Blue Grotto, Malta

A Week in Malta: Valletta, Mdina, Gozo, and More

When we told people we’d booked ourselves nearly a week in Malta, most were surprised we opted for so long, because Malta is an incredibly small island. But we wanted plenty of time to see the island at a slow pace, leaving time in between for relaxing by the pool and sweet nothing.

Though most people only choose to spend a few days on the island. Now that we’ve spent a week in Malta, here is how I would structure a shorter itinerary:

4-day Malta Itinerary
Day 1: Valletta & Three Cities
Day 2: Gozo, Comino (Blue Lagoon)
Day 3: Blue Grotto, Hagar Qim Ruins, Marsaxlokk (St Peter’s Pool)
Day 4: Mdina, St Julian’s

Malta Blue Lagoon Gozo

Getting Around

Malta has a pretty good air-conditioned bus system that connects all the main towns and sights, and car hire is also seemingly very reasonable. We opted for maximum flexibility and convenience (using pregnancy as an excuse) and took taxis / Bolt rides everywhere, which were actually really affordable. (There is no Uber in Malta.)

If you’re staying anywhere in St Julian’s, Sliema, or Valletta, you can actually walk between these towns and to most places within about 30 min. Just a word of warning though – expect very steep and narrow foot paths when going between the water fronts and inner towns.

To/From the Airport: we made the mistake of pre-booking our transfer from the airport to the hotel. It would have been much easier and quicker just to rock up and go to the taxi stand. We ended up waiting a while for our driver because he was stuck in traffic.

Valletta

If you’re staying over in Sliema or St Julian’s, Valletta is a short ferry (approx 15min) across from Sliema Ferry port. Look for a big white tent on the waterfront. Tickets are bought at boarding, cash only (EUR 2.8 adult return).

valletta malta
Narrow limestone streets and painted wooden balconies of Valletta, Malta

We opted to do a 3-hr walking tour, but you could easily walk the entire city yourself in an hour. The main sights on our walking tour were: city gate, the parliament building, St John’s Co-cathedral, Grandmaster’s house, the various Knight’s Auberges, Upper Barrakka Garden, Lower Barraka Garden.

Lower Barrakka Gardens, Valletta, Malta

Having a guide meant we learned all about the history of Malta and its settlement by Catholic Knights, which we otherwise wouldn’t have appreciated just walking around on our own.

Sunset at the Lower Barrakka Gardens by the War Siege Memorial, Valletta Malta
Our Ladies of Victories Chapel, Valletta, Malta
Our Ladies of Victories Chapel, Valletta, Malta

In Valletta we had some great food at Sciacca Grill on South St, which we can recommend. We also went to the Lascaris War Rooms, which is a small guided exhibition of the old World War II control centre. A guide dressed in WWII uniform walks you through the rooms and explains how the air raids on Malta were processed and retaliated from these bunkers.

Lascaris War Rooms, Valletta

The Three Cities, is the next peninsula across from Valletta, and is even older than Valletta. You’ll find cute cobbled streets and a picturesque marina lined with seafood restaurants. We had the best meal of our week in Malta at a restaurant called Enchanté in Senglea, which we highly recommend. It’ll be a while before I forget how tasty the Lobster linguine and mussels were.

Mdina

Mdina is a tiny walled city in the middle of the island, that’s quite different from Valletta both in architecture and atmosphere. It’s only 15 min taxi from Sliema/St Julian’s, or you can take the bus, which takes considerably longer.

Mdina Gate, Malta
Mdina City Gate, Malta

Once inside the Mdina city walls, you can walk in any direction you like, at any pace, and you’ll still manage to circle and see the entire place within about an hour. Some interesting stops along the way include the Mdina Cathedral Museum, a free Tools and machinery exhibition inside Palazzo de Piro, which is also a beautiful place to stop and enjoy a bite to eat or drink.

mdina, instagram spot, malta
An unashamedly instagram-able spot in Mdina, Malta

There’s no shortage of photo opportunities in Mdina. Near the end of our walk around the city, we turned the corner and saw this beautiful overgrown building above. We were here in late October, so many of the flowers have already wilted, but I’m sure it’s quite a sight in full-bloom. Kurt recognised the building from the cover photo of a “Best Instagram Photo Spots in Malta” tour he saw advertised on Airbnb. (There seem to be more and more ‘tours’ like this for the sole purpose of photos at iconic locations.) Sure enough though, I couldn’t resist a little photo myself now that we stumbled upon it. If you want to find it, sans paying for an “instagram tour”, search for Coogi’s on maps, and it’ll be at the end of that street.

Mdina View, Malta
View from the city wall, Mdina, Malta

We stopped at the other end of the city for a tea and cake break at Fontanella Tea Garden, where the views were really wonderful. You can see all the way from Mdina to the coast and make out St Julian’s, Sliema, and Valletta. (Don’t expect to be blown away by the cakes though, decidedly mediocre.)

Mdina, Malta
Another unmistakeable instagram spot, Mdina, Malta

You’ll find this overgrown corner with the bench, just opposite the attraction ‘The Knights of Malta’. I challenge you to walk past this bench and not sit down on it just like this. While walking around, pay attention to the doors, which tend to have very interesting ornate brass knockers!

Gozo, Comino, & Blue Lagoon

View from Gozo, Comino
View of Comino from Gozo

We had a number of people advise us to spend an entire day in Gozo. In the end we opted to do Gozo and Comino in one day, and to be honest I’m glad we did. If you opt to do one of the many boat tours that cover these locations in one day, just be warned that you’ll spent a lot of time (approx 2 hrs each way) on the boat just getting from the north-east coast of Malta to Gozo. You can also drive there yourself, and catch the ferry across to Gozo with the car.

wooden balconies architecture gozo valletta malta
You’ll find many wooden balconies like these in Gozo, similar to ones in Sliema & Valletta.

Gozo is cute, but there really isn’t all that much there. The town centre of Victoria is beautiful, but not too different from Mdina from an architecture point of view. Just outside of the immediate centre, buildings look similar to those you’ll find around Sliema and Valletta, with pretty wooden balconies.

Blue lagoon, comino, gozo
Several large boats like the ones you see in the background dock simultaneously at the Blue Lagoon, filling it with hundreds of tourists at any given time.

The famous Blue Lagoon is on Comino island. Specifically, it’s the shallow stretch of blue water between Comino and Cominotto. There is only a short section of actual “beach” by the Blue lagoon, and we were surprised by how packed and busy it was for the last week of October. I suspect even this section of “beach” is artificially made. You’ll find food trucks selling shawarmas and pineapple cocktails along the busiest stretch.

Blue Lagoon, Comino Island, Malta

Blue Grotto

The Blue Grotto with its famous limestone arch, is on the southern coast of Malta. It’s 20min taxi from Sliema/Valletta/St Julian’s, but nearly an hour and half by bus.

Blue Grotto Malta
The photogenic Blue Grotto, Malta

You’ll find the best view of the blue grotto isn’t at the grotto itself (because you’ll be standing over it) but at a viewpoint called Panorama at the top of the hill.

(A quick side note about lighting and photography: if you’re keen on getting that really nice shot of the blue water under the arch, don’t go at mid-day like we did. In fact mid-day is probably the worst time to photograph anything, but we were very lazy tourists and just went to sights whenever we could be bothered.)

blue grotto malta
View from the other side of the Blue Grotto.

The ruins of Ħaġar Qim are right near the Blue Grotto, so worth doing at the same time. Then it’s a further 20min drive to the colourful fishing town of Marsaxlokk. There you’ll also find Peter’s Pool, a popular beach with cliff jumping and snorkeling options.

Sliema & St Julian’s

Now I know that these towns aren’t really attractions. They’re pretty much just where people stay. But we really enjoyed our time there, with good food & drink options, and I do have a few places to recommend.

Sliema Ferry Port
Sliema Ferry Port, Malta

For drinks & chill with a view of St Julian’s bay: La Veranda, which isn’t actually where the map pin is located, but is instead where “Salt & Pepper” is pinned. A slightly livelier spot is NAAR Restobar.

For Brunch: Kurt’s friend who lived in Malta took us to a delicious all-day breakfast/brunch spot overlooking Spinola Bay called Two Buoys. It’s described as “Melbourne meets Malta”, and I think that’s quite accurate.

For lively evening drinks: The Black Sheep by Sliema ferries, serves great food, and has an extensive drinks menu. A few doors down is Black Gold Saloon, a popular pub. That whole stretch gets pretty lively at night.

For Seafood Takeaway: right in the heart of Sliema is a tiny place called Sea Salt, that does excellent seafood dishes to takeaway. They have 2 seats inside the joint, but don’t expect to dine in – it’s incredibly cramped and full of customers standing around waiting for their orders. You can call ahead and pre-order your food for pick up, something I recommend.

For Dinner: We had great dinners at Il Ponte which has a fairy-light covered balcony that overlooks Spinola Bay, Il Merill (a family-run Maltese restaurant), and The Black Sheep mentioned above, that did surprisingly tasty food. If you’re already there for dinner, pop further down the strand for an italian dessert at Bella Sicillia.

Spinola Bay, Malta
Spinola Bay, St Julian’s Malta

I just wanted to end with one last tip I wish someone had told me before I went to Malta:
There are mosquitoes in Malta, and they’re small but deadly. Invisible yet incessant. Not a day went by where I wasn’t devoured by them, so bring mosquito spray.

That’s it from me! xx

2 thoughts on “A Week in Malta: Valletta, Mdina, Gozo, and More

  1. Wow, these are one of the most beautiful photos of Malta! It’s such a spectacular and photogenic place to explore – I would love to visit one day. Thanks for sharing and safe travels 😀

    Like

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