Three small islands, big things to do!
Malta is such a small island that you can pretty much travel through its entirety within a single day.
DO: Marsaxlokk Fishing Village.
First, make a stop at Marsaxlokk – a traditional fishing village with a population of 3,500 people. Back in the day, Phoenicians, Carthaginians used this Roman-era harbor. You’ll spot many luzzus here, which are traditional fishing boats that have been around since ancient times. So very recognizable, luzzus are always painted with bright colors. On Sundays, there’s always a seafood market at Marsaxlokk, along the seafront.
SHOP: Marsaxlokk Market.
Souvenirs along the port, cheesy but sometimes: why not!
SHOP: Sliema area.
Back on the Big Island, come to Sliema for international brands when it comes to shopping. Sliema is an affluent residential and commercial area, where you’ll find tons of restaurants and cafes.
SEE: Blue Grotto.
Take a rowboat to see the famous Blue Grotto, combined with rays of light (Madonna, anyone?) the stained glass like seawater reflects upon cave ceilings and walls. Underwater, you’ll see shades of red, orange, mauve and green that make the perfect Instagram post #unfiltered. You can visit the cave any day throughout the year, as long as the weather allows it.
Constructed by knights in the 16th century, Valletta is Malta’s capital and Europe’s southernmost capital. Hugely damaged during World World II, today’s Valletta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
SEE: Upper Barrakka Gardens.
Strolling along the Upper Barrakka Gardens, sit down for a sip of cafe and snap tons of photos of the waterfront view of the Grand Harbour. Here’s the highest point of Valletta’s city walls. Prior to the French occupation of Malta, the gardens were used to recreate the Italian administration of the Knights. After the French occupation, the gardens became open to the public.
EAT: Caffe Cordina.
Caffe Cordina is one of those institutions to have stood a city’s test of time. Established in 1837, the interior is classically European. The caffe may seem touristic, but it’s such an institution in Valletta that you’ve gotta do it.
Kinda looks like Coca Cola, but Kinnie is Malta’s national soft drink. It’s bittersweet with extracts of bitter oranges and wormwood.
SEE: Palace Armoury.
To understand the knights or Order of St. John’s influence, the Palace Armoury is a must-see. The collection of knights armor in the 17th and 18th centuries leaves your jaws drop upon entering large rooms filled with metals, helmets and swords. This is one of the the world’s largest collections of arms and amour, and it comes highly recommended.
SEE: St. John’s Co-Cathedral.
Voltaire once said, “Nothing is better known than the siege of Malta.” He was referring to the Great Siege in 1565, when the Ottoman Empire tried to invade Malta when the Knights or Order of St. John was in charge of the island. The siege was the turning point of the conflict between Christians and Islamic Ottoman Empire, both trying to take control of the Mediterranean. Approximately 2,400 soldiers and local Maltese fought against the Ottoman invaders, their victory was one of the most celebrated events in Europe during the 16th century.
Here’s probably one of the most beautiful cathedrals I’ve ever seen personally (and I’ve seen a lot of cathedrals,) St. John’s Co-Cathedral is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, and was built in 1572. Designed by Maltese architect Girolamo Cassar, the glistening golden interior was later redecorated by Mattia Preti and other artists. It is one of the most extraordinary high Baroque art I’ve ever seen!
DO: Stroll around in Mdina.
Located in the north, Mdina was Malta’s capital during the Medieval period, or the Middle Ages, until the arrival of the knights, or Order of St. John. Currently, there are 300 people who live here, and Mdina remains as the center of Maltese nobles and religious authorities. Many houses here are passed down from families by generations. You’ll see a combination of Norman and Baroque architecture with palaces that have turned into private homes.
Today, Mdina is a tourist landmark, cars aren’t allowed here hence it garnered the nickname: Silent City. Once you pass through the Mdina Gate, which was built in Baroque style in 1724, you’ll see Mdina Cathedral, which was dedicated to St. Paul the Apostle, founded in the 12th century, but it was hugely damaged during the 1693 Sicily earthquake, so it was rebuilt a few years later in Baroque style by Maltese architect Lorenzo Gafa, now regarded as one of his masterpieces.
SHOP: Mdina Glass
One thing you’ve got to buy specifically in Mdina is its glassware, to beautify your home. Gorgeous artisanal vases, bowls, jars are made with high quality and premium standards.
DO: Take the ferry to Gozo Island.
Malta is made up of 3 islands, and Gozo is Malta’s sister island. Here, you’ll need to dive & snorkel in the Blue Hole and the Azure Window, where Game of Thrones was shot. Also, visit the Ġgantija Temples which are even older than Egypt’s pyramids! The temples contain several figurines and statues that symbolize fertility ceremonial rites, showing human settlement from more than 5,000 years ago.
Don’t miss the impressive Citadella of Victoria from the Bronze Age is also a former acropolis of a Punic-Roman city. During the Medieval times, the acropolis was converted into a castle that became a home for Gozo refugees. During the 15th century, people started to live in the area that became Victoria. By the 16th century, the Ottomans invaded Gozo and the Cittadella was under siege.
While on Gozo, you can eat at the charming Il-Wileġ Bed & Breakfast. The 150-year-old converted farmhouse serves up a menu of traditional Maltese food.