When I first landed in Malta in 2012, my main two aims were to find a summer job and improve my English (after Maltese, the second official language in Malta).
The sooner turned out to be relatively easy – a few days later I put on my black apron and waited first tables in one of the restaurants overlooking Balluta Bay. The latter, however, transformed along the way – instead of improving English, I became fluent in Italian. Another ”side effect” of that summer was falling in love with Malta, which made me a frequent flyer towards the island for a couple of years…
And each visit has taught me something new:
- White taxis can be unfairly expensive. Look for alternatives first – you might need to book and pay in advance, sometimes in inconspicuous and hidden venues, such as the one located by the main road in Paceville.
- Always have cash on you. Credit cards are still not welcome in many places.
- If you want to improve your English skills, enroll on a language course. Especially in terms of pronunciation – don’t expect Maltese English speakers to have British or American accent.
- Apart from being very catholic, Malta is also a country of absurd. The divorce became legal only in 2011, but the island ranks 1st in terms of LGBT rights (out of 49 observed European countries).
I’ve also gained knowledge about where to go, what to do & what to eat. If you’re heading to Malta soon, the following tips might help you plan your trip!
4 places to visit
Gozo & Comino islands
Gozo is said to be Malta’s smaller sister, whereas Comino – a paradise for snorkelers. Take one of the morning ferries departing from Sliema (buy tickets there or in a local shop beforehand) and spend some wonderful time either in one or two of the islands (both options available). It is much more convenient than going by public bus to the other side of Malta and taking a cheaper ferry or water taxi there. Trust me – I checked both.
Tip: Comino is tiny, car-free and uninhabited, thus raises big interest & gets extremely crowded with tourists. There is a small beach at the other side of the main land. You can get there swimming – simply buy an inflatable mattress on-site and put your things on top of it! Local sellers provide plastic bags ;-)
Note: The Gozo’s main attraction, the Azure Window, collapsed a few months ago. Although you will still see it in many brochures, including it in your itinerary might turn into a bit of a surprise.
A picturesque town famous for its colourful boats floating on the water along the coast. Worth visiting on early Sunday morning when the fish market is taking place. You might need to change the bus in Valletta (unless booking an organised trip), but it’s definitely worth the effort.
Tip: Apart from seafood, you will find delicious, locally produced cookies at the market. Don’t hesitate to grab some!
The first capital of Malta, also known as the noble city, full of cultural and religious treasures. If possible, organise an evening visit – you will definitely enjoy strolling between Mdina’s ancient walls lit by the hanging street lamps.
Tip: If you feel like having a good dinner in an elegant scenery, Bacchus restaurant should meet your expectations.
Despite being the capital, Valletta is neither very hectic, nor particularly thrilling (at least compared to other European metropolises I’ve visited). Nonetheless, it has its charm and much to offer, especially in terms of museums and fine art. Don’t miss Caravaggio’s paintings in the St. John’s Co-Cathedral nor a walk in The Upper Barrakka Gardens.
Tip: Instead of a bus, take a water taxi to Valletta departing every 15 minutes from Sliema Ferries (€5-7). Also, try to get tickets for one of Valletta’s wine tastings – Malta’s wine is really palatable!
4 leisure activities
Although Malta has a few nice sandy beaches, most of them are relatively small and get pretty busy in the high season (June-August). That is why I personally find Gozo’s beaches much more attractive – my favourite one is Ramla I-Hamra Bay with characteristic orange-ish sand. The most popular sunbathing spots in Malta are Golden Bay, Mellieha Beach and Paradise Bay, all reachable by public bus (that might require some patience, though).
Tip: If you don’t feel like taking a bus, don’t worry – you can lie down almost anywhere along the rocky coast. Try an inside-the-city place called Sliema Exiles and have lunch in the corner bar equipped with an old-school jukebox. Entering the sea is easy and you can rent beach chairs with a parasol in the bar (around €10/day).
Gather a group of friends and enjoy steering a motorboat yourself (€60-80/h). A short training beforehand and you are ready to go! Tickets can be purchased in local touristic shops or at temporary stands along the boardwalk.
If you have never played Roulette before, this is the right place to change it. Choose between Dragonara (visually attractive), Portomaso (in the only skyscraper on the island) and Olympic Casino (in the InterContinental hotel).
Feel like partying? This district won’t let you down. Either you’re looking for latino rhythms (Club Native), house music (Hugo’s Passion) or something with a wonderful view (TwentyTwo), Paceville has it all. Most clubs are free of charge and open until early morning hours. You are likely to get a flyer offering 2 drinks for the price of 1.
4 things to eat
A slow-cooked rabbit stew – one of the Maltese culinary specialties. You can buy rabbit meat in a random supermarket (yes, this might not be a paradise country for vegans and vegetarians).
Sandwich made of a typical Maltese bread, traditionally served with tuna and tomato filling. Substantial and affordable (€2.50-€6.50). Definitely my favourite seaside snack.
Traditional Maltese fish soup. Haunt for it while visiting fishing villages such as Marsaxlokk or Marsaskala. Local restaurants might not look appealing, but I can guarantee that a portion of Aljotta will be of a nice surprise to your taste buds.
Typical Maltese street food – small savory pastries, either with ricotta or mushy peas filling. Very cheap (less than €1), but… extremely greasy! You will come across them almost anywhere you go.
4 amazing restaurants
Malta is full of places to eat and drink. But if you’re looking for a real dining experience, here are some suggestions:
Perfect place to try some Maltese specialties with a bit of a twist. Delicious Mediterranean food, wonderful presentation of dishes and fantastic choice of wines. Located in the elegant Portomaso area. Don’t forget to book a table in advance!
Located in St Julian’s, in the centre of Spinola Bay, the restaurant offers Mediterranean and Asian food, excellent sushi and beautiful decor. Aperitif at the rooftop is definitely a must, especially on a live music day. Also, don’t miss the chocolate Bento Box dessert!
One of the restaurants inside the Hilton hotel. A genuine taste of Thailand. One can enjoy this culinary journey surrounded by an oasis of waterfalls and tropical flowers. Definitely worth the price!
In Malta you can find many places offering full English breakfast (colonial times heritage) or Italian-style cappuccino with croissant (result of the current migration flows). My favourite place for breakfast remains U Bistrot café in Balluta Bay. Try their toasts with poached eggs, smoked salmon and hollandaise sauce. Absolutely delicious!
4 places for drinks
Squeezed between the fanciest restaurants in St Julian’s area, this bar is filled with reggae music and positive vibes. Mohito or Margarita would be a good choice – grab one and enjoy it sitting on the stairs together with other international visitors.
Looking for a bit of luxury? Visit this one-of-a-kind champagne & wine bar. Order a glass of cold Prosecco and enjoy the amazing view at the Portomaso port full of classy yachts. Leather seats and many empty wine bottles around guarantee a climatic ambiance.
Smooth music and exotic cocktails by the beautiful Mediterranean seaside. If you get hungry, the menu offers a variety of Asian snacks. Make sure you make it to one of their Aperol Spritz Chill Out Wednesdays or evening live performances.
Café Del Mar
Located in Bugibba, another popular touristic village after Sliema and St Julian’s. Enjoy it at morning or evening hours – having cocktails in the swimming pool or enjoying the sea view by night.
Where, when & how
Where to stay?
My favourite places to stay have always been Sliema and St Julian’s, as they offer plenty of restaurants, pubs and good transport links, but if you prefer something less crowded (especially in the summer), other resorts would probably suit you more.
When to visit?
In terms of timing, be aware that summer months are usually scorching hot, so late May or early September might be a good compromise. Malta is also enjoyable in the winter time, however, the strong gusts of wind can be a bit annoying sometimes.
How to get around?
Public transport includes only buses. You can buy a single ticket from the bus driver (€1,50 in winter, €2 in summer, €3 at night).
Tip: Order an ExplorePlus Card at least 2 weeks before coming to Malta (€39) and you will have unlimited travel on public transport, including direct services from the airport and to various beaches, 2 trips on the Valletta ferry and a full-day tour on the hop-on, hop-off buses visiting Malta’s landmarks, or a round trip to Comino by boat. More information: https://www.publictransport.com.mt/en/
Note: If you are planning to rent a car, make sure you are able to drive on the left!
Do not hesitate to drop me a message – I will be more than glad to answer and share my further advice!
Enjoy your trip.