If you know me well, you’ll know I spent much of my childhood on the island of Malta – I even lived and went to school there until my mid-teens. It’s an island that hosts so much history and beautiful architecture – most definitely one of my favourite countries in the world. My partner and I booked a trip out there for March of this year – we were incredibly fortunate and arrived back in the UK the week before lockdown started, meaning that luckily for us, we did get the holiday that we’d been waiting over a year for.
We booked for four days in the country – dipping our toes into a country that is richer in history and architecture than countries twice and thrice its size. I would have loved to have stayed longer but with saving for a house and trying NOT to use all my allocated holiday days before the end of March, we opted for a shorter trip and a promise to return in the summer months. Fitting in all the things I wanted Richard to see – him having never visited the country before – was tough and quite a few things had to be cut off the itinerary, but I am happy to say that we had an absolutely fantastic trip and saw much of the island.
Where We Stayed in Malta
We stayed in Mellieħa, at the top of the island; a lot of my friends from school lived in Mellieħa and my family and I spent much of our time in the summer months lounging on the beach there. The hotel we chose was the Maritim Antonine Hotel and Spa and we honestly couldn’t have chosen better – a beautiful hotel with fantastic amenities and an incredibly affordable off-season price. I would fully recommend – I think we paid less than £200 for 4 nights for the hotel and flights. If you’re after a quieter atmosphere in the evening in the off-season months, Mellieħa is definitely a great bet – although the bars are definitely much more ‘alive’ in the summer months. If you’d prefer to stay somewhere with more of a social scene, then Sliema has a wide collection of bars and Qawra and Bugibba have great pubs and bars in the pjazza.
Things to do in Malta – whether you go off-season or otherwise!
Explore the Capital Valletta and then hop on a boat over to Sliema
One of my favourite parts of visiting Malta is heading into the island’s capital, Valletta – il-belt kapitali. There’s a little bit of something for everyone in Valletta – museums, lots of points of interest and a growing shopping industry. Valletta is home to the famous St John’s Cathedral – which inside houses an actual Caravaggio painting that is well worth a visit if you’re interested in art – as well as the Grandmaster’s Palace that was famous for being the home of the Grand Master of St John, who ruled Malta between 1530 and 1798. Amongst some of my favourite museums in Valletta are indeed the Palace, as well as the Museum of Fine Arts.
Whilst you’re in Valletta, you must take time out of your day to go to the Barrakka Gardens – the Upper and Lower Barrakka gardens are a must-see, particularly at noon! At 12pm, directly below the terraces and the gardens, is the Saluting Battery. Each day, a cannon is fired ceremoniously as it used to when navel vessels filled the harbours. People gather each day to see the cannon go off- even in the pouring down rain, which was what the weather was like for the twenty minute period when we visited. After it had been fired? Blue skies returned, naturally!
You can also take a ferry boat from Valletta, to Sliema – Sliema is much more modern and has a great bar and restaurant scene, as well as fantastic shops and shopping centres! It’s very affordable – only a few euros – and much faster than taking the bus.
Visit the Silent City of Mdina
My favourite place to visit in Malta is definitely Mdina – known as the Silent City, the city is fortified and cars aren’t allowed to enter the gates – once inside, with the exception of the hustle and bustle of tourists, the city is incredibly quiet and peaceful. The streets themselves are windy and twisting, almost like a labyrinth and are a wonder to explore. Mdina is also home to the famous Mdina Glass – an incredible glass workshop that produces one of the island’s most famous souvenirs. We treated my mum to a stunning piece while we were there as they have a collection spanning multiple pieces – I can’t wait to grab a piece for myself on our next trip there!
Take a trip to the beach – and Popeye Village
If you have time to visit the beach and the weather is cracking the flags, then I fully recommend the drive to Mellieħa to visit the beaches there. Our first day in Malta after freshening up in the hotel, we donned our shorts and wandered from the hotel to the beach – it’s a windy, uphill challenge but in the heat but well worth it for the views of the shorelines and the ice cream parlour that greets you when you hit the sands. In March, even though the weather was beautiful and in the early twenties, the beach was empty and a lovely place to relax and reflect.
If you fancy an excursion than further on from Mellieħa, then Popeye Village is a fun day out, especially if you have kids. The actual film set from the 1980 production of Popeye, you can learn all about the film industry, meet Popeye and Olive Oil and take advantage of the splash pool and sun loungers – with a view to die for. There’s also a nine-hole mini golf course, if you fancy a little bit of healthy competitiveness! We didn’t have a chance to visit on this occasion but I’ll definitely be dragging Richard there for the view alone, next time!
History buff? Visit Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum
One of the country’s UNESCO world heritage sites, the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum is well worth a visit if you’re a history buff – or else if you’re looking for something a little bit different to visit on a cooler day. The Hypogeum is a fascinating site to visit – an archaeological site that was only discovered in 1902, it holds the remains of over 7000 beings and has a wide range of archaeological chambers and megalithic temples. A really intriguing and interesting historical site – and one well worth visiting if you’re in dire need of some time away from the sun in the summer months or want to escape the chill in the colder months.
Hop on a boat to Malta’s sister islands Gozo and Comino
Photos from www.maltauk.com
Malta’s sister islands, Gozo and Comino, are beautiful places to visit with acres of beautiful scenery to feast your eyes upon. Take a boat ride to either of the islands – you can swim in the Blue Lagoon, Malta’s spectacular Mediterranean waters and visit the stunning caves surrounding Comino by boat. Gozo is actually considered to be the island Ogygia, from Greek Mythology, where Calypso lived and enchanted Odysseus into remaining with her on her island.
Want a few more things to do in Malta?
Rainy day? Why not visit Malta’s National Aquarium?
We had an afternoon where the weather wasn’t the best – we did go in March, so we couldn’t really complain. The wind was blowing quite strongly and the rain was spitting on and off, so we made the decision to have a relaxing long afternoon in Malta’s National Aquarium. We took the bus to Qawra and walked from the main bus terminal – only around 5 or 10 minutes walk – and spent a good few hours exploring the beautiful aquarium and listening to the tours from the guides there. Malta, as an island, has a whole diverse species of water creatures from fish, to crustaceans and even sharks and to see them living so happily in the aquarium was fantastic. It wasn’t an attraction when we lived in Malta so it was definitely something nice (and new!) to visit for me. It was around 14 euros each to visit but if you book online prior to visiting you can save 5 euros per ticket!
Visit the island’s many churches
Malta is an incredibly small island, Gozo even more so, but they have an abundance of churches – a very religious, Catholic country, the island of Malta houses 314 churches and Gozo has 46 – one for every day of the year, and more. If you have time to visit a few of the churches, then I fully recommend as they’re all beautifully constructed and beautifully decorated. Perfect for a few minutes of reflection from your day.
The things to do in Malta are endless – I’ve been there probably on 25 different occasions in my life and I’m still finding new things to discover!