A Weekend Break in Malta
Do take the time to wander through the alleyways, up and down the slopes and stairways
If you have only three days - a long weekend - in Malta, do not attempt to see it all. Although the area covered by the Maltese Islands is just 316 km², there is so much to see and do we recommend you experience just a few of the top attractions on Malta to get a feeling of the island's character.
Day 1 – Valletta & Sliema / St Julians
The capital, Valletta, is probably the most obvious place to start. With the entire city declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, walking through its streets is nothing short of walking through an open-air museum.
Walk along Republic Street to St John's Co-Cathedral, the jewel of Valletta, with its gilded interior enough to make one's jaw drop. Look out for the Caravaggio's only signed painting, The Beheading of St John. Exit the Catheral and dive into the open-air market in Merchants' Street. All in all, Valletta is also a great place for shopping.
Do take the time to wander through the alleyways, up and down the slopes and stairways, and to sit under the sun with a coffee watching the pigeons. In whichever order you choose to do these, try to be at the Upper Barrakka Gardens at noon for the re-enactment and shooting of the cannon, and enjoy one of the most spectacular views in Malta, that of the Grand Harbour.
In the afternoon, take a ferry from Marsamxett to Sliema, Malta's more modern hotspot for shopping and cafe's. Various trips and tours depart from here, including the Hop On Hop Off Malta Sightseeing Tours and various cruises. For this afternoon we recommend a Harbour Cruise which takes you to see the the Three Cities from a unique perspective and which offers an insight to the essence of Maltese History.
When you disembark, why not take a leisurely walk along the beautiful seaside promenade to St Julians? This is Malta's prime nightlife area, with several restaurants and bars to choose from and clubs to entertain you for the rest of the evening.
Day 2 – Gozo
You cannot really understand Maltese culture without a visit to Gozo, Malta's more traditional and peaceful little sister. Be at Cirkewwa early to take the ferry across, so as to make the most of your day. The crossing takes only half an hour and passes by Comino island and you can catch a glimpse of the Blue Lagoon. When you disembark at Mgarr Harbour, take a bus to Gozo's capital, Victoria, or Rabat, as it is better know by the locals. Most buses around Gozo connect through Rabat, but if you rent a car for the day you will find that you can explore much more of the island!
Victoria's main square is home to a daily market selling all sorts of things. Check out the tiny shops around the area which sell handicrafts, and make sure you get lost in the back streets! Head up the hill to the Cittadel, the Medieval walled city, and visit the Old Prisons and some of the other interesting museums it houses. Finally walk to the bastions to get a 360 degrees bird's eye view of the whole island!
Have lunch in one of the several restaurants or cafes that offer traditional food and then head off to the village of Xaghra . Xaghra has plenty to offer, starting with Ggantija Temples, the oldest free-standing structures in the world. Not far off is Ta' Kola Windmill which has been lovingly restored and turned into a museum, and in the heart of the village you will find Ninu's Cave and Xerri's Grotto with a marvel of stalactites and stalagmites.
Weather-permitting, now would be the ideal time to head to Ramla Bay for a swim. Ramla Bay is remarkable for its dark orange sand. But the real must-see is Dwejra with its Azure Window being the most photographed view in the Maltese Islands. This is the location of the Fungus Rock and the Inland Sea, as well as the Blue Hole, a world-famous diving spot. It is really striking to watch the sunset from this point, and offers a myriad of photo opportunities!
At the end of the day you can dine in one of many restaurants in pretty Xlendi Bay nearby, and don't worry about catching the ferry back... it runs regularly till late and occasionally through the night!
Day 3 – Marsaxlokk & Mdina
On your third day we also recommend an early start to enjoy the most of Marsaxlokk fishing village and market. Here you can obtain fresh local produce and hand-crafted artisanship, and is therefore ideal for purchasing souvenirs. All this to a backdrop of colourful local Luzzu's (traditional fishing boats) bobbing up and down in the sheltered Marsaxlokk harbour. Enjoy the fresh catch of the day for lunch at one of the restaurants lining the promenade.
In the afternoon head to the Blue Grotto for a boat trip to the caves. Also in the area are the megaliths of Mnajdra and Hagar Qim, and further down the road still is Ghar Lapsi, a cave with two rocky beaches which offer fantastic snorkelling opportunities.
Spend your last evening in Malta wandering the streets of one of its favourites with visitors and locals alike: experience the enchantment of Mdina by night. Dine in one of its fine restaurants, wine bars or cafes to conclude an evening to remember.
Main image by Shepard4711