In June of this year, I had the pleasure of visiting Malta for a week, and as such would love to share with you some of my recommendations for this Southern European island.
I am going to share where I stayed, some places I recommend for eating, what to do, and other tips I learned along the way. For starters, Malta had been on my bucket list for over a decade. I didn’t do significant research as part of travel for me is going off the beaten path and discovering things by chance. But I did go with the perceived illusion that it was a mini Italy meets Mykonos vibe.
The first day or two I was disappointed, not that I wasn’t enjoying it, but because of my expectations. I quickly learned to let that go and shift my perspective. Comparisons, after all, is the thief of joy.
My first recommendation would be to arrive with Euros on hand. Whenever I go to a new country, I usually change Canadian currency to the respective country’s currency at the airport. In Malta, however, there is no currency exchange at the airport. Fortunately I was able to pay for a taxi with my credit card through the airport otherwise I would have been in a pickle.
Where to stay
I would recommend doing research on where to stay. For me, I just wanted a place central so I could walk around and have access to a grocery store, restaurants etc with ease. Of the multiple sites I read, fellow travelers recommended Saint Julian’s area. There was a new hotel that just opened in the area, and I am a fan of boutique hotels with pools so I booked to stay at Be Hotel (see link below).
Little did I know this was in the heart of bars and strip clubs. My room was overlooking the strip, and as lovely as the view was, it was extremely noisy and I had difficulty sleeping. The hotel unfortunately was overbooked, so I could not move rooms. I am not someone who has ever complained or asked to move rooms but I am such a light sleeper and most of the nights I was there, I struggled to fall asleep and many times I was awoken by loud music and screaming tourists.
If you are looking to go there for a bachelor party or just party in general, then this area is for you. But if you are like me and looking for some relaxation, then perhaps you may want to consider staying elsewhere.
When to go
I thought I was being smart going at the beginning of June as I assumed like the rest of Europe that July and August would be their busiest months. But because it gets up to 40 Celsius in July, the busy season was actually around the time I went. I try to travel off season to avoid crowds, but I had no idea until I got to Malta. Fortunately I am an early riser to I managed to explore most of the cities early in the morning before the crowds peaked.
Part of the reason I also didn’t know it was high season was because my airfare was so cheap. I bought a round trip from Toronto to London, then bought an independent ticket from London to Malta for less than $100. This made me believe I was travelling during low season (and for that price I am definitely not complaining!).
Initially my plan was to rent a car and drive around, but I decided against doing that as I prefer to explore by foot. I am used to walking over an hour one way to work, so walking a couple hours to nearby cities like Valletta seemed doable but the streets were winding and confusing and there wasn’t much to see most of the way. On the recommendation of a local, I decided to take the bus. About 10 minutes from my hotel was a bus stand that offered a direct bus to Valletta. The main bus station is in Valletta, which offers bus rides throughout the rest of island. For a couple Euros, I figured this was a great way to commute especially since I felt super safe there and I wanted to relax and take in the scenery. I did this most days of my trip, so I certainly recommend this more frugal approach to exploring the city.
What to do
Between layovers and time difference, my one week for Malta was in actuality 5 full days. I didn’t exhaust my time exploring every aspect of Malta as part of me wanted to also relax on the beach/by the pool with a book in hand. But the areas listed below is what I explored :
This walled city was built in 1566 during the Ottoman era. You can walk the entire city in about 20 minutes, but if you want to take your time stopping off to take photos, check out shops and take in the energy (as you should), then it can take you an hour or two.
One of my favourite things about Europe is the cute restaurants and cafes that line the cobble stoned streets. So it goes without saying that having a meal in Valletta is a must do. And a post meal treat must include a gelato from AMORINO’s which is famous for making the rose gelato pictured below.
As Valletta is the hub for Malta’s city buses, it is quite possible to couple another city in with this one on the same day. I came back to Valletta a few times during my time in Malta.
Mdina is known as the Silent City with a population of 207 people. And for all of you Games of Thrones fans, the entrance to this wall city served as King’s Landing in Season 1 of the series.
This city is where I fell in love with Malta. The picture below of the facade is what I first saw on Pinterest a decade ago, and it was amazing to finally see it in person and snag my own photo.
I loved roaming the endless cobble stoned walled city, including hearing the horse carriages and seeing all those colourful doors. I spent hours just exploring this Silent City.
One of my recommendations for here is to go to Fontanella Tea Garden for a meal, or in my case Mint ice tea and take in the gorgeous views.
This waterfront town is within walking distance from Saint Julian’s. It is about 30 minutes from my hotel, along the boardwalk and coastline. I recommend strolling along here to get in some physical activity while checking out the Mediterranean waters.
One of the cool attractions are the rock pools. Some of them even had pool ladders to get into and out of the water with ease.
I recommend having a meal on the waterfront in Sliema. While it is called a resort town, there is still some charm to it, including watch towers dating back to 1658. On my last night I had dinner at RAFFAEL where both the food and service was spectacular. There were a few other restaurants in the area to choose from, so I recommend checking out this area on an evening.
4. Birgu (one of the Three cities)
In the south east region of Malta, there are 3 medieval cities known as the Three Cities or Cottonera. Birgu is one of those cities and it did not disappoint. In fact, it was a last minute decision to explore this region and it turned out to be my favourite, next to Mdina.
I explored the city by foot, then stumbled on this cute alleyway with a restaurant called D CENTRE CAFE-WINE-DINE . I don’t usually eat pasta but I was feeling the European vibes here so I ordered chicken pasta, which was enough for lunch and take away for dinner.
5. Gozo and Comino
Gozo and Comino are two of the other islands that make up the Maltese Islands.
I booked a day tour through one of the tour companies along the waterfront in Sliema. I felt pretty confident in the price (35 Euros for bus and ferry ride tour to both Comino and Gozo) for a full day tour.
Gozo is just as charming as mainland Malta with the white cobble stoned narrow streets, accompanied with colourful doors. As part of the tour, we got time to roam around Citadel, the capital of Gozo.
We also checked out Ta’Pinu Church, which is a beautiful Basilica in the open countryside.
This island is absolutely breathtaking with 50 shades of blue waters. It has a total of 5000 people but apparently only a permanent population of 3 residents. The Blue Lagoon is a must see point of interest while on this small island.
Please note this isn’t an extensive travel guide for Malta as notable places like Popeye’s Fishing Village and Marsaloxx were not included. It is completely doable to fit more in, but as mentioned above, I chose to dedicate some time to relaxing by the pool and beach.
I hope you find my recommendations useful. For more on Malta, be sure to check out my Highlights on my instagram @scrubs2sweats.
*** Please note everything mentioned here are my personal recommendations. This post is not sponsored in any way. Hotel, flights, tours and food were all paid for by me.