THE ULTIMATE MALTA TRAVEL GUIDE
Being half Maltese the country holds many childhood memories for me. Some of these include learning to swim at St. Georges Bay, spending endless days with family and of course, like any good European family eating! I wanted to put together this Malta travel guide for all my readers so that I could share with you some of the experiences I have enjoyed the most from my many many visits over the past 30 years.
QUICK INTRO INTO MALTAS HISTORY
Despite its relatively small size, Malta is full of history and culture. The island of Malta has been invaded by many over the centuries. Each of those invaders left distinctive marks in Maltas food, culture, architecture and language.
Through the Neolithic period you can see many temples that were dedicated to the Goddess of Fertility. Later during Malta’s history, the Phoenicians, the Romans, Carthaginians and the Byzantines all left their mark on the city. In 60 A.D, St. Paul was shipwrecked on the island, which is how Christianity made its way to Malta. An interesting part of history is when the Arabs conquered Malta, which left a big mark on the Maltese language. Today, if you hear a Maltese person speak you will notice the similarity to Arabic!
It was between 1530-1798 that the Knights of St John ruled over Malta. You will see their influence on many of the churches around Malta. Next came the rule of Napoleon in 1798, which saw French rule. Finally, in 1964 Malta fell under British rule. In 2004 it became a republic and then joined the EU in 2004. With so many civilisations having played a part in Malta’s diverse history you can see why Malta has such a mixed history, architecture, language and culture.
MALTA TRAVEL GUIDE
Here is my guide to Malta and the surrounding islands;
- M’Dina the old town of Malta, was the capital until 1530 and its history traces back more than 4,000 years. This beautiful medieval city boasts some beautiful baroque and Norman architecture.
- The Red Tower is one of the many fortresses in Malta. The red tower is located in Mellieha, which was built towards the middle of the 17th century. The Red Tower is commonly known for its brightly painted walls. You will notice during your visit in Malta that there are many fortresses, towers and structures that can be found around the islands coast. This is a result of Maltas strategic position, which is what made Malta a very desirable country for many powers.
- Mellieha, derived from the word for salt (Melh), is Malta’s longest sandy beach and one of the favourites amongst locals. Xi-Xatba, Giuseppi’s, La Pellicola, Tosca and Ocean Bar are also really nice spots to eat at which are nearby to the beach.
- Sliema promenade is an area known for its waterfront cafes and shops. The bustling area of Sliema links to the cosmopolitan nightlife of St. Julian’s. Down by the waterfront, you will also find a number of street side vendors selling tickets to explore the nearby islands of Gozo and Comino. You can either head down to one of those vendors to buy tickets or you can pre-book
- No Malta travel guide would be complete without mentioning the capital city of Malta- Valletta which is also known in local language as Il-Belt. The city was built during the rule of the Knights of St. John and is a great spot to explore. You can spend the entire day exploring Valletta and have endless things to see and do. Visit the Cathedral of St John, the nearby monuments, waterfront and eat at some of the restaurants and cafes I’ve mentioned below.
- The Valletta waterfront is the gateway into the city and the port of arrival for many tourist ships. It’s also a super trendy spot for dinner where you’ll find many restaurants and bars. The waterfront also has a beautiful view of the majestic Grand Harbour. I recommend eating at Crave, where the food is beautiful and they also have an extensive cocktail menu. There is also a beautiful restaurant up the hill just a little way from the waterfront called The Harbour Club, which is a great spot for lunch.
- The Blue Grotto is located south of the island and is made up of a number of caves. You can see the beautiful blue waters and each of the caves by boat, can be booked at the location. During peak season it can get very busy, so I recommend going early to avoid waiting. We found the morning hours of summer the best for avoiding the crowds.
- Popeyes village was once the set of the popular movie you guessed it- Popeye! Set in 1980, it’s now become a major tourist attraction and theme park filled with water games, trampolines and slides.
- Marsaxlokk is a popular fishing village where both tourists and locals frequent to buy fresh fish. The popular market is held every Sunday between 10-4pm which comprises of fresh fish and brick-a-brack stalls. The Marsaxlokk bay is also the perfect spot to see the colourful fishing boats called Luzzu. You should immediately notice many of them stopped at the waters edge, as it’s a very common picture to see on postcards and brochures. Once you are done exploring the markets be sure to eat some fresh catch at one of the restaurants nearby.
- Paceville is the nightlife district of Malta and is heavily populated with pubs, clubs, and restaurants. It’s considered the hub of Maltas party nightlife, but if you’re not into that scene then you can probably avoid it. It’s a great spot if you’re in your early 20s and looking to party. While it’s cool to check out briefly, I was mainly put off by drunk people roaming the streets.
- Cafe Del Mar at Saint Paul’s bay has become the place to be if you’re looking for a poolside venue as opposed to going beachside. The funky location is a great place to relax, dine and have a drink. Cafe Del Mar also hosts a number of special events, including DJs and live music, so be sure to check out their website to see whats on.
- Malta consists of a number of beaches, bays and Lidos. Interestingly you’ll find both sandy and rocky beaches equally as beautiful. If you intend to visit the rocky beaches don’t forget to bring your plastic thongs or shoes, as walking on the rocks barefoot can be a little uncomfortable. For a full list of Maltas beaches check out our post on Maltas beaches.
- Malta is a very a very religious country and as a result you will see a church in every town. Some of the ones I found particularly beautiful were Tal Pinu (Gozo), St. John’s Cathedral in Valletta and Mostra Dome. Mostra Dome in particular has a very interesting history. In the second world war a huge bomb fell through the enormous dome and didn’t explode. Not only did the bomb not detonate, but no one inside the church was harmed.
- Take a day tour and visit the islands of Gozo and Comino. Check out our full blog here of things to see and do.
GETTING TO MALTA
Malta is a very popular destination to visit in Europe and as such you will find a number of direct flights to and from Malta from most major European cities. The national airline of Malta called Air Malta operates from most major European airports and part of the Middle East. I also found some really cheap low cost carriers who fly in and out of Malta from London as well. Choose from one of the many flights at a location most convenient for you.
If you happen to be thinking of an extended holiday or perhaps a different route than Malta is just an hour away from the island of Sicily Italy. I’ve travelled to Sicily twice by high speed ferry and I found it really convenient. Sicily is also a very beautiful place to visit and another place I would highly recommend.
I hope you’ve enjoyed our Malta Travel Guide and find this information useful for planning your next trip. Feel free to email me if you have any questions.
MALTA TRAVEL GUIDE
Written by Melanie Duca