Happy Travels: Where you absolutely should go in Malta

Happy Travels: Where you absolutely should go in Malta. Image of a Valletta side street

Continuing on with my Malta mini-series (and assuming you’re up to speed on 10 Things you should know about Malta) let’s talk about things to do in Malta!

As you may be aware by now, I have grown-up visiting Malta and WITHOUT FAIL, these are the places I visit absolutely every time I’m there. 

Get ready to tear yourself away from the sun lounger and make a beeline for these must-experience places on the beautiful island of Malta…

– Valletta –

The 2018 European Capital of culture, UNESCO World Heritage Site and also the smallest capital city in Europe (by population) is an absolute must-visit. 

Historical buildings, hilly side streets packed with shops and cafés.  Piazza’s, Museum’s and even a Cathedral (because well this is Malta!)

Happy Travels: Where you absolutely should go in Malta. Image of a building in Valletta.
Valletta

Valletta is one of those places where you can just visit without any particular plans in mind.  You’ll undoubtedly stumble across something of interest or enjoyment. 

The best way to explore the capital is on foot.  The main streets are vehicle free and the side streets are exceptionally narrow.  We usually park on the outskirts here before entering on foot.  However, if you take the bus you’ll also be brought to the outskirts. 

Happy Travels: Where you absolutely should go in Malta. Image of Triton Fountain
Triton Fountain

By entering Valletta this way you’ll encounter the magnificent Triton fountain.  When I was younger, this whole area was surrounded by kiosks and vendors but has now largely been cleared.  Over a not-for-the-fainthearted footbridge, you enter the city.

You’ll be greeted with ‘modern Valletta’ – the new Parliament building to your right and some new steps to your left – I’ll confess I have no idea where these lead but they look impressive.  Past these, you’ll enter the beating heart of Valletta. 

If you head in a straight line down, you’ll naturally pass St John’s Co-Cathedral, the Grand Master’s Palace and the main Piazzas.  For less high-street stores, I recommend you start exploring the side streets.  Don’t be shy to try and haggle either!

Where to eat in Valletta…

The restaurants in the main tourist parts as you may expect are pretty expensive.  On one of our last visits, we ate lunch at La Cantina.  It’s not off the beaten track, they were really accommodating with the children and the food was traditional, well priced and satisfying.  This is a regular Saturday hangout for my family.  

Happy Travels: Where you absolutely should go in Malta.  Image of entrance to La Cantina restaurant Valletta
Stop for lunch at La Cantina Valletta

If you’d like to eat at a traditional Maltese restaurant, I can recommend dinner at La Pira.  It’s small, so I do advise booking a table, but they were family friendly, reasonably priced and the food was delicious. 

But if you just want to grab an ice-cream or an Instagram worthy photo, head to Amorino.  Here they make flowers out of ice-cream and if you can bring yourself to eat one, they taste great too.  You can even choose a different flavour for every petal if the mood takes you! 

No visit to Valletta would be complete without a stroll up to the Upper Barraka Gardens.  You’ll have amazing views out to sea from the balcony area as you look down upon the saluting battery.  This is a great place to take some photos!  Plus there is a decent public toilet here too (you’re welcome). 

Happy Travels: Where you absolutely should go in Malta. View from Upper Barrakka Gardens Valletta
View from Upper Barrakka Gardens

How about stopping and enjoying a drink up here – there is a kiosk and seating area within the gardens.  This is also the entrance to the Lascaris War Rooms, if war history appeals to you.

Finally, I recommend a little ride (25 secs to be exact) in the 58m high Barrakka lift which connects the upper Barrakka gardens with the Grand Harbour.  Stroll down to the cruise ships or (as we do) take a ferry over to the 3 Cities, which are equally worth spending some time in.  Plus you’ll get some amazing pictures from the sea.

Top tip: How about parking your car in Birgu (1 of the 3 Cities) take a stroll, enjoy some coffee & a Pastizzi in a cafe before catching the ferry over to Grand Harbour Valletta.  The Barrakka lift ticket can be combined with your ferry ticket. 

Happy Travels: Where you absolutely should go in Malta. Image of Valletta harbour facing Birgu
Waiting for the ferry back to Birgu

– Mdina –

Mdina is an ancient walled city, where you are not permitted to drive, which is why it’s also known as ‘The Silent City’.  Mdina is completely beautiful,  full of historical buildings in a mixture of Norman and Baroque architecture. 

Happy Travels: Where you absolutely should go in Malta.  Image of outside of Mdina
Approaching Mdina the walled city

Entering the city, a respectful calm descends.  Spend time exploring all the streets.  You’ll encounter lots of shops (including Mdina Glass), restaurants, cafés and museums.  You won’t fail to stumble across the Cathedral of St. Pauls which you can (at certain times) enter for a fee of €5, this also includes entry to the neighbouring cathedral museum.

But where I personally recommend you head to are the Citadel walls, a towering bastion that provides epic views over the surrounding landscape. 

Happy Travels: Where you absolutely should go in Malta. Image of the back of a young boy at the citadel walls in Mdina
View from the Citadel Walls

Feeling hungry?

For years, we have had lunch at La Fontanella tea garden.  I know I’m predictable but I highly recommend the Maltese Ftira they serve here. 

Top Tip: Wait for a table upstairs – you’ll enjoy your food with some amazing views over the Maltese landscape.

Mdina is great during the day, but it’s equally worth a visit at night!  If you thought it was quiet in the daylight, just wait until you enter in the evening!  It is so atmospheric. 

We always head for dinner at Bacchus Restaurant. It’s laid-back fine dining and you have options to eat inside or al-fresco.  We had a lovely meal in their Le Jardin Secret (upstairs, outside), but we’ve also eaten in The Cave (downstairs, inside) – which isn’t as caveman as it sounds.  Ps, they are family friendly and cater well for the young ones.

Good to know: About 10 minutes walk away from Mdina gate are the St Paul’s Catacombs in Rabat.  Accompanied by an audio guide, you can descend into the catacombs which are fascinating and eerie in equal measure! 

– Gozo –

OK maybe this is cheating, but I really think if you have at least a week in Malta, you’d enjoy a day trip – if not overnight stay – to the neighbouring Island of Gozo. It’s especially convenient if you’re staying in Mellieħa as the ferry port is close by. 

Gozo is even smaller than Malta, so it’s quick to cover a lot of ground. 

Things to do in Malta Happy Travels: Where you absolutely should go in Malta. Image of Ta'Pinu Gozo
Ta’ Pinu Gozo

A typical day for us in Gozo starts with a trip to Ta’Pinu.  Even if you’re not religious, this is a fascinating church to visit.  Although sidenote, you do have to dress respectfully (they provide coverups) and whilst in the church be in silence – so not one for really young children, but if you can, I recommend you go.  There is a room here where you can enter displaying letters, casts, crutches etc. each thanking Our Lady of Ta’Pinu for hearing their prayers and healing them or professing miracles.  To stand and read some of the letters is very moving regardless of your beliefs.

We often stop at the Ta’Dbiegi crafts village, a nice little craft centre where a variety of artisan craft makers have workshops and sell their goods. There is also a little coffee shop here too.

Happy Travels: Where you absolutely should go in Malta. Image of a young girl and boy running around and playing at Ta'Dbiegi craft village Gozo
Pit stop at Ta’Dbiegi Craft Village

The Azure window in Dwejra Bay, unfortunately, collapsed a few years ago now but was a beautiful sight to behold.  A naturally formed rock arch formation which featured in Game of Thrones sadly lost to the sea now.  However, I still recommend a visit. 

Things to do in Malta. Happy Travels: Where you absolutely should go in Malta. Image of Azure Window Gozo pre-collapse
The former Azure Window

There are rocks to climb, the mediterranean sea at your feet and a small church with pretty stained glass windows.  Plus you can take a little boat ride through the cave and out to sea, which is particularly fun. 

My family and I often sit and enjoy an ice-cream here with our feet dangling in the water whilst we see the little fishes swim around, and watch the more adventurous cliff divers (which I am not recommending here!) 

Feeling hungry?  Head to Xlendi seafront,  there are multiple restaurants to choose from and you’re inches from the sea.  Post lunch paddle anyone? 

Happy Travels: Where you absolutely should go in Malta. Image of 2 young children paddling their feet at Dwejra Bay Gozo
Waiting for Ice cream at Dwejra Bay

Gozo is also home to sandy beaches.  Ramla bay & Xlendi are the main tourist draws.  You’ll also find the obligatory ice-cream van or two. 

Head back to the Ferry via the capital Victoria.  Stop here for a round-the-day-off drink or a browse of some of the shops (should you still have any energy left!)

Want even more things to do in Malta?

I’ve only covered my top 3 here, but there are plenty of other great things to do in Malta:

    • Visit the 3 cities of Birgu (Vittoriosa), Senglea (Isla) and Bormla (Cospicua).  Birgu is often the most popular as it’s home to the Maritime Museum, the Malta at War Museum the Inquisitor’s Palace and of course Fort St, Angelo.  However, all 3 are rich in history.
    • Ħaġar Qim a megalithic temple complex and also a UNESCO World Heritage site
    • Marsaxlokk fishing village – head for the market, or for dinner at Terrone (recommended by our friends) It’s great to see the traditional Maltese Luzzo fishing boats here too. 
  • Mosta Dome – hear the story and see the replica bomb that fell through the dome during WW2 but failed to explode. 
Things to do in Malta.  Happy Travels: Where you absolutely should go in Malta. Valletta as approached by the Birgu ferry
Valletta as approached by the Birgu ferry

Coming soon!  The best kid-friendly things to do in Malta! 

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Happy Travels: Where you absolutely should go in Malta. Things to do in Malta. Top 3 places to visit in Malta. What to do when on holiday in Malta. #malta #travel #thingstodoinmalta #visitmalta
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Have you been to Malta? Have you visited any of the places I’ve mentioned?  Are you off to Malta soon?  Which place takes your fancy the most?  If you have any questions about things to do in Malta just ask!  I’ll be sure to give you my honest opinion and I love to help! Get in touch via the comments box below

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10 thoughts on “Happy Travels: Where you absolutely should go in Malta

  1. OMG! This post is epic Alex! I love, love, love Malta and would grab any excuse to go back. When I went it was on a work trip years ago, so I need to get me and the family over there for a proper holiday. You’ve covered so much and some brilliant information which I know I could use while I’m over there. Nice one!

    1. Thank you so much! Make sure when you do plan to go to get in touch – really happy to answer any questions or give more recommendations. Thanks again for reading! x

  2. We had a long weekend in Malta a few years ago and loved it. We didn’t do Gozo but saw the rock arch. A lovely peaceful place to visit with lots of cats around too.

    1. I’m so pleased you loved it! I hope you make it back there someday and get a chance to head to Gozo too! Thank you for reading x

    1. Thank you Kate – I had years of them to choose from! I really hope you do get to go there someday x

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