Malta’s capital is steeped in history. A World Heritage City, it dates back to the 16th century and even today, many of the original buildings remain. It’s here you’ll find some of the best hotels and restaurants, so be sure to spend a few days exploring the narrow streets and visiting the museums and galleries. In Valletta, every street leads to the sea, with interesting cafés and markets on many corners. Be sure to visit St John’s Cathedral, built by the Knights of St John, and pass through Renzo Piano’s striking city gate to see the beautiful opera house in the distance. In recent years, the nightlife has dramatically improved, too, so be sure to visit some of the bars near the cathedral.
The second largest island in Malta, Gozo is lined with beautiful beaches and lush greenery. Quieter and more rural than the other islands, locals enjoy a relaxed, laidback lifestyle. The island is thought to be the legendary Calypso’s isle of Homer’s Odyssey, while its rugged landscape and quiet coastline have some of the best diving spots in Europe. Venture to the island on a day trip via boat to explore the waters and its prehistoric Ggantija Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Also, plan a visit to the famous Azure Window, a huge natural arch along the coastline for one of the best viewpoints on the island.
Mdina & Rabat
Located in the north of Malta, the history of Mdina traces back more than 4,000 years. The ancient walled city has a mixture of Norman and Baroque architecture where buildings are decorated with beautiful pastel-hued front doors. A lovely afternoon can be spent visiting the Natural History Museum, St Paul’s Cathedral and the beautiful, honey-coloured churches. Mdina also adjoins Rabat, a cool town with an interesting food scene – Grotto Tavern, one of the best on the island, is a picturesque restaurant set in a 2,000-year-old cave. If you’re travelling with children, pay a visit to Mdina’s dungeons, which have spooky subterranean passageways and chambers.
Birgu, also known as Vittoriosa, is one of the most interesting cities in the country. With beautiful sea views, its backstreets are filled with interesting architecture and lively locals. Situated on Matla’s Grand Harbour, the best views can be seen atop Fort St. Angelo, while Sicolo-Norman House is one of the most beautiful buildings in the area. Walk along the seafront, visit the churches and stop for a coffee in Victory Square.
Located on the east coast, visitors flock to St Julian’s for its cool waterside restaurant and bars, and the island’s best nightlife in Paceville. Spinola Bay has some of the best restaurants with excellent seafood, while there are lovely small boutiques dotted along each street. St George’s Bay, a 10-minute walk from Spinola, has a Blue Flag patch where you can swim in the sea or take a dip in one of the lidos.
After a soft launch last year, Iniala reopened its doors just a couple of months ago and has already established itself as one of the most stylish hotels in the city. Located on the historic St Barbara Bastions, the hotel is spread across four townhouses and ancient vaults which date back to the 17th century. There are 23 rooms and suites featuring custom-made furniture, exquisite fabrics and balconies, and a contemporary design that subtly reflects Valletta’s heritage. Guests can relax in the indoor pool, have a treatment at the spa and dine at the rooftop restaurant which offers beautiful city views.
19 Rooms, Valletta
Housed in an 18th-century palazzo, 19 Rooms fuses its original baroque elements with cool, contemporary design. Ideal for a girl’s holiday or group trip, as the name suggests, there are 19 rooms and suites to choose from – the Superior Rooms have eclectic furniture and original property features, while the Duplex Suite is spread across two floors with a spacious living room, kitchenette, en-suite and traditional Maltese balcony. The hotel serves a generous continental breakfast and the team can guide you towards some the best restaurants in the area.
Hotel Juliani, St Julian’s
This boutique hotel overlooks Spinola Bay in St Julian’s. Housed in a former townhouse, there are 44 rooms with nautical-inspired design from standard rooms to ‘designer’ suites – for the best views book one of the Julian Suites. Kick back at the rooftop pool and get the drinks in from the bar. The hotel also has an excellent restaurant, Zest, plus a café and a jazz bar.
If you’re after self-catering accommodation, Valletta Vintage is a collection of modern apartments, each housed in buildings spread around Valletta and its harbour. Created by a husband-and-wife duo, both of whom are architects, each apartment is filled with a mixture of designer, bespoke and vintage pieces. The Gallery, Library and Atelier apartments share a kitchen and have bright and airy interiors, while the Retro Pad is located in one of the prettiest residential streets of Valletta. All rooms have plush linens and luxury toiletries, and there are a range of handy shops nearby.
Casa Ellul, Valletta
Located on a quiet street, yet within walking distance to all the best attractions, this boutique hotel is in a great location from which to explore the city. Originally a Victorian-period palazzo, the small hotel has a classical design, inspired by the building’s Baroque heritage, yet remains chic and modern. Go all out and book Suite 8 on the top floor of the hotel, which has a private terrace with a jacuzzi.
Cugo Gran Macina Grand Harbour, Senglea
Just across the Grand Harbour from Valletta, this hotel is one of the most stylish in Senglea. With a backdrop of sparkly waters and 16th-century fortress walls, the building itself has vaulted ceilings and limestone walls. Inside, the interiors are minimalist and chic, with neutral linens, marble furniture and free-standing baths. The Grand Harbour Suite is ideal for a romantic getaway, while the Presidential Suite sleeps up to four across two bedrooms – good for a group trip. Book a table at the on-site restaurant which serves traditional Maltese dishes, take a dip in the rooftop pool which has stunning views of the harbour, and be sure to sample local wine at the cocktail bar.
The Phoenicia, Valletta
This award-winning hotel is surrounded by landscaped gardens, just outside of Valletta’s city gates. It’s a ten-minute walk from most of the sites but feels tucked away and secluded. Inside the hotel, original property features from the 1930s have been carefully restored, while the interiors have been given a modern update with white-washed walls and blue furnishings. Ask for a room with a balcony to enjoy some city views or choose one of the luxury suites which have generous living areas. Explore the beautiful gardens, then grab a light lunch from the pool restaurant and bar. There’s also an excellent spa with an indoor pool, salt room, sauna, steam room and fitness suite.
The Xara Palace Relais & Chateaux, Mdina
Easily one of the most beautiful hotels in Malta, the Xara is a 17th-century palace hidden away in Mdina. The building itself was once grand palazzo that now houses 17 rooms and suites. For a romantic trip, book a Deluxe Suite with panoramic views of the city and be sure to dine at the Michelin-starred De Mondion restaurant which serves elegant French, Mediterranean and Maltese cuisine. For something more casual, head to Trattoria A.D. 1530, located on the hotel’s gorgeous piazza.
Located down a narrow stone staircase within the city walls, this restaurant has a buzzing atmosphere where tourists and locals, alike, flock to the tables for Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. The meu features dishes like goats’ cheese parcels, beef carpaccio with parmesan shavings and pistachio, crab and lobster ravioli, and traditional Maltese rabbit.
Ta’ Frenc, Gozo
If you go to one restaurant in Gozo, make it Ta’ Frenc. Renowned for its delicious food made with local produce, it’s a hidden gem just off the main road from Victoria to Marsalforn. Set in a pretty courtyard surrounded by a herb garden, diners can choose from dishes like octopus with aubergine and miso purée, crispy quail and smoked apple wood cheddar, and cognac and lobster bisque. The Grand Marnier soufflé is a particular highlight, as is the salted caramel tart.
Last week, renowned British Chef, Alex Dilling, began a 100-day residency at the Michelin-starred ION Harbour restaurant. During the residency, Alex will make the most of local, seasonal and artisanal ingredients bursting with Mediterranean flavour, with his famous signature dishes, such as hunter’s chicken with black truffle, as well as marinated shrimp with ginger, and chocolate sourdough with Gozo sea salt and caramel.
Barracuda, St Julian’s
One of Malta's oldest fine dining restaurants, The Barracuda is housed in a restored 18th-century villa. Open on Saturdays and Sundays only, guests can book a private dining experience to enjoy dishes like risotto with parmesan and porcini, chicken breast with pine nut gremolata, fillet of pork with balsamic shallots, and lemon tart with caramelised pistachios.
Palazzo Preca, Valletta
This family-run restaurant is another top choice in Valletta. Expect traditional Mediterranean seafood dishes like crispy calamari, octopus in garlic, shellfish soup and fresh seabass with prawns, as well as tasty plates of pasta. There’s also an extensive wine list to choose from, too.
Diar il-Bniet, Mdina
When in Mdina, eating at Diar il-Bniet is always a good idea. With a farm-to-table and zero-waste ethos, expect traditional Maltese plates like pickled vegetables, smoked pork shoulder, local rabbit with garlic and white wine, and baked pork and beef ragu. Be sure to order a dessert from the counter, then browse the deli shop for souvenirs.
Tarragon, St Paul's Bay
Tarragon uses only the very best local ingredients to create its delicious Mediterranean dishes. Menu highlights include baked goats’ cheese souffle, barbecued octopus with fennel and anchovies, and grilled oysters. For a show-stopping meal, choose the seabass served at your table, and indulge in a selection of ice-creams or the spiced creme brulée.
For a special meal in a beautiful location, book a table at Noni. The menu changes seasonally, but summer dishes include prawn ravioli, roast Guinea Fowl with girolle Mushrooms, and chocolate and coconut mousse.
THINGS TO DO
Pearl Beach Club, Sliema
Located on the northeast coast of Malta, this stylish beach club is one of the best on the island. A great afternoon can be spent swimming in the sea, relaxing on a day bed, and unwinding with a cocktail. Visit at the weekends where the resident DJs bring the party – one that lasts into the early hours.
Villa Bologna, Attard
Located in the small town of Attard in central Malta, Villa Bologna is a beautiful 18th-century stately home. Take a tour around the villa, explore the beautiful gardens, and pick up souvenirs from the pottery shop.
Located on the island of Comino, dolphins, sea lions and other marine life populate this famed natural beach where visitors can swim in the stunning azure blue waters.
Malta hosts a string of music festivals during the summer months, including Isle of MTV, Lost & Found and Glitch Festival, all of which attract big house and techno DJs. The annual jazz festival also takes place during July, and this year, Celine Dion is set to perform on 21st July at the National Park – even more of a reason to plan a getaway.
A day trip to Gozo is a must, but if you want to make a day of it on the water, book a boat trip or sea excursion to explore the beautiful coastline. Whether you want to go diving or relax on deck with a cocktail, Azure Ultra and BlueFin Leisure are both reputable tour companies to book with. A great activity for both children and adults, the seas have warm temperatures throughout the year – for lunch, be sure to arrange fresh seafood to be delivered to you via speedboat.
On the north-west coast of Malta near the village of Manikata, this is one of the most scenic beaches in the area. Visitors can relax on the golden sands, swim in the bay, and grab an ice-cream and cocktail from one of the nearby vendors.
Current Travel Info: From 30th June 2021, the Maltese authorities require all UK arrivals to present proof of full vaccination. This must show that you have received a full course of vaccination (two doses) at least 14 days before your arrival. If you live in England, Malta will accept the NHS Covid Pass (both the digital app and letter versions) as proof of your vaccination status, and if you live in Scotland or Wales, Malta will accept your respective NHS letter.
Children aged 5-11 can travel if they are accompanying their vaccinated parents/legal guardian and must show evidence of a negative PCR test, dated within 72 hours before arrival. Children under five do not need a test. Children aged 12-18 will only be able to travel if they have proof of full vaccination.
All travellers must also complete a Public Health Travel Declaration Form and Passenger Locator Form. You must show both forms to airline officials on departure and health officials stationed at the Terminal Temperature Screening Points when you arrive in Malta. The forms should be completed before departure.
Flight Time: A direct flight from London to Malta is around three hours. The main airport is Malta International.
Average Temperature: Temperatures remain high throughout the year, though during the summer months they tend to range between 28°C and 31°C.
Time: Local time is GMT plus one hour.
*DISCLAIMER: Travel restrictions are changing daily, so please check the latest government advice before you book anything. Visit Gov.uk for more information.