Travel Guide to Malta

Community Highlights Europe Travel Guide to Malta


The Basics

  • Transportation: The entire island is operated by public buses. They are super convenient, easy to use, and get you pretty much anywhere you’d want to go. You can purchase a Tallinja card at the National Lottery shops. There are two options: the 12 Single Day Journey card, which costs 15 euros, and the Explore 7 day ticket, which costs 21 euros and gives you access to unlimited rides for a week. I recommend the unlimited card because although the whole island is connected by buses, you often may have to transfer buses throughout your journey, so the rides add up quickly. Unless you aren’t planning on taking the bus much, I think it’s worth a few extra euros to avoid the mental gymnastics of adding up ride segments. Ferries operate out of the Valletta area and Cirkewwa. You can take a quick and cheap ferry between Cirkewwa and the island of Gozo; however, if you’d like to stop at Comino to see the Blue Lagoon, then you must take a speedboat or private cruise.

Pro tip: Waiting for the bus should be an active activity. If you aren’t standing at the curb waving your arms (and maybe even stepping slightly in front of the bus) when it pulls up, it will barrel right past you. I learned this lesson the first day when a very endearing Maltese grandma scolded me for waiting too nonchalantly. Distraught over the thought of the bus leaving me behind, she led by example, demonstrating the proper form, and I never had an issue with missing a bus after that.

  • Accommodation: Since the island of Malta is so well-connected by buses, you don’t need to stay right in the heart of Valletta. Many visitors opt to stay in the nearby areas of Sliema or St. Julian’s, if you want more of a party vibe. I stayed along Balluta Bay and it was wonderful, just note that from this area you’re about a 40-minute bus ride from Valletta.


  • Food: I cannot recommend the local dish of pastizzi enough. It’s a flaky pastry stuffed with numerous options of filling, my favorites being ricotta and chicken (creamy like a pot pie). Rabbit is quite popular here so don’t be surprised when you see it on most menus. Nenu the Baker is a highly recommended restaurant for authentic Maltese cuisine baked in a hundred-year-old oven. I also recommend Chocolate District if you’re a chocolate lover. This was the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had in my life, and I went back for a second slice before heading to the airport. The man who brought me my slice of cake told me that his mom bakes them each day. The texture was perfect: light and fluffy but still rich in flavor. There are also a lot of Italian restaurants; I personally recommend Trattoria Romana Zero Sei for a great dish of pasta, but you usually need a reservation in advance.


  • Timing: I visited Malta from the end of December to early January, over the New Year. I thought this was a wonderful time to visit. The weather ranged from high 50s to low 60s (Fahrenheit). This may sound a little cold to you, but I was coming from -18 °F and 5 hours of daylight in Latvia. Anything would’ve been an improvement. It wasn’t exactly the beach vacation I had hoped for; no one was exactly sun tanning on the beach and building sand castles, but that was wishful thinking at best. You know that ideal weather in which you can wear a pair of pants and a tank top with a sweater on top, and then you can oscillate between having the sweater on or off depending on whether you’re standing in the sun or the shade? It was that kind of weather, and that’s personally my favorite kind of weather. I did take a quick jump into the ocean one day and, honestly, it was pretty nice. The water wasn’t necessarily warm, but it wasn’t too cold either (it was definitely more pleasant than the ice plunges here in Latvia). And no, I wasn’t that one crazy woman doing a polar plunge, I watched several other people take dives into the water as well. Since I was there in the low season, accommodations were cheaper than usual and I managed to avoid the big crowds. It was wonderful to spend the New Year in Malta. There was a big concert on New Year’s Eve in the main square in Valletta and the energy was wonderful. One thing to note is that New Year’s Day lunch is a big tradition in Malta, and thus all the public transportation shut down in the middle of the day for a few hours. It definitely helps to check the local news for updates on closures, especially if you’re there in the holiday season.

What to do?

1. Blue Grotto
I’ll admit, I was expecting to be disappointed by this attraction. If you’ve ever looked up “best things to do in Malta” on Google, then undoubtedly you’ve seen this before. It’s probably the best-known tourist attraction in Malta. As such, I was expecting this to be one of those “Instagram vs. Reality” moments, overrun by tourists. Fortunately, this was not my experience. There were still quite a few tourists, but I didn’t feel like it detracted from my enjoyment. Granted, I was there in the off-season, so I can picture this place being swamped with tourists and vendors in the summer months. But honestly, it’s worth it. And here’s the kicker: the boats weren’t even running the day that I went. On a typical day, you can take a boat tour out into Blue Grotto, enjoy caves up close, and ride in the traditional boats. However, the caveat is that these may be canceled due to the weather, particularly if it’s windy. Although I visited Blue Grotto on the nicest day I spent in Malta (blue skies, hot sun, and what felt like no wind), the boats were still grounded. And I was okay with that because I had set my expectations appropriately with the knowledge that a boat ride wasn’t guaranteed. I recommend you do the same, so you don’t have any unpleasant surprises when you arrive. If anything, it just gives me a reason to go back to Malta.

The view extends in all directions, not just of the one arch that is featured in every photo (yes, I know that I’m guilty as charged), but endless white cliffs and green spaces overlooking a beautiful, deep-blue ocean. From Blue Grotto, you can climb out onto the rocky cliffs to enjoy the views and stroll along the coast for more breathtaking views. There is a small town that boasts a few restaurants and souvenir shops, though unsurprisingly they are quite expensive by Maltese standards. Blue Grotto can be easily reached by public bus from Valletta. Overall, it’s a lovely way to spend a few hours.

2. M’dina
The Silent City, or at least the Once Silent City (it’s not so quiet anymore), makes a wonderful half-day trip. This former capital of Malta is absolutely beautiful with its medieval fortifications and quaint streets. My favorite thing to do in M’dina? Just wander. I enjoyed aimlessly strolling down all the hidden alleys and through little arches. Each street is more picturesque than the last one, and you can get some nice views of the hills overlooking the ocean. If you’re a Game of Thrones fan like me, then you’ll find quite a few familiar spots around the Silent City.

3. Downtown Valletta
Obviously, Valletta was going to be on this list. Like I said above, you don’t necessarily need to stay in Valletta, but you do need to spend some time there. Once again, wandering the streets was my favorite way to pass the time. What can I say? I like walking and looking at cute streets. The architecture style of the buildings is just absolutely unlike any other city I’ve ever visited, and I could stare at the rows of balconies for ages. Like I mentioned above, the food is absolutely fantastic. Some spots I recommend hitting for some great views of the ocean and city are the Upper Barrakka park, the Lower Barrakka park, the Siege Bell War Memorial, and the Valletta Waterfront.

4. St. Paul’s Catacombs
Okay, I’ll admit it, I know catacombs aren’t for everyone so this may be kind of a niche sell. But in terms of how catacombs go, these were the most *tame* catacombs I’ve visited. Whereas in Paris and Lima you’re staring down massive piles of skulls, here in St. Paul’s Catacombs you don’t actually see any bones down in the catacombs. The only skeleton I saw was in the museum at the beginning. Once you descend down into one of the many entrances, you can meander through the tight tunnels, admire details such as the funeral tables carved into the ground, and even crawl into one of the tombs if you dare (there will be a sign telling you it is permitted, please don’t go crawling into any tomb you find). So if you’re the kind of person who occasionally visits cemeteries unnecessarily or just enjoys exploring the odd tunnel, this is the attraction for you in Malta.

5. Ħagar Qim
Just one bus stop down the road from Blue Grotto, this site offers both interesting history and a stunning view. This megalithic temple complex dating from 3600-3200 BCE is fascinating for all you archaeology nerds like myself. If that’s not quite your cup of tea, don’t worry, they back up to beautiful cliffs and arches overlooking the ocean. This ended up surprisingly being the best sunset of the trip, so bring a book, find a comfortable rock, and enjoy the view.


6. Senglea Waterfront and Gardjola Gardens
If you take a 35-minute bus from Valletta to Isla, you’ll end up on a cute little peninsula with lots to see! Walk along the Senglea Waterfront to have beautiful views of the harbor. You won’t be able to miss the colorful array of luzzu, the traditional Maltese fishing boats. There are also some great restaurants along the water here, and it seems like this area is often slept on by tourists. If you follow the coast all the way out to the tip of the peninsula, you’ll find yourself in Gardjola Gardens. This small yet charming park looks across the Grand Harbour and gives one of the best views of Valletta.

7. Marsaxlokk
I’m throwing this one in as an honorable mention because I unfortunately did not make it here on this trip. However, I have heard wonderful things about the Sunday fish market and the photos of the harbor look incredible. It’s definitely on my list for the next time I visit Malta!

This featured blog entry was written by theleashow from the blog The Lea Show.
Read comments or Subscribe

By theleashow

Posted Mon, Feb 12, 2024 | Malta | Comments