Hi! The title of this post could’ve been catchier I realise, but what it actually is – is 100% honest. I could’ve called it ‘The Ultimate Guide to Malta’ or ‘Top 10 Things to do in Malta’ or something SEO-y like that (yes, obviously I get why other travel bloggers do it) but I’m calling bullsh*t on people pretending to know everything about a place when they’ve been once!
This is a personal pet peeve of mine because I work in the travel publishing industry and I’m currently working with a lot of bloggers… so the first thing I’ll always check is what posts they have about Amsterdam. Most of them are complete crap (#sorrynotsorry) so it’s a very quick way for me to separate the wheat from the chaff…
Anyway, small industry rant over!
Full disclaimer: I’ve been to Malta three times. Therefore I *do* know more than the average bear… but I’m no expert. Nor do I profess to be. These are my tips for Malta, ones I’d give to family or friends who are going on holiday there. Things I did and thought were awesome, without a side of bs.
Where to stay in Malta:
I’ve stayed in 3 different places in Malta:
The Waterfront Hotel, Sliema – 4 star (apparently – it’s more like 3 tbh). Great views and cocktails. Rooftop bar / pool, but the pool itself is teeny. Would recommend it if you want to be close to St Julian’s but not stay in St Julian’s… or if you want to be close to Valletta but not stay in Valletta 😉
db Seabank Resort and Spa, Mellieha – another 4 star but this one probably does deserve 4 (at least it did when we last visited). It’s an all-inclusive resort though, which I DO NOT recommend. The food in Malta is soooooo goooood you do not want to be all inclusive! Good location, very close to Mellieha Bay and Popeye Village (more on those later).
Pergola Hotel and Spa, Mellieha – also 4 star but more like 3. Great location and views, but it’s a very noisy hotel. (Especially where we stayed which was right by reception.) Great full English breakfast in the on-site cafe.
Conclusion: I personally wouldn’t stay in any of these hotels again as I like trying new places, however I do recommend Mellieha as a base. I recently helped my Mum and Dad book a trip to Malta and they’re going to the Maritim Antonine Hotel & Spa which looks awesome! (I haven’t stayed there myself but it’s very close to the Pergola hotel, so we walked past it pretty much every day on our last trip. The rooftop restaurant looks ace!)
If you don’t fancy that, there are plenty of other hotels and Airbnb properties in Mellieha! Just make sure you read lots (and lots and lots) of reviews before booking.
What to do in Mellieha:
So, if you’ve listened to my advice 😉 you’ll be basing yourself in the north of the island in Mellieha. Good choice! I’ll start there first, and then give some tips for the rest of the island.
As I’ve already mentioned, there are fantastic views from The Pergola Hotel (if you’re a non-resident you can still visit the bar/restaurant), same goes for Maritim Antonine Hotel & Spa.
You can also get a fab view from Sea View Café – they do simple food like sandwiches and salads, plus lots of cocktails.
One80 Kitchen and Lounge have the most amazing Octopus carpaccio… hands down one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted in my life. I’d go back to Malta just for that tbh. The scallop and prawn dish was also top-notch. I didn’t get a photo of that as I devoured it in about 10 seconds flat!
Ocean Bar for the best fish & chips I’ve had in a long time. They have a gluten free version too! The bar looks a bit ropey from the outside, but the owners are really friendly and it’s so worth it for the food!! Very budget friendly too!
Debbie’s Café is a good bet for brunch if you want an avocado based meal. If you want a full English, the one at the Pergola Hotel and Spa is better.
We also ate at Rebekah’s restaurant… which was a bit stuffy, overpriced and disappointing and at Bouquet Garni (no website) where we had amazing seafood platters which were really reasonably priced… but the lighting was bad so no pictures. Soz.
There’s a bar/restaurant at Mellieha Bay called Munchies, I’ve never eaten there but it’s nice for drinks if you can get a table on the terrace.
We also liked Charlie’s Bar. It’s a bit of a dive bar and it’s popular with local expats, but everyone was really friendly and we loved the pub quiz (every Thursday night). We even won the 90’s pop quiz! Score!!
See & Do
Parish Church of Mellieha – also known as The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mellieha is a beautiful highlight of Mellieha. You can’t miss it, literally!
It’ll be in pretty much all of your Mellieha photos, it’s such an iconic building perched on the hilltop. It’s also worth exploring the beautiful gardens for the amazing views. I’ve never been inside the church, but I’m told it’s spectacular so that’s on my to-do list for next time!
Popeye Village / Anchor Bay is well worth a visit. (There’s no need to visit Popeye Village itself unless you’re with kids. The film set from the 1980 film has been turned into an open air museum / theme park). Depending on where you’re staying in Mellieha you can either walk here or take the bus. More info on their website.
Hopefully this photo explains why you should go there:
Paradise Bay – I’d like to say it does what it says on the tin, but in the interests of remaining 100% honest… it’s not exactly paradise. I mean it’s nice, but if you want paradise beaches you probably need to go to Thailand…
Anyway, it’s still lovely and well worth a visit, even if the name is a bit over-confident 😉 And it’s easy to reach by bus!
Ghajn Tuffieha Bay / Golden Bay are next to each other, so if you visit one, you might as well visit t’other! Again, very easy to reach by bus and the views are beautiful…
Red Tower (St Agatha’s Tower)
Much like Mellieha Church, you can see the Red Tower from most places in Mellieha. If you like hiking, it’s well worth the climb to see the tower close up. If you plan your visit around the opening times, you can also get a magnificent view from the tower itself.
More info on St Agatha’s Tower website. It can also be reached by car or by bus, the closest bus stop is Qammieh.
What to do elsewhere on Malta:
There are SO many places to go on the island – so it really depends how much time you have and your priorities. But here are some of my faves:
Comino & Gozo – if you have time, I highly recommend taking a boat trip to Malta’s sister islands. Unfortunately, Gozo’s main tourist attraction, the Azure Window, is no more after severe storms in March 2017. But it’s still worth a visit. Gozo has a lot more going on, however many people still visit the site of the former Azure Window and the nearby Blue Hole. (I’m also making a mental note to explore more of Gozo on my next trip…)
Comino is really all about the Blue Lagoon. It can become really over-crowded in the summer months, so try to go in winter or shoulder season if you can. And if you must go in summer, then at least try to avoid the weekends.
Sliema – we loved our first visit to Sliema, but after visiting Mellieha, the north has won our hearts. Sliema is still well worth a visit though. There’s cool street art, some lovely bars and restaurants, plus it’s an ideal location if you want to be close to St Julian’s and/or Valletta. (Tip: for cheap and cheerful Thai food, go to Good Thaimes! Props for the name too…)
The best place for lively nightlife is St Julian’s / Paceville… so stay away if you’re not into that! There are also several casinos. It was a little while back, but our favourite place in St Julian’s was Fresco’s Cafe & Restaurant. (Happy to see it still has great reviews on Trip Advisor!)
Marsaxlokk is fantastic if you like seafood. There’s a fish market every Sunday, but seriously, who wants to cook when they’re on holiday? A few years back we went to Tartarun Fish Restaurant which is apparently still a good shout (Number 2 of 48 seafood restaurants in Marsaxlokk). Looks like it’s a bit pricier these days, but when we went it was worth every penny. Make sure you book!
If you do go to Marsaxlokk, you might as well also go to St Peter’s Pool too, as it’s close by. It’s not a beach – more like a rocky pool as the name suggests. When we visited loads of people were jumping off the rocks – even the Dutchie had a go! (I’m a wuss, so I did not!!)
St Peter’s Pool is no secret (unfortunately) so try to avoid the weekends if you can, otherwise it’ll be crazy busy. It’s also a bit of a pain in the arse to get to (we ended up spending a lot on taxis that day!) so if you can I would suggest hiring a car and driving yourself.
Mdina also known as the Silent City is Malta’s old capital – it dates back more than 4,000 years! You could spend hours wandering around the narrow, cobbled streets… and we actually did. This ancient walled city is tipped as one of Europe’s finest examples with its stunning mix of Baroque and Medieval architecture. My tip for Mdina is Fontanella Tea Gardens – you will thank me later for the views 🙂 🙂
Valletta for the historic stuff… I’ve left Valletta until last when I’m sure most people would’ve put this top of the list. After all it is the European Capital of Culture for 2018 and Malta’s capital city. I wasn’t a massive fan, I found it all a bit samey tbh… but you can’t go to the country without visiting the capital, right?
Food & Drink – Maltese specialties
Make sure you try pastizzi on your trip. As Malta’s national snack, they’re widely available at cafes and bakeries. They’re basically filo pastry filled with either ricotta or mushy peas. But which is your favourite? You’ll have to try both! 🙂
A Maltese platter is always a good idea – and it almost always come with bigilla (a broad bean dip) which is surprisingly awesome. I mean, it’s a bean dip. BUT IT’S SO DAMN GOOOOOD.
One of the other famous dishes is rabbit. It’s on the menu at most restaurants in some shape or form. I had rabbit pasta twice on my first trip to Malta (ohhhhh, the good old days when I could still eat gluten… *sob*) and it was freaking delicious.
To be fair, all the food in Malta is just bloody amazing… so just go and eat everything! (Ps – I’m jealous!)
The local drinks are Cisk beer (pronounced “chisk”) and Kinnie which is kind of like coke. I say kind of because it’s bittersweet and has an orangy tang. It’s probably not for everyone, but I love it!
I can’t eat many desserts, coz y’know, lactose and gluten are in pretty much every dessert… dammit. But what they do well in Malta is sorbet. Mmmmmm, lemon sorbet. For an extra kick, sometimes I’d also order limoncello liqueur and pour it on over! I got the idea from one80 Kitchen (mentioned earlier) when they served a limoncello slush puppie at the end of the meal. Yum!!
Car hire: We’ve never hired a car in Malta, but obviously if you want to see and do a lot it’s probably a good idea! Seeing as I have no experience, I’ll let you Google that one for yourself 🙂
Taxis: On our first trip to Malta we took LOTS of taxis. (Tbf it was our 1 year wedding anniversary so we were celebrating!) But they’re flipping expensive and it certainly adds up. Not recommended unless you’re on a Kardashian budget!
Bus: If you don’t mind being a bus w*nker (and if you get that joke – you have very good taste in British TV shows!!) then it is definitely the cheapest way to get around! It costs €1.50 per journey in the winter to any destination, within two hours. So depending on how far you’re going, it can also serve as a return ticket. In the summer it’s €2 per journey for night buses it’s €3. You can find more info on the Malta Public Transport website.
Tour buses: I DO NOT recommend the hop-on-hop-off tourist buses. We did that once in Gozo and had a very bad experience. The driver was a maniac, you couldn’t see any of the sights from the bus – so it was hard to know when and where to get out and the roads are so narrow and unsuitable for buses that we kept getting hit by tree branches etc while on the top deck. Don’t bother!
When to visit:
We have visited in August and twice in January. August was waaaaaay too hot for our liking, so I wouldn’t recommend that. Probably the perfect time to visit would be in shoulder season – e.g. April/May or September/October. But we’ve always had a great time visiting in January. Sure, the weather’s not perfect as it’s still technically winter there, but it’s a damn sight better than the winter in Holland or the UK!
So there you have it: my personal tips for Malta… now if you don’t mind me I’m off to torture myself by looking at flights to Luqa on Skyscanner.
Have you been to Malta? What was your favourite thing to do / eat / drink / see?