Things To Do In Malta
Posted on February 22 2020
Things To Do In Malta...
As a passionate advocate of beautiful sunny escapes, Malta sounded like the ideal winter sun destination as soon as I heard it enjoyed over 300 days of sun a year.
A quick intro to the island - Malta is an archipelago in the Mediterranean, located between Sicily and Africa, that encompasses the islands of Gozo and Comino. It benefits from a large number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Valetta, its capital, has buildings dating back to the C16th. Valetta was nominated European Capital of Culture in 2018.
After weighing up the pros and cons of various places around the world for a January escape, hubbie and I decided to take our chances with the Maltese weather.
So… how did that gamble pay off and what’s Malta like in January you may ask? Well, we ended up being incredibly lucky.
Having been warned that we would either enjoy pockets of sunshine or suffer through terrible storms, we actually enjoyed bouts of T-shirt weather of up to about 20 degrees Celsius. We did have our coats on for most of the time, but I can’t tell you how amazing it was to feel the sun on my skin in January (hubbie actually caught the sun and had to buy sun protection…).
We found Malta to be an incredibly easy destination to spend time in. The island is small (about 300km2) and simple to get around, with fantastic transport links and tourist facilities. The prices are reasonable and the people are very friendly, with most of them speaking English.
In terms of the best place to stay in Malta, I would recommend you base yourself in Valetta for a first visit, and travel to places from there. Valetta is centrally located, which means that most other destinations are, at most, within 1-2 hours reach.
My Top 11 Recommendations:
Download the Bolt app. Bolt works like Uber and was a fantastic option instead of hiring a car or using private taxis. To give you an idea, our 30-minute trip from the hotel in Valetta to the airport was 12 euros.
Use the internal bus service. We didn’t do this ourselves, but we did see that the Maltese bus service was very efficient, with lots of routes from Valetta to different parts of the country.
Consider using the tourist buses if you want to see the whole island in a short space of time. There are a couple of hop-on hop-off, open-top bus options available with different routes.
A Selection of popular destinations
4. Valetta - Valletta was built as a city fortress by the Knights of St John in the C16th. It’s a small city and easily covered in a day. We enjoyed the heritage trail walk and seeing all the major sites and key viewpoints. We took our time and indulged in cafe culture and people watching by stopping off at Caffe Cordina, one of Malta's oldest cafes, to enjoy coffee and ice-cream (see the photo below).
There are many attractions that we did not see, that would have been worth a visit, like the famous burial chambers and Megalithic temples.
5. Mdina & Rabat - We fell in love with Mdina. Once the capital city of Malta, it is a stunning walled city about 35 minutes from Valetta by Bolt. It was amazing to be able to walk around its ancient cobbled streets, with its sun-reflecting walls, with hardly any tourists around. We got lost in the narrow lanes and took a million photographs!
From Mdina you kind of fall into Rabat as it sits just alongside. It has pretty lanes featuring the typical Maltese coloured balconies and there are catacombs and museums. We were quite happy to just wander around, indulge in a traditional street cake and find a great little café - Ta'doni - to enjoy a typical Maltese open sandwich. You might have guessed by now that we’re complete foodies!
6. Shopping in Sliema. If it’s shopping you’re after, make your way to Sliema. It’s only a short bus ride, or 15 minute Bolt ride, from Valetta and has many more shops and malls than the capital city. It also offers a lot of boat cruises. We found a wonderful restaurant along the waterfront, with spectacular views of Valetta, called The Terrace. It would have been easy to stay there for hours (it also has an outside terrace), had we not had a plane to catch.
7. Gozo & Comino. For a quieter island getaway, book your stay on the charming but much smaller island of Gozo. If you’re just wanting to visit Malta’s two other islands, there are also lots of boat tour options available.
8. Blue Grotto & Marsaxlokk. Given that both are located in the South of the main island, it’s easy to combine a visit of the Instagram famous and beautiful Blue Grotto with lunch or dinner at the traditional fishing village of Marsaxlokk. Just note that the latter has an incredibly popular and busy market on Sundays, which might make it shopping heaven for some, but a little less quaint and quiet for others.
9. Relax….book a 5 star hotel off season and enjoy the facilities. We stayed at the well-known 5 star Excelsior Hotel. We were reliably informed that it was completely packed out in July and August. We enjoyed the same facilities without the crowds and at a significant discount. What does this mean?...It means the best waterfront tables at mealtimes and the stunning indoor pool completely to ourselves for pockets of time.
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