Attractions in Malta
It is impossible to see all the attractions and sights of Malta during a holiday. Then you should at least have both a long holiday and a total blow in beach life and sun and bath. The travel plan gives you whatever you just need to take with you on holiday in Malta!
- See DigoPaul for dictionary definitions of Malta. Includes geographical map and city sightseeing photos.
Grand Master’s Palace
This palace, located in the middle of Valletta, once housed the Grand Master of the Johns and is centered around two large courtyards. In a separate museum there is an impressive arsenal of old knight weapons such as swords, shields and armor, in what used to be the Grand Master’s stables. Today the palace houses the Malta National Assembly and is the official presidential residence. The opening hours vary, but are usually from 10am. 0800 to 1230. Reasonable entry fee.
Fort St. Elmo
At the very top of Valletta, the city’s military pride erodes. The star-shaped fortress of St. Elmo still bears marks for Turkish guns and bullets from the siege of 1565, when a handful of knights kept the entire Turkish invasion force at bay for over a month. The fortress also resisted Italian naval forces during World War II. Today you will find the very interesting Maltese War Museum here, as well as the Malta Police Academy.
The fort was also used during the filming of the movie “Midnight Express”.
Open Saturdays from 1 p.m. 1300 to 1700 and Sundays from 7 p.m. 0900 to 1700. The entrance fee of a few ten kroner also gives you access to Fort St. Angelo in Vittoriosa.
Twelve meters below the ground are the well-preserved remains of an underground mausoleum / temple dating from around 3300 BC. Around 7,000 bodies have been excavated here. The Hypogeum is located approx. two kilometers south of Valletta and consists of several chambers, halls and corridors covering about 500 square meters. Due to the humidity and carbon dioxide damage the number of visitors is limited, but those interested can log in to Heritage Malta and request a visit.
From Bugibba in the north or from Sliema’s ferry terminal you can take a day trip out to Malta’s least inhabited island, Comino. The island has only one hotel and a handful of residents, but is very pleasant and idyllic. Most visitors linger at the Blue Lagoon, with its clear blue water and white sandy beach. Also bring with you the small church of 1612 in St. Marys Bay in the northwest, and the defense tower of St. Marys Tower.
Museum of Archeology
In Valletta’s Triq ir-Republika main street, the country’s perhaps most important exhibition, the National Archaeological Museum, is housed in a 16th-century building. Here you can see objects from fraaġar Qim, through the Bronze Age and up to the Middle Ages.
The museum is open every day from 6 pm. 0900 to 1900, and costs a few ten kroner in entry money.
St. John’s Co-Cathedral
This magnificent Valletta cathedral was built in the 1570s for the Knights of St. John the Order, the Johns, and in 1816 was equated with St. Paul’s Cathedral in Mdina, which was the bishopric, hence the name Co-Cathedral. The church looks simple from the outside with its two identical bell towers, but the baroque and colorful interiors can take your breath away.
In the church’s museum you can see works of art by Caravaggio, and in the crypt are the first grand masters and Valletta’s legendary founder Jean de la Vallette buried.
Open daily from 2 pm 0930 to 1715 Monday to Saturday. Entrance to the museum costs only a few ten kroner.
Qaġar Qim and Mnajdra
On the southern coast of Malta are some of the world’s oldest buildings: Qaġar Qim and Mnajdra. [See image first in article] These temple complexes are around 5500 years old. The temples were discovered in 1839, just 500 meters apart and are of course on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Open daily from 2 pm 0900 to 1700, entrance fee approx. 50 kroner.
The Blue Cave
From the small village of Wied iz-Zurrieq, not far from Ħaġar Qim, you can join a boat trip out to the famous Blue Cave. The story behind the name comes from the fact that the azure sea illuminated by sunlight sparkles in water reflections in the cave roof, giving the cave a bluish, shining light. The best time is in the morning, when the sun is setting. The boats also stop in several other caves.
Vittoriosa and the Johns
When the Johns arrived in Malta in 1530, they settled in the small fishing village of Birgu and made this the capital, since Mdina did not fit their need for a port. Birgu changed its name to Vittoriosa (victorious or victorious) after the siege in 1565. The fortress of St. Angelo is the most prominent legacy of the Knights, although the streets, city walls and gates also south of the medieval atmosphere. The city is located on an 800 meter long headland, and is so small that it is virtually impossible to walk away even if all street signs are in Maltese only.
Carnival in Malta
Every spring there is a carnival time in Malta, and this has its traditions dating back to 1560, when an armada of sailors remained weatherproof on the island and needed some life and encouragement. Still, this is reflected in colorful performances, great costumes and a hefty and enchanting nightlife, especially in the Paceville area. Other villages across the country have long since made their own local versions of the party.
Tourist in Malta
It is no big deal to travel around and discover Malta on your own at your own pace, but if you prefer an organized tour with transport and English language guide, you can try Touring Malta for example. These have several day trips, both general and more specialized.
Day 1 in Malta
Those who claim that Malta is so small that you can easily get all the attractions in a few days have probably never tried to do just that. Possibly they have made the list very high for what can be called an attraction.
The first day can easily be spent in full on Malta’s capital, Valletta. After a hearty breakfast at the hotel, head to Valletta’s city gates, and within these are Freedom Square. This is where the city’s main street, Triq ir-Republika, which extends all the way to Fort St. Elmo on the other side of the city, ie 800 meters, starts.
On the right are the ruins of the Royal Opera House, which was bombed during World War II and has become a memorial of the war. A few minutes walk down the same street is the Archeological National Museum on the left, and here you can easily spend a few hours. 5000 year old artifacts from Hagar Qim, via the Bronze Age and the Middle Ages are on display here. Entrance fee approx. 50 kroner.
As you continue up Triq ir-Republika, you will undoubtedly notice Valletta’s mighty St. John’s Cathedral on the right. It was built in the 1570s for the Johns. Take time to visit both the cathedral museum and the crypts where the Grand Masters of the Order and the city’s founder Jean de Vallette are buried.
If you start to get hungry and ready for lunch, there are plenty of eateries in most price ranges on the next square you come to, Piazza Regina. For example, try Malta’s oldest restaurant (from 1837), Caffe Cordina, where you can sit at the outdoor tables on the square overlooking Valletta’s magnificent library and a statue of the English Queen Victoria.
After lunch you can walk directly across the square to the palace where the National Assembly and Presidential Residence of Malta are located. The Grand Master’s Palace was actually built as a residence for the Grand Master of the Johns, and is centered around two large courtyards. In a separate museum there is also an impressive arsenal of ancient knight weapons such as swords, shields and armor, located in what used to be the Grand Master’s stables.
Furthermore in Triq ir-Repubblika you have the aristocratic 16th century palace Casa Rocca Piccola on the right, which also has guided tours. At the end of the street you will reach Fort St. Elmo, which has been in numerous battles since it was built in 1552, not least as a result of the siege of the city by the Turkish invasion forces in 1565. Today the fortress houses the Malta Police Academy, and on the left war museum. The entrance fee of a few bucks also gives you access to Fort St. Angelo in Vittoriosa.
From Fort St. Elmo and Triq-ir-Republika Street, turn south into Triq-ir-Mediterran, and along this road you have great views of Grand Harbor and towards Vittoriosa and Senglea. But first you come to The Malta Experience, an audio-visual show with optional language about Malta’s history from the Stone Age, through the Knights period and up to the present day. Available every hour until 1 p.m. 1600 on weekdays and until 4 p.m. 1400 on weekends.
Stop in the beautiful Lower Barrakka Gardens park with its fountains and splendid views, and when you feel like it, head up one of the steep little streets. You will soon come to Trip ir-Merkanti, or Merchant Street, an old street that lives up to its name to this day, with countless stalls and small shops where you can buy most of the Maltese specialties.
For example, if you choose to stay in Valletta for the rest of the evening, we can recommend dinner at the cozy little restaurant Ambrosia at 137 Archbishop Street. Both Maltese, Italian and Spanish food is served here. The nightlife of Valletta is almost non-existent, but a curiosity is the English-inspired The Pub just off Grandmasters Palace. The site has added “Ollie’s Last Pub” to the name after renowned British actor Oliver Reed got killed here during the filming of the movie “Gladiator” in 1999.
Day 2 in Malta
Next day it’s time to get out of the capital. If you do not have a rental car, Malta’s bus network is both affordable and efficient to get to all parts of the island from Valletta. However, between the other parts is worse; most often you have to return to Valletta again and change the bus.
From the main bus station in Floriana, just outside Valletta’s city gate, there are buses every half hour to ġaġar Qim and Mnajdra (bus numbers 38 and 138, but this can change, see bus information here. The tour takes around half an hour and when you get off is It’s easy to believe that the bus driver has dumped you in the middle of the wilderness, but follow the small sign pointing toward the temples and walk through the parking lot of the ticket booths.
Here you can buy tickets to one or both temples, but since they are so close to each other, it is just as easy to take both. Unless you have a good guidebook, we recommend that you buy with you the little information book that is also sold here. You always benefit more from a visit if you actually know what you’re looking at.
The year Qim consists of three separate stone temples, the middle one being the best preserved of these. The excavations began in the 1830s, but were not completed until almost 80 years later. In addition to the 5,300-year-old stone temples, which are considered some of the world’s oldest buildings, many arrowheads and stone tools were also found in the Valletta Museum.
500 meters below Ħaġar Qim is the second temple complex, Mnajdra. What these buildings were used for is unclear, but animal sacrifices and oracle rituals seem most likely to occur. To enter the main temple you must enter through a large stone window.
After exploring the temples, an ice-cold refreshment on the outdoor terrace of ġaġar Qim Restaurant, right next to the parking lot, is a good fit. Maltese specialties are also served here, if you are ready for lunch.
After some food, you can now choose to either take the bus back to Valletta, or you can follow the bus to the next stop, Wied iz-Zurrieq. Here you will immediately be offered the opportunity to join a boat cruise to The Blue Grotto, which is a colorful sight as the sun shines through the azure water and the water crystals are reflected in the cave roof.
Back at the bus station you can switch to bus 80 or 81, which takes you to Malta’s old capital Mdina, in the middle of the island. It is surrounded by a city wall with history 3000 years back in time, with quiet car-free cobblestone streets, baroque architecture, venerable courtyards and the magnificent St. Paul’s Cathedral. Bring with you the Museum of Roman Antiques and the view from the city walls of Bastion Square. From here you can see for miles, all the way to St. Paul’s Bay in the north and Valletta in the east, and probably Etna in Sicily on a clear day. Mdina has one of Malta’s best restaurants, located in one of the island’s most exclusive hotels, Xara Palace. The Mondion Restaurant serves French and Mediterranean cuisine and is relatively expensive.
For example, if you prefer to return to the hotel and have a shower before dinner, consider the Bay View Restaurant at Corinthia Marina Hotel in St. Julians. If you book a table, you have a brilliant view out over the sea for your meal, and a short way to Malta’s most intense nightlife afterwards, should it tempt you more than the pillow.