A couple of weeks ago I partnered with Visit Malta and went on a trip to this beautiful Republic! The Republic of Malta has been on my travel list for a while and I for that reason I was extremely happy when I received the partnership proposal!
During my time in Malta, I managed to visit most of the ´must-see´ places and in this blog post, I will share with you some tips on what to do on the islands and what you have to absolutely see while in Malta!
The Republic of Malta is a Southern European island country consisting of an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. Malta has been inhabited since approximately 5900 BC. Its location in the center of the Mediterranean has historically given it great strategic importance as a naval base, with a succession of powers having contested and ruled the islands, including the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Normans, Aragonese, Knights of St. John, French, and British.
Malta became an independent country on 21 September 1964 after intense negotiations with the United Kingdom. Its capital is Valletta, and it is the smallest national capital in the European Union by area! Currently, Malta has around half a million inhabitants and it is one of the most densely populated states per square meter in the world.
What to see in the Republic of Malta
There are many places to visit in Malta, but in this blog post, I will share with you the places which I truly think are a must-visit!
Our first stop on this trip was the old capital – Mdina. It is a fortified city in the Northern Region of Malta, which served as the island’s capital from antiquity to the medieval period. An interesting fact about it is that there are people who live in the city, which makes it the only inhabited fortified city on the island. After Valletta was established as the new capital, Mdina remained the center of the Maltese nobility and religious authorities (and property continues to largely be passed down from families and from generation to generation). What I loved about the Mdina is the charming streets and beautiful houses that you will see there. You can feel the ancient spirit of the city in each detail.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
This is the main Cathedral in Mdina and one of the most beautiful Cathedrals on the island. An interesting fact about Malta is that it has 365 churches, which means that every day of the year you can visit a different church. This cathedral was founded in the 12th century, and according to tradition it stands on the site where Roman governor Publius met St. Paul following his shipwreck on Malta. The original cathedral was severely damaged in the 1693 Sicily earthquake, so it was dismantled and rebuilt in the Baroque style to a design of the Maltese architect Lorenzo Gafà between 1696 and 1705. The cathedral is regarded as Gafà’s masterpiece.
Palazzo Parisio is certainly one of my favorite places on the island. It is a beautiful 20th-century palace in Naxxar, Malta. The owners still live in the property, but it is open for visits and it is even possible to rent it for private events.
If you visit Malta during the summer months, a place that you have to visit is the blue lagoon. It is a true paradise between the islands. The lagoon is a small bay with shallow, azure-colored water that’s located on the West coast of Comino, between the main island and Cominotto (a rock-sized island). It is one of the most photographed places in Malta due to the color of the water there – it is a true paradise!
A Day Trip To Gozo
One of the things that you have to do while in the Republic of Malta is visit Gozo. Gozo is the second larges island and it has a completely different spirit than Malts (the main island of the Republic). Gozo is significantly smaller and it is a very chilled place. There is rarely any traffic apart from when you are in the capital, and the island is full of beautiful spots.
The best way to get to Gozo is by ferry, which is only about 20 minutes ride. I loved the ride, as I was also able to see the other islands and even observe the Blue Lagoon.
We spend a day on the island and I think it is enough in order to explore the main things, but if you are looking for a very relaxed holiday, I would suggest you stay there for a couple of days, as it is much more relaxed than the main island of Malta. We went exploring the island in a Jeep and it was incredible, so I would highly recommend you to hire a Jeep too! Some of the things to see while in Gozo are:
This is certainly the most beautiful cave I have ever seen and for me it is totally a must-visit place while in Gozo. It is very easy to get to with a car and you don´t really need to walk. Also, it is not known by many tourists, so it is rarely crowded. If you want to see something incredible and get amazing images, definitely visit this cave!
Built before the famous standing stones at Stonehenge, the two temples making up this remarkable UNESCO World Heritage site have an extraordinary history. Built between 3600 and 3200 B.C, they fell into disuse around 2500BC and were not fully revealed to the modern eye until the nineteenth century. The name Ġgantija derives from the word ‘ġgant’, Maltese for giant, as Gozitans used to believe the temples were built by a race of giants. Not so surprising when you see the size of the limestone blocks from which it is constructed. Some of these megaliths exceed five meters in length and weigh over fifty tons.
The capital of Gozo is a must-visit! I am sure you will fall in love with the streets and the restaurants there! Also, the old city is a fortress built by the Knights and it is super interesting to go inside! Unlike the Mdina, there are no people who live inside the fortress.
Ta’ Mena Estate
If you want to try some authentic products from Gozo, definitely visit the Ta´Mena Estate. We went there for wine tasting and the experience was incredible. We get to see how they make the wine and the olive oil at the estate. We also got the chance to buy some authentic products from there, such as their famous tomato paste, a cactus jam and some typical sweets.
The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of Ta’ Pinu is a Roman Catholic minor basilica and national shrine located some 700 meters. It is an impressive building that is definitely worth a visit even if you are not religious.
The walled city of Valletta was established in the 1500s on a peninsula by the Knights of St. John, a Roman Catholic order. Since then it has been the capital of Malta. It is a must-see place not only because it is the capital, but because it is full of beautiful small streets, cute restaurants, and incredible historical spots. If you are not staying in Valletta, I would recommend you to go there on a day trip. Here are a couple of places you have to visit while in Valletta:
St. John’s Co-Cathedral
It was built by the Order of St. John between 1572 and 1577 and it is one of the most impressive Cathedrals I have ever visited. When you look at the stunning decoration you will most probably think that it was made of wood (as most such decoration at Chetedrals). However, wood is a rare material in Malta and for that reason, the decoration was made out of the stone of the Cathedral walls, a truly unique technique! An interesting fact is that it is still owned by the Knights of St. John, who gather there annually. There are still around 15,000 Knights around the world and I had the honor to meet one of them while in Malta and visit his beautiful property – Casa Rocca Piccola.
Casa Rocca Piccola
The next place that is a must-see in Valletta is the Casa Rocca Piccola – a ´living´ 16th-century palazzo in the heart of the capital. It is a family home owned by a Knights of St. John, who still lives at the palazzo. Most of the palazzo, however, is open for visits, and recently the owner has transformed a couple of rooms into a boutique hotel, so now you even have the chance to stay at this incredible place. One of the most noted visitors of Casa Rocca Piccola was Queen Elisabeth herself. As you probably know her and Price Philipe were living in Malta for 2 years and they had close relations with the Noble family that owns Casa Rocca Piccola.
The Saluting Battery
The Saluting Battery is one of Malta’s most vibrant visitor attractions where history is brought to life daily! Located high along Valletta’s eastern historic ramparts, it enjoys unrivaled spectacular views of the Grand Harbour and its surrounding fortified towns. It is also perhaps the oldest saluting battery still in operation anywhere in the world. For almost 500 years, its guns protected the harbor against naval assault. Its prominent position also ensured it became the island’s principal saluting platform. You can see the guns being fired every day at 12pm!
The Upper Barrakka Gardens
Certainly one of my favorite spots in the city, where you have incredible views over the harbor and the fortresses around the capital. These are public gardens at one of the highest points in Valletta, which is why the view from there is so great. The gardens were originally used to offer recreation to the knights of the Italian langue of the Order of Saint John but were opened to the public following the end of the French occupation of Malta in 1800. I would recommend you to go there just before 12pm, so you can also witness the Saluting Battery gun shooting.
St. Julian’s is a seaside town in Malta. It’s known for beaches like Balluta Bay, a rocky stretch with a promenade and restaurants. Bars and nightclubs line the streets of Paceville, an area south of St. George’s Bay Beach. It is a very popular touristic destination, as it is well-known as a touristic town with beautiful beaches and places to go for a walk, as well as many restaurants and bars. There is also a beautiful marina (Portomaso) and a casino on the rocks, the building of which used to be the summer house of the owners of Palazzo Parisio. There are also many other historical buildings around the charming town, so you will see the mix of different cultures that passed through Malta.
The island is very small, so the distances between the different cities are short, the only problem is that there is often traffic. For me, the best way to go around the island is by rent a car, as you can decide your own schedule, but there is good public transport that can take you to most parts of the island too.
Where to eat
Malta is full of nice trattorias and I would highly recommend you to eat at such places, as you will get the experience of a family restaurant that is cozy and with delicious food! The food in Malta is a mix of various cultures and you can find a lot of Italian cuisines as well, which was perfect for me as I absolutely love Italian food!
A nice trattoria which I would recommend is Diar il- Bniet – a small family-style restaurant where you can try typical Maltese cuisine.
If you visit Gozo, a place where you have to go for lunch or dinner is Ta’ Frenc! It is one of the most famous restaurants on the island, that is a little high end, but is truly worth it! Angelina Joly and Brad Pitt are one of the most famous customers in the restaurant! In general, if there is a celebrity visiting Gozo, Ta´Frenc is the place they always visit, due to the excellent food there!
Where to Stay
There are many places to stay while in Malta, but what I would highly recommend you is to stay in one of the small boutique hotels instead of a large well-known hotel brand, in order to experience the true spirit of Malta!
We stayed at MYN boutique hotel in Rabat. The hotel is made out of a 400 hundred-year-old townhouse that was recently renovated into this very trendy and cozy boutique hotel. The place is in the center of the old capital – Rabat and I loved staying there as it is full of historical buildings around.
Another place to stay of course would be the capital – Valleta, or some of the nice small towns on the coast.
Best Time to Visit
The climate in Malta is quite warm throughout the year, so it is always a good time to visit, apart from January and February, which are the coldest and most rainy months on the island.
If you wish to go there for a beach holiday, I would highly recommend you visit between June and the end of September. I went in October as I wanted to explore the islands, instead of going on a beach holiday. If you prefer to have a nice trip with incredible weather that is not too hot to explore, I would recommend you to visit in April, May, October or November. December is also an option if you want to spend Christmas somewhere warmer than the central parts of Europe that are usually covered by snow at that time of the year!
I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post! I will be soon posting a vlog from this trip on my Youtube channel too, so make sure to subscribe in order to not miss it!
Tina J x