The warmest country in Europe that will be on your 2024 travel list

Here’s how to make the most out of Malta

Helen Wilson-Beevers
Monday 26 February 2024 06:55
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Malta holds Birgu candlelight festival

The warmest country in Europe is expecting a record-breaking year for tourism.

Malta, in the middle of the Mediterranean, is awash with ancient architecture and a beautiful coastline. Located between Sicily and North Africa, the Maltese archipelago is also home to the islands of Gozo and Comino, which both offer their own cultural attractions and natural highlights.

Plus, Malta has an average annual temperature of 23C – which is the warmest in Europe. Should you be looking to explore the shoreline or soak up some medieval history, there are plenty of things to do that suit the entire family.

From enjoying a beach day at Golden Bay on Malta’s north-west coast to hiking across Gozo or exploring a Baroque cathedral in the capital, Valletta, there’s no shortage of things to see and do. You’ll also find a vibrant nightclub scene in centrally situated St Julian’s, and could hotfoot it across to smaller island Comino to luxuriate in the Blue Lagoon’s glorious turquoise water.

Here’s our guide to the best things to do in Malta.

Meander through Mdina’s Vilhena Gate

Follow this ancient entrance into the walled city

Ancient walled city Mdina sits in the southwest of Malta and is one of the island’s most famous tourist locations. Access into the fortified city is through the main Vilhena Gate, and inside you’ll see an array of medieval architecture: Palazzo Costanzo, St Paul’s Cathedral and Torre dello Standardo. Plus, if you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, you may recognise the gate from the first season. Meander through the city’s gateways and explore its shops, bars, and restaurants. Nearby Rabat is also worth a visit while you’re there, with this village known for its feasts.

Swim in the Blue Lagoon, Comino

Take a dip in Comino’s turquoise bay

The Blue Lagoon is a beautiful bay found between the island Comino and its smaller counterpart, Cominotto. The ferry ride is less than an hour from the mainland’s Cirkewwa and Marfa harbours, or you can charter your own boat to the turquoise spot. The stunning sea offers a crystal-clear view to the white sands below and you can snorkel from the shallow beach, too. Meanwhile, watersports – such as jet ski hire – and diving sites are also available on Comino. Just be aware that the Blue Lagoon gets extremely busy during the summer months.

Visit St John’s Co-Cathedral, Valletta

This Baroque building features famous works of art

Malta’s capital city, Valletta, has an array of architectural masterpieces and Baroque buildings, including the Grandmasters Palace and St John’s Co-Cathedral. The latter was built in the 16th century by the Order of the Knights of Saint John, and while its exterior is fairly simple, the inside of the Roman Catholic church looks far more impressive. There are nine chapels, a series of tombs, a crypt, famous works of art – including The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist – and ornate marble details throughout. It’s worth noting that a modest dress code must be adhered to while inside the cathedral, with visitors expected to have their shoulders covered.

Enjoy the nightlife in St Julian’s

St Julian’s boasts a vibrant nightclub scene

St Julian’s is one of the most built-up parts of central Malta an offers a “buzzier” vibe. The town’s Portomaso Bay is a busy marina with casinos, hotels, and shops, while Spinola Bay is where you’ll find quieter bars. Paceville is the heart and soul of the party, and where you’ll find a vibrant nightclub scene alongside a selection of restaurants. The Feast of St Julian’s is a large, outdoor celebration featuring fireworks and festivities and it usually takes place at the end of August, should you be planning a summer trip.

Have a beach day at Golden Bay

You’ll find sun loungers and watersports at this sandy beach

There aren’t many sandy beaches across Malta, which makes Golden Bay even more special. Situated near the village of Manikata on the island’s north-west coast, it features an azure blue sea and (as the name suggests) golden sand. Reached down a flight of steps, there are cafes, sun loungers and umbrellas to make for a long seaside day. If you don’t feel like lounging about, water sport options include paragliding and jet skiing.

Go hiking in Gozo

The smaller island has several rural hiking paths

Gozo is Malta’s second-largest island, and it’s only 45 minutes away by ferry. Like Malta, the island has several historic buildings, such as the medieval citadel seen in Rabat, its capital. However, if you fancy veering into its rural landscape, there are multiple hiking paths to explore. You could set off from eastern city Nadur and follow a route past Ramla, where you’ll discover a sandy bay and the intriguing Calypso Cave. Other options offering an amazing coastal view include a trail along the Sanap Cliffs or a walk to Dwejra Bay.

Soak up the view in Marsaxlokk

This fishing village is famous for its colourful boats

If you’re looking for a more traditional Maltese vantage point, Marsaxlokk is a small fishing village situated in the south-east, famous for its colourful boats and harbour view. Tuck into seafood caught from the surrounding waters and wander the narrow streets, all while gazing out over the horizon. There’s also a fish market every Sunday, should you fancy mingling with the locals.

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