Malta Travel Guide – Everything You Need to Know

Nestled in the heart of the Mediterranean, Malta is a captivating archipelago with a rich tapestry of history, culture, and stunning landscapes. Renowned for its well-preserved ancient sites, including megalithic temples and medieval cities, Malta offers a journey through time. The azure waters surrounding the islands provide picturesque coastlines, complemented by charming harbors and vibrant markets. With a warm Mediterranean climate and a welcoming atmosphere, Malta beckons tourists to explore its historical wonders, bask in the sun, and savor the unique blend of influences that make this archipelago a jewel in the Mediterranean.

What’s the Best Time to Visit? 📅

The best time to visit Malta as a tourist is during the spring (April to June) and fall (September to October) months. During these periods, the weather is generally pleasant, with mild temperatures, plenty of sunshine, and lower humidity. Here are some considerations for each season:

  1. Spring (April to June):
    • Spring is an ideal time to visit Malta as the temperatures are comfortable, ranging from 15°C to 25°C (59°F to 77°F). The landscape is lush with blooming flowers, and outdoor activities can be enjoyed without the intense summer heat.
  2. Summer (July to August):
    • While summer is the peak tourist season, with temperatures ranging from 20°C to 35°C (68°F to 95°F), it can be quite hot. This is the best time for beachgoers and water sports enthusiasts. However, popular attractions may be crowded, and accommodation prices might be higher.
  3. Fall (September to October):
    • Fall offers pleasant weather with temperatures ranging from 20°C to 30°C (68°F to 86°F). The sea remains warm, making it a good time for swimming, and the island is less crowded than during the peak summer months.
  4. Winter (November to March):
    • Winter is the off-peak season in Malta, characterized by mild temperatures ranging from 10°C to 20°C (50°F to 68°F). While it’s cooler, Malta still experiences relatively mild winters compared to many other European destinations. This is a quieter time to visit, and you can explore historical sites without the crowds.

Ultimately, the best time to visit Malta depends on your preferences and the type of activities you want to engage in. Whether you’re interested in cultural exploration, beach relaxation, or outdoor adventures, Malta offers something for every traveler throughout the year.

What’s the Best Way to Get Around? 🚌

Malta has a well-developed and efficient transportation system that makes it easy for tourists to explore the islands. Here are some of the best ways to get around Malta:

  1. Public Transportation (Buses):
    • Malta has an extensive public bus network that covers most areas of the islands. The buses are an affordable and convenient way to travel between towns and popular tourist destinations. The main bus terminal is in Valletta, and the routes cover both Malta and Gozo.
  2. Taxis:
    • Taxis are readily available in urban areas and can be hired for short distances or day trips. It’s advisable to negotiate the fare before starting the journey, and make sure the taxi has a meter.
  3. Rental Cars:
    • Renting a car is a popular option for tourists who want flexibility and independence. Malta has a well-maintained road network, and driving is on the left side. Car rental agencies are available at the airport and in major towns.
  4. Ferries:
    • Ferries operate between the islands of Malta and Gozo. The ferry ride provides scenic views and is a convenient way to explore both islands.
  5. Water Taxis:
    • In some harbor areas, water taxis are available for short trips, providing a unique and picturesque mode of transportation.
  6. Bicycle Rentals:
    • Malta has a growing network of cycling lanes, and renting a bicycle can be a pleasant way to explore smaller towns and coastal areas.
  7. Hop-On Hop-Off Buses:
    • Malta offers hop-on hop-off bus services that cover popular tourist routes. This is a convenient way to explore key attractions at your own pace.
  8. Walking:
    • Many towns and attractions in Malta are compact and pedestrian-friendly. Walking allows you to soak in the atmosphere and discover hidden gems in historic areas.

For visitors staying in Valletta, the capital city, much of the historic center is pedestrianized, making it easy to explore on foot. Additionally, using a combination of transportation methods can offer the best experience, allowing you to choose the most suitable mode for each part of your journey.

What’s the Official Language?

The official languages of Malta are Maltese and English. Maltese is a Semitic language with influences from Italian, Arabic, and English. English is widely used for official and administrative purposes, and the majority of the population is bilingual.

Here are some basic Maltese phrases that might be helpful for tourists:

  1. Hello – Bongu (pronounced bon-joo)
  2. Goodbye – Sahha (pronounced sah-ha)
  3. Please – Jekk jogħġbok (pronounced yek yokh-bok)
  4. Thank you – Grazzi (pronounced grat-si)
  5. Yes – Iva (pronounced ee-va)
  6. No – Le (pronounced leh)
  7. Excuse me / I’m sorry – Skużani (pronounced skoo-za-nee)
  8. Good morning – Bongu (pronounced bon-joo)
  9. Good afternoon – Bongu (used throughout the day)
  10. Good evening – Bona (pronounced bo-na)
  11. Good night – Il-lejl it-tajjeb (pronounced eel layl it-tai-yeb)

Learning a few basic phrases in Maltese can be a fun and respectful way to interact with locals during your visit to Malta. While English is widely spoken, the effort to use some Maltese phrases is often appreciated by the Maltese people.

Where to Stay? 🏨

Malta offers a range of accommodation options for tourists, catering to different preferences and budgets. Here are some popular areas to consider when choosing where to stay in Malta:

  1. Valletta:
    • The capital city, Valletta, is known for its rich history and architecture. Staying in Valletta provides convenient access to historical sites, museums, and vibrant streets. There are boutique hotels, guesthouses, and luxury accommodations.
  2. Sliema:
    • Sliema is a bustling town with a waterfront promenade, shops, restaurants, and entertainment options. It’s a popular choice for those who enjoy a lively atmosphere and easy access to ferry services to Valletta.
  3. St. Julian’s (Paceville):
    • St. Julian’s, particularly the area known as Paceville, is famous for its nightlife, restaurants, and entertainment. It’s a vibrant area popular among younger travelers and those looking for a lively atmosphere.
  4. Mdina:
    • For a unique experience, consider staying in Mdina, the old capital of Malta. Mdina is a charming medieval town with narrow streets, historic buildings, and a serene atmosphere.
  5. Mellieħa:
    • Mellieħa, located in the northern part of Malta, is known for its sandy beaches, including Mellieħa Bay. It’s a family-friendly area with a relaxed ambiance and easy access to popular attractions.
  6. Gozo:
    • If you’re interested in a more tranquil experience, consider staying on the sister island of Gozo. Gozo offers a more rural and laid-back atmosphere, with picturesque landscapes and historic sites.
  7. Marsaxlokk:
    • Marsaxlokk is a charming fishing village known for its colorful boats and seafood restaurants. Staying in Marsaxlokk provides a unique, authentic experience away from the hustle and bustle.
  8. Qawra and Bugibba:
    • Qawra and Bugibba, located on the northern coast, offer a range of accommodation options, including hotels and self-catering apartments. The area is known for its seaside promenade and water activities.

When choosing where to stay in Malta, consider your preferences, the type of experience you want, and the attractions you plan to visit. Malta’s small size makes it relatively easy to explore different areas of the islands during your stay.

What to Eat? 🍽️

Malta offers a delightful array of traditional dishes that reflect its unique blend of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influences. Here are some must-try Maltese foods for tourists:

  1. Pastizzi:
    • Pastizzi are flaky pastries filled with either ricotta cheese (pastizz tal-irkotta) or a spiced pea mixture (pastizz tal-piżelli). They are a popular and delicious snack.
  2. Fenek Moqli (Fried Rabbit):
    • Rabbit is a staple in Maltese cuisine, and fenek moqli, or fried rabbit, is a classic dish. It’s often seasoned with garlic, wine, and herbs, then deep-fried or stewed.
  3. Timpana:
    • Timpana is a hearty baked pasta dish featuring macaroni, minced meat, eggs, and cheese, all encased in a pastry crust. It’s a comfort food favorite.
  4. Kapunata:
    • Similar to ratatouille, kapunata is a savory vegetable stew made with tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, and other seasonal vegetables, typically flavored with herbs and olive oil.
  5. Bragioli:
    • Bragioli consists of thinly sliced beef filled with a mixture of breadcrumbs, bacon, hard-boiled eggs, and herbs. The rolls are then simmered in a tomato-based sauce.
  6. Gbejniet:
    • Gbejniet are small round cheeselets made from goat’s milk. They come in various forms, including fresh (gbejniet friski) or aged (gbejniet tan-nar).
  7. Hobż biż-żejt:
    • This traditional Maltese bread is typically served with a topping of ripe tomatoes, olives, capers, olive oil, and sometimes tuna. It’s a simple yet flavorful dish.
  8. Aljotta:
    • Aljotta is a traditional fish soup made with garlic, tomatoes, rice, and various herbs. It’s a comforting dish, especially popular during the colder months.
  9. Kinnie:
    • Kinnie is a popular Maltese soft drink made from bitter oranges and aromatic herbs. It has a unique bittersweet flavor and is often enjoyed as a refreshing beverage.
  10. Helwa tat-Tork:
    • Helwa tat-Tork, or Turkish delight, is a sweet treat made with sugar, water, and various flavorings. It often includes nuts and is dusted with powdered sugar or desiccated coconut.
  11. Figolla:
    • Figolla is a traditional Maltese Easter pastry shaped like a figure or symbol, filled with almond paste and decorated with icing sugar.
  12. Maltese Wine:
    • Malta produces a variety of wines, and trying some local vintages can be a delightful complement to your meals.

Exploring the local cuisine is an essential part of the Maltese experience, and these dishes offer a taste of the unique flavors that define Maltese gastronomy.

What to See? 🔍

Malta is rich in history and boasts a wealth of architectural and natural wonders. Here are some must-see places for tourists visiting Malta:

  1. Valletta:
    • The capital city, Valletta, is a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its well-preserved Baroque architecture. Key attractions include St. John’s Co-Cathedral, the Grand Master’s Palace, and the Upper Barrakka Gardens.
  2. Mdina:
    • Mdina, the Silent City, is a medieval walled city with narrow streets, historic palaces, and churches. Don’t miss the Mdina Cathedral and the panoramic views from the city walls.
  3. Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni:
    • This underground necropolis is one of the world’s best-preserved prehistoric sites. The Hypogeum features intricate carvings and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  4. Gozo:
    • Take a ferry to Gozo, Malta’s sister island, and explore its picturesque villages, the Citadel in Victoria, and the Azure Window (although the natural arch collapsed, the area remains scenic).
  5. Blue Lagoon:
    • Located on the small island of Comino, the Blue Lagoon is renowned for its crystal-clear turquoise waters. It’s a popular spot for swimming and snorkeling.
  6. Marsaxlokk:
    • Marsaxlokk is a charming fishing village known for its colorful boats and vibrant fish market. The village provides an authentic glimpse into Maltese maritime life.
  7. Tarxien Temples:
    • Dating back to 3600 BC, the Tarxien Temples are a complex of megalithic structures featuring intricate carvings. They provide insights into Malta’s prehistoric period.
  8. Mellieħa:
    • Mellieħa is home to one of Malta’s most famous beaches, Mellieħa Bay, and the nearby Popeye Village, a film set turned tourist attraction.
  9. Dingli Cliffs:
    • Enjoy breathtaking views from the Dingli Cliffs, the highest point in Malta. It’s a serene spot with walking trails and panoramic vistas.
  10. Mnajdra and Ħaġar Qim Temples:
    • These ancient temples, part of the Megalithic Temples of Malta UNESCO World Heritage site, are among the oldest freestanding structures in the world.
  11. Three Cities (Vittoriosa, Senglea, Cospicua):
    • Explore the historic Three Cities, characterized by narrow streets, fortifications, and maritime history. Highlights include Fort St. Angelo and the Maritime Museum.
  12. St. Julian’s and Paceville:
    • St. Julian’s is known for its lively atmosphere, waterfront dining, and entertainment. Paceville, part of St. Julian’s, is famous for its nightlife.

These are just a few highlights, and Malta offers many more hidden gems and cultural treasures waiting to be explored. Whether you’re interested in history, architecture, or natural beauty, Malta has something to offer every type of traveler.

What to Do? 📸

When visiting Malta, there are numerous activities to immerse yourself in the rich culture, history, and natural beauty of the islands. Here are some must-do things for tourists in Malta:

  1. Explore Valletta’s Historic Sites:
    • Wander through the streets of Valletta, visit St. John’s Co-Cathedral, explore the Grand Master’s Palace, and enjoy the panoramic views from the Upper Barrakka Gardens.
  2. Take a Boat Trip to the Blue Lagoon:
    • Embark on a boat trip to Comino’s Blue Lagoon to experience its crystal-clear waters, ideal for swimming and snorkeling. Comino’s caves and coastline are also worth exploring.
  3. Visit the Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni:
    • Discover the underground world of the Hypogeum, a prehistoric burial site with intricate carvings. Due to its popularity, booking tickets in advance is recommended.
  4. Tour the Megalithic Temples:
    • Explore the ancient temples of Tarxien, Ħaġar Qim, and Mnajdra, which are among the world’s oldest freestanding structures, dating back to 3600 BC.
  5. Ferry to Gozo:
    • Take a ferry to Gozo and visit the Citadel in Victoria, the Azure Window (or its remains), and the picturesque villages of Xlendi and Marsalforn.
  6. Visit the Three Cities:
    • Discover the historic charm of Vittoriosa, Senglea, and Cospicua, known as the Three Cities. Explore Fort St. Angelo and the Maritime Museum.
  7. Dingli Cliffs Walk:
    • Enjoy a scenic walk along the Dingli Cliffs, the highest point in Malta, offering breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea.
  8. Marsaxlokk Fish Market:
    • Experience the vibrant atmosphere of the Marsaxlokk Fish Market, where you can see colorful traditional Maltese fishing boats and enjoy fresh seafood.
  9. Climb the Mdina Bastions:
    • Climb the bastions of Mdina for panoramic views of the island. Explore the medieval city’s narrow streets and historic landmarks.
  10. Attend a Traditional Festa:
    • If your visit coincides with a local festa (celebration), join the festivities featuring religious processions, music, fireworks, and traditional food.
  11. Visit the National Museum of Archaeology:
    • Delve into Malta’s rich archaeological history at the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta.
  12. Try Maltese Cuisine:
    • Indulge in Maltese delicacies such as pastizzi, rabbit stew, and ftira (traditional Maltese bread). Visit local restaurants and taste the flavors of the island.
  13. Snorkel or Dive in Gozo:
    • Explore the underwater world by snorkeling or diving in Gozo, known for its clear waters and diverse marine life.
  14. Enjoy St. Julian’s Nightlife:
    • Experience the lively nightlife in St. Julian’s and Paceville, with numerous bars, clubs, and entertainment options.
  15. Participate in Cultural Festivals:
    • Check for local festivals and events, such as the Malta International Arts Festival, to immerse yourself in the cultural scene.

These activities offer a diverse and enriching experience, allowing you to appreciate Malta’s history, landscapes, and vibrant culture.

Culture and Safety 🦺

Culture in Malta:

  1. Multicultural Influences:
    • Malta’s culture is a unique blend of influences from various civilizations, including Phoenician, Roman, Arab, and British. This diversity is reflected in the language, cuisine, and traditions.
  2. Religious Festivals:
    • Religion plays a significant role in Maltese culture. The island hosts numerous religious festivals, or festas, celebrated with processions, fireworks, and music. Respect for these events is appreciated.
  3. Language:
    • Maltese and English are the official languages. English is widely spoken, making it easy for tourists to communicate. Learning a few basic Maltese phrases can enhance your cultural experience.
  4. Hospitality:
    • Maltese people are known for their hospitality and friendliness. It’s common to receive warm welcomes and assistance from locals, adding to the overall positive experience for tourists.
  5. Traditional Crafts:
    • Explore local markets and artisan shops to discover traditional Maltese crafts, including lacework, glassware, and filigree jewelry.
  6. Cuisine:
    • Maltese cuisine is a delicious fusion of Mediterranean flavors. Try local specialties such as pastizzi, rabbit stew, and seafood dishes. Dining is often a leisurely and social affair.
  7. Family Values:
    • Family holds great importance in Maltese culture, and family-oriented values are deeply ingrained. It’s common to see extended families gathering for meals and celebrations.

Safety in Malta:

  1. Low Crime Rate:
    • Malta has a low crime rate, making it generally safe for tourists. However, it’s advisable to stay vigilant in crowded areas and safeguard personal belongings.
  2. Healthcare Standards:
    • Malta has a well-developed healthcare system, and standards of medical care are high. It’s recommended to have travel insurance that covers medical expenses.
  3. Road Safety:
    • Malta follows left-hand driving, and road conditions are generally good. Exercise caution when driving, especially on narrow and winding roads. Public transportation is a safe and efficient alternative.
  4. Water Safety:
    • When engaging in water activities, adhere to safety guidelines and be cautious of strong currents. Familiarize yourself with local beach flags indicating sea conditions.
  5. Local Laws and Customs:
    • Respect local laws and customs. Dress modestly when visiting religious sites, and be aware of cultural sensitivities. The legal drinking age is 17, and alcohol consumption in public places is regulated.
  6. Emergency Services:
    • Malta has reliable emergency services. Know the local emergency number (112) and the location of the nearest hospital or medical center.
  7. COVID-19 Guidelines:
    • Stay informed about any travel restrictions or guidelines related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Follow local health protocols to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit.
  8. Water Quality:
    • Tap water in Malta is safe to drink. Carry a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated, especially during warmer months.

By respecting local customs, staying informed about safety measures, and exercising common sense, tourists can enjoy a culturally enriching and secure experience in Malta.

Conclusion

In conclusion, a visit to Malta promises a captivating blend of rich history, vibrant culture, and stunning landscapes. From exploring the ancient temples and medieval cities to savoring the flavors of Maltese cuisine, every corner of the islands reveals a unique story. The warmth of the Maltese people and their hospitality, coupled with the safety of the destination, create an inviting atmosphere for travelers. Whether you’re delving into the historical treasures of Valletta, relaxing on the beaches of Comino, or immersing yourself in the festive traditions, Malta offers a diverse and memorable experience. As you navigate the charming streets, indulge in local delicacies, and witness the colorful festas, Malta unfolds as a destination where history and modernity coexist harmoniously, leaving visitors with lasting memories of a truly enchanting Mediterranean gem.