Malta – One Of The Easiest Places to Travel
I met a young Maltese couple in South Africa in 2017 and while I did have a vague clue as to where Malta was, after spending a month with them, it was high on my “Places to visit next” list.
In May of 2018 I finally got to Malta and LOVED IT! It has some stunning architecture, a very diverse history, some impressive cultural sights and great beaches.
First, the basics about Malta
Where is Malta?
Malta is in the Mediterranean, smack bang in the middle of ocean between Italy, Tunisia and Greece.
What's the easiest way to get to Malta?
You can get a ferry from Southern Italy however the easiest way is probably to fly with Air Malta. They have regular flights from all over Europe so you shouldn't have any trouble finding something.
What Languages are spoken in Malta?
Malta has two official languages, Maltese and English. There are quite a few Italian speakers around however so if you speak Italian you should be OK. I found Malta so easy to get around because of English being a well used language so even if you only speak a small amount of English you will be fine.
What currency is used in Malta?
Malta operates on Euro so no challenge there.
Where to stay in Malta
I was spending a few weeks in Malta so I had booked a little AirBnB cottage in Rabat. I have written a review of the cottage in this post.
I chose Rabat, because I wanted somewhere village like that seemed quite traditional and a bit quieter than I though Valletta might be. I would stay in Rabat again. Because of the Medina, all the public transport comes to and from Rabat every hour and often more frequently than that. The bus stops are right out the front of the Medina gate so supremely simple to get to and in the evening (or early morning) before the tourists arrive or after they leave, it is a small village feel with lots of locals out and about.
Rabat is also a great place for foodies and we had an especially great dinner at Route 81 just down from the Medina. This image will show you some places around Rabat that are worth visiting.
Some Accommodation Options In Rabat
Rooms from around 80 Euro per night, in a great location in the center of Rabat
Rooms from around 120 Euro per night. Breakfast is included.
Rooms start from around 175 euro per night but are dependent on season. It is inside the Medina walls & looks beautiful!
What to do in Malta
You can easily fill a few weeks in Malta if you are looking to combine sightseeing with some rest and relaxation. I was there in May so it was decent weather but not beach weather just yet. I am Australian though so I need it to be at least 28 to consider it beach weather. I was also sick the few days I was supposed to go to Gozo so missed that unfortunately however I think I might try and get back next year when I'm in Europe again. I don't usually go back anywhere but we have friends there and they have a new baby so it might be a great idea to revisit Malta again.
The Three Cities
We did a tour of the Three Cities with Rolling Geeks – an electric cart tour that is a self drive set up. You just follow the directions that come direct to you through your cart and get a great look at Gardjola Gardens, the tiny streets of Birgu and even out to the Malta film studio's where if you are lucky you might see something going on. It takes about 2 hours and the company can see where you are at all times, so if you take a wrong turn they will call you and set you back on track. The day we did it the police had closed off some streets around the Grand Harbour and they came out in another cart for us to follow so great customer service.
Birgu, is also known as Città Vittoriosa, and is a fortified city on the south side of the Grand Harbour. It's winding streets and densly packed homes give it a really lovely feel. You pass the odd cafe that is doing a roaring trade and the marina is a great spot to grab an ice-cream and gawp at the boats after your tour is done.
St Pauls Catacombs
A large cemetery complex just a short walk from the Medina gates in Rabat, St Pauls Catacombs are worth a visit. The cemetery was build outside of the main city as law (under the Roman rule) prohibited burials inside the city walls. Some of the tombs are large enough to walk in and out but some are massive and despite having to watch you head, it's pretty cool to be able to walk around inside.
I did St Pauls Catacombs on my own but I wish I had of done a tour after. I really enjoyed it but I felt that there would have been much more to learn from a good guide. I had some friends to this tour and loved it so that might be an option for you. It is only $55 AUD and has pickups from all over Malta and also includes Rabat Mdina and San Anton Gardens.
Valletta is the Maltese capital and is known for its fortifications and churches. In 2018 the city was named Europes “Capital of Culture” and tourism in Malta has really benefited from this title. There is heaps to see and do and you could easily spend a day wandering Valletta.
The Waterfront is a great place for a seafood lunch. If you walk here from the Upper Barrakka Gardens it feels a little strange as you pass what seems to be abandoned buildings. They are in use but as they are situated in what would have once been ships storage, there's not much to see as you walk by.
St Johns Cathedral is a majestic slice of art work. Gilded walls and arched ceilings have paintings by the Grand Masters however it is still used as a regular church to Valletta's residents.
I signed up for a walking tour of Valletta and did enjoy it. I wouldn't have gotten nearly as much info doing it on my own, but you easily could just spend the day wandering. I also got a water taxi over to the Three Cities for a sunset wine, which did round off the day nicely. To do that get the lift down from Upper Bakkarra Gardens (you only have to pay for up!) and cross the road walking in behind the buildings to the waters edge and the Water Taxi's are there. This is the Google Maps location.
What was once a film set has now grown to be one of Malta's most popular tourist attractions. It is very family oriented and we didn't go down in to the village however it is a very cool use of what would have otherwise been pulled down and scrapped. Read more about Popeye Village.
Marsaxlokk on the south western end of Malta is a traditional fishing village and a veritable explosion of color. The colorful fishing boats lay at anchor in this spectacular azure water and to be honest you just don't know where to look. A market lines the foreshore on the weekends and you can purchase fresh seafood from the local fisherman.
Across the road there are a line of seafood restaurants which is a great placed to settle in for lunch. It is really worth a visit if you are making your way around the island.
Ħaġar Qim is a megalithic temple complex on the south east side of Malta. The temples of Hagar Qim are among the most ancient sites of religious purpose on earth. The Ħaġar Qim complex has a main temple and then 3 additional structures beside also on the site. The main temple was built between 3600 and 3200 BC, however, the northern ruins are thought to be considerably older. It is really worth a visit, however I would do some research first to know what you are seeing.
Hagar Qim isn't the only megalithic temple on Malta. There are also Tarxien & Ghar Dalam
This day tour visits all three and is only $70 AUD
As I mentioned I was ill the day I was going to go to Gozo, however everyone I've spoken to loves it so I've added it to my list. There are more than a few tours that encompass the Blue Lagoon and Gozo which seems like a great idea.
Wander Rabat & The Medina
The Medina is visited by almost everyone who goes to Malta and is a lovely way to while away a few hours. There is of course a few bars/restaurants that enable you to grab a coffee or cocktail and admire the view out the back of the Medina. As the cars are limited in the Medina it is a peaceful walk around the old streets.
Book this tour on Get Your Guide: Mdina full day tour with lunch
It was a little strange for me being in the Mdina in Rabat. The other Rabat, the capital of Morocco, also has a Mdina and it felt really weird talking about the Medina in Rabat and NOT meaning the one in Morocco.
The Hop-on, Hop-off bus network in Malta is a great way to spend a few hours checking out other parts of the island. Their public bus system is great and I used that most of the time, however I did spring for a ticket on the hop-on, hop-off one day and spent a few hours just sightseeing from the top deck of the bus.
What else might help…
Don't forget your travel insurance. I can't stress how important this could be for you.
Malta Public Bus Service is cheap and plentiful. Beware though – the buses are on occasion quite late. Not often, but we did spend 45 minutes waiting for a bus that never came one day. Out of two weeks that was a pretty good result though. Their website has a journey planner to make it easy.
There are quite a few options for tours for those of us that are over 50 in Malta. Unlike a few European destinations where so many of the tours are for 18-35 year olds, these are filtered to be available to everyone who is 50+.