Visiting the sunny shores of Malta for the first time? Read our guide on what you can see and do in just three days on the culture-rich island.
For travellers seeking a destination packed with history, culture and golden sands, Malta is an excellent choice. Only three hours away from the UK, the 316 km² island is a superb destination for couples, families and solo travellers.
First-time visitors to Malta, Louise Chandler, her mum and sisters recently spent a memorable three days enjoying the local sights. Read on for Louise’s recommendations on what to see and do in only three days in Malta.
Visit Qawra Point
Me, my mum and sisters touched down at Malta International Airport, (the only airport that serves Malta and the Maltese Islands) for a girly weekend in July. We took a cab to our accommodation for the next couple of days, Hotel Santana, a multi-story complex near Qawra, an area in St. Paul’s Bay, and a popular tourist area within the Northern region of Malta.
Hotel Santana is a short walk to the beach, which is famous for its clear sea views and water sports activities. We also enjoyed a pleasant, leisurely walk along Qawra promenade, which was just a few minutes away from our hotel. After returning to our hotel for a quick shower and change, we ended our first day in Malta with a bite to eat and high expectations for what the island had to offer the following day.
Check out the World Heritage sites in the capital Valletta
Sometimes called an ‘open-air museum’, Valletta was chosen as the European Capital of Culture in 2018. Europe’s “sunniest city” is filled with striking sandstone buildings and churches such as The Saint Publius Parish Church. The area has a medieval feel interspersed with a modern vibe.
Expect to see street performers, courtyard cafes, Baroque palaces, gardens and restaurants galore, all surrounded by imposing fortifications. The city’s title of being a UNESCO World Heritage Centre is well earned.
The magnificent Triton Fountain is a refreshing highlight too (especially on 33 degrees days!). Even though it’s a busy city, take your time to slowly stroll and wander along the cobbled streets to uncover and delight in sights that truly have a wow factor.
Time to stop and refuel with lunch at D’Office, a bistro located on a side street featuring live musicians playing melodic songs. The cosy courtyard restaurant serves traditional Maltese dishes such as rabbit stew and delicious fresh salads.
Buy a day pass for the double-decker tour bus for easy transportation and to take in the stunning views.
Take in the sights from up high at Mdina Fort
Mdina is Malta’s oldest city and the highest point on the island. The fortifications of Mdina are a series of defensive walls which surround the former capital city. You can see Mdina Fort from miles away because it’s built on a plateau due to its history as a fortified hilltop city.
Some areas of the mini village date back to 4,000 years, so you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a previous time when you walk through its arches and cobble paths. Historical influences from the Byzantine Empire, Arabs and Italians have all left their mark. The city is heavily influenced by a myriad collection of cultures in its architecture and decor.
Some Game of Thrones scenes were filmed in Mdina. The location for Littlefinger’s brothel was in the heart of Mdina.
It’s a steep climb to reach Mdina (even in a car) but once you get to the top, the views of the island are breath-taking.
After more than 10,000 steps, it’s time for dinner. As it’s a Saturday night we chose the beach bar restaurant Nine Lives (2 for 1 on cocktails from 6pm was a nice boozy surprise). There’s pacy house music to create an ambiance (feeling more like Ibiza than Malta) with the beach 40 metres in front of you. Nine Lives menu is an eclectic mix of sushi, pasta, salads and more but it’s relaxed, laid back and a perfect place to watch the sun set on the horizon in front of you.
Nine Lives restaurant
Marvel at the Blue Grotto
The Blue Grotto is a cluster of sea caves located in the southeast of the island. A highlight of a trip to Malta, this destination is visited by around 100,000 visitors a year.
The grotto caves can only be accessed by boat, (unless you are a keen diver!). We chose to take a 30-minute boat trip. The boat which accommodates a small group of passengers, costs eight euros each and it’s well worth it.
A sunny day is required to get the best out of this excursion. The reflection of sunlight on the white sandy seafloor lights up the caves, walls and ceilings in bright blue hues. This was a truly mesmerising spectacle! Keep an eye out for the underwater flora and fauna hence why this is a favourite spot for scuba divers.
Taste the freshest fish at Marsaxlokk Market
We were reliably informed that the Marsaxlokk Market is a good place to visit on a Sunday, so we decided to swing by on our final day in Malta.
The market attracts hordes of tourists and locals who want to buy fresh fish and seafood caught that same morning. Visitors can also buy locally produced honey, fruit jams, wine as well as vegetables, souvenirs and clothes.
Marsaxlokk Fish Market
The market has a very laid-back vibe, and you will soon feel like you’re one of the locals. As you wander around you can see the fishing boats bobbing along on the calm waters and barter for a souvenir.
After you get your fill of shopping, have lunch in one of the many seafood restaurants scattered around the picturesque bay of Marsaxlokk. We met a friendly restaurant owner (who had lived in Portsmouth many years ago); he made us feel right at home.
After toasting the trip with a nice, chilled glass of rosé wine, we began plotting how we would return to this lovely island for a follow up trip in the near future.