Exploring pristine turquoise bays, wandering through ancient UNESCO sites and walled cities, and relaxing on laid-back beach spots are among the best things to do in Malta.
Situated between southern Italy and Tunisia, the Maltese islands effortlessly blend influences from both regions; think picturesque coastal cities, rugged desert landscapes, towering fortresses and phenomenal viewpoints.
How to get to the 3 islands of Malta
Its relatively compact size makes it easy to sort out where to go in Malta, which is spread out over three idyllic islands surrounded by the glittering Mediterranean Sea and linked by boat.
Malta is an independent, European country and despite its natural wonders has stayed relatively off the beaten path as it requires either a boat ride or flight to get there.
Malta International Airport (MLA) is served by these airlines, which are a mix of low-cost carriers and international airlines with good connections around Europe and beyond.
A handful of cruise lines dock in the capital Valletta, including Holland America and MSC. It’s a 30 minute walk from the port to the city centre, 15 minutes by taxi and there’s also a public bus (Route 130) to and from Valletta.
The mainland (where Valletta is) is where most visitors start their trip, by basing themselves in the nearby resort areas of Saint Julian’s and Sliema.
The island of Comino is home to the famous Blue Lagoon, while quiet, rugged Gozo which has ancient temples and caves.
From snorkelling through crystal clear lagoons to taking a trip back in time while wandering through historic ruins, here are the best things to do in Malta.
Best things to do in Valletta
Malta’s prime location made it a target for conquest over previous centuries, which led to Valletta’s fortification in hopes of scaring off enemies.
Aptly nicknamed ‘The Fortress City’, the result is a beautiful scene of high walls surrounding the beige and white buildings built into craggy rocks, complemented by bright blue waters.
The historic capital is small enough that it’s walkable, although you might get tripped up by some of the many, many stairs.
The best thing to do in Valletta is head to the The Malta Experience, an audio-video show detailing Malta’s 7,000 year history in about an hour.
It’s wildly entertaining (high praise, as I normally find these types of things super boring), and the first thing you should do before exploring the rest of the city to get a better understanding of its landmarks. Click here to book
Pre-book tickets or a private tour to the Malta Experience show and avoid lines:
(Note that as of March 2023 The Malta Experience is not open on Sundays, so plan accordingly)
Other spots to include on your list of things to see in Valletta are:
- The picturesque waterfront
- Republic Street, a one-kilometre stretch linking the City Gate to Fort St. Elmo. It’s mostly pedestrian-only, and passes many important buildings including the Grandmaster’s Palace, Parliament of Malta and the Courts of Justice.
- St. John’s Co-Cathedral, an opulent church known for its beautiful baroque architecture
- The Watchtower (vedette) overlooking the Grand Harbour. Head to the nearby Gardjola Gardens to watch a cannon firing across the harbour at 12 pm and 4 pm daily.
Keep your eyes up to see the colourful shutters that adorn Valletta’s apartments, which make for a quaint streetscape.
Valletta is quite compact and walkable (other than, you know, all those stairs), and other good options for getting a feel for it are by booking a food tour or this popular walking tour:
Valletta is a great base for exploring surrounding sites like temples, a fishing village and ruins, the cities of Mdina, Saint Julian’s and Sliema. This is also where visitors catch boat rides over to Gozo and Comino.
Some top-ranked day trips around this island from Valletta are:
Where to stay in Valletta:
- Casa Ellul: With high-end decor in a gorgeous, historic building, this centrally-located boutique hotel is a stunner. There are less than a dozen rooms, and it’s easy walking distance to the major attractions, shops and restaurants. Click for pricing
- Domus Zamittello: A sun-soaked rooftop terrace is just one of the highlights of this property in a restored 17th century palazzo. The elegant rooms have excellent views, and the on-site dining is excellent. Click for pricing
Things to do in Mellieha
The village of Mellieha is a great place to get a feel for Maltese culture away from the crowds, and boasts the island’s largest sandy beach (Mellieha Bay).
Attractions include the crimson Red Tower (St Agatha’s Tower) which dates back to the 1600s, the Għadira Nature Reserve which is popular with birders, and Majjistral Nature & History Park on the northwest tip of the island which includes Golden Bay.
The park also has artifacts from the country’s military history, hiking trails and great views along the coastline and as far as Sicily on clear days.
Mellieha is also where you’ll find one of the top things to see in Malta: Popeye’s Village, which is the actual location used to film the Popeye movie back in 1980.
This Instagram-worthy spot consists of tiny homes and shops tucked into the hillside, surrounded by a stunning bay. E
Explore the ‘Main Square’, meet characters like Popeye and Olive Oyl, watch one of the daily entertainment shows, play games, walk through the original film set and even take part in making a movie.
Book one of these tours to Popeye’s Village:
Be sure to head to nearby Mdina, a beautiful medieval walled town. There are a number of historical sites to wander through including an old church and a bomb shelter, as well as souvenir shops.
Mdina also affords a stunning view of the countryside below.
Where to stay in Mellieha
- Radisson Blu Resort & Spa, Malta Golden Sands: With stunning sea views, spacious suites and multiple pools, this resort is one of the best places on the island to relax. Guests rave about the service, and love the convenience of being on one of the best beaches with easy bus access for exploring. Click here for pricing
- db Seabank Resort and Spa: A good budget pick, it features large but standard rooms, a great pool, restaurants, and is right across the street from L-Ghadira Bay. There’s also a bus stop outside which will transfer you anywhere on the island. Click here for pricing
Where to find the best beaches in Malta
Malta is blessed with long stretches of coastlines, which makes it a haven for beach bums.
Many public beaches on the mainland have places where you can rent umbrellas and lounge chairs, and there’s often a canteen to buy food nearby.
Some of the best Malta beaches are found around Buġibba, St Paul’s Bay, St. Julian’s and Mellieħa, including Golden Bay, Għajn Tuffieħa, Paradise Bay, Armier and Ta’ Fra Ben.
Things to do in Comino
One of the most breathtaking and beautiful places in Malta is the Blue Lagoon, on the island of Comino.
The scenic boat ride over is a treat in itself, and you’re dropped off in a breathtakingly turquoise bay surrounded by sea caverns. While you won’t find any beaches here, there are chair rentals available which you can perch precariously on the surrounding rock cliffs and enjoy the great view.
Take a dip in the clear water, go snorkeling, or wander up the hill where you’ll be able to see the imposing fortress that guards neighbouring Gozo.
Book a tour from Valletta to the Blue Lagoon:
Things to do in Gozo
With relatively few inhabitants, a rugged landscape and quieter pace, Gozo is one of the best places to see in Malta to get an idea of what life used to be like around here.
It has also served as a backdrop for some big budget productions, including Game of Thrones which featured the Azure Window natural rock formation (which sadly collapsed in 2017).
Most Gozo sightseeing trips start with the ferry ride over to the island, which leaves from Ċirkewwa in northern Malta.
Book one of these fun tours from Valletta to Gozo:
A number of bus routes from areas like Qawra, St. Julian’s and Sliema include stops at the ferry terminal.
The scenic sail over includes glimpses of Comino and the Ta’ Ċenċ Cliffs, and you might even be lucky enough to spot some dolphins.
Some of the best places to visit in Gozo are:
- The Citadel: Located in Rabat (also known as Victoria), this fortified city dates back to the Bronze Age and the high walls were built to defend against Ottoman attacks. The views are stunning, and the fortress is absolutely enchanting at night when lit up by the golden glow of lamp lights.
- Ġgantija Temples: This is one of the most important archaeological sites in Malta, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temples date from between 3600 and 3200 B.C. and are thought to be older than the pyramids in Egypt.
- Ninu’s Cave: This underground cave is known for its abundant natural stalactite and stalagmite formations.
Book one of these popular day trips to Gozo:
The best time to visit Malta
Despite its natural attractions, Malta is still relatively off the beaten path which makes it a great holiday destination year-round.
The busiest months are in the summer from June to August, when temperatures average 21ºC – 26ºC. That’s compared to rainier winter months, when temperatures drop a bit to about 15 – 17 °C from December to February.
To enjoy warmer temperatures without the busy crowds of peak season, book a trip to Malta during May, September and October.
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