When you think about visiting the Mediterranean, do your thoughts go straight to Italy, Spain, or Greece? Chances are, spending some time on the tiny island nation of Malta hasn’t even crossed your mind. But with stunning beaches and rich history, this tiny archipelago offers so much undiscovered beauty that’s perfect for your next trip!
So pack your sunblock and Merħba – Welcome to Malta!
1. Unforgettable Island Experiences
Malta’s surrounding islands are truly one-of-a-kind – whether you’re paying a visit to Gozo or Comino, you’ll never run short of stunning views that will take your breath away.
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Gozo is famous for its inland sea and water bodies. The crystal-blue lagoons are a refreshing sight to behold, and boat tours or scuba-diving sessions by locals can also bring you much closer to the marine life swimming underneath.
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Another famous Gozo attraction used to be the Dwejra Window (Azure Window) – a natural limestone arch that sadly collapsed in 2017 after a storm ☹ But not to worry! The Wied il-Mielaħ Window may be lesser known for now, but it’s still awe-inspiring to look out at the sea shining through. Recent renovations to the arch have made it more accessible, adding a new road from the nearby town of Għarb. Although the walk there might be a little tough, the breath-taking view will make it worth it 😊
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Comino Island is the other major island destination off the Maltese coast. The island is regarded as a bird sanctuary and nature reserve, and is home to an untouched beauty of nature you can’t catch anywhere else! You can easily spend a day hiking or camping around the island at your own pace. The sweeping vistas, white clouds, and clear-blue ocean waters are sights truly unique to Comino!
#HHWT Tip: Comino island is small enough to cover in a single day, but if you want to stay on the tiny island itself it has a limited number of exclusive bungalows and beachside resorts – so make sure to book your accommodations months in advance, especially before their summertime peak period of June to August.
For more Mediterranean trip ideas, why not take a look at this 6D5N Budget Greece Itinerary 😄
2. Melting Pot of History and Culture
Malta’s Mediterranean location has made it an intersection of different cultures for centuries. From the Byzantine-Arab wars in the Middle Ages to the centuries-long rule of the Order of Knights of St John (also known as the famous Knights of Malta), the islands have always been a melting pot of different cultures. Fun fact: the local language Maltese has influences from Arabic, Italian, and English, so don’t be surprised if you recognize snippets here and there 😉
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The history of Malta even goes as far back as prehistoric times! The Tarxien Temples are believed to be one of the oldest freestanding structures still around – and dating to around 3150BC are even older than the pyramids of Giza! 😲 The megalithic temples of Malta were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992 – so make sure you visit them!
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For those interested in more recent history, there are over 20 museums scattered over the islands. Our pick is the Lascaris War Rooms, which have interactive and immersive displays of Malta’s involvement in World War II. History truly comes alive in Malta!
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The absolute must-see on Malta Island itself is the Saluting Battery, where the cannons in the Upper Barracca Gardens are fired every day at noon, and during special festival or occasions. It’s a tradition over 500 years old and still holds an important role today in marking the flow of the day for Maltese citizens.
#HHWT Tip: The cannons fire promptly at 12 so remember to get there a few minutes earlier to witness it in-person, or you’ll have to wait a whole day to see it again!
3. A Visual Feast For Your Eyes
If museums aren’t quite your thing and you just want to stroll around and have a visual feast – no worries! Centuries of changing hands under different rulers have left Malta’s history reflected in the limestone of the island itself. Whether you’re on one of the many walking tours offered by enthusiastic locals, or taking to the streets yourself, you’re bound to see something new at every turn.
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Pjazza Teatru Rjal sits on the former site of the Royal Opera House, which was demolished during World War II. Finally rebuilt and reopened in 2013, the Pjazza is now an open-air theatre that has played host to orchestras, Chinese opera troupes, violinists, and Irish step dancers – all in 2018 alone! Designed by renowned architect Renzo Piano, the design has attracted both loving stares and harsh critiques alike, so be sure to check out its unique façade yourself!
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The Grandmaster’s Palace (or just the Palace) dates back to when the Maltese Knights still ran the island. Parts of the Palace are still under official use by the local government, but designated areas have been opened up to the public to provide a glimpse into its exquisite past. Escape from the heat by admiring the luxurious art pieces and delicate pieces of furniture lining the ornate halls, as well as the colourful tilework of the floors.
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Another landmark that definitely can’t be missed is St. John’s Co-Cathedral. Both a place of worship and a major tourist attraction, the Church even has to stagger the number of visitors at any one time to ensure minimal damage and disturbance to the venue. Still, one can’t visit Malta without seeing the beautiful artwork within it at least once – including the famous The Beheading of St John the Baptist by Caravaggio! Try to stop by early in the mornings before the crowd arrives so you can have a peaceful time admiring the architecture and atmosphere in the Church.
4. Unexpected Hollywood Glitz and Glamour
If these beautiful islands seem too good to be true, almost like they’ve come right out of a movie set … then you may not be surprised to know that Malta has been the shooting location for over fifty movies and television shows! Its mix of architectural styles makes it an ideal chameleon – serving as a period piece one moment, and an action flick the next. It’s a little unbelievable that both the fantasy TV series Game of Thrones and zombie action flick World War Z were shot in the same place – but that’s the beauty of Malta and its diverse streets and sights!
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One of the most famous filming locations is Sweetwater Village, also known as Popeye Village because it was the film set for the 1980 musical Popeye! The Village has been converted into a family-friendly tourist attraction, with water trampolines, seasonal decorations, and many more activities for visitors of all ages. Make sure to take a photo with the character actors there, and relive a little bit of your childhood!
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If you’re interested in something a bit more recent, tour companies like Malta Film Tours also offer specialized and personalized tours that cover the different filming locations for big-budget Hollywood blockbusters like Assassin’s Creed, Gladiator, Troy, and the ever-popular Game of Thrones of course! After you’ve visited all the must-see spots, taking one of these tours will make you see them in a whole new light!
5. Family-Friendly Fun For All
Travelling with family can be challenging – but Malta makes it so much easier with its range of activities on offer for everyone from children to seniors! Whether you’re looking for something more exciting to burn off your restless energy, or maybe a more relaxed pace so you can just sit back and enjoy the view, the islands will surely deliver!
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For much younger kids who may not be old enough for these extreme activities – don’t worry! Museums and castles will sometimes have re-enactments and performances, inviting kids to join in. The Haġar Qim and Mnajdra Temples even have a family area full of interactive displays so that kids can learn more about nature and the islands while exploring!
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For those looking for something more exciting, Malta is also known for water sports. Besides ‘tamer’ fare of snorkelling and scuba diving, there’s even paragliding, jet skis, or windsurfing! Larger beach clubs usually rent out this equipment, but there are local companies that sometimes pair these rentals with full-day tours too.
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And of course, for those who just want to rest and relax a little without missing out on the fun – consider jumping onto a tourist shuttle bus for a tour around the major attractions! If a bus isn’t quite your style, there are plenty of boat tours or day cruises, as well as countless gardens you can simply wander around and lose yourself in.
#HHWT Tip: Not convinced that Malta is perfect for your next family vacation? We have 10 Family-Friendly Resorts closer to home!
6. Muslim-Friendly Food Options
Although traditional Maltese dishes usually include pork and alcohol, there’s actually no shortage of options available to Muslim travellers! Malta has been at the crossroads of the Mediterranean, Middle East, and South Asia for centuries, and its fledgling Muslim-friendly food scene shows this variety off. Though Muslims are a minority on this island, Muslim-friendly establishments selling everything from Mediterranean, Turkish, and even Pakistani food have been highly rated by visitors from all backgrounds for their authenticity and value-for-money!
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Millenium Kebab is a Turkish restaurant with two stands on the island – the first at the Strand on Gzira, and the second at St. Julian’s near the main street of Malta. Described by reviews as a cross between fast food and Turkish cuisine, the kebabs and burgers they sell are perfect to chow down on as you take in the sights around you. And with the stands open till late, it’s also a great supper idea 😉
Halal Status: Halal meat available. The store states that it uses Halal meat, but there is no official certification displayed so please dine here at your own discretion.
Address: The Strand, SLM07, Sliema (Gzira outlet), Triq San Gorg, STJ1013, San Giljan (St. Julian’s outlet)
Operating Hours: Sun – Thurs (9:30AM – 1:30AM), Fri – Sat (9:30AM – 3:00AM)
Price: 8 – 15 Euros (Estimated)
Contact: +356 2786 8991
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Terrone Marsaxlokk is a seafood restaurant that uses only the freshest seasonal produce in its locally-inspired dishes. With a commitment to preparing quality food for customers, all dishes are prepared on the spot using only the freshest catch of the day – daily menus may even change within a single season! Do remember to let the staff know if you have any dietary requirements, and they will accommodate you as much as possible.
Halal Status: Seafood options available. As the menu is seasonal, do check beforehand as it may change to include pork dishes. (At the time of writing, there is one dish that includes prosciutto on the menu so we recommend that you dine here at your own discretion)
Address: 1 Wilga Street, Marsaxlokk
Operating Hours: Mon – Fri (12:00PM – 4:00PM, 5.30PM – 21.30PM, Closed on Wednesday), Saturday (8:00AM – 10:45AM, 12:00PM – 4:00PM, 5.30PM – 10:00PM), Sunday (8:00AM – 10:45AM, 12:00PM – 4:00PM, 5.30PM – 9:00PM)
Price: 4 – 55 Euros
Contact: +356 2704 2656
Website | Facebook
Credit: Ali Baba
This list wouldn’t have been complete without Ali Baba! This family-run establishment is regarded as one of Malta’s best-kept secrets, serving up authentic and exquisite Lebanese dishes rich in flavour. The restaurant does have wine options, but its large variety of halal cuisine and accommodation to other dietary requirements has apparently even made the local iman fond of the place!
Halal Status: Halal meat available (confirmed by restaurant management). As this eatery serves alcohol, we recommend that you dine at your own discretion.
Address: No. 9, Ponsonby Street, Gzira
Operating Hours: Mon – Sat (6:30PM – 10:30PM), Closed on Sundays, Lunch is not available during the summer season
Price: 8 – 15 Euros (Estimated)
Contact: +356 2134 0119
Website | Facebook
#HHWT Tip: Some hotels such as the Intercontinental Malta, Hilton Malta Hotel, and Palazzo Valletta can make arrangements to serve Halal or Muslim-friendly meals if a prior request is made. So don’t be afraid to reach out and check before booking your stay there!
7. A Warm Wintertime Escape
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Malta gets way more sun compared to other popular European destinations like London or Paris, making it a perfect holiday destination throughout the year. With the months of June to August particularly full of sunshine, there is an endless list of activities to keep you busy!
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And for those who aren’t a big fan of snow or sub-zero temperatures but still want an end-of-the-year treat – don’t worry! Malta never gets any snow during its winter months of November to January, and with the temperature hovering around 9 degrees Celsius, you can enjoy feeling snug in your jacket without having to deal with freezing chills 😊
With so much to see and uncover, Malta’s truly like a treasure chest with endless gems within. Any trip here would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience!