’s name in Mdina. Though the feeling are completely different: it is quite and calm.
Rabat in Malta (there is another Rabat, which is the capital of Morocco) is located next to the Mdina and mostly famous for St Paul’s Catacombs, which are the largest in Malta, St Paul’s Grotto and WWII Shelters. Malta got very big system of bomb shelters almost everywhere. The reason is that is was hugely bombed during WW|| and that was the only way to save people here. According to statistics, there were more than 1300 attacks during the war, so shelter were a question of survival.
All of these sights are underground and you can find the entrance (or the signs of the entrance) next to the main church. These structures are pretty big, but easy to explore and the story behind them is pretty fascinating. It was really interesting to see St Pauls grotto, then WWII shelters and then catacombs (former graveyards). All dates back to absolutely different periods of history and it’s fascinating to see how the same principles of safety was used for centuries.
Now it’s time to get to the beach! Malta got only few sandy beaches and Golden Sands is one of them. It was the first place i have seen in Malta and it was a stunning choice. Golden sands is a wonderful beach, located in a rural area of the island. There are almost no buildings around, only farms and nature. Also Golden Sands is one of the best sunset point on the island. Located in a rural area a bit away from the cities and buzz of other parts of the island, it is wonderful place to relax and stay for a day or more, just enjoying the stunning views and classical Mediterranean mood.
Golden sands are a bit remote place, but got plenty of transport options. To get here you can take a bus from Valetta, Mdina or a taxi. If you plan to stay here for a while, Radisson Blu Golden Sands is your only option as there are no other hotels in the area. But the hotel is so good, that you definitely don’t need anything else. All the rooms are spacious, have a good terrace and equiped with the kitchen, so you can easily cook for yourself. Many people come here every year to spend some time in the area or even have a “time-share” apartments here. There is a reason for it as the area is stunning and the facilities of the hotel are great. Common areas include several big outdoor pools, one indoor pool, gym, jacuzzi, spa zone. And of course, you couldn’t miss a signature Radisson Blu champagne breakfast with plenty of healthy options to start your day.
Ghajn Tuffieha Bay
When i saw this place for the first time, i was wondering: how does it happened that i never saw it before on Instagram? This is stunning scenic area with some really beautiful locations, which totally can be compared with some of the most beautiful natural Insta spots in the world (we all need good pics for our feed, ya?). Probably it won’t take long till Ghajn Tuffieha Bay will tops all the major travel hashtags, but till than make sure to be the first who will discover it .
Ghajn Tuffieha Bay is located close to the Golden Sands, so you can easily walk there. It will take 30-40 minutes without no rush.
Malta got some really good wine production. It is not famous because the production is not that big: they simply don’t have much space to produce good enough quantity of it. Almost all the wine, produced in Malta, is consumed inside the country. If you like good wine, make sure to add wine tasting in your list of things to do in Malta.
There are several options on the island and several main producers. In terms of experience the best one is Meridiana Wine Estate. Most of the producers do the tastings in the factories, located in the port area, which is not the nicest place, to be honest (Ok, it’s the worst area of the island). Meridiana Wine Estate do the tasting in the rural area where they grow grapes, so this is kind of tasting as you imagine it: you will sit in a beautiful place next to the vineyard, they show you the premises and explain the story of the place. Then you will taste 4 types of wine on your own. Really classy and cool, though not too expensive experience. And the wine is really good!
Inquisitors are mostly known now as the people who have used tortures in everyday practice. This kind of places are located in different parts of Europe and usually concentrated only on tortures and the “equipment” that was used for it. Inquisitor’s palace in Malta tells a bit different story. According to WIKI, an inquisitor is an official and major person of organisation, whose goal is to protect the Catholic faith, teach and eliminate heresy. So basically, it’s a judge or invistigator. According to what is shown in the palace, they have used tortures, but it wasn’t something that was used frequently, only in some special occasions.
Inquisitors palace in Malta is located in one of the so called “3 cities” – Birgu. It is the only remained former Inquisitors palace, opened for the public in the world. The building got a lot of history, some nice architecture and a bit boring exposition of some artefacts including some torture equipment. Still you can see the main palace, the cells, torture room and some inner yards.
Buildings with the names
In Malta all the houses have their names. There are no particular addresses on the island, so buildings don’t have a number. Instead of it it got the name. It could be a Saint, a name of the city, country, flower or whatever the owner wants. The names are usually different, but some are used multiple times in different cities. So if you see the mail address in Malta like “Malta, Valetta, Santa Maria apartment 25” that doesn’t mean anything, but particular name of the house with the particular appartment.
Popeye Village Malta
If you are up for having some fun, that’s the place for you. In th 80’s Malta was a place where Popeye the sailor movie was shot. The shooting team build a small village on the coast. After they have finished, the government decided that it is so pretty and nice, so they won’t demolish it. Instead, they turned it into a thematic park, where you can enjoy some Popeye experience. There are plenty of actors walking around and making sure you have fun: they will make you a part of their team, you will interact with them, play, take shots, maybe will be part of a movie they will shot with you. Everyone who was there tells, that though the place feels a bit strange, it was really fun and they exit it in a better mood and with a feeling of doing something fun!
Find film locations
Apart from 80’s movie about Popeye, there lots of other movies, which were shot in Malta. Malta was widely used as a film locations for more than 100 movies. You can find familiar movie spots from “The game of thrones”, “Kon-Tiki”, “The Da Vinci code”, “Gladiator”, “The count of Monte Cristo” (2002) and many others. Most of them are located in Valetta or in the area of 3 cities in front of it.
Here are some of the shooting locations:
“Game of Thrones”: Fort Ricasoli, Fort St Angelo (1st season)
“The Da Vinci code”: Couvre port
“Troy”: Fort Ricasoli
“Kon-Tiki”: Malta Film Studio, St Lawrence Band Club (Vittoriosa)
“Gladiator”: Fort Ricasoli, Couvre port
“The count of Monte Cristo” (2002): Vittoriosa Waterfront
Malta Film studio is famous for it’s water tanks, which are used for shooting water scenes, making storm special events. It was used in multiple movies such as “Kon-Tiki”, “Captain Phillips” and others.
Visit the smallest country in the world
Malta itself i the 10th smallest country in the world. But Sovereign Military Order of Malta (or just Order of Malta) is another country and it is one of the most trickiest countries in the world. Basically it is a catholic order, group of nobles man, who’s goal is to protect and help the poor people. Order of Malta the world’s oldest surviving chivalric order. And officially it is a country. Well, kind of a country. It is recognised as this by more than 100 countries and by UN. It’s territory is just several properties in Europe including Headquarter in Rome and Fort St. Angelo in Malta. The fort is surrounded by the most luxury boats on the island and is open for visits. Maybe you will understand more about Order of Malta after visit and will have +1 country (ok, technically you wouldn’t, but who cares), you have visited.
Explore Old palaces
I always got a feeling, that the most interesting part of life in Malta is located inside posh palaces and mansions. Malta is known as a bit “secret” country with lots of nobles and big influences. Of course, each nobleman should have a villa or a Palace to hide his secrets. These days some of them are opened for public visits and you can learn more about it.
Casa Rocca Piccola in Valetta is the most popular and accessible option. There are regular guided tours, which includes the Palace itself and old bomb shelter, which was build to protect the family members during WW||. The palace now works more as a museum, but still it feels real: there are family photos in the main room including recent members, some old and some more recent stuff (like CD player and modern books). Obviously, no-one lives there now, but it is still used for family affairs.
Apart from Casa Rocca Piccola, there are few more palaces to visit in Malta:
Palazzo Parisio: located 1,5-2 km away from Mosta and now works mostly for weddings, but sometimes opened for general visits;
Villa Bolognia: it is occupied by people, but they are happy to show around;
Palazzo Falson Historic House Museum: located in Mdina and works as a museum.
Blue Lagoon and Comino
Blue Lagoon and Comino are usually called the most beautiful part of Malta. Usually when i was asked for advices about the best places to see in Malta, everyone put it on the first place. Comino is one of 3 islands in Malta (yes there are 3 islands) and Blue lagoon is a perfect swimming spot with the crystal clear tourquose water and beautiful views around. Visiting them is easy as it is the most popular boat day tour in Malta and there are lots of companies, who do it.
Hal Saflieni Hypogeum
(pic by MyMalta.guide)
I already have mentioned that Valetta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but there are 2 more places in Malta, which are inscribed in list of human heritage. Hal Saflieni Hypogeum is an underground burial site, carved out into the rock more than 5000 years ago. Many call it one of the most memorable culture place on the island. It is the only prehistoric burial site which is accessible to the general public in the world.
The only trouble is that visits are restricted: only 80 people are allowed dayly. It is possible to book your visit, but usually tickets are sold out months in advance. If you have not booked your visit in advance, there are two last-minute tours which run daily at 12pm and 4pm. These tickets can be bought early in the morning (local concierge recommended me to come at 7-30 to make sure i will get the ticket) at the National Museum of Fine Arts in South Street in Valletta or the Gozo Museum of Archeology.
If you have a serious desire to see some more archeological sites in Malta, than Megalithic Temples is a place for you. There are 7 temples around the island, which were built between 3600 BC and 700 BC and also inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. It’s a bit of exploration if you want to see all of them as they are spread around the island, but definitely could be interesting for history buffs.
Enjoy fresh air in St. Paul’s bay
St. Pauls bay is another tourist area in Malta. Bugibba is the place with lots of cafes, hotels, restaurants, nice promenade. Also Aquarium and Malta’s branch of “Cafe del Mar” is located here. Bugibba is relatively busy place as there are some tourist party areas there, but you can easily walk around the bay and enjoy calm atmosphere and beautiful views next to it.
Check the view to Valetta
Silemma is the city located right next to Valetta. I wouldn’t call it too interesting on it’s own, but it have great view to Valetta from it’s promenade and a small free viewing platform, which is worth the visit. The area is nice for those who love to jog as the promenade is well maintained and also there are some commercial area here with shops and cafes.
Have fun at the Festivals
(Pic from https://lostandfoundfestival.com)
Malta got a lot of festivals and it is a big thing here. There is always something going on and they know how to make it work for you to have fun there. If you want to experience particular festivals in Malta, then make sure to plan your visit here accordingly. You can find that something going on almost all year round, but usually the spring is the most busy festival time here.
Here are some of the most important festivals:
Carnaval before February: classical European celebration before the Lent;
Feasts held the by monasteries and lots of tradition events during Easter;
Fireworks festival in April with several big shows;
The Mdina Medieval Festival: The city of Mdina is transformed into a real Medieval city with lots of costumes and activities April or early May
“Il Festa Tal Frawli” or the Strawberry festival in April in the area of Golden Bay and Mgarr village;
‘Strada’ festival of wine, music and art in Valetta in early June;
Sliema Art Festival: Street art and modern art festival in mid July;
Notte bianco in October is a night festival, where the streets of Valetta have special light decorations with lots of activities around.
These are just the major traditional festivals as there are lots of others. Malta attracts a lot of young crowd, who come here to study English and party, so there are lots of different music festivals all the time. Check http://www.festivalsmalta.com for more info about it.
Party hard in St Julian’s
St Julian’s is the main tourist area in Malta. It is the place, where major hotels, cafes and nightlife are located. Also there are lots of English schools here. The area is very busy and lots of people stay there. If Valetta became sleepy in the afternoon, in St Julian’s the main action begin in the second part of the day and after the sunset. This is the reason why many choose this area as their base to explore Malta. Apart from the nightlife, there is not much to do here, but good news is that the choice of hotels is pretty good and lots of transport options.
I have stayed at Radisson Blu Resort St. Julian’s and it was the best choice i have seen in the area. It is located couple hundred metres away from the main buzz and feels very calm. They have a big coastal part with several outdoor pools and the best view to the sunset possible. You can sit on the balcony of your room and enjoy the coast and the sea. The view was really stunning and was my favourite thing in the area.
Apart from it, Radisson Blu Resort St. Julian’s got comfortable rooms, good friendly service, great and big outdoor areas with several pools and good views, indoor pool, small gym, steam room. And of course, a breakfast not to be missed! Good enough reason to wake up and enjoy your perfect day in Malta. So if you choose St. Julians area as your base to explore Malta, make sure to check Radisson Blu Resort St. Julian’s as a good option to be your home during these days.
Disclaimer: My stay in Malta was partly sponsored by Radisson Blu Resort St. Julian’s and Radisson Blu Golden Sands. Still all opinions here are completely mine and i can strongly recommend you not to miss it!