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How can the sea be as blue as this? Can there even be a sea as blue as this? This moment in May is my third time on this Mediterranean island, so it’s about time I worked on a travel guide for Malta and share with you all my tips for a perfect vacation on Malta, situated south of Italy.
Why travel to Malta?
Malta provides so much more than what is expected; beaches, history, culture, culinary experiences and fantastic hiking routes. My personal favourites in Malta include lounging on the beach, Valletta’s small alleyway cafés, Gozo’s extensive and wide variety of nature and yoga opportunities as well as sweet little vineyards.
Malta is a small state island located on the Mediterranean sea and less than a hundred kilometres away from Sicily. The region consists of the islands Malta, Gozo and Comino. The capital of Malta is Valletta. Inhabitants on the island are over 400,000, but a lot more visitors in summer months. On Malta they speak their official languages which are Maltese and English but you can also hear a lot of Italian as well.
Curious to know more? My Malta Travel Guide will provide you with the hottest tips and advice on what to do and see in on Maltese Islands. From Malta’s most stunning beaches to top things to see and do, this post covers everything you need to know to make your trip to Malta a wonderful experience.
Where to Stay in Malta: Malta’s Top Destinations
Even though Malta is a small island, there is plenty to do and see, catering to every budget and taste. I usually stay in the St Paul’s Bay Area, but next time I visit, I’d love to stay closer to Valetta. In this guide, I want to share with you my favourite neighbourhoods and their best beaches and delicious restaurants!
Valletta — historical feel of the capital
Valletta is the capital of Malta and personally my own favourite area within the island. The perfect morning in Valletta starts with a cappuccino at one of the many tiny corner cafés. From behind my coffee cup I can watch the town come to life and tourists arriving on the cruise ships docking at the harbour.
There is a lot of historically significant sights in Valletta and the most significant has to be St. John’s Co-Cathedral — you should definitely go in to see it properly. If you are a history buff then you should also see the Grand Masters Palace.
I personally really enjoyed (besides the cappuccinos) the Upper Barakka Gardens’ harbour view and the capital’s beautiful boutique hotels.
For Valletta you should definitely write down these restaurants and cafés; Pastaus, Museum Café, Piadina Café, Cafe Society, Wild Honey, Yard 32 and Café Cordina.
Sliema — shopping on the beach boulevard
Sliema is a holiday destination for a certain type of tourist whose priorities lie with the sea, shopping and happy hour.
On my last trip to Malta I stayed a few nights in Sliema. Even though Sliema is in very many ways convenient, it is not my exact favourite area on Malta. Sliema feels at times somewhat faceless and at this time is quite a construction site in some parts.
There isn’t much to see within Sliema, life seems to focus around partying and the sea.
My favourite restaurants in Sliema are Medasia, Mint, Serafino and for anyone who loves steak, Little Argentina. Also, the 1926 beach is an excellent lunch place on a sunny afternoon but mainly because of its location — the food and service is what it is.
St. Julians — vivacious holiday dream
St. Julians is located directly next to Sliema and is a more lively area with a nice vibe.
You can enjoy your days at the beach and in the area’s excellent restaurants. St. Julians is also a place for someone who enjoys the night life as you can find the famous Paceville area filled with pubs, casinos and night clubs.
St. Julians is a very beautiful place even though it is somewhat just catering for tourists. I haven’t ever stayed in St. Julians but I can highly recommend dining at Wigi’s Kitchen.
St. Paul’s Bay — the peaceful beach dream
I have spent almost all of my Malta trips on the northeast side of St. Paul’s Bay. With the overflow of tourists heading for Malta, many are starting to find their way more up north of Malta where for instance St. Paul’s Bay is situated.
St. Paul’s Bay is a beach lover’s dream due to its beautifully clear blue sea but you can find a lot of restaurants there also.
The villages Buggibba and Qawra are also apart of the St. Paul’s Bay area.
You can also find, in my opinion, the town’s best fine-dining restaurant, Tarragon from over here – perfect place to dine at special occasions!
Five day trips to take from Malta
The location of Malta by the Mediterranean Sea enables day trips even further out but within Malta is already located two other islands, Gozo and Comino.
If you spend more time in Malta, I can recommend any one of these destinations!
The island of Gozo
My very own favourite area in Malta is actually the island of Gozo, which is noticeably a more quieter place that the island of Malta. If you are craving from your holiday peace and quiet and to be one with nature, I recommend staying on Gozo island. Gozo offers hiking opportunities and diving expeditions.
When I spent one week in Malta, I spent my first two nights on Gozo. I enjoyed hiking the rocky coastline, doing yoga, visiting the local winery and olive farm and the hot tub located on my hotel room’s balcony at The Duke Boutique Hotel. If you are traveling with a larger group, I recommend Ta’Kalamija Villa, owned by a Finnish couple a bit outside the tourist path.
My most memorable experience on Gozo was a visit to a family run winery and olive farm called Ta’Mena. I sat with a dog on my lap, a glass of wine at hand and talking with the farm’s owner about life and his worries about the farm’s future. Ta’Mena organises weekly tours to which you can attend. Read more about it here.
One other unforgettable moment was a private yoga session with Yellow Rock Yoga held on a cliff by the sea.
The ferry ride from Malta to Gozo takes about 30 minutes.
Now I have to immediately admit that I haven’t actually ever visited the Comino island but I always here only good things about this beautiful place and its nature!
Comino is an even smaller island than Gozo and well known for its clear blue lagoon. Comino is a diver’s paradise. The ferry ride to the island takes less than 30 minutes from Malta.
From Malta you can even take a day trip to Sicily by ferry, which I promised to myself to try next time. Sicily is located just over an hour away and ferry rides to Sicily from Malta leave every day of the week.
A guide to Malta’s best beaches
Malta is a different kind of Mediterranean holiday destination because there are not that many sandy beaches after all. But not to worry, when you know where to look, it is definitely possible to spend a blissful beach holiday in Malta
Beaches in Malta are more on the rocky side rather than sandy. From the rock beaches, you can dip into the clear blue sea. So here are a few tips on Malta’s beaches!
On Malta you should choose your beach not only based on its location but also which way the wind blows!
Golden Bay is a popular beach, which is located on the island’s north side and by its side is another excellent beach called Ghajn Tuffiena. Golden Bay is a very traditional beach from where you can find hotels, a few restaurants and an ice cream parlour. You can get to Golden Bay easily using the local bus.
Paradise Bay is also located on the northern part of the island, near Cirkewwa and the ferry to Gozo. The beach is quite small and you’ll find yourself having to walk down some steep steps to get there. At the bottom there is a restaurant which doesn’t serve the greatest food but it’s worth going there just for the scenery.
On Paradise Bay they sometimes organise parties for young adults on summer weekends.
St. Peter’s Pool
If you would like to appreciate St. Peter’s in all its glory, then I recommend going early in the morning. The cliff is partly even and sheltered from the wind so it’s become a very popular place for sunbathing and swimming.
On summery days St. Peter’s Pool is filled with young travellers, so it can be difficult to unwind during this time. You can get to St. Peter’s Pool essentially by bus but there is still a long way to walk, so it will be way more pleasant with a car.
Mellieha Bay is Malta’s largest and most likely also the most popular sandy beach. It is located within the north of Malta. This beach is especially popular with families with young children due to the shallow sea floor. You can reach Mellieha Bay easily with the local bus.
What to do in Malta? Malta’s Activities, Attractions and Things to Do
There is a lot to do in Malta besides lounging at the beach or beside the pool. Malta offers activities, wildlife and island history. Here are listed a few of my favourites.
Visit Marsaxlokk – Malta’s fishing village
I ended up one day having lunch in Marsaxlokk. Marsaxlokk is a village of 3,500 people and located in the southeastern part of Malta. In this fisherman’s village’s beach boulevard, you can find the street filled with delicious seafood restaurants and the sea filled with colourful wooden boats. On Sundays they have a huge market and the whole village is packed with bustling life. At the market they sell a lot more than just fish and many spend their Sunday afternoon here for the social component. During the summer season there are a lot of tourist groups coming in on tour guide buses.
If you decide to visit Marsaxlokk on a Sunday, keep in mind that having lunch on the beach boulevard is not possible and booking a table for a restaurant is advisable.
Explore Mdina — the silent city
In the middle of Malta is Malta’s former capital, Mdina. Mdina is also known as the island’s ‘silent city’. Mdina, like Valletta, has a historical feel to it but is a much more calmer place.
I recommend visiting Mdina during the evenings as it offers excellent wine bars and restaurants.
At this time, there are no hotels in Mdina so you can only visit for the day. The town is planning on building a hotel but the locals contest as they would like to keep the peace and quiet in their hometown, even if it is just for the nights.
Go snorkeling or diving
The island of Malta is well known from its amazing turquoise sea, which makes it a dream come true for divers and snorkelers. On a diving adventure you can admire everything from lively schools of fish to even shipwrecks within the depths. I have not dived at Malta myself. I always go snorkeling when in Malta and practically all the beaches are suitable for that.
Visit Three cities
Malta’s capital used to be Birgu during the great siege, which was also known as Vittoriosana. Together with the cities of Senglea and Cospicua, the three cities that have nowadays grown together, form an area that is known as the Three cities. Climb up to the fort St. Angelo to see and enjoy the great view of the town.
Go on a trip to Malta’s Blue Grotto
Blue Grotto, or the blue cave, is located in the south of Malta. The white limestone arch forms a great view over the turquoise sea – this is worth admiring from higher above as well as onboard a boat. At the Blue Grotto you can explore several caves on a short boat ride of just twenty minutes. The blue cave is a popular sight, so you will most likely have to share your boat with eight other tourists.
Go horseback riding in Golden Bay
Malta is the perfect destination for a horseback riding vacation as it offers not only beaches but ascetic countryside settings. The island’s most known riding school has to be Golden Bay Horse Riding which is located, yes, you guessed it; Golden Bay. The riding school is also experienced with first-time riders so definitely worth a try even if you haven’t been on a horse before!
The most unforgettable trip is surely the 90 minute sunset trip on the beach!
Best places to eat in Malta: A taste of Maltese food
Maltese food is not the most well known in the world and the island offers mostly tasty international cuisine. You shouldn’t leave Malta without tasting the local cuisine specialities. Specialities like rabbit’s thigh, Maltese goat’s cheese and wine. For the authentic food hunters, I can highly recommend Diar il-Brinet restaurant near the Dingli Cliffs.
Activities for a rainy day: The Point shopping centre
If it happens to rain on your holiday, The Point is a shopping centre which is especially to the liking of a young traveller. The shopping centre offers all the more affordable international clothing ranges around and then some. The shopping centre is located around Sliema and has a juice bar and its fair share of cafés. It’s easy getting here with the bus from almost anywhere on the island!
Dingli Cliffs is Malta’s highest peak and they say that on a clear day, you can see all the way to Sicily. We happened to arrive on one of the most rainy days possible so it’s safe to say that we didn’t see anything. I trust a friend of mine’s word that it is worth going on a clear day — not the most popular place for people with fear of heights though.
Popeye Village is a somewhat interesting site as it was completely built for Robin Williams’ movie ‘Popeye’. Nowadays Popeye Village resembles a theme park and suits family travellers. The village is beautiful though and it’s worth a visit even if travelling without kids.
Getting around Malta:
- Public transport in Malta: It’s fairly easy moving around Malta on local buses. There are a lot of buses and they keep going until the late hours of the night. Take in mind that the buses don’t run with the domestic diligence of being on time. You can buy a single bus ticket or a ticket for few days.
- Malta taxis: Taking a taxi is also made very easy. I recommend using eCabs app as you can order a taxi similarly as ordering an Über. Through the app you can also order a taxi in advance like ordering a taxi to the airport for instance.
- You shouldn’t drink the tap water in Malta, even though this is what I did for almost a week, oops! The tap water is not dangerous per se but it tastes bad and you can’t be sure of the purity of the piping. In Malta they recommend drinking bottled water (always bring your own to avoid plastic)
- Malta’s currency is the euro and the price level is a bit cheaper than in Finland.
I hope you enjoyed reading my Malta Travel guide, and that you love exploring the island as much as I did – be sure to let me know if you use any of my Malta travel tips!