The island of Malta may be small but it is beautiful and steeped in rich culture and centuries of history. It’s capital, Valletta, is one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world. In this post we show you our top things to do in Malta in a week.
The Island of Malta
The island of Malta, one of the smallest countries in the world, is around a 4 hour flight from the UK, although exact times will vary depending on where you are flying from.
There is a wide range of accommodation in the Valletta area to suit all budgets and preferences. We were based at the Victoria Hotel in Sliema, an area with a lot of hotels. Although not on the waterfront it was only a 5 minute walk away from the sea in a number of directions. Yes, its a complicated shoreline. It was downhill to the water so there was a bit of a climb back up. But if you can deal with the hill it’s ideally placed for exploring the surrounding area and to let you see the best of Malta. Transfer times from the aiport to Valletta area are around 30 minutes depending on the time of day.
The Victoria itself is a 4 star hotel and is welcoming and relaxed and suited us just fine. Their reception staff were pleasant and attentive. Buffet style breakfast was adequate, with a selection of hot and cold dishes. A big plus are the great views from the roof top pool which is shared with The Palace, the 5 star sister hotel adjacent to the Victoria.
Here are our thoughts on the top things to do in Malta in a week:
Spend Time in Valletta
A 5 minute ferry ride from the terminal on the Sliema promenade takes you across one of the natural harbours to Valletta city. From there it is a 10 minute walk to the centre. Alternatively, there is a mini bus service on the Valletta side for around a €1.00 which will save you the 10 minute uphill walk.
Valletta is a small compact city and was European Capital of Culture in 2018. It is a city steeped in history since the 16th century and is one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world. It is packed with museums, monuments, restaurants and shops. The centre is mainly pedestrianised and is built on a grid system so it’s easy to find your way about. Another plus is the amber coloured limestone and contrasting blue skies which make for great photo opportunities.
Take a Harbour Cruise
A range of cruise operators leave from the waterfront at Sliema including Captain Morgan and Luzza & Latini. Prices can be negotiated close to departure times if boats are not full . So if you are happy not to buy your tickets in advance you can get a discount. We got the price dropped from €15.00 to €10.00 per person doing it this way. The cruise takes around 90 minutes. The price doesnt include drinks and local snacks but these can be bought on board at reasonable prices. Considering the captive market €2.00 for a beer, soft drink, tea or coffee didn’t seem bad.
Maps were available to allow you to follow the route around the harbour and commentary was clear and informative. Bankets were provided when the boat was exposed in the harbour. The cruise is a great way of getting a better understanding of the coastline. Just be sure and take a camera as there are plenty of great photo opportunities.
Tour the Island of Malta
An island tour is an obvious way to see the best of the Malta. The island is easily do-able in a day depending on the detail you want to take in. There are a number of ways you can do this. Either go on an organised trip, the usual red sightseeing bus (www.citysightseeing.com.mt) at around €20.00 for a day ticket or by hiring a car. Bear in mind driving is not for the faint hearted. As the island is relatively small most sights are within an easy 20 minute drive of each other.
We opted for the ‘Highlights of Malta’ tour with SMS Travel at €52.00 per person (2017 prices). This included lunch and entry to the Malta 5D experience in Valletta, which seemed reasonable value for money. Stops on the tour included the Mosta Dome, famous for a bomb coming through its roof during World War 2 which didn’t explode, the Artisan Crafts Village at Ta’Qali, the Dingli Cliffs and Mdina the ancient Capital.
Mdina, the ancient Capital
Mdina, was perhaps the highlight for us. Known as the silent city, it is picturesque, small and manageable in a short time. It is a mix of baroque and medieval architecture. Its packed with winding streets and well preserved churches, palaces and fortified walls. There are restrictions in place to control the number of cars so it remains a (relatively) silent city today. The walled town is probably best viewed from the fields at the back of the Artisan shopping area (next to the toilet block).
Lunch was better than expected on this type of tour and included 3 courses in Restaurant Madrigal in the town of Rabat.
Visit the 3 Cities Area
The 3 Cities area is an obsolute must if you want to see the best of Malta. Allow at least half a day to vist the 3 Cities area, across the Grand Harbour from the centre of Valletta. If staying in the Sliema area getting there involves taking two ferries. The first one from Sliemma to Valletta then having walked across Valletta taking another ferry to the 3 cities area. This sounds worse than it is. From Valletta the elevator from Upper Barrakka Gardens takes you down to the 2nd ferry point. The elevator on the way back up is free as the cost is included in your ferry ticket. A saving of a €1.00.
The timetable seemed reasonably well co-ordinated and if you dont waste time crossing Valletta between ferries then it is possible to catch the next ferry to the 3 Cities without a wait. But you need to move pretty quickly.
The 3 Cities area is packed with history and outstanding architecture. Many of the narrow side streets are quiet and relatively free from cars. From our experience tourist numbers were fairly low as well. It is well worth an aimless wander and it is small enough to ensure you wont get terribly lost as you are never far from the water. Allow a good 3 hours to see a bit of both L’isla and Il Birgu. If you have the time also check out the area of Kalkara.
Take a Day Trip to Gozo
Okay, so this one is not on the island of Malta, but Gozo is part of the Maltese archipelago. Setting aside a day for a trip to Malta’s neighburing island of Gozo is well worth thinking about. It works out at about a 10 hour day but Gozo has much to offer and we felt it was well worth the time. Again, we booked with SMS Travel at a cost of €58.00 per person (2017 prices). This included return transfers to the ferry port, return ferry crossings, the tour of the island with lunch and entrance fees. Gozo is around a third of the size of Malta and only a 25 minute ferry ride away from the port of Cirkewwa. It has an even slower pace of life than Malta with rugged coastline, open countryside and sleepy villages.
See the Fishing Village of Marsaxlokk
A visit to the Sunday market at the fishing village of Marsaxlokk on the south east coast of Malta is a couple of hours well spent. We arranged mini bus transport through the hotel for €20. The village has a pretty harbour with a lot of traditionally painted fishing boats.
If you can pull yourself away from the market stalls a 20 to 30 minute walk will get you to St Peter’s Pool. It’s an attractive cove popular for swimming and sunbathing. Head east away from the town and after 10 to 15 minutes you’ll pick up a signposted path on your left which climbs up and over the narrow Delimara peninsula, behind the power station, to St Peter’s Pool. It is secluded with crystal clear waters. Just dont expect to have it to yourself. Alternatively if you don’t fancy the walk, some of the boats in the harbour offer to take you around the headland to the cove for around €5.00 each. Best check if the price includes the return journey or not.
There are other attractions which we didn’t cover on the island of Malta, which you might want to see in your best of Malta list. This would include a visit to Popeye Village (Sweethaven village) where you can explore the 1980s film set which starred the late Robin Williams. There is a water park, rides, puppet shows and you can meet the characters from the film. Also consider visiting Maltas archeological sites including some of the oldest free standing stones in the world. A number are UNESCO world heritage sites. Hagar Qim and Mnajdra are the best preserved on top of sea cliffs.
We found the island of Malta small enough to get around it and still have some time to chill out. It may not have it all and the scenery is fairly bland away from the coast. However, if you want to take in the wealth of history it is definately one for your trainers rather than sandals. We had some reservations about the location of our hotel being in Sliema across the bay from the city, as most hotels are, but we needn’t have worried as transport options are more than adequate. If you have overlooked the island of Malta and its not on your bucket list it might well be worth giving it some serious thought.
Looking for More?
If you enjoyed our article on How to See the Best of Malta and are looking for some further reading then below you’ll find more of our articles on the island of Malta. For related reading check out the Tag links as well at the bottom of the page.
More Reading on Malta
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