Malta – An island state in the south of Europe
Less than 100 kilometres from the Italian island of Sicily lies the state with the fifth highest population density: Malta. The Republic consists of seven islands, three of which are inhabited: Malta, Gozo, and Comino. The main island, i.e. named after the country itself, which can sometimes be confusing, is by far the largest island in the archipelago, covering 246 square kilometres. Gozo has about 67 square kilometres, while Comino has only three square kilometres. The uninhabited islands are called Cominotto, Filfla, St. Paul’s Island, and Fungus Rock. 80% of Malta’s 500,000 inhabitants live in the metropolitan area of Valletta, the country’s capital.
The country is a super interesting mix of Italian, British, and Arabic influences. This can be seen in the language, the culture, and also in tangible things like the architecture. Especially I, as half Sicilian see strong parallels to my second home. Maybe that’s why I feel so comfortable there and even the intense heat has hardly affected me. But you should definitely keep that in mind when planning and preparing your trip and then on site.
There is an incredible amount to see in Malta. Although the country is so small, you can spend a week here and you will still not have seen everything that Malta has to offer. The great thing is that they are very different things, so there is something for everyone: whether you are more into city trips or nature, art or history, beach potatoes or fully active with cool outdoor activities… There really is something for everyone in Malta.
So let’s get started right away with my 14 tips for sightseeing in Malta:
Valletta is the capital of Malta and the place to be if you want to make your way through the urban jungle. There are museums, cafés, parks and lots of streets to stroll along.
My personal favorite in Valletta is the Upper Barrakka Gardens. This is a park with panoramic views of the water and the Grand Harbour. Every day at 12 o’clock and 16 o’clock a salute is fired from one of the oldest still used cannons in the world. With the almost 500 years old so-called Saluting Battery, a little history comes to life. In the past, these cannons protected the harbor. Later they were used for salute shots on anniversaries or holidays. Since the beginning of the 19th century, they were used to indicate the exact time. Every day at noon the salute was fired and the sailors could adjust their chronographs accordingly.
Apart from that, I simply enjoyed walking through the streets, many of which are beautifully decorated, have colourful doors and balconies and are simply eerily photogenic. If you want to immerse yourself in history a little, you can also visit some of the houses. For example, I visited Casa Rocca Piccola, a still inhabited 16th century palace of a Maltese noble family. That was both exciting and impressive.
My tip: Apart from that I can strongly recommend you to get out of bed at least once very early and be at the Waterfront in Sliema at sunrise. It is simply dreamlike how quiet Valletta lies there in the morning hours.
The three cities of Birgu (or Vittoriosa), Senglea, and Cospicua in Malta are commonly known as The Three Cities. The oldest of the three is Birgu, which was founded before the Middle Ages. The other two cities, Senglea and Cospicua, were both founded in the 16th and 17th centuries by the Order of Saint John. The Three Cities are surrounded by the Cottonera Line and several other fortifications.
I’ve been to the Three Cities twice:
The first time with a tour. I drove through the streets with Rolling Geeks in an open electric car. That was really cool and a unique way to explore the Three Cities!
The second time I came back alone and took some photos in the insanely photogenic old town of Vittoriosa.
My tip: For only 2€ you can take the boat from Vittoriosa to Valletta. This is not only cheap and practical, but also gives you a new perspective on the cities and the harbor. You can also park relatively easily at the Three Cities. So if you have a rental car, you can simply park it there and spend the rest of the day walking and boating. This works out really well and also saves nerves when looking for a parking space.
Marsaxlokk is a fishing village in the south of Malta. The village is cute and you can take really nice pictures from the right end of the beach promenade. Postcard motif guaranteed!
You will also find the typical colourful doors again, in front of which you can take really nice photos.
Along the promenade you can enjoy a cool down in one of the many restaurants. Directly below the church on the promenade, there is also a regular market. This is the opportunity to stock up on souvenirs from Malta!
St. Peter’s Pool
The St. Peter’s Pool is the most famous natural pool in Malta. It owes this fame to its water: it is very clear and radiant turquoise blue. I could even see a lot of fish swimming in the water. Especially snorkelers, will find their Malta paradise here. If you are more of a beach potato and prefer to bury your feet in the sand, I have a few tips for you below!
By the way, you can combine a trip to Marsaxlokk and to St. Peter’s Pool wonderfully. From the beach promenade in Marsaxlokk, boats also go to St. Peter’s Pool, so you don’t even have to drive there by car. The path is partly a little narrow and there are many potholes. If that doesn’t scare you off, you can also go there directly: It’s a pretty big parking lot two minutes’ walk from St. Peter’s Pool.
The Blue Grotto for me was one of the must-see lakes in Malta par excellence. For 8 euros, you can go in with a boat. Unfortunately, the boats didn’t run due to bad weather when I was in Malta in 2019. So I was looking forward to catching up this time. But I have to admit that my expectations were a bit disappointed. Maybe it was because of the time of day. Unfortunately, there was no light that made the grotto glow a nice blue. In any case, the grotto was simply black and dark.
My tip: Take pictures from above. There is a viewpoint above the Blue Grotto from which you can take nice photos. I would save the 8 Euros next time… Instead you can invest in a cool kayak tour, for example with MC Adventure.
Hagar Qim-Temple Complex
Hagar Quim is one of the five large temple complexes in Malta. The megalithic temples are over 3000 years old and were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. Since 2009 Hagar Quim is covered by a tent to protect it from the weather. If you are interested in temples and ancient history, Hagar Qim is definitely a must-see. Otherwise, you can simply walk the hiking trail that leads around the temple complex.
The Dingli cliffs are a cliff formation on the coast overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. They tower up to 253 metres high – and are thus the highest point of the Maltese islands.
Above the Dingli cliffs there is a chapel and a dome-shaped complex. This is a former Royal Air Force radar station, which is now used by air traffic control.
My tip: Do not drive directly to the cliffs, but to the Dingli Cliffs Viewpoint. From there, you have a great view over the cliffs. And if you like hiking, you can do a mega beautiful hike right at the edge of the cliffs. Between Migra I-Ferha (you can park there) and Il-Blata tal-Melh there are small trails. At sunrise, the light is especially beautiful and the heat is not so strong anymore. But be careful and be back in the car before dark!
Ghar Dalam Cave
Għar Dalam is Maltese (which by the way, is a mixture of Italian and Arabic) and is called Cave of Darkness. It is a naturally formed cavity under the earth and it is located in the southeast of Malta. The cave is up to 18 meters wide, up to 8 meters high and leads about 145 meters into the rocks. Here you can see fossils as well as the cave itself.
Have you ever visited catacombs? I have been to Palermo and Rome in such underground tombs, but those in Malta seemed to be much larger. There are several catacombs in Malta, but I looked at the one in Rabat, which is the largest system of tombs in the archipelago at 1.5 square kilometers: The St. Paul’s Catacombs, which originated around 350.
The entrances above ground looks a bit like small guardhouses. There are 30 of them, but not all of them are accessible. There are steps leading down to the depths. While the part above ground always looks the same, the underground rooms differ greatly in their dimensions, height, and the type of graves. But you can see these differences by means of a display board, so that you always know what is coming up. By the way, every catacomb has a panic button in case of emergency.
My tip: After you have been in the catacombs, I recommend a walk through the sweet old town of Rabat. Here, sweet streets and a beautiful church await you. If you walk towards Mdina (next point), you should not miss the freshly baked pastizzi in Is-Serkin. Pastizzi are typical Maltese dumplings filled with either spinach or ricotta. They are a bit greasy but super delicious. Besides, they only cost around 50 cents.
Mdina was the capital of Malta until 1571 and looks back on a history of about 3000 years. The city was already founded in the Bronze Age. In the past, it was not only the geographical but also the cultural centre of the island. Mdina owes its nickname, Silent CIty, to the fact that the citizens did not want to live here anymore after Valletta became the new capital. So peace and quiet returned to the bustle of Mdina, even though the noble families and clergymen still stayed there. Today the city has only about 200 inhabitants. These may still drive into the old town by car, but for everyone else, this is not allowed.
So you can enjoy this photogenic old town for the most part without cars. The alleys are ideal for strolling and the many colorful doors invite you to take beautiful photos.
My tip: Come as early as possible to avoid the masses. After your tour, I recommend the chocolate cake at the Fontanella: it is said to be the best chocolate cake in Malta and you can treat yourself to it on the city wall with a view of the plain.
Ghajn Tuffieha Viewpoint
The Ghajn Tuffieha Viewpoint is only accessible by hiking trails. It is located between Riviera Bay and Karraba Bay. On the right side is also Golden Bay. Between these three bays hiking trails lead over breathtaking cliffs to the Ghajn Tuffieha Viewpoint to the Clay Cliffs. Especially at sunset, this scenery offers great photo motives and just a dreamlike atmosphere to end the day. By the way, you can park your car wonderfully here: Parkplatz zwischen Golden Bay and Riviera Bay. Then I would go to Ghajn Tuffieha Tower. From there you can either go down to Golden Bay, back again and to Riviera Bay or you can walk along the hiking trails to the cliffs.
My tip: beach potatoes get their money’s worth here as well as hikers. So why not combine both? Spend the day at the beach and start walking approximately two hours before sunset in order to experience the cliffs in the brilliant light. But attention! You should plan enough time to get back to the car. After dusk you can still do gymnastics in the cliffs, which can be very dangerous!
Mellieha is a small town in the north of the main island Malta. You definitely have to pass through there if you want to go to Gozo. Although Mellieha is really small, there is a lot to discover here:
The parish church Mellieħa is built in baroque style with traditional Maltese stone and dates from the 19th century. The church has five bells that were brought to Malta from Milan. The main attraction are the five paintings of the famous Maltese artist Giuseppe Calì. I personally find them impressive, especially from the outside.
The Red Tower is actually called St. Agatha’s Tower. It watches over the bay from Mellieħa. It was built as a communication post on the coast to keep in touch with the towers on Gozo. It could hold 30 soldiers. It offers a breathtaking view to Gozo on one side and over Mellieha Bay on the other.
Then there is also the White Tower, which was built in 1658. It is also a small watchtower overlooking the bay of Armier. It is one of 13 watchtowers built under the rule of Grand Master Martin de Redin to defend the Maltese coast. In 2009, it was handed over to the local council as part of the cultural heritage of the region.
Popeye Village is located on the coast near Mellieha and is a small village built for the Popeye movie with Robin Williams in the 80s. The film set was not demolished after the end of the filming but was kept as a tourist attraction. Here different reenactments of actors are waiting. Beach facilities in Anchor Bay, a cinema, and restaurant. There is an entrance fee. If you just want to see the village, you can do so from the other side of the bay. There you will find one of the most famous photo spots on the island.
Coral Beach & Devil’s Hole
The last sight in Malta that I would like to recommend is the Coral Beach with the so-called Devil’s Hole. For this, you have to go to the northernmost tip of the main island. Passing several, partly very crowded sandy beaches, after some time you will arrive at the Coral Beach. The rocky beach with a ladder to get into the water was like empty at least, when I was there. The water was crystal clear. If you walk over the rocky lunar landscape further past Coral Beach, you soon will reach Devil’s Hole – a natural pool into which the sea water flows through a tunnel. It goes down quite far, but adventurous people still plunge into the depths. Personally, I am not the best swimmer and would never have dared to do that and I don’t want to encourage it. It is also simply beautiful to look at and in this spectacular scenery you can sizzle a little on the rocks.