Malta Sliema town and its waterfront with floating boats and views of the dominating cathedral

Top 10 Must-See Attractions in Malta

04 Mar 2019 By Danielle Gunner
Malta Sliema town and its waterfront with floating boats and views of the dominating cathedral

Made up of seven islands, Malta contains some of the world’s oldest man-made structures. Although one of the smallest countries across the globe, there’s no shortage of Baroque landmarks and 15th century relics. In fact, the capital city of Valletta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with its iconic architectural masterpieces known as the Grandmaster’s Palace and St John’s Co-Cathedral.

It may be the perfect base for history enthusiasts, but its natural beauty draws crowds of holidaymakers in from miles. Revel in this hotspots scenic gardens, dive the depths of its turquoise-tinted waters at the Blue Lagoon or admire the limestone caves of the island’s famous grotto.

Explore it all with a camera in hand, and to make sure you don’t miss a thing – here’s the top must-see attractions in Malta.

1. Valletta

The domed art-work filled ceiling and walls of St John's Co-Cathedral in Malta Valletta

Location: Surrounded by two natural harbours and situated along the island’s north coast, Valletta is the capital city of Malta.

Why visit: As 2018’s European Capital of Culture, this city is an attraction in itself. Built by the Knights of St John by hand, it surprisingly only took 15 years to construct its world-famous bastions, medieval walls and enchanting cathedrals. Valletta’s narrow cobbles are music-filled and decorated with awe-inspiring artwork from big-name craftsmen such as Caravaggio. While, its main streets are gateways to notorious landmarks including Barrakka Gardens and Fort St Elmo.

Described as one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world, with its old-world Parliament Building, dominating City Gate and Europe’s oldest theatre  – Valletta never ceases to amaze.

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Best for: Culture vultures

Did you know? Valletta is the third capital city of Malta, before that it was Mdina and Vittoriosa.

Hotels nearby:

  • 66 Saint Paul’s & Spa: As a recently resorted 17th century hotel, guests can take advantage of its architectural beauty as they relax in their luxurious surroundings in the heart of Valletta. Its rooftop pool provides sweeping panoramas, while its vine-filled courtyard supplies an endless stream of food and drink al fresco.
  • Grand Hotel Excelsior: This 5 star establishment invites guests to enjoy its lagoon-style pool, admire its waterfront vistas and dine in its a la carte restaurants. Walk among the tropical gardens, indulge in beauty treatments from the spa and rest knowing there’s a trusty childcare service on hand for your mini travellers.

2. Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon and its yacht-filled waters and azure waters on the island of Comino Malta

Location: Situated on the island of Comino – Malta’s smallest inhabited island and nestled along the west coast, the Blue Lagoon is only 25 minutes from the mainland by ferry.

Why visit: This small bay is a slice of paradise, boasting unique azure waters and jaw-dropping views of the surrounding Maltese islands – it’s a natural phenomenon. At depths exceeding 10 metres, it’s considered a top diving and snorkelling spot for its rare rock formations and alluring seabed. Holidaymakers flock to swim along its Caribbean-like coastline and capture photos of the surrounding rugged cliffs.

This sun-drenched stretch is the ideal base for soaking up rays, but be quick, this popular attraction lures a huge crowd. Escape the hustle and bustle and wander among the island’s lava fields, before stumbling across the 17th century Santa Marija Tower.  

Best for: Sun worshippers

Did you know: The Blue Lagoon was the movie location for the 2004 drama Troy.

3. Mdina

The architectural wonder of St Paul's Cathedral standing proudly on the hilltop in Mdina Malta

Location: Based in the north but boasting a central location, Mdina surrounds itself among architectural wonders.

Why visit? Serving as the island’s capital during the medieval period, this fortified resort is also referred to as the ‘Silent City’ for it timeless atmosphere. Step back 4,000 years and walk the walls of this ancient city for ever-expanding vistas. Now, the home to Malta’s elite get lost among grand palaces fit for royalty and soak up Roman remains along the way.

Highlights include the 17th century St Paul’s Cathedral and its beautifully decorated domes by Mattia Preti. Then check out St Paul’s Catacombs, a Roman burial complex and museum brimming with historical artifacts. There’s also an impressive National Museum of Natural History and a well-preserved art collection in Browse Palazzo Falson.

Best for: History buffs

Top tip: A family-friendly way to discover Mdina’s epic history is by touring the dungeons.

Hotels nearby:

  • DB Seabank Resort & Spa: Just 15 minutes from Mdina’s most sought-after attractions, this hotel and its winning location will captivate you from the get-go. Perched on the island’s largest stretch, guests can revel in Mediterranean views. Your establishment also features a kids’ club, spa, daily entertainment and more.
  • Pergola Hotel & Spa: Boasting a fancy 4 stars, this ultra-modern hotel is situated in Mellieha. The Da Vinci Spa is a huge highlight with its lavish treatments and bubbling hot tubs. When it comes to sunbathing, situate yourself around the sun-trapped pool area for the best tan.

4. Mnajdra and Hagar Qim Megalithic Sites

The crumbling walls and remains of the Mnajdra and Hagar Quim temples in Malta

Location: Overlooking Malta’s sapphire coastline and the island of Filfla, find both these historical sites in the south next to the village of Qrendi.

Why visit? Cover two landmarks in one! Just 500 metres from the Hagar Qim Temples, find Mnajdra. The fascinating fact is, no architect in the world can explain how these limestone buildings were constructed without the use of metal tools – mysterious. Nevertheless, you’ll discover three shrines dating back to the Tarxien phase from the 25th century BC.

Standing on the hilltop awaits Hagar Qim which is comprised of four structures. Here the temples still houses remains of wall carvings, alters and pit-marked slabs. The most fascinating feature is the Solstice and Equinox doorway which marks the rising sun on the first day of spring and autumn.

Best for: History Buffs

Opening hours: Monday to Sunday from 9am – 5pm.

Top tip: Guided tours are highly recommended to fully embrace your mythological surroundings. These start at 11am or 2pm.

5. Barrakka Gardens

The flora and fauna in Barrakka Gardens Valletta Malta

Location: Split into two, the Lower and Upper Barrakka Gardens,  find both of these floral landmarks in Valletta.

Why visit? Not only celebrated for its flower-filled terrace full of exotic fauna, but the Upper Barrakka Garden enjoys some of the best views in Malta. Perched on top of the Grand Harbour, relish in unobstructed panoramic sights of Birgu, Senglea, Cospicua and the Mediterranean. Walk among statues, plaques and unusual structures explaining Maltese heritage –  after all, this famous attraction was destroyed in the war, so there’s plenty of history to uncover.

Just a 15-minute stroll away find its sister garden, which is perfectly positioned parallel to the mouth of Malta’s port  and ideal for watching passing cruise ships.

Best for: Nature enthusiasts

Opening hours: Monday to Sunday from 7am – 10pm

Hotels nearby:

  • Hotel Osborne: Perfect for budget-focused folks, this 3 star hotel provides all your necessities from comfy furnishings to rooftop pools and cosy cocktail spots. And you’re only a five-minute stroll from the gardens and St John’s Co-Cathedral.
  • Hotel Phoenicia: This 5 star lavish hotel has 136 rooms and eight exclusive suites. There are regular functions in the ballroom, buffet and a la carte restaurants on hand as well as a playground for younger guests.

6. Hypogeum

The gloomy temples of Hypogeum in Malta and its ancient walls

Location: Only 30 minutes from Mellieha, and just 15 minutes from the resort of St Julians, this pre-historic attraction is within easy reach.

Why visit? Discovered in 1902 during construction work, the Hypogeum is a series of interconnecting rock-cut chambers. The upper level is said to be a burial site, which was originally open-air and dates back to 4,000 BC. The middle tomb contains rare red ochre wall paintings and is decorated with unique carvings commonly shown in Megalithic Temples.

When you’re not trying to uncover the meaning of the wall markings, head down the rocky steps to the lower chamber known as ‘Holy of Holies’. These sites are testimony to a cultural tradition that has disappeared.

Best for: Culture vultures

Opening hours: Monday to Sunday from 8am – 4pm

Top tip: Due to its ever-growing popularity, only 10 visitors an hour are allowed to enter the Hypogeum. We’d suggest heading here as early as possible to ensure you bag yourself admission.

Hotels nearby:

  • Radisson Blu St. Julians: Overlooking the Mediterranean, your sea view room will be nothing short of spectacular. With 5 stars, you’ve got luxury at your fingertips from its extensive spa treatments to the sport courts and tranquil pool area – you’re in expert hands.
  • The St. George Park Hotel: In the heart of St Julian’s, your ancient relic surroundings are jaw-dropping. Just moments from the beach, take advantage of bars, restaurants and clubs on your doorstep. While two outdoor pools, a private terrace and a delicious in-house restaurant are just some of its many highlights

7. Gozo

Gozo island and its unique rock formation known as Azure Window in Malta

Location: Every 45 minutes a ferry from Cirkewwa in the mainland leaves for Gozo. It takes roughly 30 minutes to get there.

Why visit? As one of the Mediterranean’s top diving spots, the real question is – why wouldn’t you visit? Renowned for its yearly carnivals, street processions and operas – expect event after event in Gozo. Home to the famed Azure Window, Ggantija Temples and the most important archaeological site in Malta, Marsalforn – there’s no end to the must-see attractions.

Its pristine beaches and rocky terrain allow you to step away from the medieval relics. Bask in the sun at Ramla Bay, before wine tasting in the rolling vineyards. Adrenaline junkies can take on abseiling and rock climbing, while laid-back types walk the cliff tops.

Best for: Families

Round trip ticket prices:

  • Adults – €4.65
  • Children 3-12 years – €1.15
  • Children under three – Free

*Prices are subject to change.

8. Blue Grotto

The underwater caves of the Blue Grotto in Malta

Location: Hidden away on the southeast coast of Malta, find the magnificent Blue Grotto and its idyllic waters.  

Why visit? Attracting 100,000 visitors per year, it’s safe to say this alluring spot is one for the bucket-list. Recognised for its 30-metre-tall arch and seven mysterious caves, this spot invites you to swim, snorkel or dive its celebrated ripples. The Honeymoon Cave, Cats Cave and Reflection Cave are the most popular for underwater adventures with its interesting rock formations and clear visibility making it a diver’s oasis.

On the sunniest days, the magic happens. Watch as the rays reflect off the white seabed and cave walls to create purple, green and orange infused waters.  

Best for: Snorkelers or divers

Top tip: For the best chance of witnessing the colourful grotto, take the first boat trip at 9am when the waters are calm and it’s at its quietest.

9. Siggiewi

Siggiewi's top highlight St Paul's cathedral dominating the city in malta

Location: This traditional Maltese village is situated in the southwest of Malta, just 20 minutes from the resort of Sliema.

Why visit? With a backdrop of the Dingli Cliffs, this sleepy city is often overlooked. What most don’t realise is that Siggiewi is a playground of Baroque buildings and habitats several top attractions. Limestone Heritage Park is among those, with its folklore dance performances, live music and sweet- smelling aromas from the many food stalls. Overlooking the Verdant Valley, Inquisitor’s Summer Palace awaits your exploration, alongside the Parish Church of St Leonard – another must-visit landmark.

At the end of June watch fireworks illuminate the town and brass band parades fill the street at Siggiewi Festa – the biggest celebration of the year!  

Best for: History buffs

Did you know? Limestone Heritage Park is a wedding hotspot, so if you’re looking for something special for your big day – Siggiewi is the place to be!

Hotels nearby:

  • Hotel Victoria: Mixing victorian decor with modern amenities, this 4 star hotel will have you in awe. Its rooftop pool is a showstopper with clear glass windows providing enchanting views of Sliema.
  • The Windsor: Top up your tan from the terrace where cushioned sunloungers and cocktails anticipate your arrival. At night watch the city twinkle below you, then rest your head in the comfort of your spacious suite.  

10. St Paul’s Bay

St Paul's Bay Shipwreck Church in Malta on a sunny day

Location: Nestled between Valletta and Mellieha, St Paul’s Bay is an all-singing, all-dancing town.

Why visit? Enchanting guests with its Skorba Temples, vintage car collections and larger-than-life aquarium – the list of activities are endless. On one side you’ve got beautifully restored Neoclassical churches, including the domed Mosta Rotunda and its WWII bomb replica. On the other, there’s Salina Nature Reserve and its unique species.

St Paul’s Bay boasts a waterfront location, where a helping of top-quality restaurants and boutique shops decorate its promenade. Not forgetting a waterpark brimming with splash zones, multi-racer slides and plunging wet rides.

Best for: Families

Hotels nearby:

  • The Xara Palace Relais & Châteaux: Beautifully accessorised with masterpieces from local and international artists, this boutique hotel is an attraction itself. Stay in a 17th century palace containing antique furnishings, fine-dining and rooms with hot tubs – what a treat!
  • Aparthotel Porto Azzurro: This establishment has the kids covered with a paddle-friendly pool, play area and daily entertainment. Alongside that guests can indulge in one of the several restaurants and bars, connect to the free Wi-Fi and adore the sea views.

In Malta you can cross the island in under an hour, so no matter where you’re staying, you’re in a prime location for exploring its must-see attractions. Now you know which spots to cover – let the adventure begin!

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