Experiencing Malta for the first time
Malta is famous for its sunshine (more than 300 sunny days a year, apparently) and its UNESCO-listed capital (one of the most beautiful cities in the Med). For a lot of people, that’s as far as their Maltese knowledge goes – but there’s actually a lot more to Malta than meets the eye.
This little island throws up some interesting surprises. Like temples which predate the pyramids. And vineyards turning out superb wines (including a delicious sparkling rosé that goes down a treat in the late-afternoon sun). So, what is Malta like for a holiday? Our mini Malta holiday guide should give you a bit more of an idea.
Where should I visit in Malta?
Make Valletta your first port of call. It’s the island’s capital city, and is a UNESCO-listed jumble of baroque churches, palaces and mansions, all crafted from honey-hued local limestone. Its small size makes it easily walkable, but there are a fair few hills to tackle, so make sure you’re in comfy shoes.
St John’s Co-Cathedral is a must-visit (the decorations inside are spectacular), as is Fort St Elmo, home to a fascinating war museum. Take a breather at the beautiful Upper Barrakka Gardens, which have sweeping views of the Grand Harbour. Speaking of the harbour, we’d highly recommend a boat trip around it – Valletta is beautiful when viewed from the water.
The atmospheric walled city of Mdina is another place to add to your sightseeing list. Once the island’s capital, its narrow lanes are packed with great examples of medieval and baroque architecture. You’ll also notice some impressive palaces, as a handful of Malta’s noble families still have their ancestral homes here.
Down in the south-west of the island, the Megalithic temples at Hagar-Qim are well worth a visit. They’re among the best preserved of Malta’s prehistoric temples, and give a fascinating glimpse into life thousands of years ago.
What currency do I need?
The currency in Malta is the euro. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted, though check beforehand to see if you’ll need to pay any fees for using yours abroad.
How do I get around Malta?
If you don’t want to hire a car, there’s a cheap and reliable bus network that can take you to the major towns and sights. Tickets cost a couple of euros and can be purchased from the driver. Water taxis are a scenic way to travel between Sliema and Valletta.
Our Malta tours include transfers to and from the airport, as well as for all excursions. Your tour manager can help you with bus timetables if you’re interested in doing some independent sightseeing. If you’re arriving on a cruise, ships dock just outside Valletta – you can walk to the city centre, just bear in mind that it’s mostly uphill.
What food or drink should I try?
There are lots of tasty local dishes to try out in Malta. Being an island, there’s fresh fish in abundance, from swordfish and sea bass to bream and octopus. Stews are popular – they’re often made with rabbit and served with thick slices of hobz tal-Malti (Maltese bread with a deliciously crunchy crust) to mop up the sauce. Pastizzi (pastry filled with ricotta or a pea paste) is a great snack, as is arancini (fried rice balls originating from nearby Sicily).
Maltese wine isn’t particularly well-known (perhaps because islanders like to keep it to themselves…), but there are some great local labels to try. Native gellewza grapes produce fruity reds and fizzy rosés, while girgentina makes a delicate white wine. More of a beer drinker? Cisk is the local lager, and has been brewed using the same recipe for nearly 100 years.
Can I go to Gozo for the day?
Yes – there are frequent ferries to Gozo from Ċirkewwa, on Malta’s northern tip. The journey takes around 25 minutes. You can also join an organised day trip, which will take you to some of Gozo’s highlights once you get onto the island. Our tours in Malta include a day trip to Gozo as part of the package. We’ll visit the citadel in Victoria, the Bay of Xlendi, and the Ggantija Temples – the earliest Megalithic temples in the Maltese archipelago.
Are there any beaches in Malta?
While Malta holidays aren’t typically beach breaks, you will find a few sandy stretches – mainly in the north of the island. Golden Bay and Mellieha Bay are both good options for sand seekers. In the Paceville area of St Julian’s, you’ll find St George’s Bay, a manmade sandy beach with a string of cafes and restaurants lining the sand.
If you fancy a day trip, the tiny island of Comino is home to the Blue Lagoon. With its white sands and Caribbean-esque waters, its often named one of the best swimming spots in the Med. You can catch a ferry over from Ċirkewwa.
What language is spoken?
Maltese and English are the official languages in Malta. Maltese can be a difficult language to get to grips with, particularly as its written in Latin script. You’ll be able to get by just fine speaking English, but here are a few of the easier Maltese words, in case you want to flex your language skills:
Bonġu (good morning)Saħħa (goodbye) Grazzi (thank you) Skużani (excuse me)
We hope you’ve found our mini Malta holiday guide useful. For more information about our holidays here, take a look at our ‘Historic Gems of Malta’ tours.
Although she loves a lie-in at home, Laura is often up and about before dawn on holiday. She’s watched the sun rise over the Grand Canyon, Uluru and Angkor Wat, but her favourite was seeing the first light of the New Year sweeping across the yacht-dotted waters of Sydney Harbour.
Laura | About the author
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