As one of the smallest countries in Europe, Malta makes a great short break destination for anyone in search of sun, sea and history.
Craving some much-needed sunshine last summer, we spent four nights on this tiny island in the Med, which turned out to be the perfect amount of time to explore not only the mainland but its surrounding islands too.
If you’re planning a trip for yourself, here are some ideas on how to spend four days in Malta.
Getting around Malta
We rented a car for our stay which made getting around super easy. If budget allows (and you’re a confident driver), then I can definitely recommend doing the same which will save you from waiting around for buses – we were so glad we didn’t have to stand in the blazing hot sunshine all day for public transport. Be warned though that drivers can be quite ruthless in Malta, so if you’re a little nervous behind the wheel then consider carefully whether you’d be comfortable dealing with the traffic.
We found parking to be relatively easy throughout our trip, however, and if you’re travelling from the UK, you’ll be pleased to know that they also drive on the left, meaning it’ll just be the people cutting you off you need to watch out for!
Day one in Malta – the capital and main sights
Even though a visit to Malta feels a bit like one big city break, its capital is a small walled city named Valletta which was our first port of call.
We headed there by taking the ferry across from Sliema and spent some time strolling through the winding streets. Located high up along the water, Valletta is quite hilly in parts, so make sure you get your comfy shoes on ready for the climb!
Through the towering maze of sand-coloured buildings, we eventually came to Valletta’s centre and its long bustling street lined with shops and cafes. Feeling tired from walking too many steps, we stopped at Amorino for a rose-shaped gelato break, which you can’t leave Valletta without having!
Nearby are the National War Museum and St. John’s Cathedral, which are some of the top attractions in Valletta. Not feeling up for doing any indoor sightseeing that day, we carried on walking.
Lower and Upper Barrica Gardens
From Valletta, we strolled to the Lower and Upper Barrica Gardens next. Located along the water, the gardens make a nice rest stop to sit and look out over the coast. If you get here in the afternoon, you can also watch the firing of the cannons which take place every day 4 pm.
As the sun started the set, we made our way to Mdina, one of the must-see places in Malta. I was really glad we came here in the evening – the heat had eased off, the daytime crowds had left, and the low sunlight brought out the golden colours of the fortified city even more.
Also known as ‘the Silent City’, Mdina is as peaceful as it is beautiful. No cars or vehicles are allowed access here, and I loved wandering through its maze of narrow streets that opened out into courtyards and monumental buildings. Once the capital of Malta, walking through the towering stone walls of Mdina feels like you’re being transported back in time. Or, being transported into the set of Game of Thrones, because you’ll spot a couple of their film locations here without even trying.
For dinner, I can recommend Coogi’s which is located in the corner of Mdina. Try their rabbit ragu for main, and their Maltese sharing plate for something traditional to start.
Day two in Malta – get off the mainland
I didn’t know this until we’d planned our trip, but Malta is actually made up of several islands, the largest three of which are inhabited. While you’ll likely base yourself on the mainland, I’d really recommend crossing over to spend a day on Gozo too.
Whether you’re renting a car or not, getting to Gozo is really easy thanks to the ferry which leaves every day from Cirkewwa in Malta. Departing every 45 mins, it costs just €15.70 return for a car and passenger or €4.65 for a standard passenger fare. The crossing takes about 25 mins and is a really enjoyable ride – make sure you head upstairs onto the deck to soak up the sun, and for the lovely view approaching Mgarr in Gozo.
I actually loved Gozo much more than mainland Malta, and you can find out why in my separate guide on 6 things to do in Gozo.
Day three in Malta – soak up the sun
For many people, one of the biggest draws to Malta is its beautiful water, and the number one spot for visitors without a doubt is the Blue Lagoon.
We spent our third day soaking up the sun on the island of Comino and snorkelling in its incredible turquoise water which you’d never guess you could see in Europe. But like any gorgeous spot, the crowds here can be overwhelming, so choose your tour company carefully! Here’s my guide on Comino and the Blue Lagoon.
Day four in Malta – History and views
See the churches
As a predominantly Roman Catholic country, there are plenty of churches to see in Malta. On our last morning, we decided to visit Mosta Dome after hearing about its unique history. In April 1942 during WWII, a 500kg bomb pierced through the dome of the church, where hundreds of people had gathered inside for evening mass. However, the bomb did not go off, and today a replica of the bomb can be found inside the church to mark this miracle event.
We went even further back in time next to Hagar Qim, one of the main historic sights on mainland Malta.
Dating back to 3600BC, this was a fascinating stop to see this vast ancient site up close, and learn about settlements that once lived here. A ticket costs €10 per adult which includes entry to the site, its museum, and a short introductory film in 4D!
Gaze out at the Blue Grotto
We jumped back in our rental car and headed to the Blue Grotto next. Malta has some amazing sights along its coast, but I think the Blue Grotto viewpoint might just be the best. There’s not a lot here besides a great vantage point, so just park up and spend some time admiring the stunning rock formations. If you’d prefer, you can also take a boat tour through the cave and see it from the water.
Visit the Three Cities
Across the water on the other side of Valetta is the Three Cities of Malta, which are Birgu, Senglea and Cospicua. Located next to each other, we spent our last hours in Malta strolling through the streets, and marvelling at the insanely lavish yachts in the harbour.
If you fancy heading back into the capital from here, you can get a boat across to Valletta for just a couple of euros each way.
If all this hasn’t filled up your itinerary, here are a couple more ideas for your trip to Malta that I didn’t get to do…
- Popeye island – a film set that’s now a theme park!
- Victoria Line – a fortified wall across the width of Malta that’s now a walking line