Things to do in Malta
Malta may not be on your backpacking radar yet, but it definitely should be. There are countless exciting things to do in Malta and it’s one of those places where there’s something for everyone. For starters, Malta is in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, so the climate is near perfect all year round. Most of us agree that guaranteed sunny weather is a massive bonus on any relaxing, action-packed or culture-filled break. Check out all the best things to do in Malta to suit any and every travel style.
Visit Malta’s former capital, the silent gated city of Mdina
This is an ideal place to spend a day trip and learn more about Malta’s former capital city before its current capital, Valletta, even existed. Mdina is a historic, medieval city which looks like it’s been frozen in time. Don’t forget to check out St Paul’s Cathedral while you’re there, not to mention the incredible views over the whole country (yes, country!) from the top of the rear wall.
Taste authentic Maltese cuisine – yes, even rabbit stew
Surprisingly for a Mediterranean country, Malta’s cuisine relies heavily on carbs and unusual meats. Malta’s national dish is rabbit stew, which is served with a side of red wine gravy, carrots and potatoes. Other traditional Maltese meals include Widow’s Soup (essentially vegetable soup) and Timpana which is an oven–cooked dish made with macaroni and various meats topped with pastry. You might need a nap after eating Timpana! If none of these dishes appeal to you, luckily you’ll find lots of delicious mezze platters served with traditional Maltese sourdough bread.
Discover the real-life King’s Landing with a Game of Thrones tour
One of the most popular things to do in Malta is to explore the Game of Thrones filming locations. Season one was shot in Malta before production moved to Dubrovnik for season two, but King’s Landing and many of the scenes in Essos were shot in Malta. Mdina and Gozo are the most notable cities used in filming, but if you’re a super-fan then booking a tour might be a good idea as there are many Game of Thrones locations across the whole country.
Head underground to the ?al Saflieni Hypogeum, a 6,000-year-old burial site
Too few people are aware that Malta is an archaeologist’s dream. If you’re an Indiana Jones wannabe, then there are more sites dating back thousands of years than you could possibly hope to visit in one trip. One of the most important is the Hypogeum based in Paola near Valletta. It’s an underground necropolis with the remains of over 7,000 people who lived over 6,000 years ago. Only a handful of tickets are released for every tour since the structure is so delicate. Make sure you book your tickets as far in advance as possible or you may miss out.
Sample Lord Chambray beers from Malta’s biggest microbrewery
No country has been spared from the recent craft beer boom, not even a country as small as Malta. Lord Chambray takes home the gold as the biggest and most popular microbrewery in the country. They brew five beers year-round and a few more seasonally. Since they are the main brewery in the country, any half-decent bar is bound to stock one or two of their beers. If you’re not a fan of craft beer, Cisk is Malta’s homebrewed lager and I’d put money on it being served in every single bar and restaurant in the country.
Wander through the shady streets of Malta’s capital city, Valletta
No trip to Malta would be complete without visiting the capital city. Valletta is Europe’s smallest capital which was built on a grid system (like New York City) to let the tall buildings shade the pavements and the cool sea air travel through the streets. It’s an incredibly pretty city with painted window boxes on every corner, and the buildings are made from sandy-coloured limestone. The peaceful Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens offer picturesque views of Valletta’s neighbouring towns across the water.
Take your inner child on a trip to Popeye’s Village theme park
Game of Thrones isn’t the only production to choose Malta’s rugged landscapes as a filming location. The 1980 film Popeye starring Robin Williams built an entire whimsical fishing village on Malta’s east coast and the film set was turned into a theme park after production ended. It’s one of the most popular things to do in Malta for families with kids but it’s worth checking out if you’re a big kid at heart.
Check out the Tarxien Temples, one of Malta’s many megalithic temples
Malta has so many historic temples, it’s almost showing off. The megalithic temples were given UNESCO World Heritage status in 1992, just after the city of Valletta became one in 1980. The Tarxien Temples were most likely built for animal sacrifices and then reused in the Bronze Age for cremations. It all sounds very depressing, especially if you’re indifferent about history, but no one can deny how amazing it is that these structures are still so intact and preserved after thousands of years.
Hop on a cruise around Valletta and explore the ‘Three Cities’
You don’t have to squeeze into a scuba suit to appreciate Malta’s ample coastlines. If visiting charming little towns and cruising at a relaxed pace is more your thing then you need to visit the Three Cities. This nickname is given to the fortified towns of Birgu, Senglea and Cospicua which are nestled next to each other across the water from Valletta. They’re quieter than the capital but just as beautiful and there are many forts, like Fort St. Angelo in Birgu, you can visit.
Eat Fish Stew in Marsaxlokk
Speaking of the sea, one of the best things to do in Malta is to sample as much local fish as you possibly can. Malta is known for its fish stew (another example of Maltese comfort food), in particular, swordfish, sea bass and lampuka or Mahi-mahi. The best town to eat fish in Malta is Marsaxlokk and it won’t surprise you to learn it’s situated right by the sea and is the biggest fishing town in the country.
Party all night at the Isle of MTV Music Festival
Yes, Malta has its own annual summer music festival! The Isle of MTV takes over an entire city square right in the centre of Valletta for almost a whole week in July. All the clubs and bars get involved, hosting music nights and performances by local artists, plus huge acts like Jason Derulo and Paloma Faith have performed on the main stage.
Visit the G?ar Dalam caves to uncover the fossils of extinct animals
Don’t assume the G?ar Dalam caves are just another old burial site in Malta to visit, because they serve a very different purpose. These caves contain the remains of animals like the Dwarf Elephant and types of hippopotamus, deer and bear species that are all extinct. Some of the fossils date back 10,000 years which is just astonishing. If you’ve been watching a lot of David Attenborough programmes then these caves may well be of interest you.
Book a guided tour of the Ta’ Mena Estate winery on Gozo
Who here likes wine? There’s no better place in Malta for wine lovers than a guided tour of the Ta’ Mena Estate wintery on Gozo, Malta’s most northern island. Here you can sample many local wines, in a beautiful setting, while feasting on olives, tomatoes, cheese and lots of other classic Mediterranean produce.
Spend a day swimming and snorkelling in the Blue Lagoon on Comino
One of the best things to do in Malta is to take a ferry to the island of Comino and spend an entire day swimming in the gorgeous turquoise waters and basking in the hot Maltese sun. The blue lagoon attracts so many visitors because the water is shallow and crystal clear, so it’s perfect for snorkelling.
Snack on Pastizzi pastry in Rabat
If you’re keen to try more than the stew during your trip to Malta, you have to taste a Pastizzi. They’re a small pastry, usually filled with pea-paste or ricotta cheese. Crystal Palace, a coffee shop in Rabat, is renowned for baking the best Pastizzi in Malta. Which is perfect if you’re visiting Mdina because Rabat is the town that surrounds the gated city.
Witness Gozo’s raw and rugged coastline in Dwerja Bay
Dwejra Bay was home to the famous rock archway, called the ‘Azure Window’, on the Maltese island of Gozo before a huge storm in 2017 sadly knocked it down. The Azure Window was a big draw for tourists to travel the distance up to Gozo, but the untouched coastlines are still worth the visit. An old fortress city called Citadella and the Ggantija Temples in Gozo are also worth leaving the main island for, even if it’s only for a day trip.
Experience the best of Malta’s nightlife in St. Julian’s
Most backpackers hoping for a top weekend of partying in Malta head to St. Julian’s. Malta’s unofficial party centre is filled with pubs, bars, night clubs and hostels, so you won’t have to take an expensive taxi back at the end of the night. Just stay in one of the many awesome hostels in St. Julian’s and you won’t be more than a five-minute walk away from the action.
Wander around San Anton’s Garden on the President of Malta’s estate
There aren’t many actual parks or gardens to visit in Malta, but the Maltese President has done his best to rectify that by opening up his own estate and gardens to the public. San Anton’s Garden is a huge public space with many different animals, plants, veggies and all sorts growing right behind where the President of Malta lives. The trees provide lots of shade and it’s possibly one of the most relaxing (and free) places in Malta to visit.
Dive to the WWII wreckage of the HMS Maori
Malta is a fantastic place for scuba divers. The waters surrounding the islands are usually quite clear and there are tonnes of diving schools to choose from. Malta was used as a military base during WWII while it was under British rule (due to its proximity between Europe and Africa) so there are a few wreckages around the country that even beginner divers can explore.
Walk along the promenade from St. Julian’s to Sliema, then onto Valletta
Finally, if you’re just visiting Malta for a weekend break then one of the best things to do in Malta is completely free. If you’re staying in St. Julian’s or nearby, you can easily walk along the promenade to Sliema and all the way to Valletta. You’ll see heaps of fantastic skylines and coastlines while soaking up the Mediterranean sunshine and there are plenty of bars and cafes you can pop into for a rest on your way.
So what are you waiting for? You’d better get Malta added to your travel wishlist, pronto! Start planning your Maltese adventure today by checking out all of our incredible hostels in Malta.
About the author:
Rebecca Sharp is a freelance content creator and blogger based in the UK. Her blog, Almost Ginger, combines her two passions of film and travel by featuring filming locations, film festivals and wanderlust-inspiring films.