Malta Holiday Planning Guide
Aside its crystal azure waters and soft sandy beaches, Malta offers more ancient, medieval, and Baroque architecture than most visitors have time for. Whether you're looking for a relaxing vacation spent people-watching and sun-bathing or a history lesson filled with fortified cities and catacombs, Malta lets you hop from island to island with a plethora of options. And with so much coastline wherever you are in Malta, opportunities for water sports abound, including snorkeling and diving. Despite the thriving tourism, many areas feel uncrowded due to lack of residency, leaving you space to enjoy the sun and sea at your own pace.
Places to Visit in Malta
Regions of MaltaIsland of Malta
: The country's largest and central island offers the best of Mediterranean culture and history, making it an ideal starting point for a Malta holiday. Comino
: With only four permanent residents, Comino is Malta's smallest inhabited island, serving as an oasis of tranquility and boasting the crystal-clear Blue Lagoon.Island of Gozo
: One of Europe's most remote islands, Gozo draws visitors to its assortment of world-class historical sites and lush natural beauty.
Cities in MaltaValletta
: Listed as a World Heritage Site, this city serves as the starting point for almost every Malta itinerary thanks to its Baroque charm, winding medieval streets, and celebrated cathedral. Mellieha
: Perched between two calm bays, this charming town draws large crowds to its pristine sandy beach, culinary offerings, and small-town feel. Saint Julian's
: Just north of Valletta, the popular port city of Saint Julian's boasts a thriving nightlife and luxury seaside resorts.Sliema
: Sister City to Saint Julian's, Sliema further extends a well-developed seafront packed with shopping, dining, and entertainment options. Mdina
: Stroll through the immutable cobblestone streets of this enchanting medieval town, offering a sharp contrast to the industry and tourism of contemporary Malta. Qawra
: While this popular seaside resort doesn't have a beach, it offers plenty of bars, restaurants, and nightclubs for those preferring a lively urban atmosphere while still enjoying easy access to remote beaches. Bugibba
: Situated among the resorts that make up the northern tip of Malta, Bugibba retains small-town charm with its rocky beachfront and secluded coves. St. Paul's Bay
: This resort town marks the centerpiece of Malta's busy northern coastline, featuring an emblematic 17th-century tower and easy access to nearby St. Paul's Island. Victoria
: Located directly in the center of the Island of Gozo, Victoria's fortified Neolithic citadel and 17th-century cathedral draw large crowds.Marsalforn
: Those who love aquatic activities choose Marsalforn as their hub thanks to its proximity to numerous diving spots and guided boat tours. Rabat
: Just outside of Mdina, Rabat boasts a fascinating history epitomized by St. Paul's Catacombs, a complex of underground Roman cemeteries dating back to the 4th century.
Things to Do in Malta
Popular Malta Tourist AttractionsSt. John's Co-Cathedral
: Every Malta vacation should include a stop at St. John's Co-Cathedral, considered one of the world's most beautiful churches and one of the best-preserved examples of High Baroque architecture in Europe. Mdina Old City
: Known as the "Silent City" due to its prohibition of cars, Mdina Old City, Malta's former capital, boasts Norman Baroque architecture and impressive views of the island.Upper Barrakka Gardens
: These beautiful gardens sit at the highest point of Valletta's city walls, making them an ideal spot for admiring the Grand Harbor and other surrounding Malta tourist attractions.Popeye Village Malta
: Visit the village constructed for the set of Disney's live-action "Popeye" (1980), where kids and adults alike can enjoy entertainment by some of the Popeye series' renowned characters.Blue Lagoon
: Crystal-clear water welcomes swimmers, snorkelers, and sunbathers to this secluded enclave, a popular stop along numerous Malta tours.Paceville
: Buzzing with pleasure-seekers, Paceville is the undisputed nightlife capital of Malta.Azure Window
: Famous for its resemblance to a window, this limestone rock formation also serves as a popular spot for swimmers, scuba divers, and boaters.Mellieha Beach
: The hugely popular Mellieha Beach offers the best of Mediterranean vacationing: warm water, soft sand, and thrilling sports. Lascaris War Rooms
: The defense of Malta as well as strategic Mediterranean battles were conducted in this subterranean complex of tunnels during World War II. Blue Grotto (Il-Hnejja)
: Take a boat to this beautiful grotto of arched rock formations, abundant sea life, and magnificent blue lights.
Planning a Malta Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Malta with Kids
Malta's beautiful seaside towns and resorts make ideal family vacation destinations. There are many places to see in Malta, from theme parks and museums to beaches and aquatic adventure centers. The Popeye Village Malta
allows fans of these popular cartoon characters to enjoy live performances and gain insight into the making of the titular 1980 film starring Robin Williams. Kids and teens with an interest in motor vehicles should check out the Malta Classic Car Collection Museum
or the Malta Aviation Museum
. The former features more than a hundred vintage cars and motorcycles, while the latter showcases some of the most important aircrafts from World War II. At the Malta National Aquarium
families can get up close to native Maltese fish species and exotic foreign creatures alike.
Things to Do in Malta with Kids
Kids of all ages have plenty of things to do in Malta. For those who enjoy the beach, Malta is certainly not short on those: the Blue Lagoon
, Mellieha Beach
, and Ramla Bay
are among the most popular in the country, and nearly all beaches in Malta rent out sun loungers, umbrellas, and scuba gear. More adventurous youngsters might want to consider a guided snorkeling or diving excursion. Diving is a popular year-round activity for visitors wanting to explore rocky reefs and marine life, including tuna, octopus, and seahorses in the warmer months. Some of the most accessible diving options include Buddies Dive Cove
and New Dimension Scuba
, but don't miss what Gozo
has to offer either.
Tips for a Family Vacation in Malta
To explore the best of Malta, station your family in one of the top resort towns like Saint Julian's
. These towns accommodate a large number of tourists, meaning they offer affordable lodging and excellent transportation service to other areas. From there, you can take day trips to some of the most popular tourist attractions in Malta, like Valletta
. You might also want to consider taking one of the hop-on-hop-off tour buses, which offer north and south itineraries departing from Sliema.
While Malta is considered a very safe travel destination, pickpocketing and overcharging scams targeting tourists sometimes occur. Use your better judgment when choosing places to sleep, eat, and see in Malta, or check recommendations on Inspirock.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Malta
Cuisine of Malta
Influenced by southern Italian cooking, authentic Maltese cuisine is distinctively Mediterranean, offering a variety of seafood, meats, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Rabbit ("fenek") is one of the more popular dishes in Malta, which is enjoyed marinated in red wine and bay leaves ("fenkata") or mixed into pasta sauce. "Pastizzi," savory pastries filled with ricotta or mushy peas, are also common across the islands. For a Maltese version of pizza, try "ħobż biż-żejt," a leavened bread drenched in olive oil and topped with local toppings such as tomato paste, olives, tuna, and capers.
Shopping in Malta
You're likely to want to bring home a souvenir of your Malta vacation. Luckily, most popular cities and resorts cater to the needs of casual buyers and shopaholics alike. Valletta's Republic Street and Merchant Street are good places to start, as are most town centers. Try to fit a visit to a village open-air market on your itinerary: daily necessities sit alongside crafts such as knit goods, baskets, and lace. The markets of Birzebbuga
are particularly noteworthy.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Malta
History of Malta
Despite its size, Malta's rich history has seen the islands pass through the hands of Neoliths, Greeks, Romans, Moors, Normans, and Crusaders before colonization by the Spanish, French, and English. Evidence of this varied cultural history can be found across Malta's three inhabited islands, making it impossible to miss no matter where your Malta vacation takes you.
Archaeologists have traced Malta's earliest inhabitants to before 5000 BCE, but it wasn't until 3500 BCE that some of the islands' earliest built structures began to appear in the form of the Ggantija Megalithic Temples
and the Mnajdra
In the following centuries Malta passed to Roman and then Byzantine rule, though little evidence of these periods remain. It wasn't until the Muslim conquest in the 9th century that the Maltese language, an adaptation of the Siculo-Arabic language of Sicily, emerged.
The subsequent Norman conquest marks the most significant period in Maltese history in terms of its legacy and visibility. In the 11th century, Malta became part of the Kingdom of Sicily, and Catholicism was reinstated. The Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem took sovereign control of Malta in 1530, and after fighting off a long siege by the Ottomans, founded Valletta
in 1565. Some of Malta's greatest cathedrals date back to this period, including the marvelous St. John's Co-Cathedral
After a brief occupation by France under Napoleon, Malta was acquired by Great Britain in 1814, who ruled over the country until its independence in 1964. Malta served as a loyal ally to Great Britain during the World Wars, evidence of which can be explored at the Lascaris War Rooms
. Since 2004, Malta has been a member of the European Union.
Customs of Malta
Maltese people, like their Mediterranean neighbors, are generally polite, kind, and helpful. While no specific type of behavior is particularly taboo, learning about some Maltese customs will make your Malta trip more enjoyable. Understand that Malta is strictly Roman Catholic, and respect for the country's great cathedrals and holy places is considered common sense. Dress respectfully when visiting churches: this means removing hats and sunglasses and ensuring that shoulders and knees are covered. Luckily, most popular religious tourist attractions in Malta provide visitors with shawls and/or skirts when needed.
Holidays & Festivals in Malta
Due to its Catholic identity, Malta celebrates Christmas and Easter (Holy Week) in traditional Southern European fashion: with prayer, feasts, and processions. Expect to see parades of devotees alongside partygoers, especially during Holy Week. A favorite festival for locals and visitors alike is the pre-Lenten Carnival, which lights up places like Valletta
and Nadur with costumes, dance, and color.
For a uniquely Maltese festival experience, visit at the end of June during Mnarja, or I-Imnarja, a feast dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul marked by the mass lighting of torches and bonfires. The best places to catch Mnarja are in Mdina
and around the woodlands outside of Rabat
Malta Travel Tips
Climate of Malta
Malta boasts a typical Mediterranean climate: windy and wet in the winter, while hot and dry in the summer. Visitors can typically enjoy the beach from April until October of every year, with highs ranging from around 68 F (20 C) to 90 F (32 C) during this period.
Transportation in Malta
Your best bet for moving around Malta and making the most of your Malta itinerary is to rent a car. This is easy and affordable if you book in advance, and cars can even be taken onto the Gozo Ferry Terminal
. Note that cars drive on the left in Malta, unlike most other European countries. Public transportation by bus is inexpensive though sometimes unreliable--a hop-on-hop-off bus tour is a much better bet.
Language of Malta
Official languages are Maltese and English, and Italian is widely understood and spoken. Note that younger generations are likely more proficient in English than older ones, so learning a few words of Maltese may come in handy in certain situations.
Tipping in Malta
A 5- to 10-percent tip is considered reasonable for good service, except for when a service charge is already included on a bill.