Are you planning a trip to Malta and wondering where to start? Don’t you worry, I’ve got you covered! Find out from this article which are the best things you can’t miss in Malta. Also, check my interactive map to understand better every landmark and place I mentioned in this article.
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Table of Contents
Admire the Churches
On the islands of Malta, there are 365 churches, one for every day of the year. Every city and village in Malta has at least one church that overlooks the skyline. With a density of one church per square kilometer, it is hard to decide which one to visit. We bumped into many churches during our road-tripping through Malta, but two impressed us the most: The Church of the Assumption of Our Lady in Mosta in Malta and Ta’ Pinu Sanctuary in Gozo.
The Church of the Assumption of Our Lady in Mosta
One of the best things you can’t miss in Malta is visiting Mosta Rotunda since none of Malta’s churches has such an emotional story.
During World War II, Malta was one of the most bombed countries on the planet. On April 9th, 1942, a 500 kg bomb hit the church’s dome and landed indoors. At that time, more than 300 people were inside the church for a mass. Fortunately and surprisingly, the bomb didn’t explode. It was a miracle! Many parishioners left while others stayed and prayed. Today, the Mosta is celebrated for its wonder and continues to attract many tourists.
What makes this church so unique? The spherical shape, the gorgeous 37-meter dome, the baby blue walls, and the Jesus paintings. While touring the church, stop for a short movie introducing the events and head to the bomb’s replica.
TIP. I would recommend buying the full tickets so you will get the chance to walk the 74 stairs to the dome, admire the views from the roof and visit the air-raid shelter where people gathered during the Italian bombing campaign—entrance just outside the church.
Located in spectacular countryside with nothing else around, just outside the Gharb Village, Ta’Pinu Sanctuary is simply unique.
In 1883, a woman from the nearby village heard the voice of Mary Our Lady in the little church, so the place soon became a pilgrimage center. Therefore, a sanctuary was built between 1920 and 1931 just in front of the original church.
As soon as you approach the church, you will be amazed by the 14 huge hand-crafted mosaics portraying the Cross’s Stations. After taking some lovely photos of the exterior, walk inside and admire the interior as well.
Go on a Boat Ride
It might sound like cliches, but going on a boat ride and discovering the blue caves is one of the best things you can’t miss in Malta—my favorite spot: the Blue Grotto of Gozo, less known and less touristy.
Blue Grotto of Gozo
Gozo was well known for its famous arch structure, Azure Window, for many years. Unfortunately, the arch crashed during a harsh storm on March 8th, 2017. Still, many choose to come and see where the famous window once was and go on a boat ride.
Next to the fallen Azure Window, you will bump into a small bay offering access to the sea through a tiny cave opening. For 4€, the boatman will take you on a 15-minute boat ride to see the lagoon’s crystal clear water, the corals and the jellyfish, the limestone cliffs, the fallen Azure Window, and interesting rock formations.
TIP. There are souvenir shops and eateries if you want to buy handicrafts or have a cold drink.
Blue Grotto of Malta
If you don’t plan a visit to Gozo Island, you can still go on a boat ride at Blue Grotto of Malta, a highly visited spot due to the grotto system, which can be accessed only by boat.
Stop at the designated area for a panoramic catch of the cave system before heading down to the boat ramp. Boat rides last 20 minutes and are available daily, depending on the weather, from 09:00 to 17:00 in summer and from 09:00 to 15:30 in winter.
The UNESCO Heritage City is one of the most visited in Malta and one of the top things you can’t miss. Built on a hill between two harbors, Valletta had fortified walls to protect it from conquerors. The impact of the Knights of St John was meaningful for Valletta, and you’ll notice that in the incredible architecture.
Co-Cathedral of St. John
Valletta’s main attraction is the Co-Cathedral of St. John, founded in 1571 and completed six years later. At first, the church had minimal decoration, but in the late 16th century, it became one of the most abundant.
Take an audio guide and follow the instructions. First, you’ll pass by eight chapels, each given to one of the languages of the Order. Next, the marble floor houses the tombs of the Knights and priests. Finally, head to the famous Caravaggio’s artwork, which attracts many visitors. No wonder this glimpsing painting is one of the best things you can’t miss in Malta.
Stroll the streets of Valletta
Valletta has so many attractions, but walking the streets should be high on your list. The capital has 12 parallel streets, which can be steep, with many providing harbor views. While wandering the streets, admire the Parliament buildings’ architecture, the Manoel Theatre, or the Old Opera House. Next, discover Republic Street and Merchant Street, which have many restaurants, cafes, and handmade and jewelry stores.
On top of the Christopher Bastion lies the Lower Barrakka Gardens, a quiet and intimate park in the city’s middle. Overlooking the lower gardens, you’ll spot the Upper Barrakka Gardens, an excellent place for taking a rest. If time allows, head to both, as the views are amazing!
Get Lost in Mdina & Rabat
If Valetta is overcrowded and you want to explore the quieter side of life, head to Mdina, Malta’s capital in the Middle Ages. With more than 4,000 years of history, Mdina, or Silent City, is a peaceful fortress where you can get lost in the maze-like alleys. The fort has only 300 residents, and only a few cars are allowed to drive inside.
One of the main attractions is St. Paul’s Cathedral, the oldest church in the country, where you can admire the fantastic architecture and gorgeous paintings.
While strolling the sleepy streets, stop at Fiori di Latte for a sweet treat. Enjoy the ice cream while admiring the views over the island from the top of the bastions.
Mdina’s charming neighbor, Rabat, houses Malta’s oldest Roman underground cemetery. The interconnected St Paul’s catacombs cover an area of 2,000 square meters. The name comes from the Apostle Paul, who brought Christianity to the island, and as a consequence, Malta became one of the first Roman colonies to convert.
There are over 30 hypogea, and 20 are open to the public. The remarkable labyrinth of tunnels carved out of solid rock is one of the things you can’t miss in Malta.
Get a Sneak Pick of the Salt Pans
The salt pans system is another lovely thing you can’t miss in Malta. You can find those salt pans in Marsalforn in Gozo and Marsaskala in Malta.
You can see locals working manually and scratching for crystals during summer. The 350-year-old salt pans are gorgeous and attract many visitors year-round. Stop along the coast as often as you want and take plenty of photos.
Explore Comino Island
Another highlight of Malta is the small sister island, Comino, and visiting this gorgeous area is a must. Although Comino is known for the legendary Blue Lagoon with its magnificent turquoise crystal water, there is much more to do and see on the island. A stroll on the island, a visit to St Mary’s Tower, a swim at the Blue Lagoon, or some leisure time at Crystal Lagoon are some things you can’t miss in Comino.
Relax at the beach
Blue Lagoon, Comino’s main attraction, is a gorgeous bay with crystal-clear water. It’s the only place in Malta where you will find this color and clarity of the water, so it’s no wonder it became a famous spot. Anyone who loves swimming in crystal clear water, snorkeling, or lazing in the sun should visit the beautiful Blue Lagoon.
Across Blue Lagoon is Cominotto islet, a slight stretch of sandy beach. You can swim to Cominotto or take a shuttle service from Blue Lagoon for a small fee. You can lie down in the sun, swim, relax, or climb the cliffs on the other side of the islet.
Walk around the island
If you are not interested in spending the whole time at the beach, the pathways will keep you occupied for the rest of the day. A walk around the island on the main trail is about 7km. You can explore the paths along the cliffs, walk into the island’s interior and discover the abandoned buildings and the St. Mary’s Tower.
St Mary’s Tower is located 80 meters above sea level and it is 12 meters tall. Unfortunately, the tower has deteriorated due to the exposition to the winds and sea. The restoration began in 2002 and lasted two years.
The tower is open every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, from 10:30 am to 3:00 pm, from April to October. If you spot the Knight’s flag flying above the tower, you can visit it free of charge.
If you follow the road, you can reach the St. Mary’s Gun Battery in no more than 15 minutes. The semi-circular gun platform was designed to protect the channel between Comino and Malta. The Battery also went through restorations, and it is open all year round.
Head north to Santa Maria Bay and reach the Chapel of Our Lady’s Return From Egypt. The Roman Catholic chapel was built in 1618 and dedicated to the Angel Gabriel’s announcement to the Virgin Mary. The chapel is still in use for the few inhabitants of the island.
Discovering the Comino island is one of the top things you can’t miss in Malta! If you want to find out more about the things you can do on Comino Island, read my complete article: THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN COMINO
Go on a Day Trip to Gozo
I fell in love with Gozo during our visit, that’s why I would advise you to rent a car and explore this beautiful island on your own. So you will have the chance to see almost everything Gozo offers at your own pace. The island has a more tranquil vibe, shorter distances, and looser traffic. Make sure to check the ferry’s timetable here.
Start your day with a generous breakfast and a delicious coffee at one of the terraces in Independence Square, just near the Citadel entrance. Victoria, the capital of Gozo, was named in honor of Queen Victoria of England in 1887. As the locals call it, Rabat is a vibrant small town with narrow streets housing many restaurants and Gozitan handicraft shops. Stroll the streets of the Citadel and admire the views from the walls. Take your time, indulge in the silence of this gorgeous Citadel, and admire the views from the walls!
Drive to Ta Pinu Sanctuary, located just outside the Gharb Village, in spectacular countryside with nothing else around.
If you want to learn more about the Gozitans’ handicrafts, you should definitely stop at Ta’Dbiegi Craft Village. You will find everything from local metal artwork to glass blowing, from pottery items to leather and stone souvenirs, from lace and cotton to jewelry pieces.
Go on a boat ride at the Blue Grotto, snorkel at Wied il-Ghasri or relax at Ramla Bay’s sandy beach. Bring your goggles and explore the area!
To learn more about Gozo, read my detailed article: GOZO BY CAR. THE PERFECT ONE DAY IN GOZO ITINERARY
Booking a tour is the easiest way to discover Gozo and you don’t have to worry about the itinerary, so BOOK YOUR FULL-DAY GOZO ISLAND EXCURSION NOW.
Relax at One of the Sandy Beaches
For many travelers, the main reason for visiting Malta is to relax and enjoy the beach. While limestone cliffs mostly surround the shores, there are some beautiful sandy beaches where you can rest in the sun and relax all day.
Riviera Beach, Malta
I have to be honest: Riviera Beach is my favorite beach in Malta. Yes, it is crowded, yes, it is busy, but the panoramic views are amazing. The limestone cliffs surrounding this bay are impressive, with no buildings obstructing the views.
You’ll have to walk down some stairs to the beach, but once there, you’ll discover enough space to find a cozy spot. The entrance into the crystal-clear water is smooth, so you can leave the water shoes behind. There is also a restaurant serving different kinds of dishes and drinks.
The views from above are stunning! Taking photos from this spot is one of the top things you can’t miss in Malta!
Golden Bay, Malta
My second favorite beach in Malta, close to Riviera Beach, is Golden Bay, another great swimming and snorkeling option. Beautiful cliffs surround the bay, and the vast sandy beach is the perfect choice for families and children. Parking is enormous, and there is a small bistro for takeaways and drinks. The beach is a favorite spot for parties and barbeques during the summer months.
You can catch some photos of Golden Bay from the viewpoint near Riviera Beach!
Ramla Bay, Gozo
Advertised as one of the best beaches in the Mediterranean, well, that’s arguable. But Ramla Bay is one of the best beaches in Malta overall. The red sand strike has charm, mainly when not packed with locals or tourists. There are some big rocks, and getting into the water might be unpredictable. But a nice swim is guaranteed if you head to the right of the beach.
There is a nice restaurant serving delicious food. If you love eating fish, try the fish of the day, usually lampuki (the Maltese name for bream).
St. Niklaw Bay, Comino
I mentioned earlier that the Blue Lagoon is one of the highlights of Comino. Unfortunately, Blue Lagoon was not what we’d expected: crowded and overloaded, with music screaming from one of the snack bars and people constantly coming and going.
Instead, we found a little beach only for ourselves at St. Niklaw Bay, only 15 minutes away from Blue Lagoon.
Since the Comino Hotel isn’t operating anymore, the two small sandy beaches that were exclusively for the hotel’s guests are now deserted. Although the area is fenced, we managed to find a path leading to the sea, and we had a calm beach for the rest of our spare time in Comino.
Stroll the St. Julian’s and Sliema Promenade
St. Julian’s and Sliema are two popular tourist spots in Malta, north of Valletta. The towns are considered Malta’s nightlife hub, providing a huge diversity of restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. The best way to know these places is by taking a stroll along the promenade that connects them. The walk along the shore is enjoyable and vibrant and is definitely another thing you can’t miss in Malta.
The walk will take you to Balluta Bay, where you’ll spot locals and tourists taking a swim at the tiny beach. Nearby is the famous historical architecture Balluta Building and the gorgeous Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
You’ll find many restaurants, coffeehouses, and bars at Spinola Bay. If you want to stop, the options are endless: from Maltese restaurants to Italian and Asian cuisine, from Turkish to Balkans cuisine.
If you want to relax for a while, grab an ice cream and rest on a bench at Independence Gardens, one of Sliema’s largest parks.
Eat Like a Local
The best rabbit dish I ever tried – definitely one of the best things you can’t miss in Malta!
Pubs are trendy places among locals and visitors from abroad. You’ll bump into many places like this, and usually, the food selection is limited, but trust me, it’s fresh and delicious!
We’ve tried the Black Bull Pub in Sliema and weren’t disappointed. The food was excellent, with a vast selection of cocktails, and the ambiance was welcoming and inviting.
Things to Keep in Mind
You can discover Malta by renting a car. Being a small island, you can get from the south to the north in less than an hour.
The only way you can reach Gozo is via ferry from Malta, but the beauty is that you can actually take your rented car on the ferry. Although the island is tiny, you can’t really get around on foot, and the best way to discover Gozo is by car. You get the freedom to make your plan, drive where you want, and spend as much time as you want, with no stress or other limitations.
The best site to book a rental car in Malta is DISCOVER CARS. This easy-to-use booking platform compares car rental deals from many trusted companies, which enables them to secure the best car rental prices. And they usually include insurance.
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Interactive Map of the Best Things You Can’t-Miss in Malta
Underneath, you’ll find a customized map that includes all the locations mentioned in this article. Just open up this article on your phone and click on the frame in the upper right corner of this map. The Google Maps app will open, and you can check all the details. I hope it helps!
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