The tiny island of Malta is jam packed with natural wonders to see and exciting things to do, despite being smaller than the Isle of Wight in the UK. If you only have a long weekend to spare, we’ve got it covered. To make things easy for you, we have a few suggestions on this Malta itinerary of places to visit and what to eat and drink.
We hope that this post will show you why this sunny Mediterranean isle makes it a perfect European long weekend destination.
A thing to remember though, is that this teeny tiny island gets very crowded from May onwards, so you need to plan your trip well. If you do, we promise you will have an epic weekend!
Explore the Old Streets of Valletta
A nice way to reach Valletta is to take a ferry from Sliema. The ride is short but quite pleasant, allowing you to enjoy the grand dome of the Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel as you approach the Maltese capital.
There are a few things to see here, but first, take your time to explore the old streets winding up and down throughout this charming city. Look up to admire the traditional Maltese balconies. In our opinion, they serve no real purpose, but they do make this island very distinguishable from any other place.
Check out the Saint John’s Co-Cathedral, located in the center of Valletta. The church is home to the world renowned painting, detailing The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist by Caravaggio. The masterpiece is believed to be the artist’s largest canvas and the only piece of art that is personally signed by him.
If you feel like having a cake, pop into the iconic Cafe Cordina, one of the oldest cafes in the capital. Coffee is not necessarily the best here, but the cakes are certainly mouthwatering, all of them! If you haven’t yet, this can be the perfect place to try the delicious Maltese Pastini made from almond flour.
The Parliament House, located near Valletta Gate is an interesting building to check out. Constructed between 2011 and 2015 as part of the City Gate Project, it has caused controversy between the locals, mainly because of the modern design and, of course, the cost of €90 million!
Next to the Parliament House, check out the Open Air Theatre. Originally built by English architect Edward Middleton Barry, this beautiful Royal opera house was hit by a bomb and destroyed during WWII with only the colonnades remaining. The theatre area is now beautifully restored and houses open air performances.
Where is the Best Viewpoint in Valletta?
You will find two great viewpoints in Valletta, the Lower Barrakka Gardens and the Upper Barrakka Gardens. The most stunning and, of course the most visited, is the Upper Barrakka Gardens. From here enjoy the views overlooking the stunning Three Cities across the water.
Ferry Over to Vittoriosa
To reach Vittoriosa (Birgu), take the nearby lift to the street level and turn left through the tunnel. Hop on the ferry and enjoy a peaceful sail across the blue waters of the harbour. To enjoy this peaceful place fully, take a wander and discover the colourful cobbled backstreets here abundant with plants, elegant balconies and wooden shutters.
Create Your Own Road Trip
While driving in Malta can be somewhat challenging, we highly recommend renting a car to discover the gems of the north of the island.
The good thing about being on such a tiny island is that you don’t have to rush anywhere, most things are close by. Just make sure that you pack some snacks, a hat, a swimsuit and a sunscreen, if you are visiting in summer months.
Start your day by driving north towards Mellieha, popular for its lovely Għadira and Golden Bays. Don’t miss the magnificent Għajn Tuffieħa Bay offering fantastic panoramic views across the two bays.
The place springs to life in winter months and is at its most beautiful from April to May, covered in greenery and framed by colourful wild flowers.
Popeye Village is a another great spot to visit. Located on the north west coast of the main island the ‘village’ is a complete film set remaining from the 1980’s live action film Popeye starring the late Robin Williams.
If you are travelling with children, do wander into this theme park, they will love it! Otherwise park your car on the cliff across the bay for a full view of the ex film set and simply admire the crystal clear Mediterranean Sea.
There are quite a few rugged rocky cliffs around the island, but the Dingli Cliffs offer all-embracing views of the azure waters of the Mediterranean. A really great spot for lunch and sunsets.
Mdina is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Malta. Inhale the quietness as you explore the narrow backstreets of this ‘silent city’.
For lunch with panoramic views stretching all the way to Mosta, pop into the lovely Xpresso Cafe & Bistro. If it’s busy on your arrival, try popping in later, it will be worth it we promise.
For an unusual sight, head towards Mosta where you will find the unique Rotunda Church. The light blue interior of this church will take your breath away. It’s round, bright and unlike any other churches in Malta so don’t miss it.
To add to this already interesting sight, during WWII a bomb fell through the roof of this house of prayers whilst it was packed full of worshipers. Luckily the church got away with a slightly damaged roof and an unexploded bomb rolling on the floor.
Everyone who was inside the church was spared and to this day, the Maltese still refer to this church as a miracle. You can see a replica of the explosive inside the cathedral, seek out the small room to the left of the altar.
Trek in the Countryside
Next up on this Malta Itinerary is a full day trek, if you are up for it? For a day out in the countryside, we really recommend the Victoria Lines walking trail. If you love the outdoors, you will absolutely love this trek.
It is one of the most peaceful and beautiful walks in Malta, especially if you are visiting the island in spring, while it’s still drowning in a sea of blooming flowers.
The walk stretches for around 16 km from coast to coast and can take up to 6 hours to complete it. Of course, it depends on how many stops you will have along the way. Check out this brilliant website for more useful information about the Victoria Lines walk.
The walk is not too hard, but make sure you wear proper footwear, most of the footpath is quite rocky. Also pack some snacks to take with you and plenty of water. Have fun!
Visit the Iconic Marsaxlokk Fishing Village
If an all day walk sounds a little too much, we have an alternative suggestion for your Malta Itinerary. Make your way to Marsaxlokk, a small fishing village built around a harbour and home to a famous Fish Market on Sundays.
Here you’ll again see lots of little fishing boats used to bring the fresh catches to the market. These are known locally as Luzzu and usually painted in bright colours with a pair of eyes to the front. It’s an ancient custom said to protect the fishermen at sea.
However, we would recommend avoiding coming here on Sunday. Marsaxlokk market takes place daily but on a Sunday expands further to take over the whole harbour front, obstructing the beautiful sea views. Although known as a fish market on Sundays the fish stalls only make up a small proportion of the stuff on offer which is mainly tat.
For a refreshing dip, make your way to St Peter’s Pool nearby. It’s a popular spot amongst the locals, but beware that the waters are deep here and can be very choppy!
Malta Temples for History Buffs
Did you know that Malta is home to some of the oldest free standing monuments in the world? Sounds exciting? Then you should definitely include the megalithic temples built between 3600 BC and 700 BC on your Malta Itinerary.
The listed UNESCO World Heritage Site masterpieces include Ħaġar Qim in Qrendi, Mnajdra in Qrendi, Ta’ Ħaġrat Temples in Mġarr, Skorba Temples in Żebbiegħ Tarxien Temples in Tarxien and Ġgantija in Gozo. Just don’t forget your Fedora and whip!
Hop to the Island of Gozo
For the ultimate Malta experience we’ve also included Gozo to our Malta Itinerary. The quieter sister island is only 15-20 minutes away across the deep waters of the Mediterranean.
The ferry takes both cars and passengers across the short stretch regularly. Having a car on Gozo is definitely a bonus as it allows you to explore it in your own time. However, being such a small island, Gozo can be easily explored by local transport too.
Driving around the gorgeous coastline of the island is an attraction in itself. However, we highly recommend you stretch your legs by exploring the beautifully restored Cittadella in the island capital Victoria. The whole site is fantastic and offers stunning panoramic views across the island from on high.
Even though destroyed by an angry storm in early 2017, the rocky Azure Window site is still a great place to visit. While you are paying your respects to the fallen pride and joy of Gozo, be sure to visit the Inland Sea, known locally as Qawra or Dwejra.
Diving here is very popular as the shallow waters surrounded by the cliffs create eye catchy light effects.
If you are exploring the island by car, visit the impressive Ta Pinu Sanctuary located in the village of Għarb. The blue skies of Malta and the azure sea provide a wonderful backdrop to this sand stone built Roman Catholic basilica.
Legend has it that the voice of St Mary was heard in the small chapel and to protect the tiny chapel from too many visitors, the current sanctuary was built around it. The small chapel is still standing behind the altar.
Before you leave Gozo, It’s time to make your way to the beautiful red sand Ramla beach. This crescent shaped sandy shore is a great pit stop to relaxed, swim or snorkel. A fitting farewell to the island.
You can always check out the 12 Exciting things to do in Malta all year round post if you need more inspiration.
For a more local experience and the best gelato in town head to Ta’ Xbiex Seafront in Msida. The Busy Bee Gelateria, located a couple of meters away from their Coffee Shop offers a wide range of mouthwatering traditional Maltese ice cream.
The portions here are humongous compared to the ones you will get anywhere in St Julian’s or Valletta and that’s a good thing, you can never have too much good gelato!
The Busy Bee Coffee Shop serves tasty savory and sweet treats from traditional Maltese Ftira sandwiches to mouthwatering coffee-flavoured Italian custard dessert Tiramisu. To get here from Sliema you can either walk or take any bus going towards Valletta. The nearest stop is Ta’ Xbiex.
If you love pizzas, cheese and good wine, we have just the place in mind! HiMu is a friendly Italian restaurant that makes its own mozzarella everyday. Food made from super fresh ingredients here is seriously good. Located in Gzira, around 20 minute leisurely walk along the waterfront from Sliema, HiMu is a fab spot for lunch or dinner.
Moo in Gzira is a fantastic Turkish restaurant that serves the fluffiest falafel I’ve ever had. Don’t expect anything flashy, but a good, honest food at a good price. They also have a tiny sister restaurant on the high street in Sliema.
Just Burger Food Co do what they say and make some seriously good burgers! Try their melt in the mouth sweet potato burger.
If you are a veggie, this sweet and slightly spicy burger is everything you need for a filling lunch. The restaurant is located on the Level 0 of the Plaza Shopping Centre in Sliema.
Avenue in Paceville is probably the longest restaurant we’ve ever been to. It’s a good option for lunch as they serve starter sized portions, which are more than enough for a quick snack. For a more filling option, try their Gondola pizza, it’s very good.
Next to Avenue you will find the traditional and very friendly Maltese Mama restaurant. A good selection of Maltese wines are served here as well as stunning home cooked Maltese dishes.
One of our favorite places in the St Julian’s area is U Bistrot, overlooking green-ish blue Baluta Bay. Charlie’s favourites are the burgers. We also love the laid back atmosphere here, coffee and the delicious homemade desserts.
For Asian fusion, head to Okurama International, especially if you love Sushi. However best to come here towards the end of the week, that’s when the food is freshest. For the ultimate experience, order one of their massive sushi platters to share.
For local authentic cuisine try Nenu The Artisan Baker in Valletta. The place specialises in traditional Maltese bread, Ftira, topped with all-you-can-think-of garnish. And don’t forget to try the Date Fritters – deep fried figs – the ultimate Maltese desert. It’s not the cheapest option, but will promise you an entertaining evening.
Crow’s Nest in St Julian’s is another favourite of ours. Maybe because it’s a pub and reminds us of home back in the UK. They serve honest home made food at a very reasonable price.
For a healthier lunch option, try Dr Juice at Spinola Bay. Their mango shakes might not be as creamy as the ones we enjoyed so much in Bangkok, but they are good.
For more food options, have a look at our Malta Food Guide.
Where to Have a Good Drink
To make this Malta itinerary even better, we will let you in on our most treasured secret. We’ll tell you about our personal favourite spot for a brew or two in Valletta.
If you enjoy craft beers, try the Wild Honey Valletta, located on the slopey St. Lucia’s street. It’s tiny and only has three tables outside, but what a gem!
There aren’t that many pubs in Malta, but the ones that are here are pretty good. For a cheeky pint of local Cisk, pop into The Pub located on Archbishop Street. Actor Oliver Reed died in this very pub from one too many drinks while filming the iconic Gladiator.
The chair where he died is no longer there, but you can still buy a T-shirt with his
legendary last order printed on it!
We couldn’t mention drinking without a nod to Malta party central – Paceville (pronounced pache-ville). You’re either going to love or hate this spot with the notorious Bay Street area being the main drag of watering holes and strip joints.
Finally, don’t neglect tiny locals bars in side streets. Those places, run by the locals, are usually real gems where you will hear entertaining stories over a glass of cold Cisk.
English being the second official language in Malta makes it easy for travelers to communicate with the locals which makes that extra pint all the more worth it!
Shop Smart and Get Souvenirs That Don’t Suck
Shopping for souvenirs can be a real pain, that’s why we never bother, unless we find something truly unique. Therefore, to save you time and hassle, will share another secret on this Malta Itinerary! How lucky are you, ha!
‘Souvenirs That Don’t Suck’ shop and co working space is hidden away in one of the side streets in Sliema and sells good quality souvenirs which aren’t tacky. The hoodies here are cool and cosy and t-shirts rich in cotton.
The terrain map of Malta (above) and other designs are hand drawn, making the clothing stand out from the usual tourist tat. Also, the shop provides a well equipped co-working space for €10 a day, so if you need to blog on the go, this is a great spot.
Enjoyed this post? Check out our Malta Guide to Travelling and Living on the Island
What other places have you been to in Malta? Let us know in the comments below…