Malta is a tiny European island nation on the Mediterranean with a population of about half a million people. Don’t let the size of this island fool you though! Malta is rich in history and full of some of the most beautiful scenery. From pre-historic temples to beaches with crystal clear blue waters, there is something for everyone in Malta. In this post I will cover 40 things to see and do in Malta and include all the key information needed for your visit.
40 Things to See & Do in Malta
First up on this 40 things to see and do in Malta list is Valletta!
Valletta is the southern most capital of Europe. This walled city was established by the Knights of St. John back in the 1500s and is a must see when in Malta. Here’s some of the things to do in Valletta:
1. City Gate and Triton Fountain
Start your walk from Triton fountain and through the city gate. It’s a nice starting point to explore the rest of the city .
2. Republic Street and Merchant Street
These two streets are two of the most famous streets in all of Valletta. Filled with colorful gallariji, which are iconic Maltese balconies as well as shops and restaurants.
3. St. John’s Co-Cathedral
Ok, I’ve been to my fair share of churches and cathedrals around the world, but St. John’s simply blew me away. The simple exterior does not give any indication to the grandeur and beauty of it’s interior . It costs 15 euros to enter and trust me it’s really worth it. The Cathedral was first built in the 1500 while the baroque style interior was a later addition. The Cathedral also houses several painting, notably a painting by the Italian artist Caravaggio. There are also several important Knights buried here and you can see their tombstones’ in the nave of the church.
4. Siege Bell War Monument
A monument dedicated to the people who fought and died for Malta in WWII. Now an great place to see stunning vistas of the harbor below.
5. Lower Barrakka Gardens
These gardens offer stunning views of the Grand Harbor, especially at sunset.
6. Upper Barrakka Gardens
Sister of the Lower Barrakka gardens and highest point of the walled city. The upper gardens offer panoramic views of the Three Cities and surrounding harbor area! Visit at 12 noon for the cannon firing ceremony. Don’t forget to ride the Barrakka lift up or down!
7. Grandmaster’s Palace
Built as the palace of the Grand Master of the Order of St. John who ruled Malta back in the day. Today it houses the Office of the President of Malta. The Palace State Rooms and the Palace Armory are open to the public, however it was closed for restoration when I visited.
8. St Paul Shipwreck Church
One of Valletta’s oldest Churches that originated in the 1500’s.
9. St. Lucia’s Street
A tiny street with steps going down to the Santa Lucija church. There are a few restaurants along the street. It’s one of the most instagrammed streets of Valletta.
10. Explore all the other little Streets and Corners
With all the colorful balconies and doors, Valletta is one of the most pretties cities I’ve seen. Definitely take the time to walk around and take it all in.
How to Get to Valletta
If you are staying in either Sliema or the Three Cities, Valetta is easily accessible by ferry. The ferry system works like clock work and is very punctual. The holiday and winter schedule differs from the regular schedule so be aware of that. Also, it is cheaper to get a round trip ticket than a single ticket. HERE is the ferry schedule.
Explore the Three Cities
The Three Cities of Vittoriosa (Il-Birgu) , Senglea (L-Isla), and Cospicua (Bormla) are some of Malta’s oldest cities. Vittoriosa goes all the way back to the middle ages! These fortified cities are at the opposite side of the Grand Harbor of Valletta and is a must visit when in Malta.
11. Walk along the Waterfront of Senglea
One of the most prettiest sites with luzzu boats (traditional Maltese fishing boats) bobbing up and down in the water with the Vittoriosa waterfront in the background.
12. Gardjola Gardens
Perched right at the edge of Senglea these gardens offer panoramic views of the Grand Harbor of Valletta and Fort St. Angelo in Vittoriosa.
13. Visit Fort St. Angelo
Originally built in the medieval period as a castle, it was rebuilt by the Order of St. John as a fort in the 1500’s. It is best knows for being the Order’s headquarters during the Great Siege of Malta in 1565.
14. Catch a Break at a Water Front Cafe in Vittoriosa
Enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Yacht Marina with Senglea in the background
15. Visit the Inquisitor’s Palace
The seat of the Maltese Inquisition from 1574 to 1798, today it’s open to the public and is one of the only Inquisitors Palaces in the world of its kind.
How to get to the Three Cities
One of the best ways to get to the Three Cities is by boat via the Grand Harbor. You can either catch the ferry or do a private crossing in a tiny boat like I did! It’s only a euro or so more but a lot more fun!! You will see these boats and tours as you cross the road from the Barrakka lift and walk towards the Ferry. The views looking back at Valletta and looking forward towards the Three Cities are amazing!
Spend a day in Gozo and Comino
Gozo and Comino are must do’s on this 40 things to see and do in Malta list! Although the main island of Malta is the largest island that makes up country, there are 2 other islands that cannot be forgotten.
Gozo and Comino on the North side are islands that make up the archipelago of Malta. Here’s what to do in Gozo:
16. Cittadella in Victoria
It is said this area has been inhabited since the Bronze Age. The first fortifications of the Cittadella was supposed to have been built in 1500 BC while the more recent fortifications were built in the 15th century. The Cittadella contains churches and other historic buildings, including the Cathedral of the Assumption which was built between the 17th and 18th century.
17. Church of St. John the Baptist
A church with a massive rotunda. The rotunda is also the Spiritual Seat of the Knights of Malta.
18. Azure Window
Game of Throne fans will appreciate this place as this was the site they filmed the wedding of Khal Drogo and Daenerys. There used to be a giant archway jutting out to sea but fortunately it collapsed a few years back. This area is awesome to watch the sunset.
19. Dwejra Area
Very close to the Azure Window, this place has some amazing rock formations and is another great place to catch the sunset.
20. Village of L-GHARB
A traditional village and one of Gozo’s oldest. One of the highlights is the beautiful parish church.
21. Mġarr Harbour
This is where the ferry docks from Malta and offers some great views of the city above.
The Comino list is shorter but not to be missed!
22. Blue Lagoon
One of the most famous sites in all of Malta. An ideal location to swim or relax looking out at the clear blue waters.
23. Chrystal Lagoon
The lesser known hidden gem in Comino. There’s a footpath to get here and the views are fully worth it.
24. Explore the Caves
The luminous blue water near these caves are amazing. You will have to do a boat tour that includes this route.
How to get to Gozo and Comino
You need to answer a couple of questions before you can decide how to get there. First question is do you want to have a car once you get to Gozo and the second is do you want to do an organized tour or explore on your own.
If you are taking your car, then you need to drive to the Gozo Channel Ferry which is a passenger and vehicle ferry. The ferry departs from Ċirkewwa in the main island of Malta.
If you are not taking a car then you can take one of the Gozo passenger ferries from Valletta offered by offered by Gozo Fast Ferries and Virtu Gozo Ferries. The trip takes around 45 minutes. However, once you get to Gozo, you will have to figure out how to get to various places within Gozo (buses work great!)
If you are interested in an organized tour, my friends took the one HERE and recommended it. This tour leaves from Sliema and covers the highlights of Gozo and Comino.
If you drive to Gozo, then to get to Comino you will have to catch a ferry to Comino from Gozo (passenger only, no vehicles) or a private boat tour. We did the private boat tour and it was great because they also took us to see the caves as well. You can get both option from the Mġarr Harbor.
Spend a day exploring Mdina and Rabat
Another must on this 40 things to see and do in Malta list. Mdina is a world heritage site and used to be Malta’s capital city until the Knight arrived in Malta in the 1500s. This city is also called the silent city as you cannot take your car beyond the city gates (unless you are a resident). Rabat, a small village just outside Mdina can also be explored on the same day.
What to see in Mdina:
25. Walk Through the Gate and Explore the Narrow Streets
Another great fun fact for Game of Throne fans! The gate was used as a location in the series! The narrow, winding cobbled stoned roads really adds to the mystic and age of this place.
26. St. Paul’s Cathedral
Heart of this walled city, the Cathedral and museum across are worth visiting.
27. Palazzo Falson
Built in 1495, it the best preserved Medieval era building in Mdina. It was occupied by the first Grandmaster in Malta when the Knights of Malta first arrived in 1530.
What to see in Rabat:
28. Church of St. Paul and Catacombs
St Paul’s Catacombs present the earliest archaeological evidence of Christianity in Malta.
29. Casa Bernard
16th century house that shows how nobility lived back in the day. The house now offers guided tours for visitors.
30. Domus Romana (Roman Villa)
Roman time townhouse decorated with fine mosaic work.
Visit the Blue Grotto Area
31. Take a boat ride to the Blue Caves
The best time to visit the Blue Grotto is during the morning to mid afternoon hours. But note that boats do not go out when the sea is rough or wind conditions are bad (unfortunately what happened to us). Good news is that you don’t need to book a tour in advance. Just show up and hop on a boat. The tour lasts about 20 minutes.
32. View Panorama Point
Panorama Point is an actual location that you can go up to and take in some stunning views.
Explore One (or many) Megalithic Temple
Pre-historic templates and world heritage sites, these templates were built during 3600 BC and 2500 BC. The most notable ones are;
We visited Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra. These are located very close to the Blue Grotto so suggest coupling these with the Blue Grotto. The oldest temple is Ġgantija which is located in Gozo and can be easily seen on your trip to the island.
Visit the Beaches and Sites in The North
34. Popeye’s Village
In my opinion, no visit to Malta is complete without seeing Popeye’s village and therefore easily makes this 40 things to see in Malta list! This 1980’s film set of the musical Popeye’s is now a themed park. We didn’t go inside the park itself but saw the village from the opposite end. The backdrop of the village with the milky blue waters of the sea in the foreground makes quite a picturesque scene.
35. Have Lunch at Għadira Bay
Overlooking the sea and cliffs this place is the perfect spot to grab some lunch.
36. Chill out at Paradise Bay or Watch the sunset at Golden Bay
More beautiful beach in the North or North West of Malta.
Explore the Fishing Village of Marsaxlokk
37. Have Some Fresh Seafood
Sundays are a great day to go to Marsaxlokk because there is a seafood market that occurs each week and you can have some fresh fish for lunch.
38. St. Peter’s Pool
Close to Marsaxlokk, a natural pool that is ideal for swimming.
Explore the Night Life
39. Visit St. Julian’s
St. Julian’s at night is a buzzing place to be with so many restaurants and bars.
40. Enjoy Sliema
Sliema is another great spot for food and drinks and for stunning views of Valletta from the waterfront.
Travel Guide & Important Things to Know
How Long to Spend in Malta
If you rent a car, you can easily cover everything on this list easily within a week or in 6-7 days which is what we did!
How to Get Around in Malta
Malta has a very good public bus system that takes you across the Island including almost all of the tourist attractions. However, if you want to save time, I highly recommend hiring a car. Note that Malta drives on the left hand side of the road with the drivers seat on the right side of the car (like in England).
Where to Stay
For the first time in all of my travels, I stayed in one place for the entire duration of my stay. Malta is such a small country that you can stay in one place and drive around easily. It takes less than 30 minutes to get to most places from Valletta or Sliema and maybe 45 minutes to get to the North of the country. We opted to stay in Sliema because there were a lot more lodging options and it was easier to get around from Sliema.
The place we stayed was simply amazing the host was so accommodating! This 3 bed and 3 bath apartment was a 5 minutes walk to the Sliema Ferry harbor and was surrounded by so many restaurants and bars! It was so spacious and so well decorated! Bonus was the amazing view from the balcony! The pictures for the listing does not do justice to this place at all! HERE is the link to book the place.
What to Eat
Maltese food is an eclectic blend of Mediterranean food. Traditional Rabbit stew is a must try when in Malta! There is also no shortage of delicious seafood and Italian pastas. Don’t forget to try a cannoli or beat the heat with some gelato.
Malta uses the Euro and almost everyplace we went to takes credit cards. If you have a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, my recommendation would be to not covert a lot of your money in to euros. If you need to convert money, use an ATM of a Maltese bank as these give the best rate (stay away from generic ATMs like Euronet etc.)
If you have an unlocked phone, you can easily buy a local sim for very cheap in the city. Having access to Google Maps would be great if you are hiring a car and driving.
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Valletta is the southern most capital of Europe but are you also thinking of going to the Northern most (Reykjavik)? Check out my Iceland travel guide HERE or below!