Cast your eye beyond the Italian island of Sicily, just above the coast of North Africa, and you’ll find the archipelago of Malta. Plonked in the southernmost fringe of Europe, these little Mediterranean islands are surrounded by the bluest of waters, doused in the most golden sunlight and full to the brim of smooth local wine that’ll have you gasping for more.

I flew to Malta to explore till my feet (and sun scorched shoulders) blistered to hunt down the top 10 things to do in Malta. It may be one of the smallest countries in the world but it was still a tough job. I managed to narrow down to a honed list… if you think of fresh seafood, blue lagoons, street parties, dusty landscapes and architecture that is literally straight out of Game of Thrones, then you’re on the right line of what to expect. But that’s all just the tip of the iceberg…

When to go to Malta:

These islands certainly have HOT summers – you’ll forget what cold feels like. Maltese summers can reach highs of 35 degrees so unless you can cope with fire, it’s best to go during spring or just after the height of summer for a bit of sun that won’t completely drain half your bodyweight through sweat.

For those who prefer it slightly cooler, stay away from the summer months as September still had temperatures that hit 30 degrees… but ultimately you can keep your cool by staying submerged neck deep in the gorgeous seas.

How to get to Malta: 

Flights from the UK to Malta are quite frequent – affordable Malta flights with Jet2 are available across the breadth of the UK including Scotland and Northern Ireland. Jet2 even have flights from London Stansted if you’re needing a springboard from the capital. You’ll fly directly into Valletta and within a short 20-minute drive you’ll be winding through the narrow cobbled streets in the thick of Malta’s capital.

Where to stay in Malta:

If you plan to use the main island of Malta as your base, you have a few choices of places to stay. Whether you want peace and quiet, or a high-kicking nightlife, one of these will suit you:
The Saint John Malta, Valletta – Bookable through Jet2Holidays: This design hotel has a small unassuming entrance but as you walk in, it quickly expands into a tall design hotel. Polished marble floors and interior touches make it a boutique stay.

Fly up the lift to rooms that overlook an impressive central drop down to the lobby. The bedrooms boast modern industrial drop lighting, huge comfy beds, fancy coffee machines (might take a hot minute to figure it out) and bright spacious bathrooms. Location wise, it’s bustling during the day but incredibly chilled at night. Walk the quiet streets come dusk, and find locals and tourists alike sipping a beer in the peace beneath atmospheric lamp lighting.

The Palace Malta, Sliema – Bookable through Jet2Holidays: If you want a bit more life around where you’re staying, head to the Sliema area of Valletta. The Palace Hotel is quite a high-end hotel that’s not so much focused on design, but comfort – everything you need can be found here including incredible views out to sea and over Valletta harbour. Be sure to ask for a sea view if you want to be able to enjoy your coffee with stunning views of dawn breaking.

Enjoy a huge breakfast buffet, chill in the midday heat at the rooftop pool (more on that later) and come evening, head to nearby Saint Julian’s for a buzzing selection of bars, restaurants and clubs. Or just sit by the water with the other young couples who are either gazing out to the sunset or into each other’s eyes.

Top 10 things to do in Malta

1. Perch in the Upper Barrakka Gardens:

Stroll around Valletta and explore all the alleyways and ornate balconies protruding overhead, then swing past the Upper Barrakka gardens to get the best panoramic view of the harbour. See  over to the three cities across the water and sit awhile by the fountains. These gardens were built originally as an exercise ground for the Knights of the Langue of Italy – beats the gym, eh.

2. Go movie set hunting:

Malta has been used as the sets for many movies – from Gladiator to World War Z, this island is a location scout’s wet dream. For the movie Popeye, they even made a whole village for it! Cute, wonky houses that look straight out of a cartoon are gathered in a quiet cove and you can wander the streets. Or just get a birds eye view for some ace snaps!

And for any Game of Thrones fans, there are heaps of spots on the islands of Malta and Gozo which were used in the show – see them all listed here!

3. Hire a boat: Cruise Valletta Harbour at sunset:

Seeing the Valletta harbour at sunset by boat was such a highlight! Not only do you get to see the incredible architecture of Malta from a new perspective, but the golden hour lights up the buildings in a stunning glow. Was golden hour named after Malta’s yellow sunset-soaked stones? Probably not, but I’m going to start that rumour.

Spy on multi-million euro super yachts (is Brad Pitt in one of them today?), wave to locals bobbing in the water, see the grand fiesta flags fluttering majestically from the streets, and just pour yourself a big glass of wine to help soak it all up.

4. Try the local Maltese dishes – the fresher the better!

Now I’m not a fussy foodie, but I like my food to be clean, healthy and fresh. Flavours become so important when you like to keep things simple, and the Maltese sure can accommodate this. With inventive vegetarian dishes and vegan options available, menus embrace local produce and Italian influences. You can stuff a lot in whilst safe in the knowledge that it’s pure goodness…. and when you want to be a bit naughty, hold on to your hats as Malta does dessert GOOD. And there’s not a Malteser in sight.

Noni, Valetta: Book yourself a table here before you arrive and have your first dinner here. A stunning small, stone-vaulted restaurant with a wall of wine, dig into incredible dishes: truffle pasta, mushroom panna cotta, miso glazed aubergine, slow-cooked octopus tagine and light Burratina with caramelised figs. One of the best meals (and wine!) I tasted whilst in Malta.

Rubino, Valletta: Unassuming with the original confectionary facade, you’d probably walk right past this gem. Opened in 1906, this is one of the oldest establishments in Valletta! Opened and run by a Sicilian, Rubino offers an extensive range of seafood (try the Sea Bass stuffed with pine nuts!), insanely good meze and some sublime desserts. Death by Chocolate (lives up to its name) and traditional ‘Cassata Siciliana’ blew me away. Cassata Siciliana is made with Ricotta cheese and caramelised fruits – a new version of a cheesecake I can get on board with.

Ta’ Philip, Gozo: Family run, this restaurant has had a fair few celebs through its doors; Meghan Markle and Sharon Stone to name a few. Only serving produce from Gozo, including the wine, expect delicious traditional tapas of cheeses and meats, fresh ravioli and fish straight from the sea.

5. Get lost in Mdina:

The stunning walled city of Mdina, also known as ‘the silent city’, used to be the capital of Malta. As it’s set high in the northern region of Malta, the views you can get stretch across Valletta out to sea – the perfect viewpoint for those guarding their city.

With walls and alleyways paved in yellowstone, follow the yellow brick paths and wind your way through the city – getting lost is half the fun! And you don’t need to worry about cars – none are allowed within the walls hence the nickname ‘the silent city’.

Peer at the beautiful tall palaces where noble families still live today, stumble across quaint courtyards and see ornate door knockers adorning almost all the doors. Also, scenes from Game of Thrones were filmed here!

6. Feel fancy in opulent historic buildings: 

Malta has a long history where numerous rulers from different periods of history have left their mark. From ancient temples and roman ruins to medieval cities, the islands in the Maltese archipelago are full of stunning sights!

St John’s Co-Cathedral, Valletta: One of the most intricate and decorated cathedrals I’ve ever seen – expect vivid colours, gold and skull mosaics. A real gem of a building!

Casa Rocca Piccola, Valletta: This living museum showcases the most opulent of living by Maltese nobility. This 16th century Palazzo is still a family home today, but you can tread their rooms and have a nosey of all their historic possessions.

Palazzo Parisio, Naxxar: This stately home has the most impressive ballroom with huge chandeliers that make you wonder how on earth they’re staying attached to the ceiling. Expect suits of armour, stunning gardens, turtles swimming in ponds and all the beautiful flowers.

Citadella, Gozo Island: This ancient fortified city boasts incredible panoramic views over Gozo – this monument is visible all around the island. The cathedral is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and you can walk the grounds high atop the walls to soak up the vastness of this major landmark. And did you know that all the roads in Gozo lead to the Citadella?

7. Be a castaway and patrol Gozo’s coast for lagoons and swimming holes:

Gozo island is a quick 25-minute ferry from Malta’s main island. Hop on and take a day trip out to Gozo – it’s a must if you’re in Malta as Gozo is a stunning island full of history, and don’t forget your swimmers! It has a coastline that’s dotted with lagoons and swimming holes begging for you to dive in.

Sheltered areas such as the Blue Lagoon mean you can splash around in the clear, warm blue waters without dealing with waves or currents. Oh yes, and it’s simply beautiful – even though there’s no sand, the rocks make the perfect dive boards. However, it certainly gets busy in these areas as ferries drop and collect crowds throughout the day.

Or maybe captain your own small boat, go off the beaten path and see what hidden caves you can discover. There are so many! Dive off your boat or the rocks (if you dare) and stay neck deep to cool off from the scorching temperatures.

8. Party like it’s 0BC – Festa!!

The Maltese like to party hard to celebrate their patron saints. The celebrations are called Festa and they centre around grand feasts, beers in the street, live music and fireworks going off all night!

Each parish celebrates a different patron saint (sometimes two) and when they do, it’s pretty darn fun. The streets are decorated with ornate flags and banners, and when the day of Festa arrives you can expect raucous fun as the whole community comes together. We caught some of the street parties in Naxxar – crowds gathered in the square to kick-off the celebrations as church services continue quietly in the background until it’s time for the procession of the patron saint statue.

And when night falls, you can hear booming fireworks from miles around. In the village of Melihea, crowds gathered in the square to watch epic firework displays – the skies were filled with lights and explosion to the extent where ash rained down into our hair. It was pretty magic.

9. Explore the 3 cities by golf buggy: 

Want to see more of the island but your feet are just too damn tired? We took to the streets with Rolling Geeks – a company that have a fleet of cute golf buggies that have sat nav with narration built in. You get guided through the beautiful three cities of Birgu, Senglea and Cospicua, to sights both on and off road.

Take sightseeing into your own hands, learn about your surroundings and control how long you stay at each sight. A fantastic way to quickly explore if you’re short on time… just have someone trustworthy behind the wheel.

10. Soak up the sights from The Palace rooftop pool. Cocktail optional but encouraged: 

The views from atop the Palace Hotel in Sliema are pretty great! Be sure to cool off in their rooftop pool and catch a sunset or two with a Pina Colada in hand. The perfect way to end a busy day of sightseeing. 

Have I teased you with enough things to do in Malta for you to book a ticket? It has everything and more jam-packed into tiny islands: sun, sea, incredible food and fireworks! You can explore Malta with Jet2Holidays and plan a mediterranean trip that’ll leave your skin tanned, your belly full and your eyes reeling from incredible sights.

 

Disclaimer: I was invited on this trip by Jet2.com and Visit Malta – all thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

Sophie Saint saintsonaplane.com

Sophie Saint was one of the original travelettes, from 2009 – 2017. After fleeing the UK with ink barely dry on her graduation certificate, she traversed the world with a backpack and spent a few years living in Melbourne – one of her favourite cities in the world.

She finally returned to the UK after a few years where she now whiles time away zipping off for European escapes, crocheting and daydreaming of owning her own hostel somewhere hot to live out eternal summers. See what she’s up to over on her blog saintsonaplane.com and instagram: @saintsonaplane

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