Before it got a rebrand, Malta was known to the ancient Greeks and Romans as Melita, the island of honey. It's certainly a sweet place to visit, with gorgeous caramel-colored buildings, scores of sun-drenched beaches, dozens of ancient temples, and a church for every day of the year. Whether you're into scuba diving or shopping, museums or nightclubs, you'll find plenty of ways to keep yourself entertained. If you're visiting the island for the first time, these are the 20 best things to do in Malta.
20. Watch a performance at the Chamber of Mysteries
If you've got kids, the Chamber of Mysteries is unmissable. If you haven't got kids, consider it just as mandatory. Tucked away on the site of a former milling factory at 1743 Razzett L–Antik, the show, which has been entertaining the crowds since 2011, is the longest-running theatrical event in Malta. According to guidememalta.com, there are mind-reading stunts, floating objects, dangerous feats, amazing illusions ... everything, in fact, you'd want and expect of a night of first-rate family entertainment.
19. Discover the underwater world at night
Diving by day is one thing. Diving by night is a whole other ballgame. Malta's underwater world comes alive at night, with schools of cuttlefish, squid, octopus, slipper lobsters, shrimps, and conger and moray eels just waiting to be discovered. If you're a first-time diver, you're in luck - Malta has plenty of calm, shallow diving spots that are perfect for newbies looking to build up their confidence. According to airmalta.com, the best places to head for some world-class diving include the P29 in Cirkewwa, the inland sea & tunnel situated in Dwejra, and the Santa Maria caves in the North of Comino.
18. Throw some shapes at Level 22
Malta might be small, but you wouldn't know it from the nightlife. As Trip 101 says, party animals will find no shortage of places to hit the dance floor, with many restaurants and bars turning their space into improvised nightclubs during the weekend. If you want to experience the best of the best, head for Level 22 in St. Julians. Designed by famed Maltese designer Pippa Toledo, it's ultra-stylish, with a slick vibe and stunning views over the town. The music is an eclectic mix of '80s, '90s, electro, and house, with international DJs regularly stopping by to add some flavor of their own.
17. Go on a ghost walk
If you want to learn more about the myths and legends of Malta, and maybe even get to meet some of its ghostly inhabitants while you're at it, why not try a ghost walk? During the walk, you'll visit some of the most historic parts of the island. A guide will accompany you to give you the low down on the buried secrets and forgotten stories of its past. Even if you believe in ghosts about as much as you believe in fairies, it's still a thrillingly spooky experience.
16. Sample some wine at Valletta’s premier wine bar
If wine's your bag, Trabuxu is your bar. Tucked away below street level in a 400-year-old stone vaulted cellar, Trabuxu has been a local favorite for years. In winter, it's intimate and cozy; in summer, it's lively and loud, with tourists and locals coming together to make merry in the sun. The wine list is incredible, but the accompanying charcuterie, cheese, chutneys, jams, and fresh crusty bread aren't exactly shoddy either. Just be aware that it's one of the most popular spots in town, so it's best to make a reservation in advance to be on the safe side.
15. Indulge in some traditional Maltese cuisine
If you're going to Malta, it'd be remiss not to try its famous regional specialty, rabbit stew. For obvious reasons, vegetarians are excused, but everyone else should indulge in this flavourful dish of meat, vegetables, and herbs as frequently and repeatedly as often. Pretty much every cafe and restaurant does its own take on the delicacy, but if you want to try the best of the best, head for 1743 Restaurant. The restaurant is over 400 years old, so, as you'd expect, they've mastered the art of rabbit stew (or stuffat tal-fenek, as it's known locally) better than pretty much anyone else in town.
14. Stock up on seafood at the open-air market in Marsaxlokk
Marsaxlokk is a popular spot with both locals and tourists alike. A quaint fishing village on the southeastern side of the island, it's famous for its open-air market, which sees hundreds of seafood lovers come from miles around to stock up on the freshest finds of the day. Along with the market, the village is home to a fine selection of top-notch fish restaurants, along with some peaceful hiking trails and some pretty, secluded spots for bathing.
13. Take a day trip to Gozo
As Blogger at Large says, you can't go all the way to Malta without setting foot on its sister island of Gozo. Set just 20 minutes from the main island, it's wonderfully tranquil and serene, with plenty of attractions and activities to keep you entertained. If you're up for some adventure, head for the Blue Hole in Dwerja, a limestone sinkhole measuring about ten meters wide and five meters across that's famous with the scuba diving crowd. It's also perfect for swimming, freediving, and snorkeling.
12. Pick up some souvenirs at Ta’ Qali Crafts Village
If you're looking to pick up some mementos of your visit, be sure to pay a visit to Ta’ Qali Crafts Village. Located in a former RAF wartime airfield, it's dedicated to all things crafty, with ceramics and leather goods competing for attention alongside ornamental glass pieces and artwork. As well as being the perfect place to browse for souvenirs, it also offers visitors the chance to watch local craftspeople at work and discover more about the processes and techniques behind the products.
11. Check out the paintings at St John’s Co-Cathedral
For a small island, Malta boasts an almost unreasonable amount of breathtaking buildings. One of the most glorious is St John’s Co-Cathedral, a baroque wonder that's been delighting art and architecture admirers since the 16th century. The exterior is impressive enough, but the interior, with its lavish details and its Caravaggio paintings, is awe-inspiring. While you're there, be sure to bring your eyes down from the soaring ceiling to the patchwork floor of marble tomb slabs.
10. Soak up the sun at Malta's beaches
Malta enjoys more hours of sunshine than any other European country. So why waste it? The island's beaches are the perfect place to soak up some rays, cool off in the refreshing waters, and try out some snorkeling or diving. Some beaches are rocky, some are sandy, but they all have their own unique charm. Although discovering your personal favorite is all part of the fun, some of the most popular beaches to check out include Sliema, Ramla L-Hamra, Paradise Bay, Mellieha Bay, Golden Bay, and Armier Bay.
9. Experience the splendor of the Grand Master’s Palace
The Grand Master’s Palace was established in the 16th century and developed over time by the Grand Masters of the Knights of St. John to serve as their official residence. During the period of British rule, it served as the Governor's Palace and later as the seat of Malta's first parliament. Today, it's the official seat of the Office of the President of Malta and a must-visit for history buffs. Not all of its rooms are open to the public, but those that are - which include the State Apartments with their collection of Islamic and Ottoman artifacts - are fascinating.
8. Visit Għar Dalam Cave & Museum
The reason to head to Birżebbuġa is to see the Għar Dalam Cave & Museum. Stretching over 145m in length, the cave has turned up huge quantities of fossils bones and Neanderthal teeth over the years, while its deepest recesses, which date back over 500,000 years, have yielded up the remains of birds, hippopotamuses, mirco-mammals, and dwarf elephants, along with pottery and other artifacts from the very earliest humans to inhabit the island. At the entrance to the cave is a museum with an exhibition hall that chronicles the history of the cave's formation. There are also huge display cases featuring the thousands of fossils that have been recovered, along with a pathway that leads through the gardens at the mouth of the cave into the outer reaches of the cavern.
7. Explore the Blue Grotto
Located near the inlet of Wied iz-Zurrieq near the town of Qrendi is a series of sea caves that demand to be explored. The biggest is Blue Grotto, a stunning natural wonder that reflects the kaleidoscopic colors of the underwater flora. The scenery surrounding the caves is just as wonderful as the grottos themselves, so be sure to factor in enough time to explore its cliffs thoroughly.
6. Check out the view at the Upper Barrakka Gardens
Summer in Malta can get pretty crowded. If the heat and the crowds are starting to wear on your nerves, beat a retreat to the Upper Barrakka Gardens in Valletta. Offering spectacular views over the Three Cities and Grand Harbor, its setting is hard to fault. The gardens with their tropical blooms, trickling fountains, and collections of statues and monuments aren't exactly disappointing either. After you've enjoyed soaking up the views and the serene atmosphere, pop by its sister garden, the Lower Barrakka Gardens - the views aren't quite so spectacular, but the gardens are equally lovely.
5. Take a tour of Malta's museums
Malta might have beautiful scenery, but it's got plenty of indoor attractions as well. Its range of museums is outstanding, offering history buffs plenty of opportunities to indulge their passion. Some of the key venues not to be messed include the Domus Romana at Rabat a Roman villa, the museum at Mdina Cathedral, the Maritime Museum at Birgu, and the Fortress Builders Fortifications Interpretation Centre in Valletta.
4. Explore Valletta
Valletta was established in 1565 by the Knights of St John. Once a refuge for soldiers, it's now a bright, lively city that's dripping with history. Its Baroque architecture is extraordinary, as are its fortified city walls with their astonishing views over the sea, its amazing collection of historic buildings, its trendy shops and restaurants, and it's world-class nightlife. Guided tours are available for those who want to learn more about the sights and attractions you pass by, but it's easy enough to navigate independently if you prefer.
3. Explore the Three Cities
The Three Cities of Vittoriosa, Senglea, and Cospicua offer an intriguing insight into Malta and its history. Known as the cradle of Maltese culture, they've been habituated since Phoenician times, later serving as the first home to the Knights of St. John. Their churches, forts, and bastions pre-date even those in Valletta, offering visitors an intriguing glimpse into the ancient history of the island. There's never a bad time to visit, but if you're around in Easter, be sure to mark your calendar to join in the Easter festivities, in which statues of the "Risen Christ" are paraded through the streets.
2. Discover Malta's temples
Some of Malta's temples pre-date even the Egyptian Pyramids in Egypt, making them an absolutely unmissable experience for any visitor to the island. In total, there are seven megalithic temples scattered around Malta and its sister island of Gozo, all of which offer their own unique appeal. The biggest is the Tarxien Temple, which has recently been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Most of the main temples are easy enough to reach by public transport, but before you head out, be sure to visit the temples interpretation center at Hagar Qim to get the low down on their history and significance to the island.
1. Explore the ancient city of Mdina
Mdina is the ancient capital of Malta. During the medieval period and before the arrival of the Knights of the Order of St John, it served as headquarters to the administration and the government. It was nicknamed “Citta Notabile”, the noble city. When the knights arrived, they felt they'd prefer to live in sight of their ships. Valletta got promoted, Mdina got relegated, and the rest is, quite literally, history. But while it may have lost its status, it's lost none of its beauty. Dating back over 4000 years, its narrow streets and historic buildings are loaded with timeless charm. Explore the winding streets, visit museums, embrace its delightful cafe culture, stroll around its gardens.. the opportunities are boundless.
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Written by Liz Flynn
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