Malta is a country, made up of five islands, that sits between Sicily and North Africa. It has a fascinating (and turbulent) history because of its strategic position. The five islands are Malta, Gozo, Comino and the uninhabited Kemmunett (Comminotto) and Filfla.
Malta is VERY old! Apparently there are archaeological remains dating from about 5000 BC. During its history Malta has been ruled by the Phoenicians, Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Normans, French, British and more.
We had been trying to visit Malta over Easter for a couple of years but unfortunately Coronavirus got in the way. As Italy had imposed a quarantine for UK arrivals we had the opportunity to spend a week in Malta in June 2021. We had the most glorious weather with 30 – 35 degrees, sunshine and blue skies – not a cloud in sight all week!
It’s worth noting that whilst Malta is a fairly small country, its public transport system is limited to just buses. I highly recommend hiring a car or a motorbike/scooter to be able to easily explore on your own. In terms of taxis, Malta doesn’t have Uber but it does have Bolt, as well as standard taxis.
Here’s the best things to do in Malta
Visit the Mdina
Visiting the Mdina was definitely a highlight of Malta for me! Game of Thrones fans may recognise the Mdina Gate in episode 3 of series 1 where Lady Stark rides into Kings Landing, with Ser Rodrik Cassel, through this very gate.
Mdina is actually a fortified city, which sits on a hilltop and has impressive views over Malta – from certain vantage points. It was actually the capital city until 1530 when the Knights of Malta arrived and is known as the ‘Silent City’. You can actually visit the Knights of Malta Experience in Mdina to learn more about this important era in Maltese history.
It has buildings dating back centuries and an eclectic mix of architecture. Wander around the narrow streets and take in the sights, or go on a horse-drawn carriage tour. It’s worth noting that on Sundays many restaurants and attractions are closed.
Swim at St Peter’s Pool
This is definitely one of the best swimming spots in Malta! It’s located in the south of the country near the pretty fishing village of Marsaxlokk. It’s a natural swimming pool and a great place to jump – if jumping or diving into the sea is your thing!
Note that there is no sand – just rock – and access to it is down a bit of a cliff. There is a very basic cafe that sells drinks and sandwiches so bring food and drink with you if you want anything else. As with most of Malta, it’s best to have your own transport as there is no public transport that will take you here. You can call a taxi though to drop you off and pick you up at the cafe.
Visit the fishing village of Marsaxlokk
If you’re heading for a swim at St Peter’s Pool, be sure to stop in the charming traditional fishing village of Marsaxlokk – or vice versa.
There are plenty of restaurants (specialising in seafood), facing the harbour, where you can enjoy lunch or dinner whilst watching the colourful fishing boats bob up and down. If you’re going in Summer, they unfortunately have a lot of flies!
On Sundays there is a fish market and the locals come to buy their fish, direct from the fisherman. Apparently this is a very busy day for restaurants so probably best to book in advance.
Explore Valletta, the capital
Valletta is the capital of Malta and the smallest capital city in Europe. It’s a walled city dating back to the 1500s and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. In 2018 it was the European Capital of Culture. It’s not all historical buildings though, with the Parliament of Malta only having being constructed in 2011 – 2015.
There are loads of bars and restaurants in Valletta and many activities to do – such as shopping, visiting museums, taking in the views from the Upper Barrakka Gardens, which was built by the Knights of Malta, checking out filming locations and taking a Grand Harbour Tour.
Take a dghajsa from Valletta to Birgu
Whilst you’re in Valletta, I highly recommend taking a dghajsa (a traditional six-seater boat) across to the island of Birgu. It takes less than 10 minutes and costs €2 per person – absolute bargain!
Birgu has some restaurants along the water, facing the marina, as well as a little town which you can explore. Its main attraction though is Fort St Angelo, which is the National War Museum and over 800 years old. Make sure you check the opening days and times before you visit. We didn’t and it sadly wasn’t open that day!
Swim at the Blue Lagoon
I have swum in some of the most beautiful beaches in Italy but the Blue Lagoon in the small island of Comino really is a stunner! It’s pretty crowded though and there aren’t many free places to sit. We paid €30 for two sun loungers and an umbrella, and were practically on top of the people next to us… still, it’s worth it to swim in those colors!
There are a few ways to get to Comino, depending on where you’re staying in Malta. As we were in Sliema, we had lots of options of day trips where lunch was included or just a boat trip to take you there. We chose the powerboat, which I would definitely not recommend if you’re not a thrill seeker – I hated it! It took us about 30 minutes to get to the Blue Lagoon and they stopped off first to show us a couple of grottoes nearby.
There are plenty of food stalls in Comino, however they really only sell fast food and cocktails so bring your own food if you’re not keen on Hamburgers etc.
Have lunch or dinner at St Julian’s
St Julian’s is actually a small town next to Sliema and has a long promenade running from Balluta Bay to Spinola Bay, which is very pretty. There are lots of restaurants and bars all along the promenade, however for a meal with a view, I’d recommend eating in Spinola Bay.
We had lunch at San Giuliano, which had stunning views of Spinola Bay and the boats. It’s fairly expensive but the food was great, the views were gorgeous and the service was really good. There are at least 3 or 4 restaurants nearby or next door so a few to choose from which will have the same – or similar – views.
Swim in Balluta Bay
We were very lucky to be staying in the absolutely gorgeous private townhouse, Aster House, just a 5 min walk from Balluta Bay. It’s a great swimming spot with fabulous views and close to cafes and restaurants. It’s a free beach so no expensive sun loungers! There’s also the largest fresh water swimming pool around the corner – part of which you can see from the beach. You can also walk from Balluta Bay to Spinola Bay, all along the coast, in around 15 minutes or so.
Check out Game of Thrones locations
If you’re a Game of Thrones fan you will love Malta! There are at least 11 filming locations you can explore – two of which are in Mdina. We weren’t necessarily seeking them out, however we did actually see three – one of which was the San Anton Palace and Gardens opposite our hotel in Attard.
If you want to see them all, here’s a complete guide to the Game of Thrones locations in Malta.
We loved our trip to Malta and as we didn’t get to fit in Gozo, we definitely want to return. As it’s a fairly small country, it’s quite easy to see a lot – as long as you have transport!