Europe, Malta

What To Do on Malta: Top 12 Tourist Highlights You Need To See

“Mela, listen…” has probably been the start of half of the sentences the Maltese spoke to me during my time on Malta. I spent two times two months on this Mediterranean island, located just below Italy. After working two summers on Malta, I have seen (almost!) all of the highlights of this island and the two neighbouring islands Gozo and Comino. Because Malta is relatively small, it is easy to get around and to see a lot in just a short period of time. Sit back, relax, and make sure to take notes. Here we go, Top 12 Tourist Highlights Malta!

 

  1. Blue Grotto

Before going to Malta the first time, I remember seeing a picture of the Blue Grotto. The intense blue water and rough coast of the island instantly impressed me. And I can tell you, Blue Grotto will not let you down.

Take the bus to bus stop ‘Panorama’ and walk towards the Blue Wall and Grotto viewpoint. From here you can see the magnificent Blue Grotto from above and take some great pictures.

Blue Grotto on Malta, with its azure blue waters. Picture owned by Hashtag Explorers
However, you can also do a boat tour inside the Blue Grotto! It is worth it to check this out, as you can really go inside the caves where the water is fluorescent blue. For about €8 per person, you go in one of the traditional Maltese open boats that will take you inside the Blue Grotto. If the heat is unbearable, you can also swim next to the wharf.  

 

  1. Blue Lagoon (Comino)

There is blue, and there is bluer. The Blue Grotto is beautiful, but if you want to go swimming in azure blue water, the Blue Lagoon is the place to be. The Blue Lagoon is not located on Malta, but on the neighbouring island of Comino. This island is so small there is not much else to do, but the Blue Lagoon is definitely worth it. Combine a trip to this oasis with a visit to the third island Gozo.

Crystal clear water in the Blue Lagoon on Comino, one of the islands that are part of Malta. Picture owned by Hashtag Explorers

#Explorers tip: Take the powerboat from St George’s Bay, St Julians to Comino for a sunset ride. I have a very good experience with Powerboat Rides Malta.

Powerboat rides on Malta with Powerboat Rides Malta. In the pink EF shirt you will see Explorer Melissa from Hashtag Explorers
Can you spot me in the back in pink?
  1. Gozo & Blue Hole

Gozo is a lot smaller and a lot more remote than Malta. Therefore, it also a bit more off the beaten track. You can also find a wide variety of beaches, cliffs and diving spots here. You can book a tour anywhere on Malta, or hire a quad and drive around the island yourself.

Beautiful beaches are all over Gozo. Ramla Bay on Gozo, Malta is the most beautiful with its golden sand and azure blue water
Ramla Bay, Gozo

In a nutshell, the places you need to cross off your Gozo bucketlist are certainly to begin with the capital city Victoria, where the old Cittadella offers a stunning view of this small city. The best beach is often said to be Ramla Bay. The colour of the sand here is so yellow it looks almost orange. Don’t skip Xlendi, a small village next to the water with a nice ice cream parlour.

If you want the best Instagram pictures, visit Wied Il-Ghasri: A small pebble beach with crystal clear water. Last but not least, Dwerja Bay is where the Azure Window used to be up until March 2017. You can still visit the remains (you can stand on top of the remains if you swim a bit), and you can still swim in the Blue Hole. Because the Azure Window collapsed, this place instantly became one of the best diving spots in Europe.

Blue Hole, Gozo. Right next to the Blue Hole used to be the Azure Window, but this collapsed in 2017. Picture owned by Hashtag Explorers
Blue Hole, Gozo

I will write a more detailed blog about Gozo soon!

 

  1. Marsaxlokk & St Peter’s Pool

When you Google Malta, one of the first pictures you’ll see is one with at least one luzzu, one of the traditional, colourful fishing boats. The best place to spot these is in Marsaxlokk. Plan your visit on a Sunday morning, when there’s a market. Definitely try the local fish in one of the many fish restaurants along the
water.

In all honesty, I do find Marsaxlokk to be one of the most overrated places of Malta. I have been to the Sunday market twice and I didn’t find it to be very interesting. One of the only things I haven’t been to during my two summers on Malta and that is supposedly very cool, is St Peter’s Pool.

Old fishing village Marsaxlokk, Malta. This Fishers Village displays Luzzu, which are the colourful boats Malta is known for.

This rocky part of the southern shore is the ideal place for cliff diving. Have you ever seen that video of a small Jack Russel dog jumping off a cliff? That was at St Peter’s Pool! If you’re lucky, can even see Titti and her owner Carmelo in the flesh as they still regularly visit St Peter’s Pool.

 

  1. Sliema & Balluta Bay

During my time on Malta, I stayed at Inhawi Hostel twice, located in the beautiful Balluta Bay. You find this hostel ideal if you are aged 17-30 and you want to enjoy Malta’s night life, but don’t want to be bothered by drunk people every single night. This is because it is only a convenient 20-minute walk from Paceville, the party centre of St Julians, while also only about that distance the other way to the rock pools of Sliema.

View of St Julians Bay from Sliema, Malta. The blue water, the boats and pink flowers are iconic for the boulevard in Sliema, Malta. Picture owned by Hashtag Explorers

Sliema is a beautiful coastal town overlooking the capital city of Valletta. It is ideally located between tranquil Valletta and nightlife-centred St Julians. Definitely visit the rock pools right in front of the restaurant Surf Side (where, by the way, you can also have a good meal). Are you looking for an organic lunch with a double chocolate brownie as dessert? Cross the street and visit Mint. This New Zealand-owned lunch place is one of the things I miss most when I’m not on Malta.

Mint is a New Zealand owned cafe in Sliema, Malta. It is located right next to the Rock Pools and serves organic, vegetarian, vegan, biological, homemade food

#Explorers Tip: Want to buy a souvenir that doesn’t suck? Visit the Souvenirs That Don’t Suck shop in Sliema. They have super cool tshirts, buttons, stickers, mugs, post cards, and much more with cool Maltese slang words. I got my “Mela” shirt there, which is a word very often used by the Maltese as a filler word, but can also mean either “yes”, “no”, “okay”, “alright”, or “ummm”.

Address: 108 Triq Manwel Dimech, Sliema

Picture of Explorer Melissa in Mela shirt from Souvenirs That Don't Suck. They have a shop in Sliema, Malta. Picture owned by Hashtag Explorers
My “mela”-shirt from Souvenirs That Don’t Suck
  1. Valletta

Malta’s capital city and European’s Capital City of Culture 2018 (according to Lonely Planet) is Valletta. Definitely take a day to explore the capital of Malta. You can easily take the bus from anywhere on the island to go to Valletta. The Maltese have a saying that means as much as that whatever bus you take, you’ll always end up in Valletta. From the buses just follow the crowds through the Valletta City Gate. Once you pass the gat, you’re already right in the centre of the capital.

Valletta is the capital city of Malta. It is known for its narrow streets that point towards the sea

Very iconic in Valletta is the dome of Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, but also the Saint John’s Co-Cathedral, St George’s Square, and the Upper Barrakka Gardens that offer a view of the Three Cities. I guess I’ll have to write a more detailed blog about Valletta too!

View of Valletta from Sliema, Malta. The dome in the background is Basilica of of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. Picture owned by Hashtag Explorers, showing Explorer Melissa
View of Valletta from Sliema
  1. Three Cities

The Three Cities are Birgu, Senglea and Cospicua, literally three very old cities. The names of these cities sometimes differ, so it might be useful to know that Birgu is sometimes known as Vittoriosa, Senglea is also known as L-Isla, and Cospicua is also known as Bormla.

From the Upper Barrakka Gardens in Valletta you can see the Three Cities very well. It is also possible to do a boat tour from Sliema Ferries past the bays of these cities.

So, what is so special about the Three Cities? Besides that they are very old (Birgu dates back to the Middle Ages, and Senglea and Cospicua to the 16thand 17thcentury), they are a lot lesser known among tourists. Therefore, you get a chance to see the real Maltese life. Also, you can finally get a picture of one of the cute Maltese houses with colourful doors and windows without having other people in your picture. The docks of the Three Cities are beautiful and the large, expensive boats give you the idea of being in St Tropez.

Vittoriosa, Malta is one of the Three Cities

  1. Mdina

If you’ve always wondered what it must have been like to live in the Medieval Ages, visit the former capital of Malta, Mdina. Mdina is also known as the Silent City. This you will immediately understand once you have crossed the bridge and walked through the city gate into the fortified city, still confined within its walls.

It doesn’t take long to walk around, but make sure you don’t miss the highlights. Mdina is famous for two things: Mdina glass and Mdina cake. To start with the former, immediately at the entrance (which, by the way, can also be seen in Game of Thrones) you will see a few shops selling goods made out of glass. Mdina is famous for this. For the foodies among us, skip the cold glass and go to the Fontanella Tea Garden, where you can try one of the famous Mdina cakes.

After buying Mdina glass souvenirs and eating Mdina cake, don’t leave the city before heading to Bastion Square, from where you have a good view of a large part of Malta.

Mdina is Malta's former capital city. Mdina is used in Game of Thrones. Also known as the Silent City. Picture owned by Hashtag Explorers.

  1. Café del Mar & Bugibba (or St Paul’s Bay)

Bugibba is a very popular tourist destination on Malta. It is where all-inclusive hotels popped up to serve tourists’ needs. The coast line is quite nice and you can swim in St Paul’s Bay here, if you need a change from your hotel pool.

One of the main tourist attractions in Bugibba is the Malta National Aquarium. Right next to it you can find Café del Mar. As you can probably imagine what you can find the National Aquarium, I am going to skip right to Café del Mar’s infinity pool, sushi and nightlife. Because yes, this club located on the cliffs of St Paul’s Bay offers all you need for a full day of fun. Restaurant and pool lounge by day, and club by night. Make sure to cross Café del Mar off your bucket list before you head back home.

Explorer Melissa at Café del Mar in Bugibba, St Pauls Bay, Malta. Cafe del Mar has an Infinity Pool with a stunning view of the Mediterranean Sea

  1. Popeye Village

Because of the Medieval look Malta has, the island is often used as the backdrop for TV series and movies. Game of Thrones, Murder on the Orient Express, Assassin’s Creed, Asterix et Obelix: Au service de Sa Majeste, The Da Vinci Code and Troy are just a few of the many movies shot on Malta.

 

But, did you know there was one movie shot in 1980 that build a complete film set and left it on Malta as a tourist attraction? Popeye Village, named after the life action movie Popeye, is a colourful village that was used as a film set almost 30 years ago, and is now used as a small theme park. Located on a cliff, it makes for pretty cool photos.

Popeye Village on Malta is where the Popeye movie was filmed

#Explorers Tip: Take your earplugs with you when visiting Popeye Village. You will find a small beach with beds for an amazing daytime nap, but the music is so loud my ears really hurt. Luckily for me, the friend I was with brought earplugs so I could still nap in peace.

 

  1. Golden Bay

Good to know is that almost the whole west side of the island consists of cliffs, while on the east side it is easier to access the water. Therefore, the ports are on the east side. That being said, one of the most beautiful beaches of the island is in fact located on the west side. This is Golden Bay. As the name gives away, the colour of the sand looks almost golden.

Golden Bay on Malta is the most beautiful beach of Malta. The azure blue water and golden sand make for a pretty picture.

The only downside to this beach -beside it being away from the hotel you’re probably staying at in Bugibba, St Julians or Sliema- is that it is often crowded by other tourists.

Want to see another side of Golden Bay? Go horse riding with Golden Bay Horse Riding! You can do a 90-minute sunset ride, or a 60-minute standard ride through the nature. You’ll see Golden Bay from above and feel like a 16thcentury knight while doing it.

Golden Bay Horse Riding on Malta. Picture owned by Hashtag Explorers

 

  1. Dingli Cliffs

Last but not least, my final hotspot on Malta are the Dingli Cliffs. It is one of the only places I haven’t been to myself. However, always when I see pictures from my Maltese friends on Instagram I regret it. The Dingli Cliffs are pretty remote. But, if you have a car or a spare day during your travels, go to this area on the west coast of Malta to enjoy a spectacular sunset over the horizon. For pictures, check out this blog.

Dingli Cliffs on Malta
Dingli Cliffs in winter

So these are my top 12 recommendations for Malta. Do you have any to add?

 

Do you like islands? Read my blog about How to get to Little Corn Island, Nicaragua!

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Melissa is the founder of Hashtag Explorers. She is a Dutch, chocolate loving, book reading, enthusiastic, and open-minded world traveller. Melissa enjoys her time researching new travel destinations or learning new languages. Her strong desire to experience new cultures and meet new people has led to creating #Explorers. If you cannot find her in The Hague, where she is working as a Marketeer, she is probably exploring the rest of the world, where she is reliving memories from the times she lived in Australia, Argentina, Mexico, Spain, Singapore, and Malta.

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