Malta Travel Guide

Malta is located between Sicily and the North African coast, in the central Mediterranean. It is an incredible island for sightseeing, history, scenic landscapes, lounging on the beach and nightlife. For a romantic getaway in a historic town, base yourself in Valletta, or one of the three Grand Harbour towns of Birgu, Senglea or Cospicua. St. Julian’s is the nightlife capital of the island, featuring many resorts, offering a central base to explore the island.

Small boats and fancy yachts are parked in the bay with sandstone buildings in the background and blue skies of Malta

Malta is a unique island housing a fusion of cultures that have reigned over thousands of years. Historic sites span over 4,000 years of history, covering the reigns of Romans, Moors, Knights of Saint John, French and British. We loved exploring the island’s rich history, architecture, idyllic vistas and hearty Maltese cuisine found throughout Malta.

Bell and I spent 10 days in Malta at the end of May, 2023. That was enough time to experience many Malta highlights, while also spending some days working remotely while enjoying the gorgeous scenery. The end of May is an ideal time to visit before the peak of busy summer travel. Here are highlights of Malta, with tips on visiting many of its worthwhile destinations!

Traveling to Malta

Visitors can reach Malta by plane or ferry. There are many flights from destinations around Europe to Malta International Airport. There is also ferry service connecting Malta with Sicily and other destinations.

The fastest sailing from Malta to Sicily (Valletta to Pozzallo) takes around 1 hour and 45 minutes. That sailing is seasonal, running through the peak summer tourist season. Outside peak season, Virtu Ferries offers 6 sailings a week from Valletta to Catania, Sicily.

I flew to Malta from Athens, Greece. Bell met me in Malta on a flight from Skopje, North Macedonia. We departed Malta together on a direct flight to Lyon, France. So there are many options to include Malta in a European travel itinerary.

Touring Malta’s Highlights

The main island of Malta is navigable in a day, taking around an hour to drive from one end to the other. A downside of driving in Malta, is that there is frequently traffic, especially around rush hour.

Highlights of Malta can be seen by hop on, hop off bus. You can also avail of multiple ferry options to visit the nearby Maltese islands of Gozo and Comino. Ride-sharing apps like Uber are available on Malta.

Malta also has frequent bus service. If you are interested in using bus service to get around the island, download the Tallinja App to your phone on Google Play or Apple. The Tallinja App offers up to date information on bus service as well as offering route options.


Canons lined up on an old stone wall overlooking the harbor, and a flower bed of the flag of Malta is in the center.
View of the amazing Grand Harbour from Valleta, the capital of Malta.

Malta’s capital of Valletta offers an urban getaway with sweeping vistas, history, a fusion of cultures and nearby sandy beaches. The Knights of St. John, a Roman Catholic order, established the walled city in the 1500s along a peninsula. Gourmet restaurants and quaint cafes are tucked away in small laneways.

Valletta is known for its opulent churches, palaces and museums. Baroque landmarks include St. John’s Co-Cathedral, whose lavish interior houses “The Beheading of Saint John,” a Caravaggio masterpiece.

Valletta, Malta is a wonder to stroll and marvel at centuries of history.

three doors, one blue one yellow and one red and the lovely shuttered and styled windows of Valletta, Malta

Valletta Restaurant Recommendations

Aaron’s Kitchen

One of our favorite Maltese meals on the island was dinner at Aaron’s Kitchen in Valletta. Recommended in the 2022 Michelin guide, Celebrity Chef patron, Aaron Degabriele, brings more than 20 years of experience to this elegant establishment. A diverse menu of cooked to order items includes meats, seafood and pasta dishes.

Bell sits at the table, and there are two plates of food, one of pork and the other of seafood pasta. The bar of the restaurant is in the background
Aaron’s Kitchen in Valletta was among the culinary highlights of Maltese dining.

If you want to try a Maltese favorite, order Stuffat tal-Fenek (Rabbit Stew) with root vegetables, cooked in a tomato based red wine sauce. Braġjoli tal-Vitella (Veal Olives) is another Maltese favorite served here, with minced meat slow cooked in red wine sauce. Reservations at Aaron’s Kitchen are recommended.

Aaron’s Kitchen address: 107 Archbishop St, Valletta, Malta

Phone: +356 9937 5363


Pastaus is a fresh pasta bar offering a great selection of home-made pastas with Italian sauces. This is a great choice for a delicious casual meal on the island. The table sitting next to us were visiting from Malta from Italy, and they enjoyed their pasta dishes, which also speaks volumes. Pastaus has another location in the traditional fishing village of Marsaxlokk.

Bell is sitting at the table with two plates of pasta and in the background is a neon sign sign saying all you need is pasta

Valletta Hotels

Palazzo Consiglia IK Collection

The 5 star Palazzo Consiglia is central located in Valletta, a 3-minute walk from University of Malta – Valletta Campus. The property features an outdoor swimming pool and a terrace. Guests can enjoy spa and wellness facilities including a hot tub and a hammam during their stay. The property is less than a 10 minute walk from Upper Barrakka Gardens and under half a mile from Manoel Theater.

The Phoenicia Malta

The 5 star Phoenicia Malta features beautiful views of historic Valletta, The Grand Harbor, Floriana or the property’s 7 acres of private gardens. The Phoenicia Malta offers extensive services and amenities including a relaxing spa, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, gym, Palm Court Lounge, The Club Bar and two restaurants.

The Phoenicia Malta’s infinity pool overlooks the harbor and is nestled against the beautiful Bastions at the bottom of the gardens. Charming rooms feature Mediterranean tiled floors and are elegantly appointed. All rooms are air-conditioned, and also include a mini-bar, with coffee and tea making facilities.


Located in northern region of Malta, Mdina is one of Europe’s finest examples of an ancient fortified city. Mdina was the capital of Malta from antiquity through the Middle Ages. In 1530, the Knights of St. John moved the administrative capital to Birgu. Mdina is also known by its Italian-language titles, Città Notabile and Città Vecchia.

Alex and Bell take a selfie and in the background is a square of the medieval style and a bell tower
Malta’s former capital of Mdina is a charming destination to explore.

A popular tourist draw, Mdina offers a mix of medieval and baroque architecture. Highlights include St. Paul’s Cathedal, St. Paul’s Catacombs and Mdina Gate. It is simply a charming place to stroll and absorb centuries of history.

A horse and carriage goes down the narrow street with a virgin Mary and Jesus statue on the corner of the building with tourists walking around as well
The charming centuries old streets of Mdina can be explored by foot, or via horse and carriage.

Mdina: Charming Restaurants and Cafes

There are some lovely restaurants and cafes in Mdina and Rabat. They dot picturesque cobblestone laneways dating back centuries. Lunch in Mdina is a must during a trip to Malta.

cafe terrace with a sweeping view of green fields and blue skies

Fontanella Tea Garden has a rooftop terrace offering panoramic views from Mdina’s charming bastion across Malta’s picturesque landscape. Fontanella is one of Malta’s most iconic establishments for homemade cakes. They offer a huge selection of confectionary delights, along with an extensive menu featuring a variety of savory dishes. Fontanella is also a wonderful place for lunch – just be sure to save room for dessert.


Rabat is adjacent to the ancient capital city of Mdina. So it is easy to walk between Rabat and Mdina. The town’s population is around 11,500. Until its medieval retrenchment, a north-western area encompassed a section of the Roman city of Melite.

Statue of religious figure on a wall, with beautiful yellow flowers in the foreground and blue skies

Rabat is home to impressive churches, quaint cafes, good restaurants and small shops. We enjoyed sitting at a lovely cafe in a quiet cobblestone laneway listening to 60’s and 70’s music. We pet a random sweet cat perched up on a stone wall. When strange cats allow you to pet them, that is usually a sign that you have arrived in a relaxed destination.

Ginger and white cat with its eyes closed and, in the background, the beautiful housing of Rabat
A friendly cat in Rabat, Malta.


Gozo is the second largest of 21 islands encompassing the Maltese archipelago. Home to around 39,000 people, it is less densely populated than the main island. While still popular with tourists, Gozo is quieter compared to central Valletta, St. Julian’s and St. Paul’s Bay.

The Cathedral of the Assumption, Neolithic Ġgantija, Temple ruins, beaches, rural hiking paths, and scuba-diving sites are among the highlights of Gozo. The island has evidence of immigration and rule by the Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Sicilians, French and British, among others, spanning thousands of years of inhabitants.

Alex and Bell in Gozo, with the cathedral in the background and blue skies

We visited Gozo on a day trip, by ferry, with pickup near our hotel in St. Julian’s. The downside is that the ship is quite large, and was pretty packed with fellow tourists. It is an efficient way to visit Gozo, but you do not get to spend much time there. If you want to spend longer in Gozo, skip the day tour that includes Comino. Visiting Gozo on the hop-on, hop-off ferry, or commuter ferry service will allow you to have more time to enjoy the island.

Alex gives a thumbs on the ferry with the Maltese flag
A great view of Valletta on the ferry to Gozo and Comino.


Comino is a tiny island in the Maltese archipelago, located between Malta and Gozo. Nestled atop 3.5 square kilometers in area, Comino is a playground for vacationers. It features crystal clear water ideal for snorkeling, swimming, windsurfing and sun bathing along its rocky coast.

Several vendors in Comino sell tasty cocktails in pineapples. You can return the empty pineapple and have it refilled with another mixed drink at a discount. The stalls sell these drinks for less than they cost on the ferry.

Alex is drinking a cocktail from a fresh pineapple with crystal blue waters in the background and rocky landscape
Tasty cocktails in a pineapple are a must while relaxing in Comino, a tiny enclave of paradise.

Bell and I really enjoyed relaxing over a couple of pineapple drinks during our time on Comino. Be sure to wear or bring your bathing suit so you can go for a swim while on the island. At the end of May, the water was too cold for me to swim, but Bell enjoyed going for a dip.

Crystal blue water, a yacht and rocky landscape with a blue sly
Crystal clear Mediterranean waters in Comino, Malta.

There are also some Comino food stalls selling casual eats like burgers. If you want to eat traditional Maltese food, have lunch in Gozo before arriving in Comino. We sat for a nice lunch in Gozo, albeit it we were a little rushed due to the ferry tour schedule. There are also a number of small bakeries in Gozo selling tasty takeaway items like arancini.


Cospicua is a double-fortified harbour town in southeastern Malta. It is also known as Città Cospicua or Civitas Cottonera. Along with Birgu and Senglea, it is known as one of the Three Cities, located within the Grand Harbour, east of Valletta. Cospicua is a charming neighborhood, featuring lovely waterfront restaurants serving traditional Maltese dishes. It is also just a 5-10 minute walk from in Senglea and Birgu.

Cospicua Cafe Recommendation

DATE (Art Cafe) occupies a charming Cospicua location. Their coffees, sandwiches and dessert selections are homemade and scrumptious. They also offer complimentary WiFi. Their steps offer a relaxing spot to chat or work, with a beautiful view of Birgu across the Grand Harbour. We enjoyed DATE (Art Cafe) so much that we re-visited it during our four day stay in Cospicua. Sometimes they even feature live music.

DATE (Art Cafe) Address: 134 Triq Dom Mintoff, Bormla BML 1921, Malta

Cospicua Hotel Recommendation

Marina Studios is small boutique hotel on a quiet street in Cospicua. We enjoyed staying there for 4 of our 10 nights in Malta. Away from bustling crowds, we loved the sweeping harbor views of Malta from the spacious outdoor terrace of our room. The terrace even had a grill, which was very tempting, but the neighborhood restaurants were also so lovely. And we are certainly not experts at preparing Maltese dishes.

Marina Studios rooms feature tile floors and include a fully equipped kitchen with an oven, dining area, flat-screen TV with streaming services and a private bathroom with shower and a hair dryer. A refrigerator, microwave, a toaster and kettle are also provided. The owner of Marina Studios is absolutely lovely and gave us so many tips for experiencing the best of Malta, while also saving money.

Birgu (Vittoriosa)

Birgu, also known as Città Vittoriosa, is a centuries old fortified city located on the south side of the Grand Harbour. The town is situated on a promontory of land with Fort Saint Angelo at its head and Cospicua at its base.

The fortified town of Birgu, along with Cospicua and Senglea, encompasses a trio of villages in the heart of Malta’s historic center, directly across the Grand Harbour from Valletta. They constitute living pieces of history preserved throughout hundreds of years.

Birgu (Vittoriosa) Restaurant Recommendations

There are a variety of charming restaurants in Birgu that offer lovely views of the Grand Harbour from their terraces. Choices include a range of cuisines from traditional Maltese to even a Greek restaurant. The beautiful squares and laneways offer additional lovely spots. Birgu spoils visitors with idyllic locations for a meal.


d’Centre has a lovely location tucked away in a postcard worthy Birgu laneway. Their Maltese salad is excellent, featuring Gozo cheese and traditional cuts of sausage. The pasta dishes were not the best we enjoyed in Malta, but the delicious traditional salad and romantic location make it worthy of a meal.

d’ Centre Address: Main gate Il-Birgu, BRG 0150, Malta


Senglea is the smallest of the three cities encompassing the Cottonera, with a population of around 2,700 people. The old town is located on a peninsula that protrudes into the Grand Harbour. Being one of the three Cities of the Grand Harbour area, it is a short walk to both Cospicua and Vittoriosa. There is also regular ferry service across the harbor to Valletta.

Statue of the Virgin Mary in front of a church, the sun radiates behind her halo

Senglea Restaurant Recommendation

Il-Hnejja Restaurant

Il-Hnejja Restaurant occupies a charming locale along Senglea’s harbor. During a delicious waterfront meal, we enjoyed incredible sunset views overlooking Vittoriosa and Valletta. Dishes include a variety of seafood and pastas, along with traditional Maltese favorites. The food is delicious, and the view is as beautiful as we have enjoyed anywhere.

Alex and Bell sit at restaurant out by the water with yachts and a beautiful cathedral on the other side of the water at dusk
A wonderful dinner along the Grand Harbour at Il-Hnejja Restaurant in Senglea, Malta.

Il-Hnejja Restaurant address: 14 triq ix-Xatt Juan B. Azzopardo, Senglea, Malta

Phone number: +356 7960 3564

St. Julian’s

St. Julian’s is a bustling resort town on the east coast of Malta, located 9km from the capital of Valletta. Beaches like Balluta Bay feature a rocky stretch with a charming promenade lined with hip restaurants, cafes and shops. Paceville, just south of St. George’s Bay Beach is home to many clubs and bars, making St. Julian’s the nightlife capital of Malta.

Picturesque highlights include, Spinola Bay, dotted with traditional fishing boats. Portomaso Bay features a charming marina lined with luxury boutiques. The facade of the baroque mansion, Spinola Palace, has a carved clock centerpiece.

We stayed in St. Julian’s for 6 of the 10 nights we stayed in Malta. Sliema is a good base for exploring Malta, as it is close to Valletta, Mdina and Rabat. You can also take a ferry tour from St. Julian’s, St. George’s or Sliema to Gozo and Comino.

St. Julian’s Restaurant Recommendations

Georgia Restaurant

Georgia Restaurant serves delicious dishes, in a charming atmosphere, with friendly service. This was one of our favorite meals in Malta, as expertly prepared Georgian dishes burst with fresh flavor. Georgia is a bridge between Europe and Asia and its food reflects that. Try Georgia wine with your meal, as the country is one of the world’s oldest wine producing nations.

Georgia Restaurant address: 123 Main Street, St Julian’s STJ 1011, Malta

Phone: +356 9937 5363

Gozitan Restaurant

For traditional Maltese dishes in Paceville/St. Julian’s, go to Gozitan Restaurant. Start with a traditional Maltese fish soup (Aljotta), local fresh fish cooked with garlic, onion, tomatoes and fresh herbs. I enjoyed their rabbit stew with fresh herbs, onions, carrots and garlic cooked in a red wine tomato sauce. Other traditional Maltese main dishes include a stew of braised Horse meat cooked with carrots, garlic and onions.

Alex sites at an outdoor terrace, with rabbit and spaghetti dishes and the sun is shinning in.
Traditional Maltese dishes at Gozitan Restaurant in Paceville.

Gozitan Restaurant Address: Triq Paceville, San Ġiljan, Malta

Phone: +356 2786 4626

St. Julian’s Hotels

Westin Dragonara Resort

The 5 star Westin Dragonara Resort offers sweeping views overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The property features two private beaches, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and three restaurants. Guests can enjoy a massage, relax in the hot tub or sit outside on the Bayview sun terrace, equipped with complimentary sun beds and parasols. Some suites include a spa bath, and certain rooms include access to the Executive Club Lounge. The Westin Dragonara Resorts restaurants serve both Mediterranean and European cuisine.

Antoniel Suites

We enjoyed a comfortable stay at Antoniel Suites for six nights during our stay in St. Julian’s. Conveniently located in the Paceville district, it’s a short walk to Spinola Bay, Portomaso Marina, St. George’s Bay and Balluta Bay Beach. Spacious rooms feature modern decor, comfortable beds and a sizable bathroom.

We enjoyed staying in the heart of St. Julian’s, a short walk to many delicious restaurants and fun bars. While it is near the nightlife hub of Malta, Antoniel Suites is blocks from bars and clubs so you do not hear noise from those venues.


Sliema is another great base to explore Malta’s highlights. It’s seaside promenade is lined with restaurants, cafes and shops. Some like Hammet’s Monastik, have amazing views of Valletta from their second floor deck. We loved their happy hour cocktails and light bites so much, we went back!

Architectural highlights include Stella Maris Church, a baroque-inspired church dating to the 1850s. Fort Tigné, an 18th-century polygonal, is located in the south of Sliema. St. Julian’s Tower is a 17th-century watchtower and battery. Fort Manoel, built on tiny Manoel Island, was constructed by the Knights of St. John.


Marsaxlokk is a charming traditional fishing village in the South Eastern Region of Malta. Marsaxlokk’s harbor is lined with seafood restaurants, offering picturesque seaside views. Malta’s largest fishing village is a popular tourist draw.

We took an Uber from our hotel in St. Julian’s to Marsaxlokk to enjoy a tasty seaside seafood lunch at our own pace. Check restaurant views on Google, as some are better than others.


Mosta is a densely populated town of 21,000 people in Malta’s northeast region. Mosta’s most significant and prominent building is the Sanctuary Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady, dedicated to the Assumption of St. Mary.

Foutain with pigeon, and a large domed church decorated with columns and saints
The Mosta Dome is the world’s 3rd largest unsupported dome.

The Roman Catholic parish is commonly known as the Rotunda of Mosta or the Mosta Dome. The spectacular basilica features the world’s third largest unsupported dome, with a height of 61m and a diameter of 39.6m. Built by its parishioners’ volunteer labor, it opened in 1865.

St. Paul’s Bay

St. Paul’s Bay was originally a small fisherman’s village before transitioning into more of a summer resort destination for both tourists and locals. Located in the northwest region of Malta, it is 16 kilometers from Valletta. Saint Paul’s Bay is one of the most populous towns in Malta, but feels quiet throughout much of town.

St. Paul’s Bay can make for a great base during a Malta vacation. The downside is that it is further from Valletta. The upside is that it is closer to Gozo. Additionally, St. Paul’s Bay has its own nightlife hub, for those looking to have a fun time while enjoying beaches, attractions and cultural sites.

St. Paul’s Bay Attractions

The Malta National Aquarium is among the highlights of St. Paul’s Bay. The aquarium houses over 175 different species of marine life, including fish, mollusca, reptiles and insects. Located in Qawra, the Malta National Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the Maltese Islands.

Bugibba Perched Beach is another highlight of St. Paul’s Bay. The popular artificial beach is located on a raised rocky shoreline. It offers umbrella rentals and is popular for snorkeling and dining along the picturesque waterfront.

St. Paul’s Bay must visit cafe

I highly recommend visiting the Malta Chocolate Factory in Bugibba, a short walk from St. Paul’s Bay. Their artisan chocolates are delicious. Their cafe is also a great place to sit, with complimentary WiFi. They sell homemade cakes and pastries, along with a variety of coffees, teas, milkshakes, sundaes, waffles, frappes, cocktails and spirits. You can watch their chocolatiers hand make over 100 different chocolate products including bars, dipped treats, truffles, pralines and boxed treats.

Malta Chocolate Factory address: 179 Triq Sant’ Antnin Street, Bugibba SPB 2658, Malta

St Paul’s Bay Resort Recommendation

I stayed at 4-star Pebbles Resort prior to Bell joining me in Malta. Air-conditioned rooms feature pool or city views, and include a balcony, refrigerator, flat-screen TV with international channels, tea/coffee making facilities and a safe. Pebbles Resort features two restaurants, an outdoor swimming pool, gym, a heated indoor pool and a hot tub. The resort sometimes hosts large pool parties with DJ’s, so I recommend requesting a room with city views if you want a quieter experience.

Malta Recap

Malta is one of the most interesting, historic and diverse countries to visit among the 27 European Union countries. Whether you want to take a deep dive into thousands of years of history, or sip cocktails on the beach, Malta ticks many boxes. Valletta, Birgu and Cospicua are the best places to stay for a romantic getaway in a historic town. St. Julians is the most ideal base for nightlife, as well as a central spot to explore the island’s highlights.

Pink flowers and a temple with Corinthian columns with a statue in the center
Lower Barrakka Gardens, Valletta

If you have time, combine Malta with a trip to Italy. Ferry service connects Malta with Sicily. There are also many flights connecting Italy with Malta. Read my article on how to spend 2 weeks in Italy, spanning many highlights of 20 beautiful regions. I also recommend reading our article on travel hacks, offering great tips that can save you thousands of dollars yearly on epic travels!

Leave a comment below or contact me at alex(at) if you have any questions on traveling to this beautiful region!

Disclosure: This article includes some affiliate links. We earn a small commission when you book hotels and tours through these links at no additional cost to you. Thanks for supporting independent travel journalism.


  • Alex&Bell

    Alex and Bell originally met while solo traveling after finishing university in 2002, in Brugge, Belgium. Alex grew up in the USA and Bell hails from Australia. During our nearly 20 year marriage we've lived around the world, including spending six years living in the Netherlands and Ireland. We have traveled to nearly 70 countries and enjoy giving readers authentic and quality travel tips. Alex is an award winning travel journalist and travel planner, who also freelances for other outlets. Bell is an award winning PhD scientist who currently works for a non-profit lung cancer advocacy research organization called Lungevity. Happy travels and if you have any questions leave a comment or drop an email!

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