Malta is located in the Mediterranean Sea south of the Italian island of Sicily. It is an archipelago made up of 21 islands, of which only three are inhabited. The inhabited ones are Gozo, Comino and Malta islands. Then there is Manoel Island, Filfla and the Fungus Rock which are historically and ecologically very significant. The others are mere large rocks. Centuries ago these islands helped form a land bridge between Sicily and North Africa, but after the last ice age melted away the sea levels rose and covered the rest.
The Malta islands have a wide variety of coastlines. While they are mainly rocky, the north side has several sandy beaches such as Golden Bay and Mellieha Bay in Malta, and Ramla Bay in Gozo. The beaches on the south side are very dramatic, with amazing cliffs that drop straight down into the sea. There are more natural harbors in the west, and three large bays on the eastern side of Malta island.
While playing on the beaches and in the sea are obvious choices of things to do in Malta, the country has so much more to offer! There are many natural sites, historical and cultural locations, beautiful landscapes and towns that will amaze you with what you will see there. Below is a partial list of ideas for what to do in Malta, but there is so much more that you will discover on your own during your Malta travel.
1. Sea Excursions & Boat Charters
Sea Excursions & Boat Charters should definitely be at the top of anyone’s list of what to do in Malta. There is no better way to see the islands than from the sea. Seeing the beauty of the coastlines from the sea is one of the most popular Malta attractions. To truly appreciate the rugged high cliffs on the south or the beautiful, serene bays on the east, you must view it from the deck of a boat. There is also Valletta and the Three Cities, with their formidable fortifications that are magnificent when seen from out in the Mediterranean. You can also see Fort Manoel on the uninhabited island of Manoel. While you can rent your own boat and spend the day sailing the blue seas, it is nice to have a guide that can tell you more about what you are seeing. They can also give you tips about other places to visit in Malta while you are there. There are many reputable and affordable companies here. Ask at your hotel for a good one near where you are staying.
2. Fortifications & Towers
Fortifications & Towers are found in many places on the islands. In fact, the Malta island has often been called the “Fortress Island” because of the many military structures that can be seen everywhere. The country has such a strategic location and safe harbors that it has been fought over many times over its history. These are such amazing feats of architecture and engineering, dating back to the Knights era as well as the British era. Even if you aren’t a history buff, these are certainly some of the places to see in Malta that won’t be a disappointment. Here are some of those you will want to include in your Malta travel log.
3. Fort St. Angelo
Fort St. Angelo is located in Vittoriosa, and is simply magnificent and considered by some to be the best Malta attraction depicting their military heritage. According to legend, the fort stands on the site of a fortified Roman settlement. When you visit Vittoriosa, you will want to go through the Maritime Museum. This will give you such a lesson in the Maltese islands’ military history.
4. The National War Museum and the Armoury
The National War Museum and the Armoury are both located in Valletta. These two places to visit in Malta are so full of amazing artifacts and history of the area that you will feel you were there. While in Valletta there is Fort St. Elmo which guards two great harbors, and is where the Great Siege of 1565 was held. You will also want to tour through the bastions and the Victoria Lines fortifications running along the Great Fault east to west across the island. Wherever you go you will find evidence of the early wars, including watch towers and 17th century coastal forts.
5. Dwejra Tower
Others places to see in Malta for those loving this type of history are the Dwejra Tower on the Gozo island, which was built by British forces in 1652 and used by the British as late as WWII. Fort Madalena in Madliena on the Malta island is now the Headquarters and Training School of the St. John’s Rescue Corps. Also on the Malta island, in Kalkara, is Fort Rinella. Relatively young, it was built by the British between 1878 and 1886 a a defense against the Italian navy. It houses the world’s largest cannon – a massive 100-ton gun!
6. St. Paul
St. Paul that is considered to have written much of the New Testament of the Bible was in a shipwreck on the Maltese island in 60 AD. Because of this Malta became one of the first countries to have embraced Christianity. This led to many amazing churches to be built throughout the country. You can find one in the main part of almost any village. One of the most beautiful ones is the St. John’s Cathedral in the capital city of Valletta. This rich piece of history is certainly one of the things to see in Malta. The re are also some megalithic temples you will want to tour that are evidence of some mysterious societies that were once on the islands, but would suddenly disappear. Some of these date back to nearly 7,000 years ago.
7. Malta Toy Museum
Another idea of what to do in Malta while you are in Valletta is the Malta Toy Museum. This museum, which covers three floors, is the private collection of Vincent Brown. Opened in 1998, it is an impressive display of toys he collected over several decades. Such a nostalgic walk through a wide array of every toy imaginable. You will easily spend a couple hours strolling down memory lane!
8. Argotti Botanical Gardens
Argotti Botanical Gardens in Floriana, just a short walk from Valletta, is another of the wonderful places to visit in Malta. The gardens date back to 1774, and officially became a botanical garden in 1805. Originally they were the private gardens of Grandmaster Pinto, and mainly medicinal herbs and plants were grown. You can still see a part of that area. There is also a horticultural museum on site that has a very nice display of both local and foreign seed, plants, and gardening maps that you will enjoy looking at. The gardens have many trees, plants and flower species, as well as fountains, ponds and water towers that makes it so beautiful. Add to that the spectacular views over Floriana’s fortifications, this is such a relaxing place to spend an afternoon during your Malta travel.
9. Hal Saflieni Hypogeum
Hal Saflieni Hypogeum is a UNESCO World Heritage site and therefore should be at the top of everyone’s list of what to do in Malta. This site is close to Paola so easy to get to, but you will want to book a tour of it early as the tours tend to fill up weeks in advance. In their efforts to control the microclimate, they only allow 80 people to tour it a day.
The Hypogeum is an amazing underground site that was used as a burial site for people as far back as 3600 BC. The unique cave system made it a perfect place to bury the dead. As the natural cavities filled up, new chambers were dug ever deeper into the rock. Intricate halls, chambers and passages on three levels were hewn out of the rock. It has been estimated that over the centuries around 7,000 people were buried here. Part of the system was carved in such a skillful manner as to imitate the temple architecture built above ground. The remarkable workmanship that is displayed here, without the benefit of the modern tools we have today makes this one of the best things to see in Malta.
10. The Calypso’s Cave
The Calypso’s Cave in a cliff on Gozo overlooking the beautiful Ramla Bay, is one of the most spectacular places to visit in Malta. It is also called the “love prison of Ulysses (or Odysseus)” from Homer’s The Odyssey. In the Greek mythology, Calypso was the beautiful nymph that kept him prisoner here for seven years. Calypso had promised him immortality if he stayed with her, but he escaped when he could, and returned to his wife Penelope.
Such a beautiful love story! Boulders have blocked much of the cave tunnels, which are presumed to be a complete labyrinth that reaches all the way to the sea level, so the cave itself is not that impressive. But the spectacular view over the bay and the valley makes it a favorite Malta attraction. You will also be able to see the Marsalforn tower below, is a fortification that was built by the Knights of Malta in the early-eighteenth century to protect against sea-ward attacks.
11. Amazing Diving Sites
Of course for any scuba diver out there, the main thing to do in Malta is to take advantage of as many of the amazing diving sites there are around the Maltese Islands. With the many fantastic dive sites around Comino, Gozo and Malta travel to any of them is easy. With the warm, clear blue waters, and wide variety of seascapes, world-wide scuba diving interests make this one of the top diving destinations in the world. In 2009 “Diver” magazine out of the UK made Malta the #3 best dive destination in the world. Even with the locals, diving has become one of the main Malta attractions.
For anyone that wants to learn this extremely fun and rewarding sport of scuba diving, there is a plethora of diving schools or clubs in Malta and Gozo. What better thing to do in Malta than learn from the best in the greatest place on earth for diving! Professional diving schools provide qualified staff that make sure you learn safely and properly while guaranteeing you will love the experience. They even offer “try dives” for rookies to make sure it is something you want to do. They also offer night dives for the more experienced and a lot of other things that play to your own experience level and what you want to learn. They can also guide you to some of the best places to dive in Malta to get the greatest diving experience they have to offer.
12. Ninu’s Cave
The wide range of landscapes in the country offers so many ideas of what to do in Malta. Seashores that go from sandy to rocky with sheer cliffs give rise to many caves that beg to be explored. Many caves have some of the greatest stalactite and stalagmite wonders. Others, like Blue Grotto, have amazing variations in shapes, colors and details because of the reflections in the coral. Ninu’s cave even has a fascinating millenary colonnade. Another amazing thing to see in Malta is the Dingli Cliffs. This site has such a spectacular view of Filfa and the Mediterranean Sea and the sunsets here are just simply breath-taking.
Once evening comes, it is time to enjoy some night life! One of the favorite things to do in Malta, even for the locals, are one of the many casinos in the country. There are several different themes that make is so much fun. There is an elegant colonial-style villa, a restored 17th century style casino, an ultra modern hotel complex and a harbor-side palace just to name a few. You will find the food at all of these casinos outstanding with a wide variety of cuisine to choose from. Get a taste of the Mediterranean specialties or some of the international flavors they are known for. Many of the bars have an open-air venue so you can take a refreshing break from gambling. Some of the more popular casinos include Casino Malta by Olympic Casino at St. George’s Bay, which is the biggest and newest one, and the Dragonara Casino which is at St. Julian’s. The Oracle Casino is on the Qawra seafront at St. Paul’s Bay. Wherever you are, you will find a casino that will provide hours of entertainment and is a very fun thing to do in Malta.
13. The National Museum of Fine Arts
The National Museum of Fine Arts is another wonderful Malta attraction. It is in an exuberant Rococo building dating from the 1570’s. There you will see some amazing art displays dating from the early Renaissance to modern times. There are also many publicly-supported programs that encourage artists, whether a well established one or someone starting out, to display their work. The arts and culture have always been important in the nation, and artists of all types know it is what to do in Malta if they want to be “discovered”.There is always an exhibition of some kind running and you will love checking it out. There are also a variety of theaters as well as open air venues that offer a wide selection of play, operas, musicals and concerts. In Valletta there is the 18th century Manoel Theatre, and in Victoria, Gozo there are two opera houses for your enjoyment. The Gardens of San Anton Palace has Shakespeare performed in the open-air in July. During the Christmas time there are several pantomimes that you will not want to miss.
14. Malta Arts Festival
Whenever you are visiting the islands, there is always a list of what to do in Malta that include a calendar of cultural events that is full of great things. There is the Malta Arts Festival, the Valletta Baroque Festival, the Opera Festival, the Choir Festival and the International Jazz Festival held in July. The Fireworks Festivals are held in April each year at different locations, Marsaxlokk, Xaghra (Gozo) and at the Grand Harbour in Valletta.
Every summer there are major music concerts starring top international artists. Thousands of people, locals and tourists alike, go to these concerts and have an amazing time. So odds are pretty high that no matter when you are traveling to the islands, there are always a wide variety of things to do in Malta.
15. St James’ Cavalier Centre
The film industry is a major industry in the Maltese islands. With the breath-taking landscapes and seascapes, and the beautiful historical buildings, it is the perfect backdrop for movie makers. Some major blockbusters have been produced here, including Midnight Express, Gladiator and U-571, The Count of Monte Cristo, the epic Troy, The Da Vinci Code and Munich, as well as prestigious period dramas, including the BBC’s Byron and Daniel Deronda.Throughout your Malta travel you may be able to pick out areas that you have seen in one of these films. Because of the importance of the islands in this industry, they are often the first country in Europe to have the latest releases. This has made cinemas and movie-going one of the favorite things to do in Malta for both locals and tourists. There are many multiplex cinemas and very classy cinemas you will love taking advantage of.The cinema at the St James’ Cavalier Centre for Creativity in Valletta is one of the most popular ones for the film connoisseur. There is the Citadel Cinema in Victoria, Eden Cinemas at St. George’s Bay in St. Julian’s, Empire Cinema Complex in Bugibba and Tal-Lira Cinema in Fgura. Any one of these should be on your list of what to do in Malta for a quiet, relaxing evening.
For more ideas of what to do in Malta, there is a vibrant clubbing scene and a choice of nighttime entertainment venues to suit all tastes and ages all across the islands. There are small intimate bars and large nightclubs and everything in between. Many restaurants of all types also have clubs and lounges that you will enjoy. You can enjoy live music, dinner and dancing at many of these. Paceville, on the coast by St. Julian’s, is a mecca for youngsters who like club crawling. It is also suitable for the older, more adventurous individuals who enjoy pubs, wine bars, restaurants, rock clubs and jazz clubs. During the summer, open air venues are the favored thing to do in Malta for the fun loving crowds. Internationally renowned DJs like Paul Oakenfold, Erick Morillo, Magda, Tiesto, Van Heill often entertain guests as well.
Typical of the Mediterranean lifestyle, the locals’ approach to life is to enjoy and celebrate it as much as possible. While you are here you will want to embrace the same attitude to get the real feel of the islands and get the most out of your vacation. If you still need ideas of what to do in Malta, just ask some of the locals. They will make sure you have the time of your life and want to come back!