Malta is a small island nation in the middle of Mediterranean Sea and to the southern island of Sicily, Italy. The charming landscape, secluded beaches, warm climate, vibrant life, long-standing history, cultural diversity and especially it possesses massive fortresses, ancient temples that have made this place to be one of the most attractive destinations in Europe. This country once played a big role in shaping human history. There are temples dating back 5000 years old and are considered the oldest remaining independent structures on earth. So, what to do and how to plan a perfect budget trip to Malta for the first-time? Let’s check out our Malta travel blog (Malta blog) with the fullest Malta travel guide (Malta guide, Malta tourist guide) from how to get there, best time to come, where to stay, best places to visit and top things to do to find out the answer!
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Having been annexed by many empires, Malta offers visitors an interesting mix of cultures. When traveling here, it’s easy to see the blending styles of Italian, British and North African in cuisine, language, culture and architecture. Thanks to its wonderfully warm climate and relatively cheap travel costs and friendly locals, it is a good place for those who love medieval cities and castles and cities decayed but still has its own charm.
Malta travel guide: Overview of Malta
The Republic of Malta located away 80 km to the south of Italy, 284 km to the east of Tunisia and 333 km to the north of Libya. This country has only an area of 316km2 (square kilometer) with a population of about 450,000 people, Malta is one of the smallest countries and the highest population density across the globe. The capital of Malta, Valletta with an area of only 0.8 square kilometers is the smallest capital in the European Union. Malta consists of 9 large and small islands, but only 3 large islands, Malta, Gozo and Comino are inhabited.
Malta has strategically located in the middle of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, once occupied by the Phoenicians, the Aragonese, the Knights of Saint John, the French and the British. The country also played an important role in many of history’s most famous wars, such as between Catholic Europe and the Ottoman Empire, the success and failure of Napoleon, as well as World War II. That continuous change of control has given it a unique culture – a blending of architectural styles, culinary and cultures (in fact, Maltese is a blend of Arabic and Italian) that you can’t find anywhere outside of Southern Spain.
Malta is known as an international tourist and leisure destination, with nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The official languages of Malta include Maltese and English. Roman Catholic is the main religion of Malta, in addition to Orthodoxy, Protestantism and Islam.
Malta travel guide: When to come?
Malta has a subtropical Mediterranean climate with mild winters and warm summers. The average temperature from January to April during the day is 12 – 18 degrees Celsius and 7 – 12 degrees Celsius at night. From mid-April to November, the daytime temperature is 28 – 34 degrees Celsius and nighttime is 19 – 24 degrees Celsius.
In summer from May to October is the best time to explore this island nation. If you want to explore Malta’s beaches, diving, water activities, then from July to September is an ideal time to come, the temperature is approximately 30 degrees Celsius.
Malta travel guide: How to get to Malta?
While most European countries have seasonal flights, not many airlines operate routes to Malta year-round. But Ryanair, Air Malta, EasyJet and Lufthansa, Emirates are the largest airlines that offer services to Malta year-round. If you flying from London, it will take more than 3 hours by flight to reach Malta. Access Google Flights, Momondo, Skyscanner, Kayak to find your suitable flights.
To getting from Malta Airport to city center you can take the bus: BUS X1, BUS X2, BUS X3, BUS X4 or Bus TD2, Bus TD3. In which TD buses stand for Tallinja Direct are direct buses running from airport to your destination and quicker than X buses which running to most localities in Malta and stop at every bus stop.
Alternatively you can reach Malta by waterways with ferries from the ports of Catania and Pozzallo in Sicily, Italy, which take about 2 and a half hours and cost about 61 – 127 euros ($63 – 135) / one-way (depending on each season). Ferry details here.
Malta guide: Getting around
There are 3 main ways to getting around Malta: Buses, taxis and self-drive.
Ticket price: The single ticket costs EUR2 in summer, EUR1.5 in winter and EUR3/night bus.
In addition, there are a 12 SINGLE DAY JOURNEYS for EUR15 for adults (Children up to 10 years old 15€) which can be used for groups, families, valid for 1 year from the first-time you validate it and with this ticket you can take 12 bus rides. Or 7-day ticket for EUR21 / adults and EUR15/children called EXPLORE CARD.
We stayed here for a week, so we chose to buy a 7-day ticket for EUR21, the ticket is made with a very good hard card and can be kept as a souvenir ^^.
Where to buy tickets? There are places to buy tickets in each locality, usually in bookstores or souvenir shops, but note that all supermarkets and shops here close before 7pm. So, we planned to go to Valletta at night to strolling around streets and then buy tickets, but when we arrived, almost shops were closed, but luckily we were help by a local, he said there was a ticket vending machine located at the Valletta bus station, which still operating 24/24.
Bus and ferry times: Buses here are not as frequent as other major cities in Europe, you usually have to wait about half an hour to an hour with a trip, so you should remember to note the departure and return times, especially at night with very few trips, 10:30PM is the last trip.
Renting a car costs $41 / day (rental costs around $53 or higher in the summer). There are many local car rental companies, but I rent at Hertz because it’s close to my Airbnb. Many companies only accept cash payments. Rent a car from big companies to ensure your safety.
Taxi & Uber
Taxis cost EUR10-20, you can book a taxi via Whatsapp in advance and taxi may a good last minute option if you get stuck and can not take a bus. In addition, you also can use Uber rideshare service.
Ferry ticket to Comino island cost about EUR13 / round-trip, from the Cirkewwa wharf with the earliest trip departs at 9:10am and the last trip at 3:40pm, the return trips from 9:30am to 6:00pm daily.
The ferry to getting to Gozo is super big and beautiful, with no cost for departing trip, when return, you buy a ticket for EUR4.65 / person, the ferry running all day and night, and the best thing when we took the return trip at sunset, sitting on the ferry and watching Gozo island lights up against the pink sky of the sunset is really memorable moments (information about the ferry to Gozo here).
For convenient traveling and saving when exploring Malta you can buy in advance some PASS or CARD such as MALTA PASS which allows you free to visit more than 35 museums, architectural or historic, famous tourist attractions throughout the country, it also covering free sightseeing bus ride. Price: 1-day 49.95€ / 2-day 79.95€ / 3-day 99.95€. Website: www.maltapass.com.mt.
Or VALETTA CARD which allows you free to visit some famous attractions in the capital of Valleta as well as traveling from, to, and within Valletta plus 2 free ferry trips. Price: 24 hours 19€. Website: www.publictransport.com.mt/en/valletta-card
Malta travel guide: What to do and where to go?
The capital of Valletta
With an enthralling history, amazing architecture and a bustling urban lifestyle, this city proudly received awards such as the European Cultural Capital of 2018 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1980. Traveling to Valletta, visitors feel like stepping on a journey through many majestic, magnificent of ancient architectural buildings and structures such as: St. John’s Co-Cathedral, Grandmaster’s Palace, Grand Harbour, Manoel Theater, Regina Square (Republic Square)… Quaint, secluded Medieval architecture attracting and captivating all your eyes, bringing an atmosphere that makes visitors feel like they are immersed in endless stories. The narrow steep alleys, signature and colorful windows of hillhouses make Valletta more charming and romantic.
In particular, take time to strolling and enjoying the beauty of Valletta at night with a vibrant nightlife, you also easily see the world’s famous DJs in the splendid capital along with most luxurious brands in the world also garthering here.
Popeye Village (Film Set Village)
Built as a movie setting in 1979, the Popeye sailors’ village is still today a popular tourist attraction in Malta. “Popeye Village”, also known as “Sweethaven Village” is an amusement complex – an open-air museum, and one of the most popular tourist attractions around Anchor Bay on the Mediterranean coast. Popeye Village was originally built as a filming location for Robert Altman’s “Popeye” film, co-produced by Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney Productions.
Throughout the years, many activities have been held in the village, but the most special and attracting the attention of visitors is Popeye and Olive’s wedding. There are also exhibitions of Popeye’s sailor comics, as well as more than 200 original comics and cartoons from the 60s, 70s and 80s. In good weather, visitors can take a tour to explore Anchor bay by boat and admiring the beautiful Popeye village from the sea.
Address: Triq Tal-Prajjet, Il-Mellieħa, Malta
Hours: 10:30AM–5:30PM/Monday: Closed
The fishing village of Marsaxlokk
About 30 minutes by bus from the capital Valletta to the South Eastern of Malta, the fishing village of Marsaxlokk is considered a convergence of colors. From the Luzzu boats painted pure white to the gentle blue water reflecting the sunlight. All create a poetic picture bearing typical style of the Mediterranean Sea. Here, you can stroll along the coast, visit fishing village and enjoy specialties in harbor restaurants.
Love the beauty of nature, blue sea and golden sunshine? So, Gozo Island is the perfect destination for you. Gozo Island is one of the 3 largest islands in the island nation of Malta which attracts travelers with a wide coastline, majestic and magnificent Window Azure arch which was formed in a limestone rock in a unique shape lying quietly in space creating a spectacular scenery of nature. Not only that, visiting Gozo you also have the opportunity to visit the ancient and sacred temples of Ggantija. An early morning sunrise on the island of Gozo will be a great start for your journey. You can take a boat tour to visit the rock arch to feel the grandeur and wonder of nature, swimming or diving in the clear water in this sea are also interesting experiences.
With 200km of coastline, Malta possesses beautiful hidden coves, bays, secluded beaches that intriguing visitors at firt sight. In Comino, an island has only an area of about 3.5 square kilometers but owns the most beautiful beach in this island nation. In particular, the Blue Lagoon on the island wears a sparkling turquoise blue with a white sand strip in a tranquil space between heaven and earth. Lying on the sand, enjoying the warm sunlight on the beautiful and romantic island of Comino will make you always in a peaceful and happy mood. Wandering around the island, watching the waves crashing on rocks or the magnificent scenes of sunrise and sunset will make you fall in love with this beautiful island more.
Mdina is a fortress town in the North, which served as the capital of Malta during the Middle Ages. The whole city was enclosed within the fortress wall with a total population of less than 300 people. The town is exactly an ancient fortress that has preserved its original structure and shape from ancient time. From the narrow roads surrounded by golden stone walls to the ancient street lamps along the alleys, corners, street signs… All of them still have the impression of medieval times.
There is a wide range of activities to enjoy here such as strolling around the picturesque streets as well as visit many museums. This town is also known for its cute cafes and eateries, perfect for relaxing for hours.
Located just outside the walls of Mdina fortress is the town of Rabat. Rabat means “suburban”, or in other words Rabat is the suburb of Mdina. The small town of Rabat with about 11,000 people, is not as magnificent as Mdina, but literally a more ordinary inhabited town. The road leading into the town center is filled with shops, houses, small cafes with red and blue windows that are very typical of Malta.
Visiting Rabat you will be surprised when green dominating everywhere. The green of the lawns adorning the foot of the ancient citadel, of the sparse forests interspersed and spreading, the town is full of old trees whose trunks are large enough for two people to embrace, with their elaborately trimmed foliage in round or square shape.
Sliema is a coastal town located in the northeast of Malta, bordering St. Julians. Once the home of the Maltese nobility, it has now become a major commercial area, very popular for shopping, bars, cafes, restaurants and hotels. Elegant villas and townhouses as well as many Victorian buildings built by the British lying along the promenade overlooking the rocky coastline. A unique experience that worth a try is Dinner in the Sky, where your dinner table will be lifted 40 meters above by a crane, and the panorama from above is something you’ll never forget.
Qrendi is located in the South West of Malta near Mqabba and Zurrieq. The town is small, with a population of around 3,000 people, but it has two of the most important Neolithic temples in Malta, Mnajdra and aġar Qim. On the seaside, you can find the Maqluba, a massive sinkhole that was formed by a great storm in 1343. Qrendi also home to the spectacular Wied iz-Zurrieq harbour and the famous Blue Grotto. The village center is quiet, with many old buildings, however, the suburbs are quite modern and developed. There are no tourist facilities in the centre, making Qrendi a truly Maltese village.
It is a megalithic temple complex, and one of the UNESCO cultural heritage sites in Hagar Qim area, Mnajdra temple is located 500 meters from Hagar Qim temple. This archaeological site is located in an isolated and rugged stretch of the south coast of Malta facing the sea. The complex consists of three buildings facing a common oval front yard and may be part of a larger complex.
The oldest structure, the southern temple dates from around 3600 to 3200 BC. Two other temples were built between 3150 and 2200 BC. These three structures represent an important period in prehistoric human development known as the Ggantija Period (circa 3150 BC to 2500 BC), which was an important period of The Bronze Age period in Malta (2400 BC – 700 BC).
This rural village has a history dating back to 1436. The Grand Master de Rohan (Emmanuel de Rohan-Polduc) elevated Zeborms to a city, renamed it Citta Rohan and built the triumphal arch at the town’s entrance. The main square is decorated by the two-story Baroque Parish Church of Saint Philip with an ornate interior. The original design was created by Cassars, the architect of Saint-John Co-Cathedral in Valletta. Zeborms holds its annual religious festival, The Saint Philip’s Festival at the Parish Church in June.
Great for swimming, water activities, or floating on a life jacket, Blue Lagoon with its emerald water, smooth white sands, the same length as Olympic-sized swimming pool. Good swimmers can cross the cove and small beach on the other side of the lagoon.
From May to October, tourists can stay at Comino Hotel (the only hotel on the island) to enjoy the Blue Lagoon without a tour and enjoy a peaceful vacation more easily. Things to do on Comino Island include walking, hiking, and water sports like snorkeling and scuba diving.
Not to be confused with the Blue Lagoon above, located in the Northwest of the archipelago, in Comino Island, the Blue Grotto is an ensemble of seven caves found along the island’s southern coast, directly across from the islet of Filfla and less than a kilometer from Wied iż-Żurrieq village to the west. It was given its name in the 1950s when a British soldier visited the area and compared it to the famous Grotta Azzurra of the island of Capri, which basically means “Blue Grotto”, because the water is so blue.
The breathtaking seaside setting and limestone caves here are a picture of pure serenity, the water surface shines a brilliant blue in the sun. According to mythology, the Blue Grotto was the home of mermaids and sea nymphs, who seduced sailors with their enchanting voices.
The village of Wied iz-Zurrieq (just 1 km from the Blue Grotto) has many souvenir shops, ice cream shops and cafes, as well as cliff restaurants with great views. You’ll enjoy a meal at one of the restaurant’s terraces overlooking the azure waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
The beach is extremely wide with soft golden sand, clean water, quiet because it is far from traffic, safe for swimming. Many visitors spend whole day here for sunbathing while listening to the soothing sound of the waves crashing against the shore. There are also cafes and restaurants with terraces overlooking the coast and gentle waves.
Ghajn Tuffieha Bay and the beaches of Gnejna Bay
For visitors exploring the area by car, it’s worth the two-kilometer drive from Golden Bay to the pristine beach at Ghajn Tuffieha Bay. Surrounded by cliffs and steep hillsides, the beach is accessed by climbing down 200 steps. Considered one of the top beaches in Malta, Ghajn Tuffieha is popular with locals.
Continuing riding for another seven kilometers from Ghajn Tuffieha Bay is Gnejna Bay, a protected cove surrounded by steep limestone cliffs. Walk down the steep stairs you will reach the beautiful orange-sand beach, which is popular with swimmers and snorkelers. Water ski and canoe rentals are also available as well as public restrooms and food stalls.
Between the bays of Ghajn Tuffieha and Gnejna is the rural village of Mgarr, a scenic spot of vine-covered hills and small farms. Outdoor lovers will enjoy beautiful hiking trails from Mgarr to the countryside and along the coast to Gnejna bay.
Located in the scenic countryside of the Northwest, Mellieha is a family-friendly beachfront destination. The beach is located next to a busy road but does not lose its natural beauty. Mellieha Beach has the largest stretch of sand in the island nation of Malta with a 1.5 km long coastline with fine white sand.
Hal Saflieni Hypogeum
At Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, visitors can explore the prehistoric world (circa 4000BC – 2500 BC). This UNESCO archaeological site is a Neolithic relic discovered in 1902. It is a complex of stone-carved catacombs. In this underground labyrinth, prehistoric humans performed religious burial rituals. The most fascinating thing of the site is that it represents an ancient cultural tradition that no longer exists but remains a mystery to archaeologists and scholars.
Diving at HMS Maori
Malta has a warm climate and is also blessed with azure seas, which means it is the perfect choice for those who love to swimming, snorkeling or scuba diving. There is an array of man-made reefs here as well as a number of military shipwrecks dating back to the Second World War.
One of the most famous diving sites is called HMS Maori, a frigate that was sunk by the Germans and now lies on the seabed at a depth of 14 meters. This is a good diving spot for beginners due to easy access and relatively shallow depths, and if you want to get a diving certificate, some expert divers can support you.
Malta guide: Where to stay?
Hotels in Malta are also very diverse with wide-range choices and different prices, depending on the choice of travelers. Hotels are usually concentrated in St Julian’s, Sliema, St Paul’s Bay, St George’s Bay and Bugibba. In addition, there are many hostels, guesthouses and apartments in Malta for tourists to rent and relax. Campsite in Mellieha will also be an interesting experience if you want to try. Malta also has 2 tourist villages and villas suitable for families and large groups.
If you choose to stay in Valletta, it’s hard to find a cheap hotel (lowest rates are usually 70 euros/night), but one thing is for sure, you will get a room of the right value. Dozens of luxury hotels and apartments are offered in the city, with beautifully decorated authentic buildings, historic buildings and spacious, villa-like hotels. Hotel Phoenicia Malta (Agoda.com or Booking.com), Hotel Palazzo Paolina (Agoda.com or Booking.com), Palais Le Brun (Agoda.com or Booking.com) and Ursulino Valletta (Agoda.com or Booking.com) are just some of the best options if you want the ultimate in experience.
Malta blog: What to eat?
Local, fresh, simple and seasonal dishes are the essence of Maltese and Gozitan cuisine. Maltese cuisine is influenced by its proximity to Sicily and North Africa but it still holds its own flavor and uniqueness.
You can find a wide range of Mediterranean flavors with mains being seafood, vegetables, pasta, meat, bread, cheese and olive oil. To experience the most authentic dishes and a better understanding of Maltese cuisine, look to family-run restaurants in smaller towns.
Stuffat tal-Fenek (Stewed Rabbit)
Stewed rabbit is the national dish of Malta. Rabbit meat is usually prepared in one of two ways, stewed or fried. For stewing, this is a slow cooking process (more than 2 hours) that made the meat to become extremely tender. Stew dishes uasually add a rich tomato sauce and can include a variety of vegetables such as onions, garlic, carrots, and potatoes. It is also often served with spaghetti or some other pasta. You can find this dish at most restaurants in Malta.
Gbejniet (Maltese cheese)
Maltese love their own cheese, especially Gbejniet! Gbejniet is a typical cheese of Maltese people, made of goat or sheep’s milk, salt and rennet. It can be found in 3 forms: fresh, dried or processed and may have peppercorns added to enhance flavor or remain original. In addition to being eaten in original form, this cheese is also commonly served by deep-fried, sprinkled on salads, filling for ravioli (instead of ricotta), and sometimes, even in pies.
Don’t miss this pastizzi. This is one of those wonderfully creative dishes, this pastry is filled with a variety of ingredients, but the two traditional pastizzes contain ricotta cheese or peas. They’re incredibly greasy, delectable and full of calories, so it’s best to try them in the morning when they’re fresh out of the oven!
Aljotta (fish soup)
Aljotta is a soup that uses fish and herbs, has a light, fresh and delicious taste. The flavors stem from herbs, citrus, garlic and of course fresh seafood (mussels, octopus, shrimp, fish, typically kingfish). A hearty meal for any seafood lover!
Timpana (Grilled Macaroni)
These are great pasta pastries. This baked pasta dish is made with very simple ingredients – pasta and dough. Macaroni is cooked in a bolognese sauce with minced meat, bacon, tomatoes, garlic, onions and cheese and then baked in a puff pastry. This dish is quite filling, so make sure you are very hungry before enjoying this meal!
Torta tal-Lampuki (Lampuki Pie)
Always loved by Maltese people, Torta tal-Lampuki brings a sea flavor will surely make diners excited to enjoy. Torta tal-Lampuki is made with fresh sea fish as the main ingredient, cooked in a variety of ways, such as grilled or fried and then topped with tomato sauce, onions, olives and fresh herbs. The time from late August to November is the “season” of this dish.
Imqaret is a deep-fried Maltese sweet that can be found at any street corner and on dessert menus at restaurants. The pastry is filled with dates then deep fried and covered with icing sugar and served with ice cream. If you want to get one for takeout, you’ll be missing out the delicious ice cream, so be sure to give it a try while sitting at the shop.
Zalzett tal-Malti (Maltese Sausage)
Maltese sausage is a homemade sausage mainly made of pork. The dish is influenced by British cuisine but prepared in the Portuguese tradition way. Fresh Maltese sausages are made from garlic, herbs, pepper, crushed coriander seeds and spices while the dried ones are made a bit simpler.
Pan-fried Lamb Chops
Maltese people love to eat well-done cooked meats, so it’s no surprise that you’ll find both lamb and pork on many menus. Because the meat is slow cooked and tender, it has more flavorful. The cuts of meat are tender and tastier, especially when covered in gravy and served with butter and potatoes, it’s amazing!
The best recommendation when you want to learn about Maltese cuisine is a Maltese appetizer plate. Most of them will have small portions of the most appreciated dishes by locals. In the example below, you’ll enjoy a spread with tuna, capers and dried tomatoes, Maltese sausage, stewed beans, and olives, and a salted cheese and pepper similar to feta cheese (gbejniet).
Recommended bars and restaurants:
Bars: Hole in the Wall (Sliema), Native (and any bars on this street as it is the main hub for nightlife), Dubliner, Legligin, The Thirsty Barber.
Malta travel guide: Malta travel costs
Traveling to Malta is surprisingly cheap, the cheapest one among European countries. I came here in the middle of winter – there is no seasonal increase in accommodation, car rental and airfare and my friends tell me that most costs for food, activities and year-round public transport remains the same. Here is a list of common costs in this country:
- Ferry from Sliema to Valletta: One-way: 1.50 euros. Round-trip: 2.80 euros
- Ferry from Valletta to Gozo: 4.65 euros/person, Car and driver : 15 euros
- Pastizzi (cheap snacks): 1-2 euros
- Sandwiches for breakfast : 3-4 euros
- Full breakfast: 3-4 euros
- Lunch at the cafe: 8-10 euros
- McDonald’s: 5-6 euros
- Sandwiches: 6 euros
- Dinner with wine at a restaurant: 25 euros
- Main meal: 10-14 euros
- Pizza: 6-9 euros
- Bottled water: 1 euro
- Wine: 8-10 euros
- Beer: 3 euros
- Admission to the museum: 6 euros
- Car rental: 38-48 euros
- Taxi fare: 10-20 euros
- Bus ticket: 2 euros
On average, you can travel to Malta on a budget with 30-45 euros per day, but in the summer you’ll need around 50 euros per day. For that price, you will have to stay in a hostel or share an Airbnb with a friend, take public transport, most of the activities you take part in will be free activities, prepare your own breakfast and cheap eats at cafes.
In addition, all churches are free admissions. You will find lots of companies that will take you around the island in a boat for EUR25. Most museums and attractions cost EUR5 entrance fee but you can choose to buy a Malta tourist card as suggested above (there is one for Mdina and another card for Valletta) which will save you around EUR10-20 depending on number of tourist attractions you will choose to visit.
Malta blog: Before you go
- Opening hours of restaurants, cafes and bars will be from 9AM to 1PM. The hotel bars will be open from 1PM to 4PM but will continue to serve guests from 6PM.
- Short-haul flights between Grand Harbour in Valletta and Mgarr Harbour in Gozo usually take about 20 minutes. You can also rent cars and bicycles for your convenience of traveling.
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Malta you can refer to
- Malta Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
- Valletta Traditional Two Harbours Day Cruise of Malta
- Malta Prehistoric Temples Tour
- Valletta Half Day Tour