Valletta Travel Guide - 9 Essential Tips for holidays in Malta (2020)

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Long Weekend in Malta - A Full Itinerary + Special Deals

Sometimes you might not have the time to book a long holiday, and in that case, weekend break or long weekends work just as well to give you a taste of the Mediterranean, especially if where you live is caught in the throes of cold weather and grey skies. With its perpetual heat, blue sea, and golden, sandy bays, slipping off to the Mediterranean for a three day holiday, such as a long weeked in Malta, can really boost your mood and send you back home relaxed and ready for what comes next. 

Malta is an ideal location to take a three-day weekend in, as the small size and temperate climate means that visiting Malta at any time throughout the year will leave you with plenty to do, many places to explore, and even the possibility of swimming in winter. 

Here are some tips that we encourage you keep in mind if you’re set on making Malta your next long weekend break. 


  • Don’t try to see the entire island at once - we recommend visiting sites that are close together so as to cut down on travelling time, and allow you to see as much as possible. 

  • If you’re visiting around one of the major public holidays - such as Carnival, Easter, or particularly during Santa Marija in August - take into account that the island might be extra crowded during those times. 

  • Isolate a few must-visit sites and build your trip around those locations. 

  • You might want to avoid visiting Gozo unless you want to make Gozo your home-base - but we don’t recommend this for trips 3 days or less, as you will use up a full-day of your holiday time. 

  • Go for a mid-range or budget hotel to splash the rest of your money on food and excursions. 

  • If you're price-conscious, book an accomodation in the area that most appeals to you. Then whenever possible, walk, catch public transport, or rent a bicycle - it’ll save you the price of the rented car, especially if you don’t have very far to go. 

  • There are more efficient ways to get around to certain hotspots, such as ferries and hop-on, hop-off tour buses.

  • Certain museum exhibits will have very long lines, so make sure to plan extra activities to do in case you change your mind. 

  • Plan for sunny weather, always - don’t forget your sunscreen, even in spring and autumn.

  • If you can, book in the capital city, Valletta or the popular Sliema area - this will make your life a lot easier, as you can get anywhere on the island without travelling for long periods of time!

Day One: Valletta and Sliema

Auberge de Castille, Valletta

Valletta, known for its beautiful baroque architecture and shop-choked streets, is one of the cities you absolutely must see if you’re spending any length of time in Malta.

It’s as much a cultural Maltese experience as a museum, and we recommend basing your stay here so that you can drink in the atmosphere. 

We recommend staying at Palazzo Rosaria Boutique Hotel, steps away from the Grand Harbour, and close to the Upper Barrakka Gardens.

Beautifully decorated, and right in the capital city, you can enjoy the beauty of Valletta from right on your doorstep.

Check Availability at Palazzo Rosaria

If you’re looking for something a little different, we also recommend the Castille Hotel, with its long-lived history and beautiful reading lounges.

Best of all, it’s located in one of the few areas you can get to by taxi, meaning that the taxi driver can drop you off right in front of the hotel without you having to heft your bags along. 

Check Availability at the Castille Hotel


Your best way of touring Valletta is to do it on your own volition. Grab a camera, your phone, your wallet and take off down the narrow grid-like streets.

Admire the architecture as you walk, look up as you amble and admire the details on the facades of the buidings, together with the both the new and the derelict traditional Maltese balconies.

If you go early enough in the morning, the perpetually-crowded city might be nearly empty, open just to you and the ringing church bells in the distance. 

Start your walk in Republic Street, and then branch off into whatever tiny side-street catches your fancy.

Valletta is a unique combination of modern shop-fronts and old-fashioned street signs and establishments, especially the further down you go.

Mind the steep hills, and if you’re interested in finding out more about the history, we recommend looking up some guides or booking a walking tour instead. 

If you want a complete guide to Valletta - you can check out our full travel guide here.

Here are some places to stop at on your day in Valletta: 

  • Upper Barrakka Gardens - home to the saluting battery, these gardens have a history as long as the city itself, and used to be a protective outpost when Valletta was ruled by the Knights of St. John. Now, they serve to give a stunning view of the harbour and attract tourists in droves to see the firing of the gun at noon everyday and other special events and reenactments. 

  • St. John’s Co-Cathedral - a gilded chapel decorated in the Baroque style, the intricate stone carvings and painted ceilings are not the only reason to visit the Cathedral; you should also go to see the Caravaggio paintings kept in collection there, which will soon be housed in their own wing and museum. 
    St. John's Co Cathedral

  • Muza - recently opened, this art gallery has kept key works by Mattia Preti, Victor Pasmore, and Antonio Sciortino, and besides that, used to be the auberge where the Italian knights of the Order of St. John lived. It’s well worth a visit for the architecture alone. 

  • Palazzo de Piro - a working historical house, book yourself in for a tour and you might be lucky enough to run into the Marquis de Piro, who will regal you with tales of the house and Malta throughout the years. The tour also includes a visit to the on-site bomb shelters and the gardens. 

  • The Palace Armoury - showcasing the largest collection of armour and weapons from the period of the knights, this museum is a good introduction to the knights’ esteemed position in the Islands. 

  • Fort St. Elmo, National War Museum - walk around the grounds, visit the two chapels on-site, and see, live and in person, weapons and vehicles used throughout the second world war to defend Malta. 

  • National Museum of Archaeology - if you didn’t opt for a walking tour, this museum can give you a brief introduction to the topography and history of the Maltese islands.

However, you can see more sights than this just walking around!

Walk down the newly refurbished Strait Street, a historical and notorious location revitalised with new restaurants and bars, visit the open-air theatre and poke your head in to see the inside of the Manoel theatre, and walk to the Lower Barrakka Gardens for a different viewpoint on the island.

Beyond that, there’s also the elegant "niccas" (niches), small religious nooks with statues and flowers, to see scattered all around Valletta - see if you can spot them all!

Throughout the day, make sure to rest your tired feet by stopping at some of our favourite cafes!

We recommend Caffe Cordina, for a true tried-and-tested Maltese staple: get a strong coffee and some Maltese sweets, and watch the city wake up slowly (in the morning) or bustle along during the day. 

If you’re planning on moving on in the afternoon, and getting lunch elsewhere, here are our favourite breakfast restaurants for you to try: 

  • Kingsway Valletta - opening at 9AM every day, their generous brunches and egg benedicts are big portions made to keep you going until the afternoon. 

  • Dolci Peccati - bringing the best of Sicilian simplicity, if you’re in the mood for a lighter breakfast, try their croissant and coffee offer, with one of your choice of five fillings. 

  • Cafe Jubilee - another traditional offering, this smoky, dim lounge is perfect if you want to get a taste of a traditional Maltese breakfast - try their pastries, and follow it with a mug of strong brew, and you’re good to go! 

From there, catch the ferry and make your way to Sliema - your day isn’t over yet! 


In Sliema, there’s less to see in terms of culture, but it is far, far superior in terms of shopping. If you want to stock up on souvenirs (that don't suck) and eat ice-cream by a beautiful view, Sliema’s the place you need to go to.

If you do both (Valletta and Sliema) in one day, you’ll get both sides of the Maltese spectrum in one handy afternoon.

Sliema is gloriously modern and built up, with lashings of quiet city life in the back-streets.

Avoid cars, and walk: on a beautiful, clear day you can walk as far as St. Julian’s, and then grab a taxi back to your location in Valletta. 

Here’s what you can do in Sliema: 

  • Buy ice-cream from Amorino, a traditional Italian gelato place, and eat it on the Promenade, looking out at the view of Manoel Island. 

  • Go shopping in the Plaza centre, and buy a bag of Maltese coffee to take home from the coffee house at Franks. 

  • Sit in St. Anne’s Square and snack on street food from some of the surrounding trucks - Sparta is a favourite. 

  • Walk to Tigne Point and pick up a new outfit. 

  • Visit Christine X Art Gallery and check out the latest exhibition by Maltese artists. 

By now, you must be peckish, so here’s some dining options you can check out for lunch: 

  • The Plaza Food Court has a number of exotic cuisines in one location, and for diners on a budget who want to be adventurous, this is likely your best option. 

  • Il Vicolo has cheap, generous portions of pasta, loaded sandwiches, and brunch dishes served late. 

  • Giorgio’s is a Sliema local staple, serving traditional Italian and Mediterranean cuisine.

  • Hammett’s has sharing platters for people who want to dine around the world, but it’s a bit pricier than others on the list. 

Optional: Head to the Three Cities!

If you’ve seen all you wanted to of Valletta and want to skip the modern Sliema, we recommend you catch another ferry, or maybe  catch one of the small boats ferrying people and head to Birgu. 

Birgu or Citta Vittoriosa ('Victorious City') is an old fortified city on the south side of the Maltese Grand Harbour.

Birgu is a relatively untouched monument to traditional Maltese living: tiny, winding streets, plants flowering on the doorsteps, and brightly-coloured boats moored by the dock.

Stop off at the Malta at War Museum, and the Maritime Museum, to get a deeper idea of Malta’s history.

We also recommend check out the Inquisitor’s Palace, which is the only Inquisitor’s palace open to the public in the world, and walk around the torture chamber and prison cells.

The Inquisor's Palace in Birgu


If you’re not tired and you want dinner by the sea, we recommend getting the night bus to Balluta Bay, and dining at Nori, a restaurant that serves fusion cuisine from the seat of the Marriott Hotel, with a beautiful view of the Bay.  

Day Two: Mosta, Mdina, and Rabat


If you’re based in Valletta, start your morning by catching the direct bus to Mosta - the number 47.

Mosta Church

This will drop you down right by the Rotunda - the third largest unsupported dome in the world (pictured above), but before you head off for a day of exploring, stop for breakfast!

Our restaurants of choice for your morning breakfast are La Tartine, which offers sandwiches and fresh-made pastries, or Coffee Circus, a tiny local coffee shop well known for its fresh roasts and good pastries. 

From there, you’ll want to make your way across and go into the Rotunda Church, otherwise known as the ‘miracle’ church.

This is because it was directly hit by a bomb during World War II, that never detonated, sparing the people attending mass and most of the structure of the church. 

We also recommend sitting and enjoying the atmosphere - sit in the public garden close to the church and people-watch with a takeaway drink: it’s an interesting part of Malta to do it in. 

After a lazy morning - you’ll need it, trust us, because the afternoon is jam-packed - grab a bus heading into Rabat, and prepare to walk.

Mid-day / Afternoon

The bus will drop you outside of Mdina, but you need to make the Silent City your first stop.

Various parts of Mdina

Fortunately, in the afternoon, Mdina might be less crowded than normal, and so you can take your time wandering this ancient citadel without worrying about getting caught in a tourist pocket.

Furthermore, as there are no cars allowed in the Silent City beyond the 300 residents and some service vehicles, you can walk and amble at leisure. 

We recommend following your own itinerary in Mdina, and simply wandering around the city. If you want, there are guided tours offered and you can learn a lot about the position of Mdina throughout history, but there’s no need: simply being there and walking around should be enough.

You can literally feel the history of the city.

If you want a few places to check out on your way, we suggest: 

  • Walk through Mdina Dungeons, a series of underground passages and chambers, with a reenactment of several sordid scenes from Maltese history. 

  • Visit St Paul’s Cathedral, a baroque cathedral that took over 5 years to build, and has a beautiful, ornate inside. The twin bell towers ring out the time for mass, and visitors are welcome to enter the cathedral, provided they are respectful of the people attending mass. 

  • Walk around the Cathedral Museum, located in the same square and showcasing a number of ecclesiastical collections belonging to several religious orders. 

  • Pay for the Knights of Malta Experience, which walks you through the 16th century history of Mdina with sound effects and lighting. 

  • Enter the National Museum of Natural History, set inside an 18th century palace and home to Malta’s natural history, including an entire chamber filled with the skeletons of vertebrates. 

After all this exploring, you must be hungry, and there’s really only one place we want to recommend for lunch: the town staple of Fontanella Tea Garden.

Fontanella Tea Garden is renowned for its epic chocolate cakes and sizeable portions, they also have traditional food such as ftira and pastizzi.

Definitely don’t skimp on the cake, and make sure you try and get a seat upstairs by the bastions - the view is unmissable. 

Late Afternoon - Evening

If there’s still sunlight to burn, your itinerary can expand to include Rabat.

Rabat, a beautiful, time-touched suburb on the outside of Mdina, has a lot to offer for culture vultures who want to walk, so here’s our stop-off points for you to visit: 

  • Walk around St. Paul’s Catacombs and experience the history of burial in Malta while marvelling at the carved stone. 

  • Enter Domus Romana and look at the intricate Roman mosaics. 

  • Visit Casa Bernard, a 16th century home which offers guided tours and a deep history of how the nobles lived in Malta. 

  • Trek down to Chadwick Lakes, a stunning wetland well worth the walk. 

  • Walk the Victoria Lines, a historical fortified walk and a trek across some stunning surroundings. 

  • Finish off with an amble around Buskett Gardens, a lovely man-made forest with intricate little hideaways for you to explore. 

For dinner, we recommend stopping at Grotto Tavern, a Mediterranean restaurant with a twist: dinner is served in a natural 2000-year-old cave and features innovative dishes made with excellent produce.

Try their 5-course tasting menu and allow the chefs to take care of you: you won’t regret it!

Day 3: St. Paul’s Bay and Mellieha

Finally, your last free day in Malta’s approaching, and you can take it a little bit easy. You’ve seen some history, some culture, and done some shopping, so for your final day, you should relax. 


Start by catching the number 41 or 42 bus to take you to St. Paul’s Bay.

Here, you can tuck into some of the most generous English breakfasts on the island; we favour the Koffee Cafe’s loaded English breakfast, or their belgian waffles topped with melting ice-cream.

From there, your options are: 

  • Walk around the recently opened Malta National Aquarium, which also includes terrariums and other creatures. 

  • Make your way along the Xemxija Heritage Trail - make sure to stop and see the sights along the way,  such as the thousand year old carob trees and the standing stones. 

  • Visit the Bird Park and hold a bird of prey on your arm!

  • Go and see Wignacourt Tower, the oldest surviving watchtower in Malta. 

  • Visit the Simar Nature Reserve, an area of conservation that is free of charge. 

Before you spend the rest of the day lazing at the beach, grab lunch: we suggest Acqua Marina for the best seafood in the north, and definitely try the octopus - it’s a Maltese delicacy!

Afternoon - Evening

Grab the bus to Mellieha, and get ready to lounge: the rest of the day should be spent on the beach, and we’re here to guide you to which beaches are the best. 

Golden Bay

  • Ghadira Bay - a stunning sandy beach with clear blue water; it is shallow, making it perfect for nervous swimmers, and you can rent chairs and umbrellas for a price. Furthermore, the bus stops right across from the bay!

  • Golden Bay - known for its red sand and dunes, within walking distance of a few restaurants, and hugely popular with both locals and tourists. The water is clear as glass, and it’s easy to reach. If you’re interested in snorkelling, there’s a rocky shoreline nearby that you can use for snorkelling. 

  • Ghajn Tuffieha Bay - less accessible but mostly untouched, the bay is ensconced in natural surroundings, and has high cliffs and clear water, although there are roughly 100 steps to get to the beach. You can also hire sun beds and umbrellas, and there is also a snack bar for when you get peckish. 

  • Gnejna Bay - quiet, remote, and sandy, Gnejna Bay is mostly visited by locals, and it tends to be quieter than the other options on this list. It is the perfect place for a quiet afternoon of sunbathing and swimming. 

Make sure to take a change of clothes with you because your final dinner in Malta is going to be in Mellieha itself - we recommend Amami, a Japanese and fusion restaurant with an excellent atmosphere and incredible food. 

Make Your Own Long Weekend Break in Malta

While this might be like a lot to do in a long weekend break in Malta, it’s definitely not if you time yourself right!

The beauty of Malta is that most of the cities and towns are small enough that you can walk around them in a matter of a few hours, so whether you visit the above, or chose other places in Malta, you can create your own itinerary.

Each of these days given here can definitely be expanded to take up more than one or two days, and we recommend using one as a guide and then branching out and doing whatever you want. 

For getting around, we recommend if your time is brief, rely on public transportation to save money. If money is no object, a rental car is a good idea, but bear in mind that you might be stuck in traffic quite often. 

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