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For me, deciding where to go in Europe in the winter can be a bit challenging. We weren’t looking to a ski holiday, so we started looking at other locations. We looked into Greece and although the mainland is open at that time, the islands are mostly closed for the winter. So my friend suggested Malta as she has been there twice and she fell in love with the place. So we booked our flights and headed to Malta.
Why Visit Malta?
- Pleasant Weather– Hello sunshine! Malta is known for sunny days and even in the winter, it’s warm enough to enjoy the outdoors and soak up the sun.
- History & Culture – There is so much rich history and culture in Malta. You can visit some of the oldest temples dating back to 3600–3200 BC as well as visit one of the 300+ churches on the islands of Malta and Gozo.
- Affordable – We found some really affordable tickets to Malta (hello budget airline) and booked our trip. I will say this has by far been the cheapest trip we have taken to date. The flights, accommodations and the food were very affordable and most of the activities were free.
- Outdoor Activities – There are a lot of nature activities especially water sports like diving, snorkeling, boating, etc. We also enjoyed getting out of the city to see some of the natural beauty of Malta like the Blue Grotto viewpoint. Plus, it’s a fairly small island so it doesn’t take too long to get around.
6 Day Itinerary in Malta
- Day 1 – Arrive in Malta
- Day 2 – Mdina & Rabat + Carnival in Valletta (February/March Only)
- Day 3 – Blue Grotto and Marsaxlokk (Add Ħaġar Qim temples if possible)
- Day 4 – Valletta and the Three Cities
- Day 5 – Gozo
- Day 6 – Park and beach day (Could add Comino as an alternative)
Here’s what we did in Malta for one week. I’ll try to share some tips along the way so you can plan your visit to this beautiful country.
Mdina & Rabat
Our first stop was to Mdina, which by far was my favorite part of our time in Malta. This ancient walled city takes you back in time as you wind your way through the narrow streets and alleyways. Mdina is known as the “Silent City” because only a few cars (residents) are allowed to enter the town. And although you can walk most of Mdina in about 2 hours, it’s definitely a gem worth visiting.
When you first reach Mdina, you’ll notice the large main gate to this fortified city. Passing through the gate, we went on to visit St. Paul’s Cathedral. The cathedral itself has an incredible interior and the museum to the right of the cathedral has so many religious artworks and artifacts. It’s definitely worth a visit. Tickets are required for entry to the cathedral. You can purchase them at the museum and it gives you access to both the museum and the cathedral.
We spent most of our time just walking around the narrow streets. We stopped for lunch at Coogi’s Restaurant & Tea Garden. We made reservations for the terrace. I would highly recommend trying to sit at the top terrace because it has a great view of neighboring towns. They also had some amazing pizzas, pasta, and vegan food. Another recommendation is to eat at the Fontanella Tea Garden. We didn’t have time to stop there but we were told they have the best chocolate cake in Malta.
During Carnival season (February or March), there are several activities to celebrate carnival. We arrived for the grand finale parade in Valletta. Apparently everything works on Maltese time because the parade was set to start at 6pm, but by 7:30 the parade floats had not moved so we figured we had seen all the floats and went home. There are several activities leading up to Fat Tuesday. Be sure to check the schedule of activities for Malta and Gozo if you are planning to visit during carnival.
We headed to our next stop, Rabat. The kids were pretty tired at this point so we opted for a ride on the Malta Fun Trains to tour Rabat. It departs from the terminus next to the Domus Romana right outside of Mdina. On the 30 minute ride, it passed through several historical points in Rabat and finally a panoramic view of Mdina. Honestly the train ride around Rabat wasn’t that impressive but the view of Mdina towards the end of the tour was worth it. Plus we didn’t have to hear any complaining about walking.
Blue Grotto and Marsaxlokk
We headed to the other side of the island to see the Blue Grotto view point. If you have time, definitely check out the Ħaġar Qim temples. We decided to cut down the amount of activities to prevent meltdowns from the kids, so we headed straight to the Blue Grotto Viewpoint. From here, you’ll get to see Malta’s beautiful coastline and an enormous limestone arch over turquoise blue water. The arch reminds me a bit of Étretat arch.
There is a small parking lot near the viewpoint. If you drive further down to the town, you can follow signs for Blue Grotto boat trip. They offer boat rides to go inside the blue grotto cave as well as other caves. I would have loved to do this but instead we just walked down to get a closer view of the water.
Next, we drove to Marsaxlokk which is a short drive. Marsaxlokk is a charming fishing village on the Eastern coast of Malta. The harbor is scattered with colorful luzzu boats and it’s a perfect place to try out local seafood. We stopped at La Nostra Padrona for lunch and the owner was so nice as he suggested fish for us and things to try. They also have a weekly market on Sunday where you can buy fresh seafood and other items.
If you are there when it’s warm and need a place to swim, check out St. Peter’s Pool. You can spend time soaking up the sun or if you dare, you can jump off the cliff into the blue waters!
Valletta & the Three Cities
One of the best ways to learn about a city is to take a private tour. We love private tours since our kids are still young and it allows us more flexibility and the guides can adapt their stories to fit their interest. We booked a private walking tour through Valletta and a local guide told us all about the UNESCO World Heritage city and the importance of it’s geographical location throughout history.
Our tour guide showed us stunning baroque architecture and told us interesting stories from the Maltese culture. We took in the breath taking views of the Upper Barrakka Gardens. If you get here at noon, you’ll be able to see a traditional cannon firing from the saluting battery. Plan to be there a few minutes if you want a good view of the cannons.
We also looked inside the famous St. John’s Co. Cathedral. It’s a must see while in Valletta. It’s really fascinating to see the impressive vaulted ceilings, artwork, and carved walls adorned in gold. With your admission, you also get an audio guide if you want to learn more about the history of the cathedral.
If you are overlooking the water from the Upper Barrakka Gardens, you’ll see the ports to the Three Cities: Birgu (Vittoriosa), Senglea, and Cospicua. From the gardens, for 2 euro you can take a lift down to the Grand Harbour. You can use the Dgħajsa traditional wooden boats or the ferry to cross to Cospicua. Follow the signs to the ferry and then you can choose whether to use the ferry service or hop on one of the more traditional boats. From there you can visit Fort St. Angelo. However we were all pretty exhausted from walking so we enjoyed the views from the ferry, grabbed some gelato, and then hit the next ferry to travel back to Valletta.
Gozo is another island seperated from the mainland of Malta. Someone told us Gozo was like stepping back in time and they were right. It was much more relaxed and rural on the island of Gozo. You’ll see beautiful rocky coastlines, scenic countryside, and stunning churches.
From Ċirkewwa, you can take the main Gozo ferry (with foot passengers and vehicles) to Gozo. The ride takes about 25 minutes to cross. Note: you don’t purchase a ticket to get to Gozo, but you will need to purchase a return ticket in order to ride the ferry back. The ferry departs from Ċirkewwa and goes frequently but be sure to check the ferry schedule.
Things to do in Gozo
- Visit the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of Ta’ Pinu
- See the Azure window – Although it collapsed in a storm in 2017, it’s still really beautiful to see.
- Have lunch by the bay at Qbajjar Restaurant Gozo
- Marvel at the salt pans and buy local sea salt
- Spend time soaking up the sun and sea at Xwejni Bay Beach
- Tour the first craft brewery in Malta at Lord Chambray – You can learn about craft beer and have a tasting of 4 beers in their taproom.
Park and Beach Day
We decided it was time for the kids to plan a day so we had a “Yes Day.” They opted for a morning at the BOV Adventure Park playground. It was a very nice park with several large playgrounds and on Saturday there is a local market in the parking lot. If you have kids, I would highly recommend this place. We could have spent a few hours here and there is a cafe for food and drinks.
And although it was too cold to swim, they wanted to check out the beach so we went to the Golden Bay beach. The kids enjoyed playing in the golden sand and we could sit at the Munchies Golden Bay beach bar and have a warm drink since it was quite cold that day. We spent the rest of the day enjoying our final time in Malta and of course, the kids had to add McDonald’s and unlimited gelato to our Yes Day.
If you have a full day in Malta, you can also check out the island of Comino. We had several suggestions to take a boat trip there. We ultimately decided against it because it was an all day affair and I wasn’t sure how much the kids would enjoy it if the water was too cold.
Renting a Car in Malta
Overall, I think Malta was a great choice for a trip in February. We really enjoyed the warmer sunny weather and seeing the architecture in Mdina and Valletta. Some things to note when looking at visiting Malta is that they drive on the left-side of the road. The driving can be quite chaotic if you’re not used to driving on that side of the road. We found some of the organization of the roads to be quite challenging as well so if you don’t feel up to driving, you can also use their public bus system. You can get to most places by bus.
Selecting Where to Stay
Another tip would be to choose where you stay wisely. We stayed in St. Jullian’s because we got a great deal using our credit card points. We had been warned that it was a party central area and they did not lie. We never felt unsafe, but you could hear people partying until 3am and then the construction started at 6am. If I had to visit Malta again, I would probably have preferred to stay in Sliema.
Consider Visiting Off-season
As our tour guide said, its really nice to visit Malta in the winter or “off-season” because it is less crowded and not near as hot. It can get really warm in Malta and while there are a lot of beaches and water activities, it’s also nice to see the cities when it’s not blistering hot and crowded.
Hope you get a chance to visit Malta soon and hope these tips helped plan your next trip there.