What to see and do in Malta: the attractions not to be missed
The Maltese archipelago is a fantastic place where to go all year long due to its climate. Situated between Sicily and the northern coast of Africa, Malta is a perfect destination which offers a vast range of attractions in addition to beaches, nature, and delicious food. Let’s see what you shouldn’t miss if you are planning to visit this little country.
Our Top 10 Maltese attractions
The capital of the archipelago Maltese is the main attraction and one of the most beautiful side of the country. Valletta is listed as a UNESCO Heritage Site, and it is a place rich in history and culture. Get lost in the capital streets and its building characterised by colourful balconies known as gallarija (or gardjoli), visit a masterpiece such as St. John’s Co-Cathedral shrouded by myths or enjoy the breathtaking view from the Upper Barrakka Gardens, is something not to be missed.
2. The Three Cities
Once you’ve visited Valletta, go to the Upper Barrakka Gardens and take the lift for heading to the jetty where the ferry will bring you to three cities. They are certainly the richest areas in history, the most fascinating and characteristic in all of Malta. Senglea (L’Isla), Cospicua (Bormla), and Birgu (Vittoriosa) are just situated in front of the Maltese capital and walking through its alleys is like to back in time. Breath the history of Malta and visit exciting attractions such as Gardijola Gardens, St. Lawrence’s Church, the Inquisitor Palace, the Maritime Museum and Fort Saint Angelo.
The ferry will drop you off in the city of Birgu after a short ride (round trip 2.80 euro). The best way to explore the 3 cities is to wander around on foot; therefore, we suggest to start your visit from Senglea and end it up at Fort St Angelo in Birgu. The walk with the visit to all the attractions takes around 4 hours. If you don’t want to walk, you can catch a motorised touristic train next to the Birgu Gate that runs every hour (5-minute walk from the ferry terminal).
The ancient capital of Malta, also known as the “Silent City” or the “Noble City“, is situated on the hill at the centre of the Island and it is a must for the tourists. Its incredible mixture of Baroque and medieval architecture and narrow streets enclosed by high walls, make this tiny town one of the most visited spots of the whole Malta. Amongst the attractions of the city, the 17th century St Paul Cathedral stands out with its beautiful interior richly decorated. Mdina has also been chosen as a location for many movies and series. Recently the Gate of Mdina was used for the popular Tv Series “Game of Thrones“.
Mdina is easily reachable by bus since it is served by many bus routes (from Valletta bus terminal take the n. 51/53/56/TD13/TD14 – it takes around 45 min.). We suggest planning a whole day tour starting with the visit of Mosta, then Medina and Rabat. In front of the Mdina gate, you’ll also find the stop of the Sightseeing buses.
Situated next to Mdina, this village is known for its rural character, surrounded by nature and quiet. Apart from its beautiful alleys and houses, Rabat is pretty famous for some points of interest, especially for St. Paul’s Grotto and Catacombs. St Paul Apostle, the patron saint of Malta, took refuge in the Grotto after he shipwrecked on the island in 60 AD during his trip to Rome. St Paul Catacombs dates back between the 4th and 9th centuries AD, and it is the largest in Malta. A few minutes walk from St Paul Grotto and Catacombs also worth a visit the St. Agatha’s Catacombs, where Saint Agatha hid during her exile from Sicily. Rabat also boats the Domus Romana, the most important building of the Roman era discovered so far in Malta (turned into a museum).
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The bus routes from Valletta to Rabat are the same as Mdina.
The town of Mosta is situated in the central part of the Island, and it is a fascinating place shrouded by myths. Its church, which is the third largest unsupported dome in Europe, is the main attraction and a must for those visiting Malta. The Rotunda of St Marija Assunta was built between 1833 and 1871 on the site of a former church, and it was thought to look like the Pantheon in Rome. The church survived at German bomb during World War II, and you can see a replica of the bomb inside the building as a memorial to the event. If you have time, you can also visit the catacombs of Ta ’Bistra, dating back to the 4th century AD, and the most extensive series of Maltese tombs and catacombs after the Rabat catacombs.
The church is always crowded, so try to get there early in the morning (it opens at 9 a.m.). We suggest to plan your day trip starting from Mosta, then Rabat and Mdina. Mosta is served by several bus routes (from Valletta bus n.41/42/44/47/260). The bus stop to go to Mdina/Rabat is right in front of the Church (bus n. 186/202).
Located in the south of Malta, this traditional fishing village is a top-rated tourist attraction. It is a beautiful place where to spend a day enjoying its views surrounded by fishermen and “Luzzu” (characteristic colourful boats) or eating fresh seafood at the many restaurants along the promenade of Marsaxlokk. The best day to visit this small village is on Sunday when a traditional market is held: fish, vegetables, sweets, clothes and many other things. Moreover, you can reach St. Peter’s Pool by boat and enjoy the crystal waters of Malta.
The market is always very crowded, and plenty of tourists. Since very few bus routes serve Marsaxlokk, we suggest to visit it early in the morning to avoid the crowd on the bus. More you wait, and more you risk not to find a space on board. Take the bus n. 85 and TD10 from Valletta bus terminal (around 30 min ride).
Anyway, the best way of visiting the south-west part of Malta is by renting a car. An excellent itinerary could be Marsaxlokk, Blue Grotto, Hagar Qim temples, Dingli cliff, and the Golden Bay (if you still have time, you can also visit the Popeye Village).
7. Megalithic Temples
The Megalithic Temples of Malta are prehistoric temples built approximately between 3600 BC and 700 BC. Some of them are listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and they are scattered in different parts of the Archipelago, including Gozo.
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8. Dingli Cliffs
Located on the western coast of Malta, the Dingli cliffs are the highest point of the country at around 253 meters above the sea level. Once there you can walk along the cliffs enjoying breathtaking views and reach the tiny chapel dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene which perches on edge and marks the highest point of the whole archipelago.
9. Blue Grotto
Close to Zurrieq and Qrendi Village, Blue Grotto is many sea caves situated in the south of the Island which attracts thousands of tourists all year round. You can observe the natural beauty from above at the observation point but, if the weather is good and the sea not choppy, you must try the boat tour to discover the caves close by.
The boat tours start from the tiny harbour of Wied Iz Zurrieq and last around 30 minutes. Here you’ll also find bars and restaurants. The only buses to get here are the n. 74 and 201. The sightseeing buses have a stop here as well.
10. Gozo & Comino
The other two Islands which composed the Maltese archipelago are much quieter and rural than the main one. Gozo is just 20 minutes by ferry from Malta, so if you don’t want to oversleep there, you can have a daily tour for discovering the Island. It is a fascinating place immerse in nature, and the Ggantija temples or the Citadella in Victoria is something you shouldn’t miss. The neighbour Comino is the smallest of the three islands but no less beautiful than the others. It is car free and well known among the snorkelling lovers for its wonder, the Blue Lagoon. For those who would love to enjoy Comino much longer, it is possible to sleep there in the only Hotel on the Island.
If you don’t have a lot of time, the best way to enjoy Gozo is to book a daily trip from Malta. If you sleep in Sliema, you’ll find many stands offering trips (Gozo 4×4 jee, Gozo and Comino boat tour, Blue lagune boat trip and others) along the promenade. Alternatively, you can book your journey through the web platforms Viator and GetYourGuide that offer several daily tours.