One of the fastest-growing destinations in Europe in terms of tourist numbers, Malta is a small but beautiful archipelago (which includes Malta, Gozo, and Comino) located in the central Mediterranean between Sicily and the North African coast.
For such a small area it’s also surprisingly diverse with a rich and very much evident ancient history, long wide sandy beaches, prehistoric temples, fossil-dotted cliffs, secret coves, sparkling azure waters, and even pockets of edginess which gives it a distinctive atmosphere quite unlike any other place in Europe.
Malta’s ancient historical attractions are also so strikingly impressive they’ve provided a backdrop for many famous TV and film productions including Game of Thrones, Gladiator, and Troy. Apparently, even Brad and Angelina fell in love with the place while filming By the Sea. I too have fallen in love with Malta from my many visits over the years, here are my best and most beautiful places to visit in Malta…
1. Valletta – the tiny capital and one of the best places to visit in Malta
Valletta, the capital city of Malta, is a gorgeous and historically important seaport in the Mediterranean Sea. Based on top of Mount Sciberras, the entire town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The walled city was built in the 1500s by the Knights of St. John, and it truly showcases the charisma of the Knights of Malta, Roman Catholic noblemen who were granted the Maltese Islands by the King of Spain. Valletta’s systematic grid plan and public squares reveal the knights’ ‘ahead of their time’ 16th-century urban planning.
This beautiful port is known for its remarkable museums, elegant palaces, and grand churches.
In the heart of the city is Saint John’s Co-Cathedral, a 16th-century baroque church with opulent interiors, built by the Orders of the Knights, from various countries such as France, Spain, and Italy.
The luxury in the details displays how the knights created monuments of status and grandeur. The nearby Grand Master’s Palace, former residence of the Knights of Malta houses incredible paintings and an extensive armoury.
Valletta is truly a cultural haven for visitors looking to immerse themselves in its unique and fascinating history and heritage. Valletta is also Malta’s most modern and developed city, making it easily accessible for tourists!
2. Mdina, The Silent City – one of Europe’s finest examples of an ancient walled city
Traveling to the ‘Silent City’ of Mdina is like traveling back to medieval Malta. This inland town sits on a large hill in the center of the country, offering breathtaking views of the entire island of Malta.
Enter Mdina through its dramatic Main Gate that gives the impression of walking back in time. The beauty of this small town is enhanced by the fact that no cars are allowed to enter.
The laid-back, relaxing atmosphere through the narrow, cobbled streets, is truly an enchanting experience. For any Game of Thrones fans, this rustic walled city offers tours with a chance to see where many of the iconic GOT scenes were shot.
While in Mdina, witness gorgeous Baroque-style architecture at St. Paul’s Cathedral, with its elaborate ceiling paintings, gilded decor, gold details, marble columns and majestic dome.
Other beautiful sites include the Carmelite Church and Priory, the Natural History Museum, the Magisterial Palace, Palazzo Vilhena (Saint Publius Square), and the Palazzo Historic House Museum.
The Palazzo Falson is a former medieval palace, maintained in its original style that displays exquisite art and antiques. It is no wonder that this fairy-tale land is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must-see on our list of places to visit in Malta.
3. Gozo – one of the most beautiful and tranquil places to visit in Malta
Slightly off the Maltese Coast is the small, idyllic island of Gozo. This stunning island with its quaint towns and soft sandy beaches makes the perfect summer vacation destination and is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Malta.
Known for its beauty as well as farming and fishing community, Gozo attracts tourists looking for a relaxing time – this is where time truly stands still. Visit the island’s pastoral landscape of impressive farmlands that spread across hills and valleys and lead to old fishing ports.
Ramla Bay is a popular beach area known for its sandy shore and swimming area. But Gozo has more than just its natural beauty, this little island is filled with lots of culture.
The island is filled with interesting sites like the medieval city of Victoria, seaside town of Marsalforn, Temples of Ggantija from 3500 BC, Inland Sea, The Citadel, the Azure Window and numerous baroque churches. Visit Gozo by boat or seaplane – both offer unique experiences and beautiful views along your journey to Gozo!
4. Marsaxlokk – a small and pretty traditional fishing village
Located in the southern region of Malta, Marsaxlokk is a small fishing village that dates back to the 9th century. Known for its Sunday fish market and colorful Luzzus – decorated “eyed” painted boats, this beautiful town offers a lovely seaside experience.
Views from Marsaxlokk’s promenade are absolutely fabulous, the beaches are amazing, the green waters that filled with underwater life offer amazing cliff diving experiences and the restaurants serve incredible local seafood.
Marsaxlokk has an intriguing history and archaeologists have even found Bronze Age tools on the Tas-Silg hill.
5. Sliema – a sassy and lively city to explore in Malta
Situated close to the capital city of Valletta, Sliema is Malta’s shopping haven. This resort town, known for its delicious food, incredible shopping, and buzzing nightlife, is a vacation hot spot for tourists and locals alike.
From Sliema, visitors can enjoy boat trips around the Grand Harbour as well as take the hop-on/off sightseeing bus tours across the island. Sliema’s cultural attractions include the Independence Garden and the 17th century De Redin tower.
6. St. Julian’s – a popular holiday spot on the coast of Malta
Definitely the most happening, energetic, and entertaining region of Malta, St. Julian’s is world-famous for its nightlife. This resort town has a thriving bar and restaurant scene that is open till the wee hours of morning! St. Julian’s includes Portomaso, Spinola Bay, St. George’s Bay, and Paceville.
The area is known for its beautiful seaside promenade filled with sandy beaches that are ideal for sunbathing or long walks.
St. Julian’s is home to Portomaso Tower, Malta’s tallest building, Love Monument, and 17th century Spinola Palace. Definitely, the best place in Malta to visit if you’re looking for fun!
7. The Blue Grotto – one of the best and most popular beauty spots in Malta
The Blue Grotto consists of several sea caverns in the Mediterranean Sea off the southeast coast of Malta, close to the harbor of Wiedurrieq. Blue Grotto offers spectacular seaside scenery and stunning coastal views.
The sparkling sun and glistening blue waters create a serene vision. The grotto is known for its exquisite limestone caves, which according to ancient mythology, were home to the sea nymphs that captured passing sailors with their charms.
The island offers guided boat tours in vibrant luzzus boats, through six sea caves, including the Blue Grotto, which is a 30-meter-high cave with a deep pool of water.
The Blue Grotto is also a popular scuba diving destination, where tourists can book private boat rides through the turquoise waters to enjoy its bustling marine life. A place in Malta that shouldn’t be missed!
8. Comino – the smaller island of the archipelago is a paradise for snorkelers, divers and windsurfers
The mesmerizing island of Comino is a tiny archipelago island located midway between the islands of Malta and Gozo which has a permanent population of only two residents!
Known for its crystal-clear waters and white sand beaches, Comino is a paradise island that is great for snorkellng, scuba diving, windsurfing, other water sports, hiking, nature trails, and camping.
The island’s main attraction is the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is a beautiful tropical lagoon with calm warm waters, no waves, and a shallow end that is safe for swimming, playing or relaxing in inflatable floaties.
This swimming pool like a natural water body has a small beach that is ideal for sunbathing on a rocky hillside. This pretty town of only 3.5 square kilometers is car-free with only one hotel for tourists.
Its (almost!) uninhabited natural beauty adds to its wonder and charm and is definitely a must-see place to go while exploring Malta!
9. Ghajn Tuffieha – an unspoilt area with beautiful beaches
Ghajn Tuffieha Bay is a red beach that is a 2 km car ride from the south of the Golden Bay. Quieter and more secluded than the Golden Bay, this gorgeous beach is surrounded by cliffs and sloping hillsides and can only be accessed by climbing down 200 steps.
Considered one of Malta’s top beaches, Ghajn Tuffieha is favored by both locals and tourists looking to enjoy some quiet time. The alluring waters are safe for swimming and the nearby beach has chairs, umbrellas, and refreshment stands.
On top of one of the cliffs of Ghajn Tuffieha is an old defense tower built by a famous Grand Master in 1637.
Close to Ghajn Tuffieha Bay, is Gnejna Bay, a small, protected bay surrounded by steep limestone cliffs. Walking down its steep flight of stairs takes you to a gorgeous orange sand beach.
This beach is popular amongst swimmers and snorkelers and also offers water ski and canoe rentals. Between Ghajn Tuffieha Bay and Gnejna Bay is the rural village of Mgarr.
This bucolic landscape of vine-covered hills and small farms are great for scenic countryside hikes and adventure trails. Don’t forget to visit the nearby amazing ruins of Roman baths and ancient cart ruts.
10. Three Cities of Cottonera – amazing historic cities to explore in Malta
Located across Grand Harbour to the east of Valletta, Cottonera comprises of three adjacent cities of Cospicua (or Bormla), Vittoriosa (or Birgu), and Senglea (or L’Isla) that are collectively also known as the Three Cities.
Birgu is the oldest and most popular of the Three Cities and existed well before the arrival of the Knights. Rich in historic heritage, Birgu was the first home of the Knights and is filled with spectacular and significant sites like the Maritime Museum, Malta at War Museum, the Inquisitor’s Palace, and Fort St, Angelo.
The Birgu Waterfront project includes a beautifully restored fort, several museums, a yacht marina, restaurants, and many places for entertainment – that has attracted countless visitors to this old city.
Bormla is also known for its historic significance. The city’s creek which was built by the British as a dry dock, has now been converted into a green space ideal for a lovely waterfront stroll.
This picturesque walk passes through rustic Senglea and ends at the glamorous public gardens called Gardjola Gardens. Be sure to check out the views from the gardjola (watch post) in the garden for unbelievably stunning views of the entire Grand Harbor and Valletta opposite.
Between the three cities, you can find a wealth of history, extraordinary views, and plenty of cafes, restaurants, and wine bars options.
11. Mellieha Bay – a pretty low-key place perched on the north coast of Malta
Melliea Bay is Malta’s largest, and most popular beach. Located in the northwest scenic countryside of the mainland Malta, Mellieha is an attractive, family-friendly holiday destination.
On the outskirts of the village of Melliea is Mellieha Beach (or Gadira, that is the Arabic word for salt.) that has the largest stretch of white sandy shore on the Maltese Islands and its clear waters are shallow and calm, making it safe for children to swim.
The beach has been awarded Blue Flag status (because of its water quality, environmental management, safety and services, among other tourist-friendly features).
The picturesque village of Mellieha sits atop a hill that overlooks the rural landscapes of small farms and rocky, vine-covered hills. At the highest point in the village is the lovely Parish Church of Our Lady of Victory, with 19th-century Baroque architecture.
The church contains the Shipwreck of Saint Paul painting by famous artist Giuseppe Cali as well as a statue of The Virgin Mary that is honored during the annual Mellieha Village Feast, “Il-Viorja”.
Near the Parish Square is a mystical cave shrine dedicated to Madonna and the underground spring running through the cave is said to have miraculous healing powers.
Mellieha is also known for its beautiful bird sanctuaries in the Ghadira Nature Reserve, the Ghadira Bay, Armier Bay, St. Agatha’s Tower, and nearby Popeye’s Village. Mellieha’s luxurious hotels, incredible restaurants, and of course, its delightful architecture add to its beauty, appeal, and hospitality.
12. Rotunda of Mosta – home to the third largest rotunda dome in the world
The Rotunda of Mosta or the Mosta Dome, also referred to as the Sanctuary Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady, is a Roman Catholic parish church and Minor Basilica located in Mosta and dedicated to the Assumption of Mary.
This absolutely magnificent sight, with its spectacular dome that survived a bombing in World War II, is often known as the “Miracle of Mosta.” In April 1942, 300 people waited inside this beautiful church for mass to begin when a bomb was dropped by the Germans that fell through its dome, banged against its wall but failed to detonate.
The two other bombs that fell outside also didn’t go off, which is why this monument holds a special place in the hearts of the town’s locals, and a similar bomb is now displayed in a room at the back of the church.
When the small church in the town of Mosta became too small for its growing population, a famous architect Giorgio Vassé was brought in to design a replacement.
He based the building’s design on the Pantheon. With its 6 pillars at the front that framed the iconic done, the Rotunda took 28 years to complete.
The interiors are intricately designed with baby blue walls, gold detailing, and grooved pillars. The elaborate 37m limestone dome is the largest unsupported dome in the world outside of Italy and is truly magnificent and a pleasure to view.
13. Qawra – an attractive place to go in Malta
Qawra is a popular tourist resort in the northern region of Malta, on the peninsula between St. Paul’s Bay and Salina. Qawra is crowded with numerous hotels and restaurants, plenty of water sports activities, and gorgeous views that make it a holiday hotspot.
Its close proximity to St. Julian’s offers its guests easy access to Malta’s exciting nightlife.
At the tip of the wider St. Paul’s Bay area, Qawra’s historical watchtower overlooks the small bay area and is famous for bathing, swimming, and snorkeling.
Qawra’s promenade boasts breathtaking coastline views and the town is home to a beautiful parish church, dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi. Qawra’s Malta Classic Car Museum is definitely an interesting attraction but most of all, Qawra is known for its salt pans or is-Salini.
14. Popeye Village – a purpose-built film set village that has been converted into a small attraction fun park
Popeye Village, also called Sweethaven Village, is a film set village that has been converted into an attraction fun park. This charming Malta tourist attraction was originally a film set for the famous 1980s movie ‘Popeye’ starring Robin Williams and has become one of the top tourist attractions of Malta.
The seaside village consists of 20 wooden structures and rustic buildings and also has a beach, sunbathing decks, and a souvenir shop.
A trip to Popeye Village commences with greetings from Popeye, the sailor, and includes a tour of the village post office, bakery, firehouse, and other buildings. What better destination for families, especially with kids, than a trip to a real-life cartoon town.
15. Upper Barrakka Gardens – a beautiful attraction to visit in Malta
Upper Barrakka Gardens are the famous public gardens of Valletta. Located on the upper tier of St. Peter & Paul Bastion, which was built in the 1560s, the Upper Barrakka are gorgeous gardens with picturesque views. Along with the Lower Barrakka Gardens, they offer a panoramic view of the Grand Harbour.
Originally the private gardens and exercise grounds of the Knights, Upper Barrakka collonaded gardens were created in 1661 and lie close to Castille Place in the southeastern part of the city.
The garden terrace offers mesmerizing views of Malta and its natural harbour in the Mediterranean. The gardens are home to a collection of remarkable statues and plaques of significant people and events throughout Maltese history.
The most remarkable piece is ‘Les Gavroches,’ a bronze statue by famous Maltese sculptor, Antonio Sciortino that shows children rushing forward, with the statue signifying the hardships faced by the Maltese people in the 20th century.
This gorgeously manicured garden with its exquisite design is an extraordinary site that is definitely worth visiting!
With all of this to see and do, Malta is a perfect destination for any traveler. Whether you’re looking for an exotic getaway, a family vacation with plenty of cultures or something more adventurous like scuba diving in the Mediterranean Sea, it has everything from ancient historical attractions to wide sandy beaches.
What are you waiting for? Make your next travel plans now!
We also have posts on…
- The most beautiful places to visit in Italy
- The most beautiful places to visit in Greece
- The most beautiful places to visit in Turkey
- The most beautiful places to visit in Spain
- The most beautiful places to visit in Portugal
Michael Cowley – writer and photographer
Ever since he was knee-high to a grasshopper Michael has always had an affinity for adventure. Growing up he was lucky enough to live in a handful of exotic far flung locations including Hong Kong, Pakistan, Kenya and Tanzania and since then he’s continued seeking out new places and cultures. In his spare time he explores everywhere from the sizzling street markets in Bangkok to random back alleys in Sri Lanka and everything in between! He also has a special fondness for Cohibas, trying all kinds of street food, playing carrom with random strangers, and fine wine – he knows his clarets from his chiantis. He counts Cuba, Amsterdam, Indonesia, Goa, Cambodia and Italy as his favourite destinations. Find Michael on Instagram or Twitter.