Malta is a country of stunning beauty, with its yellow-stone buildings that glow in the sun, its green farms that contrast with the dry climate, and its blue ocean that surrounds the islands. I visited in October, when the beaches were quiet and serene, and the water was still warm enough for swimming. I only had 24 hours to explore Malta, but thanks to my guide Alvaro from Guatemala, I got to see and learn a lot about this fascinating country. He showed me the main attractions and some hidden gems that I would never forget. Here are some tips on how to make the best of your time in Malta:
1. Visit a church
Malta has a church for every day of the year – 365 in total! So you can easily spend a whole day admiring the churches in Malta if you want to. Some of them are free to enter, while others, like the golden St. John’s Co-Cathedral, charge a fee.
The churches in Europe have always been a way of showing off the wealth of a region. The Catholic Church in Malta was very rich, partly because of the status given to the rich people who donated a lot of money to make them beautiful and well-maintained. That’s why the churches in Malta, big and small, are very impressive.
2. Explore one of Europe’s colossal domes
The dome of Mosta is one of the biggest in Europe. It has a remarkable history: during World War II, a bomb pierced the roof and landed inside the dome, where about 300 people were praying. But the bomb did not go off, and the dome and the people were spared.
3. Immerse yourself in the historic atmosphere of Mdina
Mdina was once the capital of Malta, and it has old buildings that were protected by a moat and a drawbridge. You can learn about the past in the museums inside the ancient city, and enjoy the views of the island and the modern capital, Valletta, from some of the restaurants.
4. Try the local cuisine of Malta
Alvaro told me that rabbit was the most typical dish of Malta. If you are a fan of rabbit or if you want to try it for the first time, Malta is a great place for that.
I didn’t have a chance to taste it myself, but according to tripadvisor, the best place to have it is Charlie’s Inn.
5. Enjoy a boat tour of the 3 ancient cities
You can take a punt ride around the three old harbor towns, starting from Birgu, for only €10 and share it with a few other passengers. It’s a great way to see them from the sea (Get it?) on a nice day, especially if you don’t have time to visit each city separately. My boat guide was awesome. We somehow talked about Taiwan and found out that we both had spent a lot of time there. The world is really small!
6. Travel around by hopping on and off the bus
One thing that surprised me about Malta is how cheap it can be. You can get a bus ticket for the whole day for only €1.50! You can easily reach almost any place you want to see by bus.
7. Enjoy the local wine of Malta
Malta has a long history of wine making that goes back over two thousand years! The native varieties are Gellewza (red) and Ghirgentina (white). If you are there during the Qormi Wine Festival in September, you can enjoy the local wine.
8. Marvel at an old place of pagan rituals
Many people who travel to Europe know about the ancient sites of Stonehenge and the Acropolis, but have you heard of Hagar Qim? This place also has ruins that date back to before Christ.
The temples of Hagar Qim and Mnajdra are examples of megalithic architecture from 3000 BC, making them some of the oldest prehistoric buildings in the world.
9. Don’t miss the museum’s 4-D video experience
The museum of Hagar Qim and Mnajdra Temples has information on the clever way the temples were constructed, as well as a 7-minute 4-D video for those who like to watch rather than read. I asked my guide eagerly to include it in our itinerary, and I’m happy I did, because it was so awesome.
10. Enjoy a stylish villa accommodation
You can find amazing deals on apartments or villas in Malta. Look at Airbnb or HouseTrip for some budget-friendly choices.
11. Visit Gozo
Hop on the bus to the ferry terminal and travel to Gozo for less than €5 round trip. Gozo is more countryside, with only 10% of Malta’s island population. The ferry is quick and runs 24/7. Check the timetable, which varies by season, for a better sense of the schedule.
12. Explore the Blue Grotto
I only had time to drive up to it and admire the view, but the Blue Grotto is a popular place for kayaking or boating.
13. Explore the quarry
I told my guide that I liked the uniform yellow limestone that seemed to build every structure in town. So he asked our driver to stop at the island quarry so I could see how the bricks were being mined.
Maybe being the daughter of a geophysicist who always talked about rock formations on our family trips gave me that interest in rocks, but hey, I thought it was cool!
14. Watch a sunrise
I don’t know about you, but even if I’m not doing anything else worthwhile that day, seeing a sunrise is still an achievement. The vivid pinks of it on Gozo were truly amazing.
15. Witness a sunset
While we’re at it, seeing the day end and bidding farewell to the sun is also quite a marvelous experience. I always feel more relaxed, more inspired, and feel a greater gratitude for the nature around me when I have the opportunity to watch the sun dip below the horizon.
16. Go to the fishing port and see the awesome boats
The boats in the fisherman’s harbor have wooden eyes on the front and cool names like “Jesus.”
17. Stroll along random streets in one of the towns and appreciate the architecture
Wandering around without a specific goal or direction can be a great way to discover a place. Malta is full of history and you can find it everywhere you go. Just look at the signs on the walls and you might stumble upon something amazing. You will also see some beautiful churches along the way, as there are plenty of them on the island.
18. Have a coffee with cream
19. Relax on the beach
They are few and far between, but the ones that exist have cozy water and golden sand.
20. Explore Comino’s Blue Lagoon
This was something I missed out on, but the ferry trip to this spot gives you wonderful views and a laid-back day on hot rocks. Be aware of the crowds, though!
21. Enjoy a football match and get ready for a surprise
If you are lucky enough to be in Malta and the football (soccer) team is playing versus Italy or England, you might be stunned to see the crowds backing the visitor team! I don’t know any, or rather none whatsoever, places where this takes place.
22. Try scuba diving
I regret not having the chance to go scuba diving in Malta. It is a frequent place for this hobby, however, and something I would definitely do if I visited Malta again in the future.
23. Hire a personal driver
If you want to enjoy most of the above in an equally short time, it’s much easier to do with a driver and guide than going solo. Although I’m not a big fan of group tours, a private tour with a guide is a really wonderful way to learn about a place, allowing you to ask questions directly and see all the things that you, personally, are curious about. You might be surprised how reasonable it can be in Malta!
24. Have fun and experience the nightlife
Malta is also known for its vibrant and fun atmosphere, with many pubs, clubs, restaurants, and events to enjoy. You can have a blast in St Julian’s or Sliema, join a boat party, or do a Game of Thrones tour. You can also sample the local food and wine, which are influenced by Mediterranean and Arabic cuisines.
To wrap up, Malta is the kind of place where you don’t need a lot of time to have a good time. Whether you try most of these suggestions or just a few, you’re sure to sense the same thing I did – the warmth – of both the place and the amazing people.