Ten favourite things to see and do in Malta

ten-favourite-things-to-see-and-do-in-Malta

One of the two best pieces of advice my father ever gave me was to work to live, not live to work.  We were very lucky to always take proper family holidays and all of them were spent in Malta. I was looking through some old photos recently so I thought I’d share my ten favourite things to see and do in Malta in this post, and enjoy a trip down memory lane at the same time.

ten-favourite-things-to-see-and-do-in-Malta

Malta

Malta is the largest of three Mediterranean islands (Gozo and Comino being the others) which lie off the coasts of Sicily and Northern Africa. Although the currency is the Euro, just about everyone speaks English, they use 3-pin electrical plugs, and drive on the left hand side of the road. Malta’s strategic location and natural harbours were vital for many countries throughout history and its rulers included: the Romans, the Aragonese, the Knights of St John, the French (very briefly!), and the British up until 1964 when Malta became independent.

Next year, in 2019, the island’s capital, Valletta, will be the 2019 European Capital of Culture. A whole host of events and festivities are planned to celebrate this, revolving around the themes of generations, routes, cities and islands.

Most visitors come for the near year round sun, the swimming and the diving, but there’s so much more to Malta, as I hope my ten favourite things to see and do will show.

#1 Valletta

Valletta (see pic at the top of this post) was founded after the Knights of St John’s victory against the Ottomans in the Great Siege of 1565. It’s one of the most fascinating cities to walk around – although the hills are rather steep! But you can always stop for breath at any of the many open air cafes and ice cream shops. There are so many things to see and do here in just one city: museums, parks, shopping (the leather goods are amazing), eating out.

The Grand Harbour is well worth a boat trip – it’s one of the largest natural harbours in the world. Grand Harbour (and the rest of Malta) endured phenomenally heavy bombing during WW2 when the Axis powers tried to destroy British bases which were interfering with Rommel in North Africa. But Malta stood firm and in 1942 King George VI awarded the George Cross to the island to “bear witness to the heroism and devotion of its people.”

ten-favourite-things-to-see-and-do-in-Malta

#2 Mdina

Mdina used to be Malta’s capital. Also known as the Silent City, no cars (except for emergency vehicles) are allowed inside its walls. The streets are so narrow that it’s hard to see how cars could navigate it anyway. But it’s worth visiting at night when the tourists have gone and you can enjoy the peace while you sample some local cuisine one of many side street restaurants.

Just down the hill from Mdina is Ta’Qali, the old British air base. You must visit the Ta’ Qali craft village where you can watch Mdina glass being blown (I looked forward to this every holiday). The surrounding military huts and buildings have been converted into workshops where you can watch silver filigree jewellery being tooled, leather goods being made, and Maltese women making the most beautiful linen and lacework.

ten-favourite-things-to-see-and-do-in-Malta

#3 Hypogeum and the Tarxien Temples

I’m cheating slightly by lumping these into one but they’re all amongst the very oldest stone buildings in the world and all are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Hypogeum is a wonderfully preserved underground burial complex cut into solid rock. A true feat of prehistoric engineering, it’s the only one of its kind in the world. And the other prehistoric temples, built between 3600BC and 2500BC, are much older than both Stonehenge and the Pyramids. They’re all a fascinating glimpse of a golden Neolithic period, which died out although no-one knows why.

#4 Film locations

Film buffs will be in heaven. Malta is a favourite location for many tv shows and films. Popeye’s Village (Robin Williams) is now a popular tourist attraction. Troy and Gladiator were both filmed in Malta.  And countless James Bond films were shot here too, most memorably (for me at any rate) was Never Say Never Again. More recently, Game of Thrones shot some sequences in neighbouring Gozo.

#5 Gozo

Gozo is accessible by boat from Malta and is another must see. Quieter than Malta but no less beautiful, it’s best known for supposedly being the home of Calypso, the nymph who held Odysseus captive for several years. Sadly, its Azure Window, a natural limestone arch that featured in a wedding scene from Game of Thrones, collapsed in 2017. Today, Gozo ranks as one of the top diving destinations in the Mediterranean and a centre for water sports – and it’s got more donkeys than I can remember ever seeing anywhere else.

ten-favourite-things-to-see-and-do-in-Malta

#6 Take a Karozzin ride

When in Venice, you take a gondola, but when in Malta you should take a Karozzin ride. There’s something very touristy about it but it’s such good fun and I defy anyone not to enjoy being driven around the city sights by their very own horse and cart.

#7 Markets

You’re really spoilt for choice with markets in Malta. Just about every village will have a market on one day or another. My favourites are the weekly ones in Valletta’s old bus depot and the daily ones in the fishing village of Marsaxlokk, the next village on from Marsascala where I spent so much of my childhood.

ten-favourite-things-to-see-and-do-in-Malta

#8 Marsaxlokk

You’ve probably seen pictures of Maltese fishing boats with the eyes painted on their prows to ward off evil and see their way back to harbour. The Luzzu are such an iconic image of the island and it’s one that I always think of first whenever Malta is mentioned. Most of the island’s fish are caught from Marsaxlokk and if you really want to sample fish at its finest and freshest, you need to eat it at one of the village’s numerous restaurants.

#9 Food and drink

Local cuisine, unsurprisingly, revolves around fish: swordfish, lampuki, red snapper, dott, grouper, and all manner of shellfish, including sea urchins. Rabbit stew and Kapunata, (Maltese ratatouille) are also popular, as is pasta. The local beer (Cisk) and wine (Marsovin) do not travel well (!) but quaffed alongside food next to the seafront, they are quite delicious.

ten-favourite-things-to-see-and-do-in-Malta ten-favourite-things-to-see-and-do-in-Malta

#10 Swimming and diving

I’m mentioning this last because it really is the main reason the vast majority of people come to Malta. The northern end of the island has all the sandy beaches (Mellieha, Golden Bay, St Paul’s) but the southern end is the one I grew up with and prefer. The beaches (I use the word loosely) are mainly rocky: some are flat, others are more, well, rocky, and impossible to lie on. But as a child I was never bothered about sunbathing: it was all about snorkelling and rock pooling and the southern end is best for that.

The clear water around Malta is ideal for scuba diving. There are lots of caves and wrecks that offer diving opportunities suitable for novices as well as experienced divers. And of course you can train for your diving qualifications with any of the many dive centres around the island.

Final thoughts

This was one of the hardest posts I’ve had to write! I spent so much of my childhood on Malta (virtually every school holiday in summer, Easter and Christmas) that I really struggled to choose ten favourite things to see and do in Malta for my list. I could have rambled on with another ten or even 20 but then this post would have become a real epic…

If you’re still reading this (thank you!) then I hope I’ve intrigued you sufficiently to think about visiting my favourite Mediterranean island yourself at some point. Or, if sea urchins and Neolithic temples aren’t your thing, you could try Spain. Holiday Gems * has some great deals on in lots of different locations – click here to see the range on offer.

And just in case you were curious about the second best piece of advice my father ever gave me. It’s slightly less inspirational, although probably still as important: always get your boiler serviced annually…

Have you ever been to Malta before? Which of my top ten favourites would tempt you to visit?

* This is a sponsored post.

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Kat
Guest

It does look so beautiful there. I’d love to go to Malta one day! It is so nice being able to travel down memory lane and remember those holidays! Your father was absolutely right ‘work to live, not live to work’, is so true. I think people forget that.

Jenny
Guest

I’ve never been to Malta but always remember lots of friends going. When we went on family holidays (mostly to the Canary Islands) we sort stuck to the resort and maybe one or two excersions so we didn’t really explore. Malta looks nice though, I love the sound of the silent city. I’d have to go when it’s cooler though xx

Kirstie
Guest

Okay, you’ve sold me.

I don’t know why I have never looked into going to Malta before. It seems lovely, and full of history!

http://www.kirstiekinsblogs.co.uk

Kate
Guest

Malta looks beautiful, I love how it’s packed full of history and great culture. I’ve never been before but after reading your post, it sounds like it’s definitely a place worth visiting.

Such a great imformative post!

Kate | http://www.katelovesx.co.uk

andthenzen ✨
Guest

I’ve never been to Malta, but I have always wanted to visit – it’s one of those places that’s been on my to-go list, I just haven’t got round to it! Maybe this year will be the year I finally go – inspired by all of your memories, of course.. 🙊

Lupe
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Lupe

I wanna go so bad! There are so many places I wanted to go and now I added this to my list

Creative Nails
Guest

Malta looks and sounds like such a beautiful place! I’d love to visit there one day. Me and my boyfriend have been looking for places to go on holiday recently, so this post is great timing haha. Malta will definitely be added onto the list of options 😀 Also, I love the fact that in Mdina there are no cars!

Amy,
https://creativenails.uk

Aaliyah
Guest

This post was lovely! I like to try out new places that I’ve never been before and Malta looks amazing! Will have to think about here when I’m booking my next holiday x

Rebecca
Guest

Ahh loved reading this post, so many memories of Malta and we’ve spent so many years visiting and staying in Gozo. Such a fab place to visit and not enough people know about it. Lots of beautiful scenery, lovely restaurants and it’s almost like stepping back in time! So glad you’ve got happy memories from your holidays there Lisa! xx

Sophie
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Sophie

I totally agree with your Fathers advice, and it’s something my mum has always told me! I’ve never been to Malta but have heard wonderful things so hope to visit at some point! – – https://sophhearts.com x

Disa Rastogi
Guest

Wow, such a nice place. You have given a lot of detail, history about this place. Whenever I can will definitely go there.

Bexa
Guest

I’ve never been but Malta sounds amazing! I’d love to check out the Silent City, it sounds so peaceful and unique. The glass blowing sounds interesting to watch and those creations are beautiful. I’d definitely want to have a Karozzin ride, it’s looks like such a stylish mode of transport. Reading this post just makes me want to go on holiday again he he! I love your photos and your advice from your dad is spot on. Brilliant post Lisa, thanks for sharing your favourite places! xx

Bexa | http://www.hellobexa.com

Andrea
Guest

This was such a lovely post to read! I’ve wanted to visit Malta for a while as it looks lovely and historic! Love all the pictures you featured too x

Melanie
Guest

What a fantastically detailed post ! My Dad visited Malta not long ago and has raved about it ever since. I haven’t been but would love in the future as there seems to be so much to do- I’m definitely someone who likes to get out and see local life when on holiday instead of laying on the beach all day and Malta sounds perfect!
Great post Lisa

Melanie | http://www.frasersfunhouse.com

Mjaaay
Guest
Mjaaay

If l wasn’t keen on visiting Malta before reading this, you’ve turned this around for me Lisa! It’s been added to my travel list. Loved reading this! You’ve covered so much and l feel like l have learnt a lot from reading this. Thanks Lisa! This was a fabulous read Xx

MJ x

Prachi Maulingker Naik
Guest

This seems to be a beautiful place 💕
Giving me some major travel goals this season 😍

Bethany Jane
Guest

The photos in this post are so lovely! It looks like you really loved your family trips there. I’d never even considered Malta as a holiday hot-spot to be honest, but this post has really sparked my interest. It looks like there’s so much to see and do, and the history and architecture looks amazing. Thank you so much for sharing, this is a wonderful post.
Beth x http://www.adventureandanxiety.com

Luke Heywood
Guest

I’ve been to Gozo when I was younger and it was beautiful.
We flew from Malta on a helicopter over,
it’s always been a place I’ve wanted to go back too!
This list really makes me want to go back!
Great post ♥

Luke |Luke Heywood Style