Malta What to See: 20 things not to be missed

This is meant to be a short guide on what to see in Malta and what to do on the island. I personally have been visiting this island regularly for more than three years and have literally fallen in love with its spirit. Malta is a sort of mix between Sicily and the Greek Islands but with a charm all its own. The most striking thing when you arrive on the island is to have a mixture of ‘flavours’. From entertainment for the youngest to modern and ancient art, to little-known but incredibly fascinating archaeology. On top of all this we find wild and vibrant nature, with colours that fill our eyes and hearts. In short, visiting Malta is something you really must do in your life!

Island of Malta

The first time I arrived on the island of Malta I have to say that I got a shock and not the best one. The area around the airport is particularly ugly and you feel like you have arrived in one of those places in the Middle East that are constantly being hit by war. I wondered where I had got to!
Then, the car in a few kilometres reached the coast and there, well there I was literally captivated by this place, magical and strange at the same time. Yes, because the island of Malta is an island of strong contrasts. It is a place where the Arabs, the British, the Italians and Christianity have come together, creating something that initially sounds strange but then makes you feel good and makes you fall in love.

The Maltese state is very small, covering an area of 246 square kilometres and consists of three main islands: Malta, Gozo and Comino. The island of Malta is 80 km from the Sicilian coast with which it shares a wonderful sea.

Malta what to see

There is no shortage of places of interest in Malta. Although the island is small, it is literally overflowing with places to see and things to do. Dall’arte al divertimento notturno, dallo sport, alla natura passando per siti Unesco di incredibile e rara bellezza.

What to do in Malta

Valletta with its sumptuous Cathedral and two famous paintings by Caravaggio. The mysterious Megalithic Temples of a vanished people about whom practically nothing is known. The magical Hypogeum, an underground temple carved into the rock, the only example of a prehistoric underground temple in the world. In this page I recommend the 20 things to see and do in Malta during a weekend or longer holiday.

1. What to see in Malta: Valletta and its historic centre

Valletta is the current capital of Malta. When you arrive, the thing that immediately strikes you are the huge fortified walls that encircle the city overlooking the sea. Entering through those doors is always a thrill because immediately afterwards a beautiful combination of ancient and modern awaits us, given by the government building and the adjacent Roman Theatre. Here, 7000 years of history come together, making the old town one of the UNESCO heritage sites as well as the set of numerous films including Assasin’s Creed.

Valletta seen from the 3 cities
Malta historical centre – Valletta seen from the 3 cities

The fortress city owes its name to the Grand Master of the Order of St. John, Jean Parisot de la Valette. The centre is now a rich bustle of people and cultures, enriched by shops and cafés where you can stop and admire the city’s colours. As you get lost in the alleys of the city, look up and notice the traditional multi-coloured windows with an Arabian charm.

If you are wondering what to visit in Malta and you are an art lover, a must stop is St Johne’s Cathedral. Not only for its incredible frescoes or gilded wooden inlays. Not even for its exuberant interior of clear Baroque origin, as opulent as only Christian works of the time can be. Rather for the two incredible works by Caravaggio: The Beheading of Saint John and Saint Jerome Writing. Two works of such strong beauty that you will lose all sense of time.

Also worth a visit are the Upper Baracca Gardens from where you can see a view of the harbour from above and witness the changing of the guard in Maltese style, complete with cannon fire!

Valletta - Parliament of Malta
Valletta – Parliament of Malta

2. Palace of the Grand Master in Malta

Its construction dates back to 1571 and it is certainly one of the most fascinating buildings to visit when visiting Valletta. This building represents the most powerful place in Christian Malta. For more than three centuries, its rooms housed the seat of the Grand Master of the Knights of St. John, one of the most important orders of knighthood in Europe. Today it is the residence of the President of the Republic and the seat of Parliament. Worth seeing are the Council Chamber, the armoury where you will find over five thousand weapons and, of course, the original armour of the man who gave his name to the city, Grand Master Jean De La Valette.

3. Malta to see – La M’dina di Malta

Mdina is the ancient capital of Malta. It is located right in the centre of the island on a hill overlooking the land. The small town, also completely fortified, is a precious little jewel of rare beauty. Everything is so perfectly maintained that it almost looks fake. A 4000-year-old place where Baroque, Middle Ages, Christianity and the Arab world meet.

The town is almost completely uninhabited with only 400 inhabitants, which perhaps makes it such an attractive place to visit. Rich aristocratic palaces such as Palazzo Falson, which not only has a museum full of treasures inside but also works by Van Dyck. Another place not to be missed is St Paul’s Cathedral built in 1600. My advice, however, is to go on a day when there are few people, get lost in the narrow streets of the centre and look at every single detail, aim at the views, photograph the colourful doors that break through the yellow tuff.

4. Rabat in Malta

Rabat in Malta should not be confused with Rabat in Gozo also known as Victoria, the ‘capital of Gozo’. This town is the twin of M’dina and is located on the hill opposite it. Equal in beauty to M’dina, it is linked to the birth of Christianity in Malta because it was here that the apostle St Paul took refuge after being shipwrecked on the island. Not to be missed are the Catacombs of St Paul and St Agatha and the beautiful Domus Romana dating back to the 1st century BC.

5. Ipogeo di Hal Saflieni in Malta

The Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni (Ħal-Saflieni) is the only underground prehistoric temple in the world. It is located 5km from Valletta in a village called Paola and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site like many other places in Malta. It is a magical and unique place whose construction took place 4000 years before Christ. The temple consists of three underground levels connected by shafts. It was discovered during the construction of a palace and only saw its opening to the public in 1908. Today, to prevent its deterioration, only a very few visitors are allowed to visit it every hour. If you want to see it, you have to book months in advance by going directly to the site and choosing the time and day you hope to find it free. (booking: )

Inside it was found the famous statue of the Sleeping Woman and over 7000 skeletons. Visiting this place is incredible, is particularly impressive when you think that it has been built about 1000 years before Stonehenge.

6. Temples of Tarxien

The temples of Tarscen or Tarxien, to quote the Maltese, are also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. They consist of four megalithic temples that were built in several stages but the oldest one dates back to 3600 BC. They are located a few kilometres from Valletta and are also impressive. Personally, I was amazed by these temples, especially the South Temple, which is the best preserved. Molto interessanti sono anche il Tempio Orientale e il Tempio Centrale, dove si possono ammirare alcune incisioni rupestri davvero impressionanti se si considera l’epoca in cui sono state realizzate.

7. The Blue Grotto in Malta

The Blue Grotto is one of the first places I saw in Malta that made me realise how special this island is. Coming from the city, which seems almost endless, at a certain point the landscape changes completely and you find yourself in the middle of nowhere. You look out from a ravine… and see this spectacle of nature. A huge cave suspended over the sea, a blue that seems almost fake for how beautiful it is. My advice is to first go to the most classic viewpoint (the one from which you see all the photos) and then take a boat ride from the harbour nearby (Blue Grotto Trips Departure Wharf). For a few euros you will enjoy a wonderful show!

malta a gennaio
The Blue Grotto cliff in January – Malta

8. Things to see in Malta – Temples of Mnajdra and Hagar Qim

Not far from the Blue Grotto, there are two of the most beautiful and impressive temples you can find on these islands: Mnajdrae Hagar Qim. They stand on a hill near the village of Qrendi and are the oldest prehistoric temples discovered so far. Their construction dates back to 5,000 years ago or 3600 years before Christ. I recommend a visit to the Temples because they are impressive, plus given where they stand they also have a magnificent view from which you can take a lot of nice pictures! Also interesting is the museum where they explain how they were built and their purpose. In fact, these temples were very complex astronomical calendars. They marked both Equinoxes Solstices and the phases of the moon. If you are wondering what to see in Malta, this is definitely a ‘must do’!

9. Sliema

the City of Sliema (yes I know you can’t tell it’s a separate city) is the tourist centre of the island. It is that place so loved by tourists where you can find shopping streets, restaurants, shopping centres and plenty of hotels where you can sleep. It is located halfway between San Julian and Valletta and is a favourite spot for tourists and expatriates. The nightlife is not as intense as in San Julian, but it is still very interesting. Let’s say you go to Sliema for dinner… and then continue to San Julian for drinks, dancing and fun.

Conspicuous - Malta
Conspicuous – Malta

10. San Julian

San Julian is by far the most touristy place on the island of Malta. The bay is a pleasant place for a view and where you can find plenty of places and restaurants to refresh yourself. Just past the Bay is the elegant marina of Porto Maso Marina, where you can find all kinds of ethnic restaurants. There are also several casinos in the area where one can squander one’s savings. The last part of this town is called Paceville. This is the place for Maltese ‘movida‘! The neighbourhood that never sleeps, where music blares from the various venues. Where young (and old) people can find places to have fun, chat, drink and meet other people.

San Julian Bay
San Julian Bay

11. The three Cities: Vittoriosa, Cospicua and L-isla

The three cities are three tongues of land that stretch out in front of Valletta and are home to three small towns that are real gems: Birgu (Vittoriosa), Bormla (Cospicua) and Senglea (L-isla) is their name in Maltese. These are three little gems worth seeing, my advice is to spend half a day in Valletta, take the boat for just over a euro and arrive by sea at the first of these towns and continue the visit on foot. Apart from the ups and downs, you will be greeted by colourful doors, narrow streets and alleyways typical of this island, and many vantage points from which you can photograph the Valletta harbour and the impossibly blue sea.

Senglea (L-isla) - La Guardiola Gardens
Senglea (L-isla) – La Guardiola Gardens

12. Marsaxlokk & Marsascala

You know those postcards of Malta or those brochures where you see marinas full of colourful boats with a typical Maltese village in the background? This is the view you will find when visiting Marsaxlokk and Marsascala. They are a little off the tourist track in a part of the island that is ‘not so touristy‘ but definitely more real and authentic. These are fishing villages renowned for their typical colourful boats, the luzzi. The peculiarity of these boats is that two eyes are drawn on their bows as a sign of good luck. These are the eyes of Horus, a very special feature that links the island of Malta to ancient Egypt. There are many things you can see around here, including the salt pans, the historic market and many other things. Although, in my very humble opinion, even simply walking around the two countries already makes the visit enjoyable.

13. St Peter’s Pool

Not far from Marsaxlokk is this wonderful natural spring formed by the sea. Hence the name “St Peter’s pool“. Its incredibly clean blue waters attract millions of tourists during the summer months who use this beach to cool off. Unfortunately, it has little shade and there are no ways to protect yourself from the sun, so keep this in mind especially if you have children or elderly people. It is also far from eating areas, again I recommend a light packed lunch perhaps with some Pastizi and ftira, two local streetfoods.

14. Munxar Path

This nature area is located in a little-known part of the island with almost no tourism. Getting there is not easy and it feels for a moment like arriving in cosmic nowhere. You leave your car at a certain point… and continue on foot along this path that leads to the top of this wonderful cliff. From here we can not only admire the sea and the entire south coast of the island, but if we lower our gaze to the sea (you must not suffer from vertigo) you can see some Cart Ruts entering the sea, one of the mysteries shrouding the island of Malta, which I will certainly talk about one day. This place is special because looking at the high white cliffs you might feel as if you were in Cornwall or Dover or even the high cliffs of Ireland.

Munxar Path Cliff - Malta
Munxar Path Cliff – Malta

15. The Blue Lagoon of Comino in Malta

Halfway between Malta and Gozo lies the island of Comino, the third largest of the Maltese archipelago. The island takes its name from the cumin plant (yes, the one used to make curry), it is completely car-free and its inhabitants are very few (not even 10). It is a small tropical paradise, far from the tropics. When you see the words ‘Malta’ on some brochure, it is usually accompanied by a photo of this lagoon, whose beach is the most beautiful and crowded in the entire Mediterranean! ;)
To get there, of course, the only way is to take a ferry, which you will find with regular departures.

Blue Lagoon - Comino - Malta
Blue Lagoon – Comino – Malta

16. The temples of Ggantija in Gozo, Malta

Also on the island of Gozo, temple builders decided to construct a temple that is perhaps the most impressive in terms of the size of its stone blocks: Ggantija. We are in Xaghra, a small village in Gozo, and the 5-metre high blocks tower above anyone who visits these mysterious and beautiful prehistoric remains built around 5000 years ago.

17. Dingli Cliffs, the high cliffs of Malta

A striking location where several films and TV series including Game of Thrones have been filmed, the Dingli Cliffs are magnificent cliffs and the highest part of Malta.
Take a few hours to spend walking in this area because it is truly worth it. Breathtaking landscapes, incredible colours and here and there remnants of over 5000 years of history that have touched this island.

Dingli Cliff - Malta What to see absolutely
Dingli Cliff – Malta What to see absolutely

18. Popeye Village

In the 1980s, the famous actor Robin Williams filmed the movie Popeye here and rebuilt an entire fantasy village for the occasion in Anchor Bay near Mellieha. Once the filming was over, they decided to leave the whole thing and turn it into a playground for children but also enjoyable for us adults. In addition to popcorn, the entrance ticket also includes a boat ride, which I recommend because it allows you to take a tour of the bay and see the village from the sea. In the summer months, the beach is equipped and there are water games for young and old in the water.

19. Mosta

The village of Mosta is worth a visit to see the Rotunda of Santa Maria Assunta. The church was inspired by the Pantheon in Rome, and is famous for having one of the highest domes in Europe. Its architect Giorgio Grognet de Vassé was also the one who worked on the discovery of the temples of Ggantija and Hagar Qim.

interior of the dome of the Rotonda di Santa Maria - Mosta
interior of the dome of the Rotonda di Santa Maria – Mosta

20. Malta National Aquarium

In the town of Qawra, right on Saint Paul’s Bay, is Malta’s National Aquarium. It is the ideal place to take children to introduce them to the fish of the Mediterranean and the island of Malta as well as those of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. This can be an ideal destination when you find yourself visiting Malta in winter and it is raining.

Some interesting tours you can take in Malta

But where exactly is Malta?

To understand where Malta is located, we have to look right at the centre of the Mediterranean Sea. The Maltese archipelago is located about 80km from the coast of Sicily and 330km from the beaches of Libya.

Malta map

The three main islands as already mentioned are Malta, Comino and Gozo, but there are many other small islands that make up the state.
Filfola and Filfoletta, Cominotto, Manoel Island, St Paul’s Islands and Rocca del Generale are the smaller islands of the archipelago.

Malta map
malta Map

What to eat in Malta

Maltese cuisine is a combination of Italian and Arabic cuisine. It is reminiscent in many ways of Sicilian cuisine but with an “exotic” touch. We find many typical streetfood such as:

  • Pastizzi– Mini puff pastry pies whose filling varies from place to place.
  • Qassatat– Sfogliatelle reminiscent of Neapolitan ones but savoury filled with different things
  • Ftira– In the Maltese version, it’s a round bread filled with everything… great while sipping Kinnie, a typical Maltese drink similar to our crodino.

Or we find more traditional dishes both from the sea and from the land, for example:

  • Lampuki – chopped dolphinfish with sauce and chilli peppers
  • Fenkata – Rabbit stewed the Maltese way. Yes, the rabbit is the animal of this island!
  • Gbejna– traditional cheese made from sheep’s milk
  • Ravjul– ricotta and parsley ravioli served with a tomato sauce.
  • Timpana– A pastry pie in which macaroni is ‘divided’ by puff pastry… a little light :D

Where to Sleep in Malta

Here there are 2 different lines of thought, those who prefer to sleep in central places like Sliema and San Julian and those who prefer smaller villages.
If you decide to opt for the tourist areas you will find comfortable hotels in both Sliema and San Julian, personally I would advise against sleeping in Valletta because after a certain hour it is rather dead and above all it is unnecessarily expensive.

Another option besides B&Bs can be FarmHouses. They are something in between our agritourisms and holiday homes. The good thing about this solution is that you usually sleep in very typical, tuff structures, the downside is that they are often in country areas and you therefore need a vehicle to get around.
For those who want to make a low budget trip there are of course also several hostels

farmhouse a malta 1
The Kiostro a typical farmhouse in Malta where you can sleep

Frequently Asked Questions about Malta

What is Malta famous for?

Malta is famous for its monuments, summer beaches, and beautiful natural sites.
Among the most famous are:
The historic centre of Valletta (the capital)
The old town of Mdina in Malta, a popular place for cinema and tourists alike
The megalithic temples unesco heritage site
The hypogeum, an underground temple on three levels of very ancient origin also a Unesco heritage site.
The Palace of the Grand Master
the Blue Lagoon of Comino
The island of Gozo and its treasures
The Blue Grotto
The monuments and castles built by the Knights of Malta
The wonderful beaches scattered throughout the island.

What is the most beautiful part of Malta?

The bay of Mellieha is certainly one of the most popular areas for holidaymakers and tourists.

Cosa Vedere a Malta 1
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Cosa Vedere a Malta, 20 luoghi da non perdere!