21 best things to do in Malta - Times Travel (2022)

Culture, history, archaeology, boat tours, sun, sea and fabulous food — Malta has it all. This compact little Mediterranean island nation is packed with fabulous things to do. From the oldest stone architecture in the world to the baroque wonders of the Knights of St John, labyrinthine Roman catacombs to secrets of the Second World War, Malta is home to the greatest density of historical sights of any country. It has some of the best diving in Europe, too, as well as swimming, snorkelling and water sports in clear, warm waters. On land, the sculpted limestone coast offers scenic settings for walkers and view-seekers, and there’s a gourmet feast for foodies. The question isn’t “what will you do in a place as small as Malta?” but rather “how will you fit it all in?”

Main photo: The Valletta skyline (Alamy)

*This article contains affiliate links.

All products and brands mentioned in this article are selected by our writers and editors based on first-hand experience or customer feedback. We feature properties from a specially selected list of trusted operators who are of a standard that we believe our readers expect. This article contains links which are ads and if you click on a link and buy a product we will earn revenue. These links are signposted with an asterisk. The revenue generated will help us to support the content of this website and to continue to invest in our award-winning journalism.

Show more Show less

21 best things to do in Malta - Times Travel (1)

1. Wander Valletta

Malta’s charming Unesco world heritage capital city is both a 16th-century citadel and a vibrant 21st-century town. Built by the Knights of St John after they nearly lost Malta to the Ottoman Turks in 1565, this grid of glowing stone alleys is less than one square kilometre, the perfect size to wander. Start at the Upper Barrakka Gardens for panoramic views of the Grand Harbour before taking in the Grandmaster Palace, fountain-cooled central square, streets of steps, Knights auberges, striking modern parliament, and much more. If you prefer to have information provided as you go, there are plenty of guided tours.

21 best things to do in Malta - Times Travel (2)

2. Marvel at St John’s Co-Cathedral

The outside of St John’s is almost dour in its military-style plainness, but inside is one of Europe’s most dazzling displays of baroque excess — a symphony of gold, paint and coloured marble. This is the church of the Knights of St John (who ruled Malta from 1530 to 1798); the Order’s Grand Masters are buried in its crypt, and the oratory is home to two spectacular paintings by Caravaggio (including his largest and only signed work). There’s an excellent audio guide, or book a Valletta tour that includes a guided visit.

3. Dive deep

Often named Europe’s top dive destination, this Mediterranean nation boasts exceptionally clear water and 50 licensed dive schools across Malta and Gozo, as well as one on tiny Comino. Spectacular underwater landscapes — from cathedral caves to deep holes and drop-offs — and a range of scuttled wrecks provide plenty of challenge for the most experienced sub-aqua explorer, while beginners are also well served. Many dives are reachable from the shore and taster sessions are offered for enthusiasts as young as eight.

21 best things to do in Malta - Times Travel (3)

4. The life aquatic

From the marine life of Malta’s Mediterranean coastline to tropical exotics, an imagined Roman shipwreck to amphibians and reptiles, the Malta National Aquarium is a great family-friendly attraction. Grim-faced groupers and newly hatched sharks, piranhas and tiny tree frogs should keep kids amused and amazed. Set on a blue flag coastline in the tourist area of Bugibba, it’s easily combined with a real sea swim, but you can also dive deep into the sea without even getting your feet wet.

21 best things to do in Malta - Times Travel (4)

5. Tour Malta’s Game of Thrones locations

From Kings Landing to the Red Keep and the streets of Flea Bottom, this tour will take you on a day-long journey around Malta’s Game of Thrones locations. Led by local actors who took part in the filming, you won’t just get to see the places but also hear on-set stories, as well as discovering a few of Malta’s other film sights including Popeye Village (set of 1980 film Popeye). You’ll visit quite a bit of Malta too, from Valletta to Mdina and the Majjistral National Park.

Best hotels in Malta

When is the best time to visit Malta?

6. Be a guest at a private Mdina palazzo

Walking the honeyed limestone streets of historic Mdina, Malta’s capital city until the construction of Valletta, you pass the tall limestone walls and fancy door knockers of its aristocratic palazzi. Getting an invitation inside is quite another matter, but this experience takes you behind the façade as a guest of one of Malta’s top families. Meet the occupant(s) and be shown their home, complete with its antique, historical and artistic treasures. Privacy is key so you won’t find this listed, but contact Exclusively Malta for further information.

21 best things to do in Malta - Times Travel (5)

7. Cruise the famous Grand Harbour

With sparkling blue waters flanked by honey-cream limestone, the expansive Grand Harbour is at the heart of Malta’s history. Site of the Great Siege of 1565 as well as the Second World War encirclement of 1942, the harbour lies between Valletta and the Three Cities, with iconic castles both sides of the water. Cruising these protected waters provides a different perspective from land-based exploration, taking you in and out of hidden creeks and watery corners. Hop into a tiny striped dghajsa (traditional water taxi) at Custom House, beneath Valletta’s Upper Barrakka Gardens, or book on a larger organised boat tour with full commentary.

21 best things to do in Malta - Times Travel (6)

8. Wallow in the Blue Lagoon

Malta’s favourite day trips are to the Blue Lagoon. A protected stretch of luminous blue water flanked by caves on the tiny island of Comino, this is the nation’s top spot to swim and snorkel on a hot summer’s day. It gets crowded and there is little space and no shade on land, so a boat that stays with you all day, offering a deck to laze on and liquid refreshment, is definitely a plus. Unless of course you choose to stay the night at the only accommodation on the island, the Comino Hotel.

21 best things to do in Malta - Times Travel (7)

9. Walk into the world’s oldest stone architecture

Malta’s extraordinary Neolithic Temples — all Unesco world heritage sites — are the oldest stone architecture in the world. Predating both Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids, the temples are proper buildings with monumental doorways, curved rooms (once decorated with plaster and ochre paint), stone furniture and statues (originals now in the National Museum of Archaeology). Best preserved are Mnajdra and Hagar Qim, followed by Tarxien, and Ggantija on Gozo. And there’s more to wonder at underground at the unique Hal Saflieni Hypogeum — a triple-layered tomb complex of rock-cut chambers, some immaculately carved to look like the above-ground temples.

10. Eat your way around Valletta

A graze-as-you-go guided tour of Malta’s capital city, run by the folk who produce the nation’s most popular restaurant guide, The Definitive(ly) Good Guide to Restaurants in Malta & Gozo, is a must for any foodies. On the Off-Beat Malta Food Trail, you’ll spot most of Valletta’s main sights while stopping for snacks and tasters including Maltese specialities like gbejna (sheep/goats milk cheeses), hobz Malti (the nation’s much-loved bread), pastizzi (traditional pasty of cheese or peas), and imqaret (delicious date and fennel seed pastry), as well as local beer and wine.

21 best things to do in Malta - Times Travel (8)

11. Explore curious catacombs

Beneath the ground at the centre of the island of Malta lies a labyrinth of Roman-Byzantine catacombs — a complex of stone-cut tombs ranging from oblong holes-in-the-wall to carefully carved window graves and once-opulent four-poster sarcophagi. Different from any in Rome, these catacombs include round stone tables where the funerary meal was taken. The easiest way to visit is at St Paul’s Catacombs in Rabat, which has an informative visitors’ centre, audioguide and plenty to explore including pagan and Jewish as well as Christian tombs. To make the most of the experience, take a torch.

21 best things to do in Malta - Times Travel (9)

12. Taste Maltese wine

You won’t find Maltese wines sold abroad so this is your chance to try them. You can try by the glass in the wine bars of Valletta, but it’s fun to see the production close-up. Meridiana makes some of the best wines in Malta and offers tours of its vineyard near Mdina at 2pm Mon-Fri, followed by a tasting with cheeses and cold meats. Or stop by the tiny artisan winery at Tal-Massar, Gozo — visit the vines before an alfresco tasting of four wines and a platter of Gozitan produce.

21 best things to do in Malta - Times Travel (10)

13. Tunnel into the secrets of the Second World War

Deep beneath Valletta hides the secret Second World War HQ of the Allies in the Mediterranean. From the Lascaris War Rooms, Eisenhower oversaw the invasion of Sicily; radar readings were analysed, signals intercepted and RAF fighters controlled. After the war the site remained secret as Soviet submarines were tracked; the tunnel control centre was only closed in 1977. Today, map rooms and original communications equipment are evocatively displayed alongside tunnels lined with bunks. Malta had a tough and strategically important war, and there are plenty of Second World War sites to explore, several of them preserved by the same foundation as the Lascaris War Rooms.

Top all-inclusive hotels in Malta

14. Segway around Gozo

Take a fun, eco-friendly roll around Gozo with a local guide who will show you how to safely use your Segway, then lead you to lesser-known beauty spots of this lovely island. Wheel along by a chequerboard of salt pans beneath yellow sculpted cliffs, visit Gozo’s top pilgrimage site, and enjoy dramatic views from a Gozitan high point.

21 best things to do in Malta - Times Travel (11)

15. Make a Maltese meal of it

Over the past decade Malta has reinvented itself as a seriously foodie destination. Awarded its first Michelin stars in 2020, it now has five starred restaurants, all serving modern Mediterranean cuisine. But you don’t have to spend a fortune to eat well here. For a meal like Maltese mama used to make, head to award-winning Gululu in St Julian’s (or its stall in Valletta’s Is-Suq tal-Belt food hall) or settle in for a delicious and filling Maltese Meze at Legligin.

21 best things to do in Malta - Times Travel (12)

16. Boat tour of Gozo and Comino

Circumnavigate Gozo and Comino exploring their picturesque coasts, stopping to swim, sunbathe and snorkel (equipment provided) — a great trip for all the family. Starting at Bugibba the boat cruises over to the Blue Lagoon for its first stop. The afternoon includes anchoring at Comino’s much less crowded Crystal Lagoon, and a couple of Gozo’s most scenic swimming spots as well as steaming past towering cliffs and historic towers.

21 best things to do in Malta - Times Travel (13)

17. Learn to make pastizzi

Many a Maltese (especially men — sorry, but it’s true) can’t make it through the morning without a pastizz. Traditional little pasties, these are bought from a café or tiny specialist pastizzeria — of which Malta has hundreds. They contain either a delicate local ricotta-like cheese or mushed-up peas (much tastier than it sounds). This experience lets you learn all about Malta’s favourite savoury snack and then cook them yourself, together with a master maker in his own home. Naturally, you will then get to eat them.

21 best things to do in Malta - Times Travel (14)

18. Find Malta’s history in a fortified nutshell

On the banks of the Grand Harbour, in Birgu (Vittoriosa), stands the solid limestone figure of Fort St Angelo. Malta’s oldest fortress encapsulates a millennium of the nation’s history. The heart of medieval rule, St Angelo became the first base of the Knights in Malta and survived the Great Siege before giving way to Valletta. Briefly a prison — where Caravaggio was held — it was the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean HQ for more than 150 years. The last Knight of St John still lives in its upper reaches (visitable by guided tour), while the battlements offer panoramas of the Grand Harbour, Valletta and the Three Cities.

19. Pay a visit to Malta’s best historic house museum

Still home to the Marquis De Piro (a modern Knight of St John) and his family, Casa Rocca Piccola is a treasure trove of Maltese antiques and curiosities. A solid chest, probably the oldest piece of Maltese furniture in existence, sits alongside intricate Maltese lace, fascinating family photos, rare paintings and the only surviving set of silver surgical instruments from the Knights Sacred Hospital. If you can afford the champagne tour, take it, and hope to have the marquis as your guide — he is a consummate storyteller and the tour is a delight.

21 best things to do in Malta - Times Travel (15)

20. Hop around Malta

Hop onto the hop-on-hop-off open-top bus that tours the sights of Malta. There are two routes — North and South — both with plenty to see and do. One- or two-day tickets let you choose how long you spend at each stop including top out-of-town spots like the pretty fishing village of Marsaxlokk, the luminous Blue Grotto (take the boat tour), and the earliest visible residence of humans on Malta, Ghar Dalam (Cave of Darkness). There are two companies running very similar schedules. This one is at time of writing marginally more punctual.

21 best things to do in Malta - Times Travel (16)

21. Kick back at the beach

Sightseeing is great, but when you’re surrounded by glittering azure waters, warm enough for swimming from June to early November, and the sun shines 300 days of the year, it’s hard to resist. From the broad yellow sands of Golden Bay to the rocky shoreline of Sliema, Malta’s longest sandy beach at Mellieha to hidden coves like Peter’s Bay — not to mention the great beaches of Gozo — there’s no shortage of choice. Need help deciding? Check Malta’s Which Beach app for where has the best conditions each day.

Take me there

Inspired to visit Malta but yet to book your trip? Here are the best packages from TUI Holidays and best villas with Oliver’s Travels.

Here’s a selection of some of the best Malta itineraries from our Times Travel partners.

Top Articles

Latest Posts

Article information

Author: Madonna Wisozk

Last Updated: 01/15/2023

Views: 6008

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (68 voted)

Reviews: 91% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Madonna Wisozk

Birthday: 2001-02-23

Address: 656 Gerhold Summit, Sidneyberg, FL 78179-2512

Phone: +6742282696652

Job: Customer Banking Liaison

Hobby: Flower arranging, Yo-yoing, Tai chi, Rowing, Macrame, Urban exploration, Knife making

Introduction: My name is Madonna Wisozk, I am a attractive, healthy, thoughtful, faithful, open, vivacious, zany person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.