Hey folks, I’m just back home from my travels in Malta and was asked to write a piece about my time there. I was there for 5 nights (which flew by) but if you want to add anything to this guide feel free to leave a comment. It’s by no means an exhaustive list but hopefully will give some insight to those looking to visit Malta. Everything is correct at time of writing 9th April 2023.
Malta is an archipelago in the central Mediterranean between Sicily and the North African coast. It’s made up of 3 islands (Malta, Gozo and Comino. It’s a nation known for historic sites related to a succession of rulers including the Romans, Moors, Knights of Saint John, French and British. As a result, Malta is steeped in historical sites. It has a warm climate and is well known swimming, snorkeling and diving. Malta also has lively areas like St Julians where there are many bars, restaurants, nightclubs etc.
Ryanair operate flights from Dublin and Shannon to Malta. Ryanair fly from Dublin 4 times a week (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays) and fly from Shannon twice a week (Thursdays and Sundays).
There are also ferries from Sicily to Malta with ferries from Catania and Pozzallo.
Things to know:
Malta are in the EU and use the Euro.
Malta drive on the left hand side of the road.
Malta use the same plug socket as Ireland.
The official languages of Malta are Maltese and English. Italian is also widely spoken.
Valletta, the capital of Malta, is the smallest capital city in Europe.
Where to stay:
The capital is a great option for those sightseeing and has transport links to nearly everything you’d want to see on the island.
St Julian’s is a great option for those looking to experience the nightlife of Malta. It has many bars, restaurants and nightclubs. It’s a typical resort town. I stayed at the Be Hotel in St Julian’s which is a 4* hotel located inside a shopping centre just beside St. George’s Bay. The rooms were spacious and modern. I had to move rooms due to the noise at nighttime so make sure to request a quiet room with the hotel. Hindsights a wonderful thing!
Silema is just south of St. Julian’s and is accessible to Valletta by ferry, taxi or bus. It is a great all rounder being close to Valletta for sightseeing but it has shops, bars and restaurants but not to the extent of St Julian’s.
Close to Malta’s largest sandy beach
Other places to stay include:
St Paul’s Bay, Bugibba and Qawra
Mdina and Rabat:
Ideal for history buffs. Mdina was the former capital of Malta and Rabat is a stones throw away from the Silent City.
St Paul’s Bay, Bugibba and Qawra:
Popular resort towns with plenty of bars and restaurants.
While Malta drive on the left hand side, I would not recommend renting a car. I was told in passing that Malta has one of the highest road traffic accidents in the EU. I witnessed two car accidents while there for 5 nights. I’ve never seen driving like it before, it’s like the M50 on crack!
The bus route offers a very affordable option, the daytime fare for a bus ticket is €2 and the night-time fare is €3.
The ferry is a fantastic option as its also cost effective and punctual. I went from Valletta to Silema, Valletta to Three Cities and Valletta to the island of Gozo.
I used Bolt extensively when in Malta and felt it represented fantastic value for money especially if you are with another person. To get from one end of the island to another cost me less than €20 for the journey in total. I found it very handy if there wasn’t a direct bus route to get from A to B. The Bolt app is very easy to use. There is also a Malta Taxi app and Uber.
Things to do:
Before I went, I wasn’t aware of the sheer number of things to do. I was there for 5 nights and could’ve spent another few! Although I didn’t get to do certain things due to weather, it’s not an exhaustive list but here is a list of things to do:
Gozo day trip – I took the Gozo fast ferry from Valletta which took 45 mins and cost €7.50 one way. I then did the hop on hop off bus at Mgarr Harbour which cost €20 and will take you to all the hotspots on the island. You can also take the ferry from Ċirkewwa or there are also tour companies that will combine the ferry and tour around the island. They may also do a brief tour of Gozo and include a trip to Comino. I didn’t have the best weather when I had time to visit Comino so I decided to take the fast ferry and do the hop on hop off bus to maximise my time on Gozo. For more information about the hop on hop off bus and spots it visits here is the link Gozo Hop on Hop off bus.
Comino day trip – sadly the weather wasn’t the best on the day I wanted to go to Comino so I did other things on this list. Comino is home to the Blue Lagoon, which has crystal clear water and is home to one of the best snorkeling spots in Malta. Many tour companies offer packages to visit Comino and may combine that with a short trip to Gozo.
As I’ve covered the other two islands on the archipelago of Malta, here is of things to do in parts of the main island of Malta:
The view from Upper Barrakka Gardens and Saluting Battery cannon firing – at Upper Barrakka Gardens a cannon is fired as it was once fired salutes to visiting naval vessels. The battery has been restored, and a cannon is fired every day at noon and 4pm with great ceremony. It does not occur on Sundays as this genius found out firsthand but I got to see it the following day.
St John’s Co Catedral – this stunning Catholic Church was built bynKnights of St. John and is home to paintings by Caravaggio.
Three Cities – Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua make up the Three Cities which you can visit from Valletta on the ferry. The ferry costs €2.80 one way. There are lads in tiny boats selling a tour for €8, but if you walk a bit further along the harbour, you’ll see the proper ferry and you can explore the three cities at your own pace.
Spinola Bay – a beautiful spot along the harbour to have food or drink.
Silema to St Julian’s walk – a lovely walk along the promenade from two of Malta’s most popular places.
Silent City – the former capital is a walled medieval town. It offers beautiful views of Malta. It’s particularly stunning at nighttime.
Catacombs – adjoining Mdina is Rabat which is home to the Catacombs of St. Paul and of St. Agatha. These catacombs were used in Roman times to bury the dead.
Sunday market – Marsaxlokk is a fishing village and hosts a famous market on Sundays.
St Peter’s Pool – is a natural swimming spot with crystal clear water near Marsaxlokk which is popular with cliff jumpers and swimmers.
Dingli Cliffs – the highest point of Malta offers a view of the Mediterranean Sea as you walk along the viewpoints (can see these on Google Maps). It’s also a stunning spot to watch a sunset.
Melliha Beach – Malta’s largest sandy beach.
Popeye Village – this has to be the most random thing I’d read up about when researching before my trip. Sadly when I was in Malta, it was closed due to damage as a result of a storm. The film Popeye was filmed in Malta and the set was kept and turned into a small fun park! It’s 3 km from Melliha.
Blue Grotto – along the Southeastern part of Malta is the Blue Grotto which is a set of caves when on a sunny day, the reflection of sunlight on the white sandy seafloor lights up the caves in bright blue.
Eat and Drink:
Side note, I’m not a big foodie and if you have any recommendations for food and drinks please comment! The below are made up of places I visited and recommendations from followers.
Happy hour is massive in Malta and fantastic for those of you who love cocktails! Nearly every bar in Malta offers some sort of deal for happy hour!
Sciacca Grill, St Julian’s (there is also one in Valletta) – meatlovers paradise. The staff are brilliant, they bring you up to the butchers counter and go through choices of cuts and different types of steaks, sausages etc. Similar in price to that of a standard restaurant in Ireland but worth every penny.
La Nostra Padrona, Marsaxlokk – unbelievable seafood. When you’re at a fishing village what else are you going to eat. I’ve never had calamari like it.
Fontanella Tea Garden, Mdina – a stunning setting in Mdina and the best spot in Mdina for either tea and cake or dinner.
Is-Serkin (Crystal Palace), Rabat – was told by numerous Maltese people that this place does the best pastizzi in Malta. It’s 60 cent for this flaky filo pastry filled with either ricotta cheese or peas.
Cafe Cuba, St Julian’s – a beautiful spot to have a drink in the sunshine overlooking Spinola Bay.
Bar Native, St Julian’s – going through St Julian’s it seems half of it is owned by some chap called Hugo! A raggaeton bar, I’ve this place on the list purely because the staff give out promotional cards for free drinks outside. If someone’s giving out free vodka and 7ups I’m there. Chance your arm by asking for another one, like this charlatan did!
Kingsway, Valletta – a great place to have a drink for happy hour after exploring around Valletta.