It’s easy to miss Malta on a map since the tiny country is wedged between Europe and Africa. However, the three islands making up Malta are chock-full of places to see.
In this post, I’ll cover twelve destinations in Malta which are a combination of those that tourists know about, as well as more unheard of gems. You’re sure to walk away with a more well-rounded Maltese experience if you get to these places.
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Valletta is Malta’s capital and was named the European Capital of Culture last year. So naturally, Valletta should be at the top of this list. And just as naturally, the city is a tourist magnet.
Valletta is expensive to stay in. Therefore, it’s common for people to stay outside of the city and take day trips to it. No fear if you fall into this category, for not only do all bus routes end in Valletta, but the last stop is the bus terminal, which is located beside the entrance gate to the old city.
Once in Valletta, you’re going to be enticed to wander around and explore the side streets. This is the very best thing to do in Valletta, so I highly encourage it. However, if you’re short on time, make this your route:
Best Route for Visiting Valletta
- Upon passing through the walled gate, go up the stairs immediately to your right. At the top of the stairs, head diagonally left and you’ll soon arrive at the Upper Barrakka Gardens. Here, you’ll get some stunning views of The Three Cities.
- Continue looping around and walk back to the main vein of Valletta, Triq Ir-Repubblika Street. Walk down this street.
- Take a right onto St. John’s Street. The St. John’s Co-Cathedral and Museum will be immediately to your left. The cathedral, with its gold-plated everything, is far more impressive on the inside. So, if you’re willing to spend the hefty Euro price tag, go inside.
- Go back to Triq Ir-Repubblika Street and walk to the end. Then, backtrack back through the city, but this time taking all the side street detours of your choosing.
Valletta is hilly. Furthermore, many, but not all, side streets have staircases for sidewalks. Therefore, if you’re looking to stay on a flatter surface, aim to stick to the Triq Ir-Repubblika and Triq Il-Merkanti Streets, and enjoy views of the side streets from the top of these upper, flat pedestrian streets. If you’ll be traveling to Valletta by wheelchair, be sure to check out our 8 Wheelchair Friendly Things to do in Malta infographic that corresponds with this post.
2. Marsaxlokk Fish Market
Are you still figuring out your Malta travel dates? If so, make sure you’ll be in the country on a Sunday. The Marsaxloxx fish market is one of the best places to see, and be, in Malta on Sundays.
While Marsaxloxx didn’t disappoint this market-loving goer, I found the name to be misleading. There’s no doubt that the market, located along Marsaxloxx’s coastal fishing town, was once upon a time a fish market. However, nowadays the market has expanded to be an everything market, with seafood being outnumbered by stands filled with clothes, sweets, toys, etc.
If you won’t be in Malta on a Sunday, or prefer to avoid crowds, Marsaxloxx is very much worth the visit on any day of the week. The long seaside boardwalk is a photographer’s dream with colorful boats bobbing in crystal clear water, overlooking the old town. And, of course, there’s a church in the main plaza. Regardless of the day you visit, make sure you’re in Marsaxloxx for lunch or dinner to eat fresh seafood at your pick of ocean view restaurants.
Travel Tip: There’s a tourist information desk by the boardwalk to the left, when at the church facing the water. It’s a great place to grab a free map and ask your Marsaxloxx questions!
A note on buses to Marsaxloxx
Getting to Marsaxloxx is easy to do by bus from Valletta and certain other areas, such as coastal Marsaskala. You can expect the bus ride to take around 30 minutes.
That said, keep in mind that buses on Sundays during high season are nearly impossible to get on because of all the tourists. Therefore, I recommend going to Marsaxloxx early and then heading to Valletta by shuttle (around 3 Euro). The shuttle buses pass by the Valletta bus stops, gathering people willing to pay double for the ride. In return, you’ll get a guaranteed seat and save some precious vacation time.
3. St. Peter’s Pool
We’ve covered two popular places to see in Malta…now it’s time to give a unique place to see some love!
St. Peter’s Pool is an ultra easy side trip from Marsaxloxx. So easy, in fact, that you can walk there! However, I was surprised by how few tourists seemed to know (or want?) to visit the crystal clear water of St. Peter’s Pool.
By foot, you’ll need to leave town, heading to the left when facing the water (make sure to pick up a map at the tourist information center along the way!). As you leave town, you’re going to get some great panoramic views of Marsaxloxx. But be careful! It’s easy to walk past the sign pointing to the entrance to the footpath to St. Peter’s Pool, as you gawk at the ocean views.
This is what you need to look for:
A portion of the path is dirt and pedestrian only. At other times, you’ll walk along some quiet, countryside roads. The walk takes about 30 minutes, most of which is uphill. There isn’t any shade or stores, so make sure to wear sunscreen and bring water.
Once at St. Peter’s Pool, you’ll be rewarded by views of emerald colored water. Although it’ll be tempting to go for a swim, keep in mind that the only way to get in the water is by jumping into the cave and, somehow, climbing your way back out. Needless to say, I was more than content taking in the views from land!
Aside from foot, you can get to St. Peter’s Pool by driving (no buses run this route) or by taking a boat tour from Marsaxloxx. However, keep in mind that it’s a steep walk down dirt and stone steps to get to the water, so this isn’t an activity suitable for people with limited mobility.
“A visit to Malta isn’t complete without a trip to Mdina,” I was told. I couldn’t agree more!
If you loved the architecture of Valletta but were put off by its crowded streets, Mdina is for you. This small walled city was formerly Malta’s capital and it sits in the middle of the country. It rightfully has the nickname of the “Silent City.”
The best things to do in Mdina are wandering around its narrow streets, and taking in the architecture and countless balconies. St. Paul’s Cathedral is a focal point of the town and you can enter for a fee, if you’re so inclined.
Make sure to visit the viewing area on the far side of the walled city. Looking at a map, and then seeing how close you are to the ocean, will give you a new perspective on just how tiny Malta is!
Once you’ve gotten your fill of Mdina (if that’s even possible!), head outside the walled city, stop at the free restrooms nearby, and then go to Tas-Serkin to buy their renown pastizzi. Buttery and oh so bad for your health, these traditional Maltese savory pastries will leave you craving more! If you’ve got a sweet craving, head next door for some uniquely flavored gelato (cannoli gelato anyone?!).
Did you know that Malta is both a country and an island? The country of Malta is made up of three islands; Malta, Gozo, and Comino. Until now, all sites we’ve talked about have been on the island of Malta.
Gozo offers so many things to do that it deserves its own post. However, since this post is about places to see in Malta as a whole, I’ll give you the rundown here.
Gozo is, or better said was, most famous for the Azure Window. Sadly, in 2017, a strong storm collapsed the limestone arch over the ocean. Nowadays, Dwejra Bay is still a popular place for visitors. Beautiful ocean views, tons of fossils in limestone, and the blue lagoon (make sure to take a boat ride!) will greet you.
Aside from visiting Dwejra Bay, other must sees in Gozo include visiting Victoria, Gozo’s capital. Narrow streets, churches, a fortress, and, of course, buildings with lots of balconies will greet you. Despite being the capital, Victoria is quieter, compared to Valletta, thanks in great part to Gozo having a smaller population.
With any remaining time you have, head to Ramla Bay for some beach time. Make sure to also visit the top of the cliffs, the site of the Calypso Cave, for stunning views over the bay. The Ggantija Temples and Ta’ Kola Windmill are also noteworthy stops along with the small village of Fontana, and its church. Above all else, make sure to soak up Gozo’s beautiful countryside as you travel from one site to the next!
Getting to Gozo
In order to get to Gozo, you’ll need to take a ferry from the Cirkewwa port in Malta. Buses to this port in Malta, and from the Mgarr port in Gozo, run frequently. You can read all about getting to Gozo by public transportation here and the wheelchair friendly version here.
Gozo is easy enough to visit as a day trip from Malta, and most people arrange their trip as such. However, it does take some legwork to get there. Traveling by bus from Valletta, it’ll take around 1.5 hours to get to the Cirkewwa port, followed by the approximately 20 minute ferry ride to Gozo. Plus, chances are good that you’ll need to wait a bit before the ferry departs, since the ferries usually run every 45 minutes.
Therefore, if you’re able, I recommend spending at least one night in Gozo. This way, it breaks up the trip and you’ll have time to visit more of the island!
6. Buskett Gardens
Calling all nature lovers! Of all the places to see in Malta on this list, the Buskett Gardens are likely the least frequented by tourists.
Malta isn’t known for its greenery, so the Buskett Gardens, located at the base of one of the presidential palaces, is a true gem. Boasting trees of all kinds, including a variety of mandarin ones, the Buskett Gardens is a peaceful getaway. You’ll have your pick of nature trails and there’s a picnic table area, if you brought your lunch.
If, like me, you’re curious as to whether or not you can walk up to the president’s palace, you can’t. However, it’s a nice little walk along a path that doesn’t get much foot traffic. The path leads to the first of two gates, which prevent the curious passerby from going further.
As with all destinations in Malta, the Buskett Gardens is easy to get to by bus. The Buskett Gardens is a particularly easy side trip, if you’ll be visiting Mdina, as the gardens are nearby.
7. San Anton Gardens
Continuing with the outdoor theme, the San Anton Gardens is a nice, smaller park. If you’re lucky, you’ll encounter a peacock roaming around. Either way, you’re sure to come across some ducks swimming in the ponds that are scattered about the gardens.
The gardens are typically free to enter, although the day I went there was a poultry show. For 2 Euro, I got to both explore the park and admire some unique looking chickens!
The park is open from 7:00am – 7:00pm, with slightly shorter hours on Sundays. Since it’s small, you’ll easily be able to walk the entire grounds. While you’re at San Anton, make sure to take a walk around Attard, the town that the gardens are near. This is a quintessential Maltese village with old architecture and lots of colorful balconies.
8. The Three Cities
You already know that the Upper Barrakka Gardens are one of the must-see places in Malta. But did you know that all the stunning architecture you’ll see across the water from there are three separate cities, known collectively as “The Three Cities”?
Vittoriosa, Senglea, and Cospicua each have their own peninsula and have such a high concentration of historical buildings and fortresses that they run together, making them seem look like a single city.
Getting to The Three Cities is easy. From Valletta, take the elevator at the Upper Barrakka Gardens down to the Grand Harbor Port. The ferries leave every half hour during peak travel times, with summer and winter schedules varying some.
There’s a slight discount if you book your ticket round trip. It’s also possible to arrive to the Three Cities by bus, but this is only a faster option than the ferry if you’ll be coming from southern Malta.
Travel Tip: It’s free to take the elevator down to the Grand Harbor Port. When returning, the cost is 1 Euro. However, you can just as easily walk back up to the city, if you’re in the mood for some exercise.
The ferry takes five minutes and the only stop is at Cospicua, which is ideal since this is the city in the middle of the three. Once at Cospicua, the best thing to do in The Three Cities is to simply get lost wandering around.
You’ll find that The Three Cities has a similar look to Valletta, except the streets are nearly empty. This area is much more residential than commercial, so it’s a great place to escape Valletta’s crowds.
We’ve covered Malta and Gozo, so naturally, we should talk about Comino as one of the places to see in Malta!
Comino is the smallest of the three islands. As such, the list of things to do in Comino is small…beach and more beach! These aren’t just any beaches, though. Comino is renown for its Blue Lagoon, water so crystal clear that it feels surreal.
If you’re able to pull yourself away from the water and are up for a walk, take a stroll to Saint Mary’s Tower. The tower is visible from the main beach, so no need to worry about getting lost!
Boat companies offer services to Comino from both the Malta and Gozo ports. The boats don’t run 24 hours like the Gozo ferries, since almost all people go to Comino to hang out at the beach for awhile, then head back to Gozo or Malta to continue their exploration. That said, there’s a hotel on the island, Comino Hotel, where you can spend the night.
When I was planning places to see in Malta, Marsaskala wasn’t on my list. However, after many failed attempts to find a reasonably priced accommodation near Valletta, I booked what ended up being a gem of an Airbnb in beautiful Marsaskala.
Marsaskala is a town built along a small bay and gives “tourist-free” an entirely new meaning. A long boardwalk runs along crystal clear water.
Like certain other areas in Malta, Marsaskala is home to salt pans. When walking along the boardwalk, the salt pans are at the point where the bay meets open sea, on the far side of town.
There are stairs leading down to the salt pans, so you can roam among them. More likely than not, you’ll be the only one there, and it’s a great place to capture some unique photos.
Make sure to arrive to Marsaskala hungry, for there are some cute local and boutique restaurants in town.
My favorite for Maltese food was Don Giovan (their egg and cheese sandwich on local Ftira bread is to die for!). When I was in the mood for something healthier, Foam & Fork was my go-to. Both restaurants offer outdoor seating with bay views.
Marsaskala is small so you won’t need more than a couple of hours there. Buses from Valletta run about every 20 minutes and the drive takes around 30 minutes. You may even be inclined to get off at different stops between Valletta and Marsaskala, as the bus passes by a number of pretty towns and churches.
11. Sliema, St. Julian’s & Paceville
If you’ve done any research, you may be wondering why I’ve put Sliema, St. Julian’s and Paceville towards the bottom of this list for places to see in Malta. It’s not that I consider them at the bottom of things to do, it’s simply that they are the less authentic version of Malta.
These are the areas where you’ll find modern, high rise buildings, fancy shopping centers, and the party scene. It’s fun and interesting in its own right, but I found myself drawn to spending the majority of my time in other parts of Malta.
Nonetheless, if you’re unsure about whether or not these districts are the right fit for you, I highly recommend walking at least some of the boardwalk and stopping by one of the many restaurants or bars along it. The blue water and views are simply breathtaking!
You can get to any of these three districts by bus, although I personally recommend taking a ferry to Sliema, if you’re already in Valletta. From there, it’s a beautiful, approximately 40 minute walk along the boardwalk to get to the St. Julian’s and Paceville area.
12. Attend a Feast
This last one is a stretch in the sense that it isn’t a place to see in Malta, but an incredible event that you should make every effort to visit!
Feasts are held throughout the year in Malta. Organized by the church and town, the purpose of feasts is to celebrate the local saint for that church and town. Although a religious festival, attending mass is just one small part of feast. During feast, streets become filled with food, fireworks, drinks, music, and dancing. There are also decorations along the streets leading up to feast.
If you’re interested in attending a feast, Malta Info Guide offers a complete list of feasts throughout the year. Get ready for an authentic Maltese experience!
It’s amazing just how big a tiny country can feel, after spending time in Malta. If you’re like me, you’ll leave itching to go back to see what other places there are to explore there.
Have you been to Malta? What are your favorite places on the island?