I found Malta to be a great travel destination. Although it is not very big, it offers plenty of things to do and see on its three islands (Malta, Gozo, and Comino). Much more than I had expected beforehand. I enjoyed old cities such as Valletta and Mdina, saw crystal-clear water on Comino, and paddled through the caves on Gozo. In this blog post, I am sharing 12 great things to do during your Malta trip.
Malta – the main island
Our first stop on the island is a place that many tourists visit for only an hour: Mosta. However, we chose to have our base here because the town has a central location on the island. Mosta is known for its 19th-century church with a huge dome, hence the name ‘Mosta Dome’. It is actually a miracle that it is still standing, as three bombs fell on it during World War II, none of which exploded. Outside the church, you can find a staircase at the front leading to a shelter where Mosta residents hid during the war. Entrance fee for Mosta Dome: €3 per person for the church, €5 per person for the church, balcony, and access to the shelter.
2. Mdina & Rabat
Nearby Mosta are the historic towns of Mdina and Rabat. Mdina was once the medieval capital of Malta. The name comes from the Arabic word Madinah, which means walled city. The streets of Mdina are an invitation to wander and take endless photos. Make sure to check out St. Paul’s Cathedral, Bastion Square, and the Blue Door House (near Coogi’s Tea Garden).
Mdina merges into the neighboring town of Rabat. The main attraction here is the Catacombs of St. Paul. I skipped this because the photos online didn’t convince me. Instead, I walked around charming streets like Triq San Pawl.
3. Mellieha & Popeye Village
From Mosta, you can also take a trip to Mellieha, a town with a sandy beach. Beaches in Malta are often made up of stones and pebbles (bring water shoes), so it’s extra nice to feel thin sand under your feet. The town itself has a beautiful Roman Catholic church: the Sanctuary of Our Lady, with a photogenic location on a hill.
Near Mellieha is Popeye Village, an old film set where the musical film Popeye was shot in the 1980s. Nowadays, it’s an amusement park for kids with a Wipe-out track in the bay. However, most tourists come here for the view from the hill of the blue water and wooden houses. It is also a good starting point for a 5-kilometer walk along the coastline to Golden Bay. The views along the way are stunning!
For a typical Malta photo with colorful fishing boats on the water, head to Marsaxlokk. Marsa comes from the Arabic word for harbor, and Xlokk means Mediterranean wind in Maltese. A harbor town where you’ll find the ‘luzzu,’ the local name for the colorful fishing boats. The water in the bay is full of them. A nice little stop, but there is not much to do. Combine this with another activity such as St. Peter’s Pool (rocky). This bay can be reached by taxi or private boat, or you can walk (3 km).
Valletta is the absolute highlight of Malta. In terms of architecture, the island is at its best here. Buildings filled with wooden balconies, roads that wind up and down as if you are in the movie Inception, and churches with an interior full of frescoes and gold. These are the places in Valletta that you must not miss: Archbishop Street, Old Mint Street, St. John’s Cathedral, and Upper Barakka Gardens.
My advice is to save Valletta for the end of your trip, otherwise everything else will pale in comparison. The best place to stay is in the town of Sliema, on the other side of the water. The ferry from Sliema to Valletta costs €1.50 one way/€2.80 return (cash only) and runs every half hour. You can also take the bus to Valletta but it takes a little longer than the boat.
6. The ‘Three Cities’
From the lookout deck of Upper Barakka Gardens in Valletta, you will see three peninsulas in front of you. Two of these are the fortified towns of Birgu (Vittoriosa) and Isla (Senglea). Together with Bormla (Cospicua), they are called the ‘Three Cities’. As you can see, each town has two names, and that is because of their history. In the late Middle Ages, the Knights of Malta won the war with the Ottomans, and in honor of that, the cities were given a new name. The knights spoke Italian, and so Italian names were given, such as Vittoriosa (victory city).
To get to the Three Cities: take the lift down from Upper Barakka Garden for €1. This price includes the ferry. Cross the road and walk to the water. On the way, you will be approached by boat sellers with a smaller wooden boat. Keep walking along the quay to get to the Three Cities ferry. It departs every 30 minutes.
Gozo – the hilly sister
To get to Gozo, you take the Gozo Channel Ferry from the port of Cirkewwa (in Malta). The journey takes about 40 minutes and a ticket costs €4.65 per passenger. You buy the ticket on the way back to Malta, so you can board without a ticket. Bus 41 goes from Valletta to Cirkewwa.
On the island of Gozo, the capital Victoria was our base for organizing day trips. The highlight of Victoria is the 15th-century Citadel, an impressive fort that sits high on the hill above the city. A surprising fact is that you can visit it largely for free. Paying an entrance fee is only necessary to enter certain buildings such as the church and museums.
In addition to the Citadel, the Old Town of Victoria is also definitely worth a visit. The streets feel like a maze with a new surprise around every corner. Take a look at St. George’s Basilica, also known as the golden church of Gozo. The interior is incredibly beautiful!
8. Blue Hole & Inland Sea
Gozo is the island of water sports such as diving, stand-up paddling, and kayaking. On the west coast, you’ll find the Inland Sea, an enclosed bay that opens into the sea through a cave tunnel. Apparently, local seniors like to float in the water here, while at the same time, this is a starting point for kayak and boat tours. During my kayak tour with Kayak Gozo, I had to maneuver around the seniors first. The tour itself was great. The guide was from South Africa and had family in the Netherlands, so there was an instant connection. Near Inland Sea, you’ll also find the Blue Hole, one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. The Azure Window used to be here, but unfortunately, this stone arch collapsed in 2017.
Looking for a kayak tour on Malta? Check out this tour that departs from St. Thomas Bay.
10. Gozo beaches: Ramla Bay and more
Gozo also has beaches. Ramla Bay is the best choice because it has a wide orange-like sandy beach. Above the bay, you’ll find the Tal-Mixta Cave. Normally, I’m not into caves, but this one offers a beautiful view of the bay. Warning: the climb up is very steep at the end. There is also another option, taking the road at the back of the cave (Triq-I-Ghassa tal-Mahrag) uphill.
Ramla can get crowded. For quieter Gozo beaches, I recommend Dahlet Qorrat (pebble) and San Blas (very small and rocky). Both have a crazy steep hill that is especially exhausting on the way back. Additionally, Hondoq (sandy) is also beautiful I heard.
9. Xwenjni Salt Pans
If you’re on Gozo, a visit to the Xwenjni Salt Pans is a must. This checkerboard of salt flats is a unique sight. Salt harvesting takes place in the late spring and summer, which means that it looks less white for the rest of the year (as the photos show – I was there in October). The salt pans are a 25-minute walk from the village of Marsalforn. Near Xwenjni, there is also a nice beach: Xwenjni Bay (pebble).
10. Ta’ Pinu Sanctuary
There are plenty of churches in Malta, but on Gozo, you’ll find one particularly photogenic: the Ta’ Pinu Sanctuary. The location makes the church especially special, as it stands in a vast green-brown landscape with nothing around it. In the square, there are beautiful mosaic images that reminded me of People’s Friendship Arch in Kazbegi, Georgia. The church inside is beautiful, but a bit soberer than other churches in Malta.
You can combine Ta Pinu Basilica with a long walk towards Marsalforn. Along the way, you pass Wied il-Mielah, often called the new Azure Window. To get to Ta’ Pinu, take bus 308 in Victoria.
Comino – the azure blue postcard
Finally, the third Maltese island, Comino. Virtually uninhabited, wild, and incredibly beautiful. Comino means cumin, a plant that used to be found on this island.
12. Blue Lagoon & Crystal Lagoon
Most people come to the island for the Blue Lagoon, a bay with incredibly blue water. What they don’t tell you is that the bay is super rocky, making it not so easy to get to the water. Bring those water shoes! Blue Lagoon can get very crowded, but if you walk further along the coast, it becomes quieter. Most people just flop down at the arrival spot. Tip: make sure to check out Crystal Lagoon as well. Even more beautiful than Blue Lagoon.
Boats to Comino depart from Mgarr harbor in Gozo. There are two companies with a boat every hour. Price is, I think, the same, but there are two types of tickets: Blue Lagoon only and Blue Lagoon + Caves. We chose the latter, but I wouldn’t recommend it. They only stop for about two minutes in front of a few caves and then go back to Mgarr. Don’t want to arrange this yourself? Book this Comino boat tour that brings you to Blue Lagoon and Crystal Lagoon.
Where to stay on Malta or Gozo?
Malta is the land of B&Bs with often extensive breakfasts. We liked these places:
Julina Boutique Living in Mosta (Malta): beautiful room, delicious breakfast and hospitable owners. They also occasionally bring their three dogs.
Casa Gemelli Boutique Guesthouse in Victoria (Gozo): rooms with a view of the Citadel and a 3-course breakfast buffet that is out of this world.
Betty Cake B&B in Qala (Gozo): rooms with a view of a typical Gozitan windmill and breakfast with cakes.
Click here for an overview of accommodations in Malta and Gozo.
How to get around with public transport?
Malta has a good bus network. You can buy a ticket from the driver for €2 (cash or credit card), but it’s more convenient to buy a Tallinja 12-ride card (€15, sharing is possible) or a Tallinja 7-day card (€21, sharing not possible). They are available at ticket machines, which can be found in larger towns and at the airport. One downside of the bus system is that the interval between rides can be quite long. Sometimes you have to wait a half hour or even an hour. Use the Tallinja app to look up departure times.
Where to eat & drink?
Malta is strongly influenced by Italian cuisine, so there are plenty of pizzas and pasta. Below are some recommendations for restaurants and cafes, suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
Coffee Circus: a coffee chain where each cafe can put their own twist on the place. The one I liked the most was Coffee Circus China in Birzebbuga with an Asian menu.
Carolina Petit Cafe & Tearoom in Sliema: a cute Paddington-themed cafe with lots of tasty cakes and sandwiches.
La Vida in Sliema: Spanish tapas bar with vegan options.
Bakkun in Mosta: a super cute family restaurant that organizes Vegan Wednesdays.
Trishna in Victoria: a beautiful Indian restaurant with a fantastic menu.
Casa Vostra in Victoria: a top spot for pizza and cocktails. Arrive early as it’s popular.
Maxokk Bakery in Nadur: here you can taste the typical Gozitan ftira, a kind of pizza with potato, vegetables, capers, anchovies and tuna. There’s also a vegetarian version. Preparation time is 30 minutes and you pay cash. It is take-away only.
And that’s it! Do you have any recommendations for things to do in Malta or Gozo?
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