Malta has an almost mythical quality to it that comes from its eerie underwater caves, stunning temples, and medieval architecture. The streets here wind around towns and villages taking you past churches, markets, and museums, and some of the oldest buildings in the world can be found on this pretty isle. The country is actually an archipelago that sits in the Mediterranean Sea and is close to both neighboring Sicily and Africa.
There are three main islands here in the form of Malta proper, Gozo and Comino, and whichever one you choose to visit you can expect to be surrounded by azure seas and clear blue skies. Whatever you are looking for, one of the islands is sure to deliver and you can pick from museums, fishing trips, and diving opportunities, or just relax and enjoy the cafes and eateries that usually serve fresh seafood plucked straight from the ocean.
Here are the best things to do in Malta:
1. Visit the old capital of Mdina
Mdina is the ancient capital of Malta and sits of a scenic hill in the center of the island.
It is famous for being encircled by dominating fortifications and as such it is not to be missed if you are something of a history buff.
There are a huge range of activities to enjoy here such as strolling around the picturesque streets as well as ducking into the many museums.
The town is also known for its cute cafes and eateries that are perfect for whiling away the hours.
2. Take in the views from Upper Barrakka Gardens
Upper Barrakka Gardens sits close to Valletta and is the place to come if you want to take in some of the best views across Malta.
From the vantage point of the pretty gardens you will get to look out across the famous ‘Three Cities’ of Malta and can see as far as the Grand Harbor.
Once you have finished taking in the scenery and enjoyed a stroll around the garden you can then walk down into the center of the capital city of Valletta.
3. Dive beneath the seas at the HMS Maori
Malta enjoys a warm climate and is also blessed with azure seas which mean that it is perfect if you like swimming, snorkeling, or diving.
There are a range of artificial reefs here as well as a number of military wrecks which date from the Second World War.
One of the most famous is called the HMS Maori which is a destroyer that was sunk by the Germans and now rests on the sea floor at a depth of 14 meters.
This is a good spot for beginners due to its easy access and relatively shallow depth and there are a number of diving schools across the country if you want to get certified.
4. Delve into the Lascaris War Rooms
If you are a history buff, particularly of militant history, then make sure not to miss a trip to the Lascaris War Rooms which are located 45 meters below ground.
The rooms are actually tunnels underneath the Upper Barracca Gardens and were used in World War Two.
They consist of chambers that would have been used as strategic headquarters and it was here that all the main defensive plans to keep Malta safe would have been drawn up.
5. Tour Casa Rocca Piccola
Built in the 1680s, Casa Rocca Piccola is a beautiful home that would have been used in former times by aristocrats from Malta.
Nowadays it has been turned into a museum and you can take a tour and check out all the gorgeous architectural features as well as the extensive historical collection.
This includes costumes from the 18th and 19th century as well as art work, antiques, and silver pieces.
There are also photographs and documents related to the families who would have made the mansion their home which give you an intimate glimpse into aristocratic life in this country.
6. Explore Fort St. Elmo
Malta’s history is riddled with stories of the Knights of St. John who were akin to something like a military group who fought in the days of the Turkish Ottoman Empire.
Fort St. Elmo is built in a star formation and looks out over Valletta’s harbor in order to protect it.
This was the focal point of the Siege of Malta which happened in 1565 and was a bloody period in history when some 1,500 knights lost their lives.
Guided tours will take you all around the fort and fill you in on the fascinating history of the fortification.
7. Go cave diving in Comino
Comino is the best spot in Malta if you like reef and cave diving.
Comino is actually an uninhabited island that sits off the coast of Malta between the mainland and Gozo and you will find a series of underwater caves that shimmer with a dark blue luminescence.
It’s also a great choice if you want to see a wide range of aquatic life such as octopus and barracuda.
8. Marvel at Mosta Dome
Malta doesn’t hide away from lavish architecture and this includes the Mosta Dome.
The church is dedicated to St. Mary and is furnished in the neo-classical style.
The dome is the main feature here and measures 121 feet and 220 feet high, making it bigger than the uber-famous St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.
Much of the inside of the church is decorated in gilt and the floors are paved with marble.
It is meant to be modeled on the Pantheon in Rome and you will also find a pipe organ here with an impressive 2,000 pipes.
9. Go on a day trip to Gozo
The island of Gozo is often referred to as the ‘sister’ of Malta but it only takes 20 minutes to travel here by ferry.
The main reasons to make the trip include enjoying the cultural activities as well as rugged coastlines and secluded sandy beaches.
Make sure not to miss the Citadella in Victoria which is made up of a fortified city that is designed in the Byzantine and Roman styles and is something of an architectural wonder.
10. Go horse riding at Golden Bay
Golden Bay is made up of a soft sandy beach that backs on to towering cliffs in the north of Malta.
One of the best ways to take in the stunning scenery in this part of the country is on horseback and you can choose from a range of options including day trips.
If you prefer you can join a sunset horseback ride which is the perfect way to end the day as you watch the sun slip below the horizon.
11. Admire St John’s Co-Cathedral
Blessed with a Baroque façade, St. John’s Cathedral is said to be one of the prettiest churches in all of Europe, which is high praise indeed.
The church was built by the Knights of St. John and construction finally finished in 1577. One of the signature features here is the marble tombstone floor which has 400 monuments that are meant to honor the knights.
Just some of the decorations on the tombs include angles, skulls, and even coats of arms dedicated to each knight.
Also make sure to look out for the decorative frescoes which tell the stories of key scenes from the Bible.
12. Dance the night away at the Isle of MTV
If you are looking for a party in Malta then make the trip to the Isle of MTV music festival which is held in July every year.
It usually welcomes music stars from all over the world and past acts have included the Black Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga, and Akon.
The entire festival takes place out of doors and the venues sees some 50,000 guests so you know that this is going to be a party to remember.
13. Visit Palazzo Parisio and Gardens
Palazzo Parisio and Gardens was designed in 1733 and is still occupied by the current Maltese owners.
The public can tour some of the building and the grounds however and the gardens here are a sight to be seen.
They are designed in the Italianate style and have bubbling fountains and pristine box hedges.
If you come in the summer months you will find a beautiful orangery here bursting with ripe fruit.
14. Explore the Ggantija Temples
The Ggantija Temples translate to ‘Gigantic’ and sit on the idyllic island of Gozo.
Amazingly these structures actually pre-date the Pyramids of Egypt and there are two temples here encircled by an outer fortification wall.
Their huge size is the main draw here and it is even more difficult to imagine how they were built when you consider that they were constructed before the invention of the wheel.
In ancient times the temples would have been used for sacrifices and as a place to make offerings.
15. Explore the Great Siege of Malta and the Knights of St. John
The Great Siege of Malta & the Knights of St. John is an interactive exhibition that features sound and light effects to tell the story of the Great Siege of Malta in 1565. The siege saw the Knights of St. John battling the Turks and the exhibition takes you back in time to the 12th century when the knights were formed and helped pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land.
A number of dioramas are used to tell the story and visitors can look at the history of the siege through the eyes of Francesco Balbi who was a Spanish poet who witnessed this bloody battle.
16. Visit Marsaxlokk
Marsaxlokk is a quaint fishing village which is located in the south of Malta.
The main reasons to come here include the throbbing market that takes place here every day as well as the harbor which has pretty bobbing fishing boats.
These are an attraction in their own right in Malta and are known as luzzus and come in a range of different hues and styles.
Make sure to check out the prows which are painted with glaring eyes which are said to help to guard against evil spirits.
As you would expect from a fishing village, there is an abundance of seafood here so make sure to stop off for lunch or dinner.
17. National Museum of Archeology
Malta has some fascinating archaeology and you can learn all about it at the National Museum of Archeology.
Here you will find displays that document historical artifacts from all over the country including Bronze Age weapons and a Phoenician sarcophagus.
There are a variety of pretty statues as well as altar stones and jewelry and the building the collection is presented in is also a work of art in itself.
The Auberge de Province used to belong to the Knights of St.
John and you should make sure to look up and take in the beautiful ceiling that curves over the Grand Salon.
18. Explore Valletta Harbor
Valletta Waterfront is also known as Pinto Wharf and has been lovingly preserved over the years.
In ancient times it would have been made up of maritime treasures such as warehouses but now it has been transformed into a tourist complex.
This means that you will now find restaurants, cafes, and shopping outlets, and you can also go for a breezy walk along the promenade and take in the vistas across the water.
If you are here at night then you can also visit the many nightclubs that dot the area.
19. Visit Auberge de Castille
The Auberge de Castille dates from the 16th century and sits overlooking the city of Valletta.
It would have been the home of the Knights of St.
John, but in the present day it is now the office of the Prime Minister of Malta and is worth a visit to take in the picturesque facade.
If you happen to be here in the evening then the building is fully illuminated making it one of the prettiest sights in the city.
20. Visit Ta’Quali Craft Village
Located on an old airfield from the Second World War, Ta’Quali is the place to come if you are looking for traditional Maltese handicrafts.
Some of the items on sale include pretty glass that is still blown by hand as well as leather, linen, and ceramics.
All the pieces are made by locals and you can watch many of the craftsmen and women at work when you visit to learn how the pieces are made.
21. Enjoy the Tarxien Temples
The Tarxien Temples have the claim to fame of being the largest temple complex in Malta and are also part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Situated to the south of Valletta, there are four different temples here that date from 3,300-2,400 BC. The temples are dedicated to the goddess of fertility and you will find a wealth of treasures here including carved images of animals and a range of ornate altars.
22. Explore Ghar Dalam Cave and Museum
Known for being the oldest of all the prehistoric sites in Malta, Ghar Dalam Cave and Museum is also strangely one of the least visited.
The cave is made up of a huge underground tunnel which contains the fossils of a range of extinct animals.
Many of these date from the Ice Age and include giant mice, hippos, deer and dwarf elephants.
Other items such as ancient cooking vessels were also found here and it is thought to be the first settlement in all of Malta.
Signs of human life here stretch back 7,400 years but even more amazingly people still lived in the cave until 1911.
23. Check out the Three Cities
Across the Grand Harbor from Valletta are the so-called ‘Three Cities’ of Senglea, Cospicua and Vittoriosa.
In ancient times they would have made up one long wall of defense in Malta encircled by a fortification and construction would have started in the 16th century.
Senglea and Cospicua are known for their scenic waterfront promenades and pretty marinas, but it is Vittoriosa that is the most impressive of the Three Cities.
Some highlights here are the Church of St. Lawrence and the Malta at War Museum, as well as Fort St. Angelo which played a major role in the Great Siege of Malta in 1565.
24. Take in a show at Manoel Theatre and Museum
This theater has been in operation since 1732 and constructed under the Grand Master of the Knights of St. John.
The interior is the main attraction here and you will find gilt decorations all over the structure including in the main auditorium which is covered in blue and gold.
There are only 623 seats here which give the theater an intimate feel and you should also look out for the white marble staircase and a courtyard bar.
The theater is a showcase for all the arts in Malta such as music concerts, opera shows, and ballet recitals, or you can even see a rock or folk concert here.
Make sure to check out the local listings to see what’s on when you are in town.
25. Wander around San Anton Gardens
Malta doesn’t have a huge range of public parks, but one wonderful green space in the country is San Anton Gardens.
Amazingly, this is also the residence of the President of Malta, but it was given to the public in 1882 which means that anyone can visit the grounds.
Here you will find scenic gardens and aromatic citrus orchards as well as fountains and sculptures.
Many of the trees that dot the grounds are over 300 years old and provide a shady environment if you want to explore this quiet little corner of the country.
There is also an aviary here and a petting zoo for younger visitors.