18 May Malta: The Ultimate Travel Guide
Malta is a small European archipelago in the central Mediterranean located just between the South of Italy (near Sicily) and the North African coast. English and Italian are the two most common influences that can be seen on the country, especially in the language and the food culture.
Ryanair have a direct flight to Luqa International which we took. The flight itself takes just under four hours, and the airport is not too far from any of the main areas of Malta. We flew over on Sunday morning at 7am, and the flight home was at 3.30pm. The times were perfect as it meant we got home early enough to get ready for the next day in work and weren’t too exhausted from the journey.
We were lucky enough to stay in the Hotel Valentina – a boutique hotel located centrally in St. Julian’s Bay. The hotel itself is the perfect location, just a short walking distance to public transport services, as well as the Island’s top three casinos, conference centres, diving schools, fine restaurants, clubs and bars.
The staff were absolutely amazing and went above and beyond to make sure that our stay was enjoyable. They even left a personalised card, bottle of champagne and some fresh fruit in our room to wish me a happy birthday!
Breakfast was included in our rate, and it was a pretty impressive spread. Cereals, fresh fruit, yoghurts, pastries, cakes and your standard hotel fry all made an appearance. However, my favourite part of the hotel was the reception and bar area. It was really modern with really pretty furniture and plenty of areas for lounging in the evening.
Most importantly for us, the hotel had parking underground, which was so helpful as the streets surrounding St. Julians can be pretty hectic and finding a free spot is like finding a needle in a haystack! A massive selling point for this hotel.
While the public transport services are pretty good, I would highly recommend renting a car. Not only is this more convenient, in that it will save you a lot of time waiting around on buses that may or may not arrive on time, it also provides you with the flexibility to explore areas such as Gozo at your own pace. This gives you more freedom to check out less explored corners of the island than you might experience on a guided tour.
We rented our car from Avis. For four days it cost us €65 for a small 1 litre Hyundai i10. We opted for insurance also which cost us €15 extra per day, but we felt it was a small price to pay for a little extra security on unknown roads. They drive on the left hand side of the road in Malta too, so that made things easier for us.
One thing to be wary of however, is the Maltese are not the most mannerly when driving (compared to the Irish) and get pretty outraged if you let a pedestrian pass or pull in for an ambulance for example. These are two things I experienced myself first hand. Also, drivers tend to indicate all the time, or not at all, and switch lanes dramatically without using indicators at all. Just take your time, and be careful if you do choose to drive.
Things To Do
We really squeezed a lot into our 4 days in Malta. There is actually so much to see and do, and I think 5 days would be the perfect amount of time to explore. Here’s the low down on what we got up to:
Valletta, the capital of Malta is a really small town but it is so full of things to see. We visited the city on the day we arrived, and I was absolutely mesmerised by its beauty. Winding streets, beautiful viewpoints and a stunning harbour. It was an amazing introduction to the city, and it was what excited me for the days to follow. I wish we had have had more time to spend longer here. Unfortunately we missed the canon being fired from the Upper Barrakka Garden which happens each day at noon and 4pm but I believe it is great to see. Another place that is meant to be spectacular is St John’s Co-Cathedral, Malta’s most impressive church. Either way, I really enjoyed just wandering around the city and stumbling upon beautiful places down alleyways and rooftops.
St. Peter’s Pool
This is probably my favourite of all the places we visited. We chilled out in the sun, jumped from the cliff edge and snorkelled in the crystal clear waters. It was just beautiful. I’d definitely recommended heading in the early morning to catch the early sun, and heading off before lunch time. We arrived at about 10am but by midday it was starting to get pretty hectic. As you make your way towards St.Peters Pool, you will see signs for parking – ignore them – they are private individuals that will try and charge you to park. Hold out until you see the official sign. From there you will travel along a very narrow, very rocky road before meeting a carpark where you can park for free. If you meet another car on the way down this road….best of luck!
Just a short drive from St. Peter’s Pool is a little fishing village called Marsaxlokk. It is so pretty with colourful doors down each winding street, beautiful views of the harbour and fishing boats and amazing seafood. Definitely worth a visit if you are in the south of the island.
Located in south-east part of the island, near Zurrieq, the blue grotto viewpoint is one of the prettiest on the island. From here you can see down into the stunning cave from an impressive height. It is possible to take a boat trips into the cave itself, but I think the view from above is far more impressive.
While there are many operators that offer tours of the island, I would really encourage you to rent a car and take it to Gozo yourself. The ferry from Cirkewwa costs just €15 for one person and a car, and an additional €5 per passenger. Driving gives you ultimate flexibility of where to go and how long to stay. The weather was a bit hit and miss during our visit but we saw so much or the island included Tal Mixta Cave, the Salt Pans and Wied il-Ghasri – a beautiful valley with stunning views flowing into the sea.
After spending the day in Gozo, we decided to visit Popeyes Village on the way back to the hotel. This is the film set of the 1980 Musical Production ‘Popeye’ which has become one of the biggest tourist attractions on the Maltese Islands. Although the attractions had closed by the time we got there, it was still nice to see the the colourful set and the views surrounding it.
The small island most famous for its blue lagoon, is one of the most talked about tourist spots in Malta. While the water and surrounding sights are absolutely stunning, it wouldn’t be my first choice of places is recommend. If I’m completely honest, I was a little disappointed when I arrived. So many tourists flock here, and it gets so crowded (which you can see in the not so pretty picture I posted below!). We took a speedboat from the port at Cirkewwa. It cost just €10 return per person and departs every hour from 9-6pm. If you decide to visit and stay at the blue lagoon for the day, I would recommend that you pack water and a lunch. There are drinks, fruit and some food for sale on the island, however there is not much choice.
Eating & Drinking
The food in Malta is very good, and the Italian influence on the country can most definitely be seen. Pizza, Pasta, Seafood and Steak are all common menu items in almost every restaurant. Here are some of the places we ate in, which I can definitely recommend:
- Peppinos – enjoy traditional Italian cuisine with incredible views looking out over Spinola Bay. Share the beef salad with rocket and tomato – it was absolutely out of this world!
- Crust – perfect spot for brunch or lunch. Stylish interiors and amazing infused gins.
- Rossini Cibo Vino – cozy restaurant with amazing Maltese cuisine and the biggest vegan menu I’ve ever seen!
- ImPasta – very casual but the best made to order pasta and bruschetta
- French Affaire – macaroons, cake and coffee. Delish
- La Nostra Padona – amazing seafood. Order the seabass salad it was amazing
- Chalice Bar & Lounge – beautifully decorated, industrial style bar with a fantastic cocktail menu
- White Wine and Food – An intimate setting, with only 5 or 6 tables. Home to the best G&T I have ever had. The owner serves you a selection of antipasti with your order as well which was a nice touch. Definitely worth a visit.
I absolutely loved our time in Malta. It was the perfect break and I think we both fell in love with the country. There are a few things that I wish we had had more time to do – such as scuba diving and seeing more of Valletta & Mdina – so I will be making it my mission to go back in the near future!