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Malta is a fascinating and exciting Mediterranean destination that frequently flies under the radar. Although it’s full of history, great beaches, and a vibrant nightlife, most Americans who can’t find it on a map, much less talk about much it offers. From its rich history to stunning beaches and seemingly never-ending options for nightlife, Malta is definitely a place to put on your bucket list. Read on for our picks for the best places to see in Malta.
Historic Sites of Malta
While many places in the Mediterranean are rich in history, few offer the diversity found on Malta. This archipelago not far from Sicily has Roman, Moorish, English, and French influences. You’ll also find some of the oldest temples and megalithic structures in the region on Malta, some dating back to 4000 B.C.
Many of the most amazing historic sites are found in Valletta, the capital. St. John’s Co-Cathedral and Museum is a stunning example of the country’s rich architectural history and is home to many precious works of art, including masterpieces by Caravaggio.
The Upper Barrakka Gardens and Lower Barrakka Gardens are a pair of spectacular gardens in Valletta that offer incredible views of the Grand Harbour. In addition to the views, these gardens contain several historic statues, including monuments to public figures such as Lord Strickland. Another scenic spot in Valletta is the Hastings Gardens, dedicated to the British governor of Malta, Lord Hastings. This spot is known for its views of Manoel Island.
Some of the most awe-inspiring attractions of Malta are megalithic sites. The Ggantija megalithic temples are the most notable archeological site of Malta. Dating back to close to 4000 B.C., this site is actually older than Stonehenge. In addition to walking around the temple ruins, there’s a museum on the grounds with lots of information in English as well as Maltese. From Valletta, you can take a ferry and bus combination to Ggantija.
Beaches of Malta
Mellieha Bay, also known as Ghadira, is Malta’s largest and most popular beach. This beach, on the main island of Malta, is great for swimming as well as water sports such as kayaking, windsurfing, and waterskiing.
If you want to find a more out-of-the-way type beach, St. Peter’s Pool is a good choice. The road leading here is rough and there’s limited parking, so it’s not an easy place to access. This also means, however, that it’s seldom crowded. Adventurous people often dive into the water from the rocks. Xlendi Bay, on the island of Gozo, is a small beach known for its dramatic cliffs and caves. The reef formations make this an excellent spot for diving as well as swimming and snorkeling.
Nightlife and Celebrations
Although Malta is known for its unique historic spots and natural beauty, it also has plenty of entertainment and nightlife. There are many restaurants, bars, and clubs where both locals and tourists enjoy fine dining, drinks, and music. Valletta, for example, has a famous place called simply The Pub, an old English bar that’s changed ownership several times but retains its quaint atmosphere.
A fun destination in Qawra on St. Paul’s Bay is Simon’s The Elvis Tribute Bar, which has regular shows featuring classic Elvis numbers. Malta has a popular clubbing and DJ scene. If you want to hear the hottest DJs, the best place for this is Paceville, which is overflowing with bars and clubs. Malta is also full of concert halls and theaters. Classical music concerts are often played at historic venues and churches. An excellent place to see plays is the Manoel Theatre, one of the oldest active theaters in Europe.
No matter when you visit Malta, you’ll find a variety of festivals, celebrations, and other special events. Religious holidays and feasts are very popular here. This includes not only Christmas and Easter, but celebrations dedicated to local saints. In August there’s the Feast of Santa Marija and, in June, the Festival of Mnarja. There are also many modern festivals as well, such as the Malta Jazz Festival, the Malta Arts Festival, and the Malta Fireworks Festival.