Discovering Europe: Things to do in Malta

Things to do in Malta

 

The Maltese archipelago is located a few hours of navigation or flight from many major European ports and airports. Specifically, getting to La Valletta from Naples takes just over an hour. My sister was there many years ago for a vacation, and came back telling me about this beautiful island… invaded by hordes of youngsters, especially in the Summer, because many of them come here to attend English courses. If I have to be completely honest, I felt pretty discouraged: even if it was a fantastic place, I wasn’t thrilled at the idea that I’d find myself in some kind of Summer campus. Invited this year at the Isle of MTV, I have had to change my mind and I decided to write this article to tell you all the things to do in Malta and the islands of the Maltese archipelago.

 

Things to do in Malta

A video sample from Malta on our YouTube channel Travelling Dany!

Things to do in Malta: Valletta

Valletta is the capital of Malta and one of the three UNESCO World Heritage sites on the island, along with the Hal Saflieni hypogeum and the megalithic temples. Founded by the Knights of St. John in 1566, it is a late-Renaissance city located within walls strong enough to withstand any external threat. If it is possible to assert without doubt that the Maltese archipelago has been shaped by the Christian religion, this is even more evident in Valletta. In this city suspended between tradition and modernity, in fact, there are at least twenty Churches, all open and active. Religion is an integral part of Maltese life. You’ll find out if, like us, you’ll stop in these islands during a “festi”, religious celebrations that involve the whole city (not just Valletta, but also the smallest villages!) and that are especially felt by every Maltese. At festivals, every alley and street is embellished with colorful lights and drapes, because it has to be colorful both day and night. The sacred statues are brought to the procession, followed by the locals and often by crowds of curious tourists. 

 

Things to do in Malta

 

 

If you like art and history you are definitely in the right place. Valletta hosts two paintings by Caravaggio in the Conclave Cathedral of St. John, the home of the Knights of Malta. It is also possible to visit the Palace of the Grand Master, the current house of the Parliament, the Museum of Fine Arts and the National War Museum, with exhibitions and exhibitions related to the military history of the Country. There are many things to do in Malta, but I really loved to wander at sunset in the Lower Gardens of Barraka, to enjoy spectacular views of the Grand Harbor, embellished by warm colors that made it even more beautiful. Siblings of the Upper Barraque Gardens, the Lower Gardens surprised me with a neo-classical temple inside, dedicated to Alessandro Ball, Captain of the British fleet, really loved by the locals. These gardens full of flowers and trees are also perfect to enjoy some peace with a cool drink on the hot Summer days, mark them up on the map!

 

Things to do in Malta

 

Overlooking the Lower Barraka Gardens, you will find the Siege Bell, a memorial that honors the over 7,000 Maltese victims of World War II. This imposing bronze bell overlooking the harbor, right next to the lighthouse, was inaugurated on May 29, 1992, the fiftieth anniversary of the conferment to Malta of the George Cross by Queen Elizabeth and Malta’s President Censu Tabone. It sounds in honor of the fallen every day at noon. It is possible to climb the staircase that leads to the small circular temple, to enjoy unprecedented views of the Grand Harbor of Valletta and Fort Saint Elmo, and take photos of the great bronze sculpture that symbolizes the burial in the sea of The Unknown Soldier. Make sure you add it to your list of things to see in Malta!

 

Things to do in Malta

 

In the evening Valletta can be quite crowded, but especially in Summer it comes to life with live concerts, free Jazz sessions in small pubs like The Bridge Bar, or cultural events. We especially liked a delicious pub called StrEat Whiskey & Bistro, located in a narrow Valletta street full of tables. Going inside what looks like a stone-walled cellar, you will be greeted by friendly staff and a delicious scent of food. The walls are decorated with really beautiful modern paintings, which make the atmosphere almost surreal and very elegant, but prices are still low. A blackboard illustrates the dishes of the day and those of the month: the servings are particularly large!

 

Things to do in Malta

 

Things to do in Malta: Mdina

Just 13 km away from Valletta, easily reachable by bus, you will find Mdina, the City of Silence, perched on the top of a hill. If the main gate of the city looks familiar… then you’re you a fan of  Game of Thrones just like us: here they filmed many key scenes from the first series of the show! Mdina is the ancient capital of Malta, whose narrow streets and monuments will tell you stories and curiosities. A real open-air museum in which you get easily lost (and you won’t be too sad about it), far from the crowds of Valletta.
If you have brought a drone to shoot from above, don’t use it in Mdina! Because of some accidents in the past, which have damaged some monuments, it is absolutely forbidden to use these devices! Be respectful!

 

Things to do in Malta

 

 

Things to do in Malta: Gozo

Maltese are extremely friendly people, always smiling and particularly proud of the beauties of their own territory. In Gozo, above all, people are always ready to tell you anecdotes, let you taste some typical dishe or take a picture for you when they think you need help. Unfortunately me and the selfie stick don’t particularly like each other, maybe I’m getting old… so when I can, I prefer to ask someone to take a picture of us: in Gozo it was the locals who just offered to take a picture!
You can pay ferry to Gozo only on the return trip. Once you tet to Cirkewwa Harbor or Sa Maison Harbor, you just have to go to the embarkation without worrying about the ticket. In about half an hour you will arrive in Mgarr, on the island of Gozo. Before returning to Malta you will pay a tourist ticket for € 4.65.
If the crowd isn’t too much, I suggest you to stay at the top of the ferry: you will see the beautiful island approaching slowly: it’s much smaller than Malta. A legend narrates that the temptress nymph Calipso lured Ulysses to this green and unspoiled island, holding him prisoner for seven years. That’s why often Gozo is called “the island of Calipso“.

 

Things to do in Malta

 

Things to do in Malta: The Citadel

Having departed early in the morning from Malta, we were lucky enough to find Gozo almost empty. Maybe everyone was already off to the beach, who knows!
We took advantage of the strange quiet to head straight to the Citadel overlooking Rabat, also called “Kastell“. Before you take the free lift that will take you to the cathedral, stop to watch the short 3d movie that tells the story of the Citadel through the eyes of a soldier who really lived there. He didn’t hesitate to sacrifice himself to try to save his fellow citizens during one of the sieges of the Turks in 1551 … only after killing his family to avoid that they had to live as slaves. When the Citadel was assaulted, in fact, the whole population, except for some elderly and disabled, was chained and reduced to slavery. Today it is still possible, if you visit with an expert guide (ours was Joseph Micallef, born and raised in Gozo) to visit the streets of the Citadel in the places described by the short video. I thought it was a 3d like the ones we are used to, here, so with glasses and “special effects“, in stead the staff lead us into a small square-sized stone room. The experience is immersive, even without wearing special glasses. Images are projected on all four walls, and the dolby surround gives the impression of being next to the soldier, running around the alleyways of the Citadel. The film lasts about fifteen minutes and is free. It is definitely a good idea to add it to our list of things to do in Malta.

Things to do in Malta

 

The lift leaves you in front of the doors of the ancient Citadel. Within walking distance of the wonderful Cathedral, which rises where once there was the temple of the Goddess Juno. Outside there are two bronze cannons dating back to the 17th century and a large staircase that often offers some shade to thirsty tourists: Gozo, like Malta, can be particularly hot in Summer!
Walking along the city walls, amongst the wonderful streets that give the impression of being in an Arab country, you can easily reach the staircase leading to fortified ramparts. From here you will have a breathtaking 360° view of the hills and valleys of Gozo, down to the sea. In the Summer, as the heat can be extreme and it doesn’t rain much, the landscape will be quite desolate, but still the view is still remarkable.

Near the Citadel you will also find many museums, including an ancient prison and a World War II refuge.

 

Things to do in Malta

 

Things to do in Malta: Ramla Bay

One of the most famous areas of Gozo is the wonderful Ramla Bay. Characterized by the soft sand of a beautiful color between red and golden, it is located at the bottom of a valley in the North of the island of Gozo. You can get here by bus from Nadur, and it can be quite crowded, but in this case, I must say I found it much less chaotic than Waikiki Beach, for example!
Guests have access to bathrooms and showers. Before entering the beach you will also find some small kiosks that sell drinks and snacks, if you decide to stay longer. Just as for the area in front of the Blue Hole, I was particularly surprised by the fact that water, soft drinks and slushes have “regular” prices. Unlike many other places where the shop keepers exploit on tourism, especially in high season, here you can still pay € 2 for a slush and € 1.50 for a bottle of fresh water or a drink. Chapeau!
From the area around the bay the views are magnificent: on the West side of the beach you can take pictures of the wonderful Calipso cave. There is a sand path surrounded by hills that will take you there. According to the legend I mentioned before, it’s here that the nymph kept Ulysses prisoner!

 

Things to do in Malta

 

Things to do in Malta: Blue Hole and Azure Window

In this list of things to see in Malta you can’t skip the Blue Hole. It is a natural rock formation, excavated over the centuries by the wind and the waves. From above you will only see what looks like a magnificent natural pool with rocks that protect people from the strong currents of this area. Diving enthusiasts come here because the beauty of the Blue Hole manifests itself in all its magnificence only from 8-9 meters underwater. In fact, this site includes a huge stone arch with a flat top, covered with coral and fishes. Experts will also be able to explore a large cave at the bottom of the Blue Hole, to the left of the entry point, or go down to about 16 feet deep.
The fishes that are most live along this part of the coral reef are bogues, gourds, bridesmaid fishes, curls or dentates.

 

Things to do in Malta

 

Even this area might be familiar to you if you follow The Game of Thrones: well, here there was the magnificent Azure Window background of the wedding between Khal Drogo and Daenerys Targaryen in the first season of the show. This magnificent natural arch, well-known throughout the world, unfortunately collapsed under a violent storm with winds up to 50 knots in March 2017.
To this day everything that you can see here is a magnificent cliff and the base of the arch underwater. Over the years, the latter will also be covered by the coral reef, becoming invisible from above. The collapsed arch, however, has blocked some of the passages used by divers for longer routes.

Although it is possible to venture on the cliffs at the back of the little church in this area, to take scenographic photographs of the Blue Hole and of the Azure Window, it is necessary to respect this still fragile ecosystem. The authorities are still trying to figure out how damaged the cliff is, so it’s not a good idea to cross the security barriers to climb higher: remember that a beautiful Instagram photo isn’t worth your life!

 

Things to do in Malta

 

Things to do in Malta

 

Things to do in Malta: Blue Lagoon and Crystal Lagoon

Among the things to do in Malta you have to find some time for a visit to the Blue Lagoon of the Mediterranean, on the shores of the tiny island of Comino. The name comes from the cumin, a spice that grew on the island. Today, only an elderly couple still live on this island, almost completely wild. There is only one hotel but there are no cars, and if you exclude the high season, it is almost completely deserted.

Rather than sleeping in Comino, or reaching this island it by taking a bus and a ferry, I suggest you to enjoy this magnificent area by boat. For example, the Nautica company rent yachts of various sizes to groups of tourists, departing from the port of Valletta. There are also many galleons who make the same trip, but if you travel with friends, ask for a quote for a private yacht, sharing the expenses with the group. Galleons for organized tours are often very loud and crowded. You would therefore risk not to enjoy the quiet of these coves!

Starting in the morning from Valletta, you can reach the coast of Comino in about one hour and forty minutes of sailing. If you rent a yacht you will also have a small fridge in which you can keep your lunch, a table for eating outdoors, but also kitchen, bathroom, shower and bedrooms. In our case, we brought with us a fresh Caesar salad for lunch and we found out, thanks to our guide, Trudi Grech, that in the Blue Lagoon there are “boating ice-cream vendors“. In fact you will see colorful freighters with large freezers who get close to the other boats and later reach the coast to sell ice cream to the tourists: with that heat it was more than welcome! How come nobody thought of organizing such a thing also in Capri and Ischia?

 

Things to do in Malta


However, if you rent a yacht, ask the Captain for a stop at the Crystal Lagoon. This little known, less crowded cove near the Blue Lagoon is located just beyond the Tower of Santa Maria. The clear water is quite salty (you can take a shower on your yacht!) But it’s a beautiful, natural swimming pool. Many jump in from the high cliffs, and even here lots of divers get underwater to see the magnificent coral reef. If you go for a swim, however, make sure there are no poisonous jellyfishes: we saw some!

The Blue Lagoon, a few minutes away from its twin, is far more crowded and its the main attraction of Comino. Even in this case, renting a yacht proved to be providential: the white sandy beaches are packed all Summer long, with a remarkably high number of tourists in August. So you have to fight even just to lay down your towel, and even if you make it, it can be pretty unpleasant. From a yacht you can just jump into the turquoise waters, relax and enjoy a good ice cream away from the crowds. Or you might want to use an inflatable boat to get to the coast (be careful not to go beyond the delimitation line beyond which no boat is allowed) and explore the cliffs that offer breathtaking views of the lagoon.

 

Things to do in Malta

 

Things to do in Malta: Isle of MTV

In this list of things to do in Malta I wanted to include a small Summer bonus.
Every summer from 2007 at Floriana, near La Valletta, there is a free festival organized by MTV, “Isle of MTV“. The mega concert, aired also on MTV Italia, easily reaches 50,000 viewers. With artists such as Nelly Furtado, Snoop Dogg, David Guietta or Will.i.am it’s one of the most anticipated events of the Summer. This is one of the largest music festivals in Europe and it’s generally held in June or July. The artists begin to alternate on stage from 6 pm, because the concert ends at about midnight. There are no age limits and throughout the day the Malta Transport Organization offers special shuttle buses, of course crowded, but still very useful to be able to participate to this event, as the stops are all located near the entrances.
Safety checks are capillary, so avoid carrying selfie sticks or liquids, as they will be kept at the entrance!

 

You can check out more things to do in Malta here.

 

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Things to do in Malta

 

74 Comments

    1. You can monitor flights with Skyscanner, but I think Air Malta, Ryanair and Easyjet have the best fares! I was honestly surprised to realize that the prices were so low. In some touristic places in Italy you’d pay 4-5€ for a slush, while you got to pay 2€ in Malta. Same with water, they could’ve charged it a lot more and yet they didn’t. So yes it’s a little paradise that still offers cheap prices and great views! I hope you get to go there soon!

    1. Air Malta often offers good deals! I’ve used Ryanair and Easyjet from Naples and the ticket with Easyjet was like… 44€ or something! Also often on Skyscanner you get to find great deals, you could set an alert for Malta and you’d get notified of the best fares as soon as they get out 😉
      I’m also trying to find all the GOT spots!! Hubby is a huge fan! I think the ones in Northern Ireland are also particularly beautiful!

    1. Thank you very much! I also want to point out that I didn’t use any filter, as people couldn’t believe their eyes in seeing the orange sand! Imagine my face when I first went there, it was surreal! Where it’s dry it looks more golden, but if you move towards the sea it becomes almost red. It’s fantastic!

    1. Hey welcome aboard Mehr! I’m so glad to have such a young traveler with us! Malta is absolutely beautiful, and because it’s set slightly apart from the rest, often travelers thend to overlook the islands. Let’s hope this changes, it’s such a lovely place! I’m also very glad you liked my pictures, you’re so sweet!

    1. Oh thank you SO much! I’ve just added it to my bucket list because I didn’t know anything about ghajn tuffieha and thus I missed it! The perfect excuse to get back! Did you also get to explore the lagoons? I’m still in awe, as I honestly couldn’t believe my eyes, it almost didn’t feel like the Mediterranean, I’ve seen that kind of blue water only in Hawaii!

    1. You know I don’t dive and yet seeing the Blue Hole and hearing the guide talking about it I regretted being too scared to try! There was a diver in our group and she said it was amazing. I just can’t imagine how beautiful it has to be to see the hole from underneath and just swim hear the reef with so many fishes, finding your way through the caves, seeing the stone arch… what an adventure!!!

    1. I have no idea why it’s so underestimated but you’re not alone! I also thought at first that it wasn’t that special… until I got to explore it with some local guides. Maybe that’s the reason why, a lot of people just go and stay in Valletta, which s beautiful, but there’s so much more than that!

    1. Thank you Kavita! I’m not a professional photographer but I’m working hard on my photography skills so this means a lot to me! I also love to explore areas rich in history and thus I bet you’d love Malta because wherever you go you’ll find some beautiful monument, church or temple ready to surprise you!

    1. Haha I want boating ice cream vendors even here in Capri and Ischia! And it was so cool, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw them! They hand over this menu attached to a little lifebelt in case it falls down in the sea, you choose your flavour, order and get your ice cream. It’s that simple!

    1. You’ve been there, yay! So what did you like the most? I’m so undecided, everything looks wonderful, people are welcoming, the water is perfect and the food is delicious! I’m also glad you like my pictures! I’m not a professional but I’m trying to improve and study photography!

  1. Meg

    I enjoyed the range of activities you covered in this post; from the ancient day to the modern music festival. It seems like this small island truly has something to satisfy everyone and with gorgeous weather and scenery too, it’s a win-win! I’ve not been to Malta yet and I will definitely add it to my Europe exploration plans!

    1. Thank you very much Meg! I always try to cover more aspects of the same place with my posts because I hope they can be useful to people who are looking for specific information to plan a trip. I also look for info online and sometimes I grow tired of reading articles that just don’t say anything specific or that are so short that they leave you with a “what did I just read?”! Yet I have to admit that I find it much more difficult not to write lengthy articles because more often than not I’m just enthusiastic and so I want to write everything at once. 😀 Malta is one of those very underestimated pearls that fueled my wanderlust. There’s so much to do, people are welcoming and warm, and whatever your flavour is, you’ll probably find the way to have fun. I’m glad I managed to convey it with my article! And I hope you get to go there too! If you have doubts or need more specific info don’t hesitate to contact me, I’m glad to help!

    1. You wouldn’t expect such a pearl in the Mediterranean, right? I have no idea why Malta is so underestimated, it has so much to offer! And yes at first the Isle of MTV was itinerant, but it’s been a few years now that they have just left it in Malta. People loved it so much that MTV decided it was going to be a Malta exclusive. There were at least 50.000 people dancing and having fun, it was insane! And there were no accidents because security was great and the people attending were very careful not to push too much. What a beautiful evening!

    1. It does! I’m not a diver and it’s the first time I’ve regretted never taking diving seriously: I think that swimming down the Blue Hole must be a magical experience! As for GoT, a big part of the first series and some of the second were filmed there! There are other GoT spots also in Croatia and Northern Ireland!

  2. Melody Pittman

    Game of Thrones, Blue hole, 3 Unesco world heritage sites…you’ve got me. I have read that Malta is one of the least visited countries and one for the cheapest European destinations. I know I would love it. Thanks for sharing such a huge amount of fun stuff to see and do.

    1. Right? I couldn’t believe my eyes! In Europe I found Poland to be cheaper than Malta, but I was totally surprised to see cheap prices in Malta right next to world famous beaches. Anywhere else you would’ve found high price tags, but not here. The restaurants can be cheap too and the servings are large, so yes, it’s definitely worth a visit because it wouldn’t be as expensive as one could imagine!

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