Top 5 Must-See Places in Malta
Malta is a small Southern European island in the Mediterranean Sea and is situated between Sicily and the North African coast. It is a popular tourist destination due to its warm climate and abundance of recreational activities. At just over 122 square miles, it has an impressive population of approximately 450,000 inhabitants. The Maltese people enjoy a comfortable lifestyle with free education and healthcare available for most. The official languages are English and Maltese which descends from Siculo-Arabic, a vernacular variety of Arabic. Because most people speak English, it is easy to communicate and navigate around, but they do drive on the left side of the road.
Malta has a long and impressive history dating back over 8,000 years to the Neolithic times. Due to its prominent location in the Mediterranean along trade routes, Malta has been subjected to long and turbulent struggles for power and domination of the Mediterranean. Malta is proud of its heritage, and today visitors can enjoy many cultural institutions that proudly display historical artifacts, including Megalithic temples that are considered the oldest free-standing structures on Earth.
A visit to Malta should not be missed. My family enjoyed our week exploring this island and we can’t wait to return!
5 Best Things to do in Malta with Kids
Tip: Purchase a Heritage Malta Multisite Pass which enables admission to 23 Heritage Malta sites and museums plus the Malta National Aquarium and the Citadel Visitor Centre. It is good for 30 days from first use.
Valletta is the capital of Malta and was founded in 1565 by the Order of St. John as a refuge for soldiers returning from the Crusades. Tiny and baroque in style, it is a walled city impressively packed full of history and contains a unique collection of churches, palaces and museums.
Valletta should be your first stop to explore to get a greater understanding of the history and culture. In fact, in Valletta I suggest going to see the Malta Experience before anything else. This amazing 45-minute cinematic documentary tells the dramatic story of Malta’s 7,000-year history and how the Maltese people have overcome unimaginable odds to survive and prosper. It is family-friendly and my young kids really enjoyed it. After the movie, you can take a tour of La Sacra Infermeria (the Holy Infirmary), a hospital built in 1574 that invented groundbreaking treatments. There is also a bistro to grab a bite to eat and a souvenir shop.
After the movie, grab a local map available at numerous stores, wander the city, explore the National War Museum – Fort St. Elmo. Marvel at the architecture both old and modern, and enjoy a delicious meal at one of the numerous cafés. If you have time, I suggest a visit to the National Museum of Archaeology where prehistoric artifacts, weapons and sculptures are displayed, including the famous statue of the Sleeping Lady.
2. Mdina Old City
Take a step back in time and soak up the atmosphere with a visit to Mdina Old City. This golden, stonewalled city dates back more than 4,000 years and has been dominated by different dynasties. We used to Hop-On Hop-Off bus to get to Mdina and then explored the city by foot and horse carriage.
Known as the Silent City due to its peacefulness, Mdina contains a labyrinth of winding little streets that eventually open up to impressive courtyards of cathedrals, little shops, museums and cafés. If you are a Game of Thrones fan, you will recognize Mdina’s City Gates and Mesquita Square from scenes in the series which was filmed in and around Mdina.
Our visit to Gozo was the highlight of our trip, and we could have easily spent more time exploring this fascinating island. This sister island is the second largest island in the archipelago of Malta. We reached the island by a ferry which took approximately 25 minutes and was a fun adventure in itself. Although we had a driver to take us around the island, public buses, taxis and rental cars are available once you reach the island.
Gozo is impressive island rich with cultural diffusion. Steeped in myth, Gozo is thought to be the legendary Calypso’s Isle of Homer’s Odyssey. There are many sights to see on Gozo that shouldn’t be missed.
Gozo’s capital is a known for its medieval Citadel and has been inhabited since the Bronze Age. Visitors can easily spend a couple hours wandering inside the fortress walls of the Citadel, which is perched on a strategic vantage point. This dominant structure looks as impressive inside as it does outside with its numerous churches, historic buildings and museums.
I have to say, I was so disappointed to hear of the collapse of the Azure Window just prior to our visit. This limestone arch rock was located in Dwejra Bay and was one of the island’s major tourist attractions until it collapsed during a storm in March 2017. The Azure Window was featured in numerous films including Clash of the Titans, The Count of Monte Cristo and Game of Thrones series. Although the rock formation is gone, it was still exciting to visit the area. The area has also become quite popular with divers and there are swimming holes nearby with incredible snorkeling.
These temples are considered some of the oldest free standing monuments in the world, dating back between 3600 and 3200 BC. They even precede Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids and are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage site list. There is a newer visitor’s center which is informative and filled with artifacts found in the area. You can even learn how the architects must have used advanced technology for their time to built the temples. Once you have browsed around, venture out to the temples where you are allowed to wander at your own pace. It is awe inspiring.
4. Blue Grotto
The Blue Grotto are sea caverns located on the south east coast of Malta in the village of Qrendi. Sunlight passes through an underwater cavity which illuminates the caverns creating breathtaking reflections of numerous shades of blue. The caves are accessible by an inexpensive 25-minute roundtrip boat ride. I thought the boat ride was a bit sketchy as lifejackets were not issued until our insistence. The kids loved it and the scenery is spectacular. After the boat ride, we took a nice afternoon dip in the little bay where the boat rides start.
5. Visit a Beach
It is so easy to get caught up sightseeing, but make sure to take time and relax on one of the numerous beaches around the island. The Maltese definitely make use of the beaches, and you won’t have a hard time finding a swimming spot. Most beaches are rocky but there are a few with nice sand to bury your toes in. We enjoyed Ramla Bay on the island of Gozo as it had soft sand and little waves, which was perfect for little kids! There were public showers available to rinse off when you were ready to head home.
Where to Stay in Malta
While visiting Malta, be sure to book your stay at Hilton Malta. This hotel is a gem located in St. Julian, nestled on a rocky coast surrounded by the crystalline waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
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