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Best Places to Visit in Malta

A natural rock arch over the blue sea

Best Places to Visit in Malta

Malta is a beautiful island nation located in the Mediterranean Sea in southern Europe. Its capital, Valetta, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been uniquely shaped by a mix of major cultures over millennia. The country of Malta consists of three major islands: Malta, Gozo, and Comino, along with several smaller islets. In this guide we’ll cover the best places to visit in Malta, the best things to do, where to stay, and more.

A woman sat on a cliff overlooking a bright blue and clear sea with the words "Things to Do in Malta" superimposed

Malta

Malta has a rich history that spans thousands of years, and it has been influenced by various civilizations, including the Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Knights of St. John, and the British Empire. It gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1964 and became a republic in 1974. It is also a member of the European Union now and uses the Euro as its official currency.

Malta is known for its beautiful beaches, historical sites, and a thriving tourism industry.

Valetta

The jewel in the crown of Malta is the capital city of Valetta, recognized by UNESCO due to its historical importance across many empires. It’s worth wandering aimlessly around to enjoy its stunning historic architecture or book a Valetta walking tour with a local guide.

A large fountain with statues of three people holding a large plate up

St. John’s Co-Cathedral is a Baroque masterpiece and one of the most ornate churches in Europe. It houses the famous painting “The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist” by Caravaggio.

The Upper Barrakka Gardens offer panoramic views of the Grand Harbor and the Three Cities. The gardens are beautifully landscaped and provide a tranquil retreat right in the heart of Valetta.

Once the residence of the Grand Master of the Knights of St. John, the Grandmaster’s Palace now serves as the President’s official residence and houses the Armory, State Rooms, and the Palace Rooms.

A notable landmark in Valetta, Auberge de Castille is an architectural gem and currently serves as the office of the Prime Minister of Malta.

A sand colored stone fort with a modern city behind

The National Museum of Archaeology houses a vast collection of artifacts from Malta’s prehistoric periods, including the famous Venus of Malta and the Tarxien Temples statues.

Beneath the Upper Barrakka Gardens, the Lascaris War Rooms served as the underground headquarters for the British and Allied forces in the Mediterranean during World War II. The complex played a crucial role in coordinating military operations and is now a museum showcasing Malta’s wartime history.

Nearby, you’ll find the Saluting Battery, which offers spectacular views of the Grand Harbor. This historical artillery battery once played a vital role in defending Valletta. Now, you can watch the firing of cannons during ceremonial salutes at midday and 4pm.

Mdina

Mdina, also known as the “Silent City,” is a fortified medieval city located in the northern part of Malta. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Europe and served as the island’s capital before the development of Valletta.

Book a guided walking tour of Mdina or combine it with other highlights with this full Malta day tour.

Aerial view of a walled city made with sand colored limestone. A cathedral prominently standing at the highest point

The best thing to do in Mdina is to wander its ancient, cobbled streets aimlessly and soak in the atmosphere.

The central point and most important structure in Mdina is of course St. Paul’s Cathedral. The cathedral’s façade is a fine example of Maltese Baroque architecture, and the interior houses beautiful frescoes, sculptures, and a museum.

For the best views, head to Bastion Square located at the northern end of Mdina. Overlooking the surrounding countryside to the distant Mediterranean Sea, this once bustling marketplace now offers visitors a peaceful, panoramic view of the region.

The Mdina Dungeons offer a unique and somewhat eerie experience, providing insights into Malta’s darker history. The underground chambers house exhibitions related to the city’s past, including tales of dungeons, prisoners, and the plague.

Gozo

Gozo isn’t actually an area of the main island of Malta, but an entirely different island which is part of the country of Malta. It’s the second-largest island in the archipelago and is located just to the northwest of the main island. It too is known for its picturesque landscapes and historic sites, but prides itself on a more relaxed pace of life compared to the bustling main island of Malta.

Gozo is characterized by rolling hills, charming villages, and a rugged coastline. Some of the island’s notable attractions include the Azure Window, a natural limestone arch which unfortunately collapsed in 2017, the Citadel (Cittadella), an ancient, fortified city, and various beautiful beaches and bays. The island is also famous for its agriculture, particularly vineyards and traditional crafts.

Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon is not on Gozo but rather on the smaller neighboring island of Comino, situated between Malta and Gozo.

The Blue Lagoon is a small, sheltered bay with exceptionally clear and vibrant blue waters. It is renowned for its stunning underwater visibility and is a popular destination for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing. You can take boat trips from the main island to Gozo with a stop off in Blue Lagoon.

Buggy Hire

A really fun way to see Gozo in a short space of time is to rent a buggy and drive yourself around.

We rented from Gozo Quad Hire who picked us up from the ferry port. They gave us a map, circled all of the highlights, and planned a route for us to make the most of our time. The drive features some incredible bays, beaches, and a huge cave high up on a cliff.

Segways or e-Bikes

If you’ve never been on a segway, Gozo is a great place to try it out because it’s much quieter than attempting it in a big city. We rented ours from Gozo Segway Tours <https://www.gozosegway.com/> and the guided tour was great.

We passed vineyards, small towns, and the famous saltpans, which are built from stone and used for an ancient technique of harvesting salt from sea water.

Fun Fact: Did you know that salt was a highly valued commodity through the ages and was even used as currency?

If you don’t like the sound of segways, you can also rent e-bikes and take a similar route to enjoy Gozo’s natural beauty.

Blue Grotto

The Blue Grotto is a popular natural attraction made up of a series of caves and sea caverns. The incredible rock formations are surrounded by, and filled with, stunning azure and deep blue waters. The name “Blue Grotto” came from the striking color of the water which is amplified by the sun passing through underwater arches and tunnels – almost like a natural underwater cathedral.

Coastline with a natural rock arch over the sea

You can take a boat trip to explore the caves and admire the crystal-clear waters and the impressive cliffs. The boat trips depart from the tiny, nearby town of Wied Iz-Zurrieq.

A good way to reach here on a day trip is by Hop-on/Hop-off bus tours. There are two routes you can choose from; the southern loop passes near here. It’s also a great way to reach the next area in our guide: Marsaxlokk.

Marsaxlokk

Marsaxlokk is a picturesque fishing village on the southeastern coast of the main island of Malta. Famous for its colorful fishing boats called “Iuzzu” which are all adorned with eye symbols to ward off evil spirits.

Many colorful fishing boats anchored and docked at the shore

Today it’s a bustling area with markets and restaurants selling the fresh local catches. There’s a scenic harbor which is perfect for a peaceful walk.

Popeye Village

Popeye Village, also known as Sweethaven Village, is a popular tourist spot on the northwest coast of Malta. It’s a film set that’s remained in place since it was originally constructed in 1979/80 for the production of the musical feature film “Popeye”. The film starred the late, great Robin Williams as the fictional cartoon character Popeye the Sailor Man.

A woman sitting on a cliff overlooking a movie set of a Popeye village

The set was created to replicate the rustic and colorful fishing village of Sweethaven, which is Popeye’s hometown in the movie. After the film’s production, the set was preserved and transformed into a tourist attraction. You can explore the village, which includes various wooden buildings, a small harbor, and some amusements and activities for kids and adults. There are also daily shows and performances featuring Popeye and other characters from the film.

St. Julian’s

St. Julian’s is a great base for a trip to Malta as it’s fairly central to many of the areas and features a thriving nightlife. There are many restaurants, bars, and cafes along the water and in the nearby hills, with wonderful views over the bay.

There’s a nice promenade walk around the area with views of Spinola Bay and St. Julian’s Bay which also features a beautiful double spired church.

Malta FAQs

What is Malta famous for?

Malta is famous for its rich history, stunning Mediterranean beaches, ancient temples, and the UNESCO World Heritage city of Valletta.

Where is Malta?

Malta is located in the Mediterranean Sea, south of Sicily and not far from the coast of North Africa.

Is there a lot to do in Malta?

Malta offers a variety of activities, including historical sites, boat trips, and vibrant nightlife.

Is Malta expensive?

Malta can be moderately expensive, with prices comparable to other Western European destinations.

Is Malta worth visiting?

Malta is definitely worth visiting for its unique culture, history, and natural beauty.

Is Malta a country?

Yes, Malta is an independent country. A common misconception is that Malta is part of Spain or Italy.

Is it safe to walk around Malta?

Malta is generally safe for walking around, with low crime rates and friendly locals.

Do they speak English in Malta?

English is one of Malta’s official languages, widely spoken, and commonly used for communication.

What currency is used in Malta?

The currency used in Malta is the Euro.

Can you drink tap water in Malta?

Yes, tap water in Malta is safe to drink, meeting high-quality standards.

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