Exploring Malta: Five Must Visit Places

Posted November 18, 2013 by Guest Blogger in Travel Lists

Malta isn’t always a country that gets much coverage as a destination for independent travel, but this little known country has an incredible history and packs in a massive variety of things to see and do within its 300 square kilometres.

Located in southern Europe just south of Sicily, the islands have seen various empires that have shaped and built them up, giving it the greatest density of historic sights of any country in the world. From massive megalithic temples that are considered to be the oldest, free-standing buildings in the world to medieval walled cities; neolithic temples that are older than the Egyptian pyramids to incredible Baroque parish churches; these are just the start of the historical sites you can pay a visit to. This, coupled with beautiful countryside and dreamy beaches with crystal blue waters make it a country well worth visiting. You could easily spend a few weeks in Malta immersing yourself in its history and discovering its secrets, but if you are short of time we have picked out five of what we consider to be “must visit” places:


Grand Harbour Valletta

Malta’s capital city and the 2018 European City of Culture, Valletta is the perfect place to spend a day strolling around and soaking up some of the history. Built by the Knights of St. John following the Great Siege of 1565, it is a fortified city that was designed to provide defense against future attacks. The city is easy to get around on foot at just one kilometer long and 600 meters wide, with many of its main sites around Republic Street which runs from City Gate, the city’s entranceway which is being transformed by renowned architect Renzo Piano to Fort St Elmo, the fortress built to guard the entrance to the Grand Harbor. The heart of the city is St. George’s Square, which is also the location of the elaborate Grand Master’s Palace.

Twisting around the narrow streets, your eyes will be drawn up to the beautiful galleriji, the painted, enclosed wooden balconies that hug the ancient buildings.

Head up to the Upper Barracca Gardens for the best views out over the Grand Harbour and Fort St. Angelo which is the oldest fort in Malta.

The Hypogeum


Discovered in 1899 with the remains of approximately 7000 bodies, historians are still questioning what the Hypogeum was used for. It is estimated that it was built sometime between 3600 and 2500BC and some historians believe that the site, which is made up of three underground levels, was built as kind of shrine.

Heritage Malta takes preservation of the site very seriously and only small groups are allowed in at once so it is wise to book tickets in advance. It is definitely one of the more unusual tours that you will take but this is a unique site that is more than worthy of its hype.


Malta’s ancient capital, Mdina, is a magical place to spend the afternoon. The walled city has a maze of narrow streets and alleyways that have a surprise around every corner and its beautiful limestone palazzos give it a feeling of an open air museum. Open to pedestrians only, the city is often referred to as the silent city. Mdina has a beautiful cathedral, packed with amazing architectural detail and fine artworks.

The best time to visit Mdina is in the evening when the tour groups have all gone and the noise from the outside world doesn’t creep through the thick city walls as the soft lights illuminating the city make it all the more magical.

Azure Window

Azure Window

One of the country’s most remarkable natural sites is the much-photographed Azure window. Located near Dwerja in Gozo, the natural arch was formed thousands of years ago after two limestone caves collapsed.  There are various ways of seeing the Azure Window but one of the best is to take a boat tour around it as getting closer to the waves that crash up against it makes it all the more dramatic. You can also get some great photos from scrambling around the nearby coastline at the top of the Dwerja cliffs.

Gozo Citadel

You can’t beat the 360 degree view of coastline that you get from the top of the Gozo Citadel and its sheer size means that it can be seen from anywhere else on the island. The site was first built around 1500BC but like many of the ancient sites in Malta, further developments were undertaken through the years. It is a site with a captivating story of tragedy when the Gozitans were forced by law to spend their evenings in the Citadel to keep safe from the continuous attacks from the Turks and Berbers. Sadly, in 1551, an attack by Dragut and the Turkish naval force was successful and around 5000 Gozitans were captured as slaves.

Nowadays, it still remains a living part of Gozo and as you wind your way around the various alleyways leading to the top, you will notice the houses and families that still live within the walls. Also hidden away within the Citadel are other various attractions, including the Law Courts, the Old Prisons, the Archaeological Museum and St Mary’s Cathedral.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, but hopefully these 5 sites have given you some food for thought and you might consider Malta for your next traveling adventure, whether it be a trip in itself or combined with other European destinations. We’re sure you won’t be disappointed!

This post comes from Tom and Claire, the editors of Malta travel guide Malta Holidays where you can discover more tips on what to do in this Mediterranean treasure trove! Follow them on Twitter or Facebook for regular updates.

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