Europe’s up and coming destination has a lot to offer. When researching this country for our first trip, we were surprised to learn about the numerous places to visit in Malta. It kind of stressed us out at the time, since it was an ultra last-minute break so we had little time to plan. We desperately needed to escape the cold and just picked the most sunny option close by. Sure, we can handle a few months of colder weather. And, yes, we do enjoy those colourful autumn days and the cozy end of year period. But to us, the rainy days should end right there. January, February and March seem to suck all life out of us. So, we did what every travel-loving family does to escape a certain climate: we decided to chase the winter sun.
Malta is a pretty good choice for Europeans looking for a short sunny break. But there’s plenty to discover if you plan on staying a bit longer too! Are you ready for a tour around the most stunning places to visit in Malta?
Map of Malta
We’ve created this map with all Malta points of interest as mentioned in this article. For your convenience, we’ve divided the attractions according to the three islands that make up the Maltese archipelago. All three of the Malta islands have their own distinct character: the main island is the commercial and cultural heart, Gozo is the rural sister island dotted with chic farm houses and Comino the vacation island. The smaller islands make for excellent day trips.
Places to visit on Malta island
Valletta, the capital city
This impressive city was built entirely by hand, as no serious tools where available in the 16th century, after the Great Siege, and completed in a whopping 15 years. It’s a very concentrated city, an UNESCO World Heritage site and the European Capital of Culture for 2018. Valletta was named after Grand Master Jean Parisot de la Valette. Even though it is the commercial heart of the island, it managed to keep its charm. The St John’s Co-Cathedral, the Fort St Elmo & National War Museum and the Grand Master’s Palace are just some of the highlights you’ll find in just about every travel guide.
Not only are the Baraka gardens a gorgeous places to visit in Malta, they also make for a great lunch site. Because of their location on the highest point of the city walls, on the upper tier of St Peter & Paul Bastion, they offers some amazing views over the Grand Harbour and the Three Cities.
When you time your visit right, at noon 12:00 or 16:00 sharp, you can see the gun salutes being fired exactly like they were in the late 18th century.
Blue Grotto Malta (not to be confused with the one in Capri)
The Blue Grotto is a highlight of any Malta sightseeing trip. It is located on the south-eastern coast, opposite from the Filfla island, and consists of seven caves. The crashing waves created a grand entrance in the form of a 30m high arch. When the morning sun hits the surrounding waters, the most mesmerizing shades of blue appear. You can admire the play of light on the water and the arch from the Blue Grotto viewing platform along the road to Wied iż-Żurrieq or head to this seaside village and take a boat tour to explore for the best up-close views. The Blue Grotto is one of the most stunning places to visit in Malta and therefore one of the top-attractions among visitors.
Historic sites of Malta and UNESCO World Heritage
If you thought Egypt’s pyramids are the world’s oldest free standing monuments, then you’re in for a surprise. Malta’s UNESCO World Heritage listed megalithic temples are actually the oldest known temples. You can find these prehistoric structures, dating from anywhere between 3600 and 2500 B.C., at different sites on both the main island (Hagar Qim, Tarxien, Skorba, Ta’ Haġrat and Mnaijdra temple sites) and Gozo (Ġgantija temple sites).
Vittoriosa, Cospicua and Senglea or, as originally named, respectively Birgu, Bormla and Isla, are the Three Cities. These are located just across the Grand Harbour from Valletta and can be reached by means of a 5-minute watertaxi ride. As a bonus, you’ll get to enjoy the most gorgeous harbour views with Fort Sant Angelo at the tip of Vittoriosa and Gardjola Gardens at the tip of Senglea.
This is the area that charmed us more than any other! Especially Vittoriosa tops our list of best places to visit in Malta just because of its authenticity and the lively yet not too touristy vibe. Check out our article on the Three Cities in Malta to learn more. Plus, there’s a super-cool way to experience this side of the island thanks to Rolling Geeks. These well-equipped electric carts not only allow you to explore the Three Cities in style, you’ll also have a great time driving them.
The best views over Valletta and the Three Cities can be admired from the boat or water taxi over the Grand Harbour. Aim for golden hour and you’ll have some gorgeous photos to share.
Most Malta beaches are rocky rather than sandy. There are, however, some sandy gems to be found so feel free to whip out that beach packing list anyway. We’ve consulted an insider to find the best beaches in Malta. Although I believe he decided to keep the best one to himself: Ghajn Tuffieha near Golden Bay.
If you’re looking for the most stunning places to visit in Malta, this site can not be missed! Mdina, also known as the “Silent City” is a fortified medieval town situated on a hill in the centre of Malta. It is silent indeed because, much to our delight when exploring an authentic city, cars are not allowed. Well, that’s not entirely true because those of the 250-ish people that actually live there, are allowed to drive in the Mdina, but that’s it.
The streets are narrow and authenticity is omnipresent. The architecture consists of a mix of medieval and baroque buildings. The latter is also found in the famous St Paul’s Cathedral although this was not its original style. The original building was constructed in 12th century and was actually rebuilt around the year 1700, after a severe earthquake in Sicily. The cathedral is dedicated to the Apostle St Paul who was believed to have lived here after being shipwrecked on the island.
Make sure to visit Palazzo Falson Historic House Museum while you are there. How come this museum makes our list of most interesting places to visit in Malta, you ask? Well, the gorgeous courtyard for one. But also the fact that it’s not your typical museum where the artefacts are displayed behind glass. Instead, it’s like walking into a house where the table is set and the rooms are decorated. We love this kind of atypical museum, especially for a visit with kids.
A 2-3 hour hike from the Blue Grotto will lead you to Dingli Cliffs, the highest point in all of Malta. It offers the most wonderful views over the Mediterranean. Of course you could also drive there but why compromise on viewpoints?
Places to visit on Gozo island
Gozo is the largest of Malta’s two sister islands. It’s within easy reach from Malta by ferry. As soon as we set foot on the island, it hit us that it’s very different from the main island. Maltese cities are heavily built while Gozo is incredibly rural. Victoria is the only city and the island also counts over a dozen of smaller towns.
The heart of Gozo is its Cittadella, a small fortification on a hill in the city of Victoria (or Ir-Rabat). It’s a natural vantage point, overlooking most of the island and its coast. Just like in the Mdina, you’ll find a mix of medieval and baroque architecture. Before-mentioned style is again explained by 17th century rebuilding over the remains of the medieval town, of which the Cathedral and the prisons form prime examples.
[one_half][/one_half][one_half_last][/one_half_last]Apart from this, you can discover many military structures in the Cittadella. The entire site is beautifully restored. It is an impressive place to explore and the amazing views add to its charm.
Ramla il-Ħamra is also know as Red Sandy Beach, for obvious reasons. Looking out on this bay is Calypso Cave, named after the nymph who kept Homer as prisoner of love for 7 years in ‘The Odyssey’. Too bad it was too chilly to spend a day at this beach. It is an amazingly pristine place and, surprisingly, one of few beaches on the island of Gozo.
Ta’ Kola Windmill
The village of Xaghra is home to this windmill, dating back to the 18th century and open for visits. It’s the last one of its kind on Gozo, a silent witness of the island’s rural economic history.
Best place to visit on Comino island
Comino is the smallest of the three Maltese islands and located in between Malta and Gozo. It is mostly known for its Blue Lagoon, turquoise heaven. Unfortunately, the stretch of white sandy beach is pretty small. During high season, this is one of the most popular places to visit in Malta and it gets packed. Apart from the waters, the beach and the views there’s really nothing to see or do in Comino.
Where to stay in Malta
From boutique hotels in Valletta to beach resorts in Golden Bay, there are plenty of luxury Malta hotels to be found on the island. We’ve dedicated a separate article some stylish 5 star hotels in Malta.
How to get around in Malta
All Malta attractions are spread all over the island so you need a car or taxi. But the traffic is terrible! So, don’t underestimate how long it will take you to get from one place to another. Driving times can be crazy, especially during summer! Always go for the water-taxi where available. The main Malta tourist attractions are also connected by Hop on Hop off Malta service with a choice of 2 routes on the main island.
You’ll find the same Hop on Hop off option on Gozo, with a stop right at the ferry terminal. An alternative, when arriving at the Gozo terminal, is to take a taxi. You can easily negotiate a fair rate so that a driver is at your disposal all day. Other options are well, not actual options. Biking around this 67 km² or 26 sq mi island sounds like a great idea but, trust us, it’s not. Simply because the roads are not equipped for that. It’s difficult to walk from one town to another for the same reason. So, no bike lanes and no pavement on most roads. You could rent a car but then you would need some pretty wicked driving skills to return the car without a scratch. So, go for the taxi or the bus.
Best time to visit Malta
Malta has the warmest winters in all of Europe, making it an excellent choice for a winter break. Ideal for those of us that feel the need to skip winter and go straight to spring like, eh, me. 🙂 However, if you would plan on doing some swimming as well then September and October would be the best travel months. The water will still be nice and warm after the hot summer. So, depending on your interest, Malta’s weather conditions are perfect for any time of year except for the peak supper months.
How many days to see these Malta highlights?
We strongly recommend a minimum of three days to fully experience Malta (excluding beach days).
Other great things to do in Malta
Should you prefer to participate in an excursion and/or see even more of the Maltese islands, then we’re happy to provide you with some inspiration:
If you know of more stunning places to visit in Malta then we’ll gladly add those to the list. Or, if you haven’t made it to the island just yet but feel all inspired to make it happen, then let us know too. We look forward to leaning all about your Malta visit so, the comment box is all yours.
Pinning this post would be much appreciated!
Note: Most pictures are ours, some are courtesy of photographers on Pixabay or Unsplash.