Malta is often overlooked when people plan their Mediterranean holidays, but that is a total injustice. This small island offers up crystal clear water, dramatic landscapes, fascinating history and some stellar food. So what should you make sure to include in your Malta itinerary?
- 1 21 Things to Include in Your Malta Itinerary
- 2 1.) Pound the Pavements of Valletta
- 3 2.) Sail Into the Blue Grotto
- 4 3.) Sip a Drink at a Hole in the Wall, Silema
- 5 4.) Mdina Silent City
- 6 5.) Get Sand in Your Pants at Paradise Bay
- 7 6.) Feel the Wind at Dingli Cliffs
- 8 7.) Party at Thristy Barber Cocktail Bar – St Julians
- 9 8.) Marvel at the View at Barrakka Gardens, Valletta
- 10 9.) Float in the Blue Lagoon
- 11 10.) Try a Michelin Star Meal – Fork & Cork
- 12 11.) Ride the Three Cities with Rolling Geeks
- 13 12.) Dive Under the Mediterranean Waves
- 14 13.) Discover Malta’s WWII Role in Lascaris War Rooms and Fort Saint Elmo
- 15 14.) Savour some Seafood in Marsaxlokk
- 16 15.) Bathe Like a Victorian in Silema
- 17 16.) Enjoy a Slice of History (and Cake) at Caffe Cordina, Valletta
- 18 17.) Take the Plunge at St Paul’s Pool
- 19 18.) Hike the Hills of Gozo
- 20 19.) Step Inside St John’s Co-Cathedral
- 21 20.) Party at Carnival
- 22 Final Thoughts on These Malta Itinerary Ideas
21 Things to Include in Your Malta Itinerary
1.) Pound the Pavements of Valletta
Valletta is the capital of Malta and a wonderful place to get lost. The city is just 0.61km2 so it is eminently walkable. There are specific sights to enjoy (some of them are featured further down this list) but mainly, it is a wonderful place to wander. Republic Street is the main thoroughfare, running from the city gate to St George’s Square surrounded by historic buildings. It is pedestrianised and along its length, you will find a collection of shops that range from tourist treasures to high street names, and some cafes/ice cream spots to take a break.
As you traverse the hilly streets beyond the main drag, remember to look up. Up, on the higher floors, you will see beautiful balconies. These “gallerija” are wooden, closed in and add a splash of architectural interest to the front of many a Maltese building. You will see similar balconies in Italy and Galacia, Spain but the bold paint that is often a feature brings the Maltese version to life.
2.) Sail Into the Blue Grotto
Around the coast from the small fishing village of Wied iż-Żurrieq is a dramatic sea cave known as the Blue Grotto. Small boats depart from on a regular basis. Just buy your tickets from the small booth on the boat way and hop on the next available dingy.
After a short sail, the boat slows to a putter and visitors are taken inside the Blue Grotto. The water seems to glow turquoise, especially in the morning when the sun really picks out the beautiful colour. Peek below the waves and you will small coral structures.
If you are driving, remember to stop at the viewing platform that rises above the grotto to the east. It is labelled on Google Maps as Blue Wall and Grotto Viewpoint and is just off the main road.
3.) Sip a Drink at a Hole in the Wall, Silema
When you first hear about a pub that is 100 years old, you may conjure up images of creaky wooden seats, stuffy interiors and old guys who look like they have seen the whole of the pub’s history but in Malta, things are a little different. Hole in the Wall has adapted, invented and reinvented itself and is still one of the coolest spots for an evening out. It’s the Madonna of pubs!
In the afternoon, small groups of friends play cards or one of the board games on offer whilst sipping on a sneaky 3pm beer, or munching on the Asian/western selection of carby snacks (Japanese something bread anyone)? You could almost call it hipster but it is all so laidback that it doesn’t feel forced. It seems to evolved naturally. In the evening, the atmosphere changes. Hole in the Wall often showcases live music and the clientele is friendly, raucous and casual. It is an excellent spot to hang out with your friends, dance a little and enjoy a cool night out.
4.) Mdina Silent City
Mdina (pronounced um-dee-nah) is a very special city. It is a little less than a kilometre square and is surrounded by the defensive walls built by Arabs. It was originally much larger, under the Roman empire, but it was made smaller and protected more effectively to create more of a fort city. The gate you see today is quite new (well, 300 years old) and allows much easier access to the streets now that it is just tourists invading on a daily basis.
During the day, it is well worth visiting the gorgeous cathedral and its stunning dome. We also recommend taking in a spot of lunch or ice cream at the famous Fontanella Tea Garden. The view over the wall is fab and after the hot streets, the breeze and is rather refreshing.
When the sun sets, it seems to empty out, shut down and it is easy to see how it gets it’s nickname of, “The Silent City”. The shiny streets are bathed in golden street lights and the distant clip-clop of high heels lets you know that someone is coming, long before they emerge.
5.) Get Sand in Your Pants at Paradise Bay
Malta isn’t blessed with many sandy beaches so when you find one, hunker down for the day! Paradise Bay is slightly oddly named. Yes, the sand is plentiful and yes, the sea is incredible but just across the water is a full-blown port so the view isn’t quite as idyllic as you’d like. That being said, it is a wonderful place to relax for a day and the shallow, gently lapping waves are perfect for families with young children.
6.) Feel the Wind at Dingli Cliffs
High above the Western coast, the wind whips the hair of tourists who marvel at the rugged cliffs. Atop the cliffs is the small St Mary Magdalene Church which dates back to the 1600s. Behind it you’ll find the tiny a smaller cafe/truck. Grab a can of Kinnie (the delicious bitter orange soft drink of Malta) and either enjoy the viewing platform or find a rocky outcrop of your own. It is an excellent place to sit, taking in the crashing waves below.
7.) Party at Thristy Barber Cocktail Bar – St Julians
For those looking to have a big night out, St |Julian’s is packed with bars and restaurants. Heels are high, dresses are tight and tans are on point on the busy streets. It is the major party area but some bars stand out. Thirsty Barber, for instance, is dedicated to the craft of mixology. A quick glance at the bar shows the vast array of options. Next to it, a blackboard displays all the homemade boozy concoctions that can be sampled (Thai chilli Aperol or green apple & dill gin anyone)?
There is a menu but the coolest thing about this speakeasy joint is the ability to request a certain kind of flavour/alcohol base and let the bartenders work their magic. They will create a cocktail just for you at a reasonable price point. It all feels very VIP and later in the evening the music and alcohol kicks in and everyone hits the small dancefloor.
8.) Marvel at the View at Barrakka Gardens, Valletta
If there is a negative about Valletta, it is that it lacks some greenery. However, head east and you will come across the upper and lower Barrakka Gardens. Not only are these gardens a relaxed and tranquil place to relax, but the view over the natural harbour and the Three Cities is stunning! Incredibly, these gardens have been here since 1661 but they have only been public since 1824. Still, that 200 odd years of sharing the love so we appreciate it!
Down below the main stretch of the garden is the Saluting Battery and its fine collection of cannons. particularly important is the noon day gun, which, as the name suggests, is fired every day at 12:00 pm. Listen out and you may well hear the Siege Bell War Memorial which is opposite the Upper Barrakka Gardens and is also set to go off at noon.
9.) Float in the Blue Lagoon
The small island of Comino, which sits between Malta and Gozo is home to the Blue Lagoon. The water in this shallow lagoon is very still and therefore, extremely clear. It makes it perfect for families who want to swim in safety and sun-worshippers who prefer to just relax on the side. The water is so clear that it can look like people are floating in the air at one angle, and in bright blue ripples at another.
From Malta, the Blue Lagoon can be reached by ferry from the north of the island, Sliema or Valletta. Alternatively, you can take an organised boat trip that pulls up for a little while. This is a good option as it gives you somewhere to leave your belongings/store water etc but it does mean you are on the boat’s schedule Remember that it can be incredibly crowded here in peak season or weekends so come early and get your snaps before there isn’t a clear shot!
10.) Try a Michelin Star Meal – Fork & Cork
A short walk from the walls of Mdina is a small cluster of restaurants. Its shining star (and that’s a Michelin star, don’t you know) is undoubtedly Fork & Cork. This top-rated eatery serves up the very best of Maltese cuisine as thoughtful and delicious fine dining. The owner of Fork & Cork couldn’t be keener to ensure every guest is having a wonderful time and her enthusiasm is infectious!
Guests can choose to eat a la carte or let the chef’s surprise them with the tasting menu, a series of smaller dishes that take the diner on a culinary journey across the island. We opted for the tasting menu and don’t want to give too much away so check out the photos below and see if you can work out what you can see. Menus change regularly with the seasons so it may well be different when you visit.
11.) Ride the Three Cities with Rolling Geeks
Lying across the deep natural harbour from Valletta is a scouts salute of land. three prongs stick into the water and these are known as the Three Cities (Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua). Exploring these on foot would be an exhausting day, but luckily, there is a very cool alternative. Rolling Geeks offers an interactive, independent, electric vehicle tour. Guests drive their own golf buggy-style cars around the area whilst the car gives a GPS guided commentary. The GPS also guides the drivers so they don’t get lost. It is fun, informative and a really unique way to take in a bit of sightseeing.
12.) Dive Under the Mediterranean Waves
The crystal clear Mediterranean waters around Malta make it excellent for scuba. Add to that, some amazing wrecks, beautiful caves and reefs and you have one of the best spots in Europe for diving. The water is at a comfortable temperature over summer (July & August) but as the Med is warmed up over this time, you could still be OK in September or even October. Coming in Spring or early summer, you will be met with a surprisingly chilly sea. One of the most popular dives is the huge oil tanker wreck, the Um El Faroud, which is located near the Blue Grotto but this is only for advanced divers. However, there are shallower wrecks such HMS Maori which sits at 14m, so most divers will find something unusual to explore within their limits.
13.) Discover Malta’s WWII Role in Lascaris War Rooms and Fort Saint Elmo
When it comes to World War II, the world is full of untold stories. In Europe, you have probably heard about Germany, the Blitz, France and Italy but Malta played quite a pivotal role. War in the Mediterranean was fierce and Malta’s prime position at the centre of the sea made it an incredibly important strategic point.
The Lascaris War Rooms is a series of tunnels and rooms down below Valletta, from which the British ran their operations during WWII. A trip into these chambers will teach visitors both Malta’s role in both WWII and the cold war and how soldiers lived and worked underground.
At the tip of Valletta’s peninsular is the large military defence of Fort St Elmo and the National War Museum. This star-shaped fort is now a large museum. It was first constructed in the 1500s by the Order of Saint John and took a leading role in the Great Siege of 1565. It remained a military stronghold up until the 1970s and it held strong until the weapons of WWII caused serious damage and several soldiers were killed in an air raid.
14.) Savour some Seafood in Marsaxlokk
In the south of Malta is a fishing town that used to be a quiet spot but is now rightfully famous for its fresh seafood and a rather pretty view across the bay. Marsaxlokk (mar -sar-schlock) is a nice place for a waterside wander but that isn’t really why you’re here!
A stretch of restaurants offers catch of the day deals and a selection of fish and shellfish which is grilled, baked or fried to the delight of the visitors who have made the trip. Our advice is to opt for a fish you like grilled with a little salt and lemon and served with a mound of chips.
15.) Bathe Like a Victorian in Silema
Along the coast of Sliema is a curious section of natural lagoon, rock pools and man-made places to take a dip. A small section features a series of rectangular baths dug into the rocks. These are the original swimming pools of Malta, dug to by plucky Brits who wanted to take the waters without going too far into the open sea. This allowed people who couldn’t swim, and ladies with several metres of bathing clothes to weigh them down to relax in the sea safely.
When the waves aren’t too strong, these original bathing spots are still a lovely choice for swimmers and non-swimming alike but do bear in mind that they are very old and the sea has eroded them somewhat so the original stairs are rather beaten up. Their are some sharp and slippery rocks so maybe wearing water shoes is a good plan. Oh, and remember that the salty sea water is home to sea creatures so these are just like giant rock pools.
16.) Enjoy a Slice of History (and Cake) at Caffe Cordina, Valletta
Caffe Cordina is the Grande Dame of Malta’s cafe scene. It has been serving coffee and cake to the residents of Valletta for over 180 years. Standing at its present location since 1944. it now plays host to just as many tourists as locals. The grand vaulted ceiling, sparkling chandelier and swooping staircase are all incredibly elegant, but the prices are still perfectly accessible. You could pop in for two espressos and a piece of cake and leave with plenty of change from Є10. Alternatively, come at happy hour (4 – 6), sit in the outdoor space opposite and enjoy an Aperol Spritz and snacks for just Є5.50.
Beyond the cake and cocktails is a food menu full of crowd-pleasing dishes. Try the traditional savoury pastries of Malta. Crispy Pastizzi stuffed with ricotta or peas and mince are only Є0.80 a pop! If you want something a bit more substantial, the burgers and sandwiches are on point. Oh, and the octopus salad (served in a giant parmesan tuile basket) is cooked perfectly and the best lunch going!
Around the world, there are a fair few eateries that trade on their reputation. You go because you’ve heard of it and you tell yourself you are enjoying it, no matter if it is good or not. It is such a relief that Caffe Cordina is genuinely wonderful.
17.) Take the Plunge at St Paul’s Pool
Pulling into the dusty car park, you may be wondering why this spot is so special, but clamber down through the unassuming cafe and towards these suddenly, it appears. St Paul’s Pool is like a small fjord. The white rock is blinding against the gloriously blue water below. For the brave visitors (and those that take a little longer to make up their minds) the main cliff jump is around 6m high. Luckily, there are smaller leaps that can be taken, and steps into the sea. There isn’t a bathroom here so drink plenty of water to stay hydrated in the sun but just bear in mind that you may have to take to the waves to relieve yourself!
18.) Hike the Hills of Gozo
Gozo is one of Malta’s little sisters. it lies off the Northern coast and is more relaxed and serene than Malta. It is an easy ferry ride across and can be done as a day trip but we would suggest staying for a night or two so you can relax and enjoy yourself without checking your watch…it really cramps your style when you are trying to chill out. The capital of Victoria is a neat, little city which you can explore in a relatively short time. However, to really soak up the atmosphere of Gozo, take to the countryside.
Wind-whipped hillsides, small villages, well-marked paths and golden sands await the explorer. We recommend finding a guidebook like this or googling a few blog posts to pick a walk that suits your taste. Hills aren’t too high and so these walks are suitable for most people. Just remember to take plenty of water and maybe a few snacks just in case you don’t come across a shop at the right time.
19.) Step Inside St John’s Co-Cathedral
If ever there was a physical embodiment of, ” Don’t judge a book by its cover”, this would be it. The outside of St John’s Co-Cathedral is very unassuming. So much so that we almost didn’t pop in on our last visit. With an entrance fee just shy of €20, it can seem like an unappealing prospect but once you have bought your ticket, picked up the included audioguide and emerged into the side entrance of this cathedral, you will see why it is so famous. The level of detail inside is astonishing. From the …..ceiling to the floor covered in special burial inscriptions, it is visual overload!
20.) Party at Carnival
Every year, a few weeks before Easter, Malta erupts into party mode. Every night, up to and including Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras there are parades, special events, marching bands and balls around the country. These celebrations are extremely family-friendly with some huge floats and some more local and charming. While the celebrations in warmer climates like Rio and Trinidad revolve around sexy, flamboyant costumes, the aesthetic of the Maltese Carnival, is somewhat more grotesque. Below, you can see some of the floats from the Valletta parades we came across.
If you are interested in more of a raucous celebration, the town of Nadur on normally sleepy Gozo is more of a booze-fuelled party. When the sun goes down, the revellers take to the streets in their own costumes ready for a night of spontaneous fun.
Final Thoughts on These Malta Itinerary Ideas
As you can see from these Malta itinerary ideas, the island of Mata, Gozo and Comino offer a great selection of natural wonders, varied activities and delicious refreshments. Beyond these suggestions are ancient caves, cool clubs and beautiful theatre productions in a beautiful theatre…we just haven’t had a chance to do them all yet. maybe we will get to update this to “31 Things to Include in Your Malta Itinerary” one day. Whatever you get up to during your Malta trip, have a great time and have a Kinnie for us!