Malta Travel Guide 2023
Updated: Nov 27
Malta is a hidden gem in the Mediterranean and the world's tenth-smallest country! Malta is a unique vacation spot with stunning beaches, a rich history, and three UNESCO World Heritage sites. It is made up of three islands: Malta, Gozo, and Comino. Most sites are on the largest island, Malta, but you'll have to go to all three islands to see everything.
For such a small country, Malta has touched many chapters of European history. Malta was conquered by the Romans, the French, and other empires. If you are a Greek mythology nerd, historians also claim that Malta was Calypso's island from the Odyssey. If you are interested in learning more about Malta's history before visiting. I recommend this episode from the History is Easy podcast.
More recently, Malta has recently become a center for Europeans hoping to learn English. Ever since the UK left the European Union, Malta has become a popular place for young Europeans to spend their summers and attend ESL programs. While English is their primary language, you'll hear a mix of French, Spanish, Italian, German, and other languages while you are visiting.
Due to its long history of being colonized by larger European countries, Malta has a mix of traditions. While they use the euro as their currency, Malta also uses UK outlets and they drive on the left side of the road.
Where to stay
Valletta is the current capital of Malta. Not only is it gorgeous with limestone walls, hidden alleys, and colorful shutter windows, but it is also the most convenient area to stay in. The main bus station is located right outside of the city walls, making it easy to travel all over the island. Also, the port will take you directly to Gozo and Comino.
St. Julian’s and Paceville
If you prefer to be closer to the Malta nightlife, I would recommend looking in the St. Julian's and Paceville area. In St Julian's, I recommend the Inhawi Hostel. It is one of the nicest hostels I have stayed in with friendly staff, clean rooms, and even a pool!
If you are looking to get away from the city and crowds while still having access to beautiful beaches, I recommend spending at least one night on the island Gozo. Even in peak tourist season, I found the island very quiet and tranquil.
How to get around
Malta's buses are incredibly effective and straightforward. The best way to use them is Tallinja, a transportation app. Unlike with Google or Apple maps, Tallinja is updated to the minute about bus arrival times.
The buses are very affordable and many take Apple Pay or card, but I would still recommend carrying cash. Most buses are only 2 euro per ride (the airport and Gozo bus prices vary).
Malta uses Bolt rather than Uber or Lyft. As with most ride-sharing apps, Bolts tend to be far cheaper than taxis. I would recommend downloading Bolt before your trip, because the airport taxis are particularly expensive and complicated.
Things to do
No trip to Malta would be complete without a visit to the Blue Lagoon. The water is breathtakingly clear, and I have never seen anything like it.
The Blue Lagoon is on Comino. There are a few ways to get to the Blue Lagoon. You can travel to the North end of Malta and take a ferry from there, or you can leave from Gozo. If you plan on spending a night in Gozo, it is far easier than leaving from Malta. You can also do a guided tour to make sure you see both islands, hassle-free.
Mdina was the original capital of Malta. It is nicknamed the Silent City, which is fitting because it is so quaint and separate from the rest of the island. Its walkways are made of limestone and it is so small that you can do it in just an hour or two.
Mdina was also the original King's Landing in Game of Thrones. While most of the King's Landing scenes were filmed in Dubrovnik, Croatia, the first season was filmed in Malta.
Valletta is the smallest national capital in the European Union. It is a stunning area to walk around and explore. Highlights include the Barrakka Gardens, the Archaeology Museum, or Casa Rocca Piccola. While these landmarks are stunning, be sure to leave spare time to wander around the area. There are countless small alleyways or hidden viewpoints.
You can also follow a street food tour and try all of the traditional Maltese dishes. They'll also stop by the main landmarks and teach you about the culture and history.
I highly recommend visiting the city around or right before golden hour. The limestone glows in golden light, and you can see the sunset over the island from the Upper Barrakka Gardens.
Marsaxlokk is a traditional fishing village on the Southern end of Malta. The harbor is full of beautiful, colorful boats. There is a temple on the shore and tons of delicious restaurants.
On Sundays, there is a market where you can buy fresh fish, souvenirs, and other produce. It is very crowded, so I would recommend getting there early.
If you have time I would recommend visiting Manoel Isle. While not at the top of my list, the views of the city are gorgeous and you can even jump off the rocks into the water. It is far quicker to get to the fort by bird or scooter than it is by foot.
If you are a Game of Thrones fan, Fort Manoel is the famous shooting location where Ned Stark was executed.
Day Trip to Gozo
Gozo is just a short and scenic ferry ride away. It is very different from Malta, mostly because it is smaller and quieter. Gozo has its own sights such as Ramla Bay, the Ggantija Temples, or the salt pans. They also use Tallinja, but they have less routes.
You can travel to the top of Malta to get there, but I recommend going from the port in Valletta. You can buy your tickets at Gozo Fast Ferry.
The Blue Grotto is a group of sea caverns. You can take a boat tour into the caves, which are absolutely stunning. However, they only take cash, so come prepared with 10 euro a person.
The area around the Blue Grotto also has a rocky beach where you can jump in and swim. From the Blue Grotto, it is just a short drive to Hagar Qim.
Hagar Qim is a megalithic temple complex that dates back to the Ggantija Phase (3200-3600 BC), making it older than the Pyramids and Stonehenge. The site features a museum, Hagar Qim, and the other temple, Mnajdra.