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
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:
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.
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 –
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.
5. Get lost in Mdina:
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!
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
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
Disclaimer: I was invited on this trip by Jet2.com and Visit Malta – all thoughts and opinions are my own.
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