When I booked a week in Malta, I worried that it would be too long. The internet was full of “3 days in Malta” and “How to spend a weekend in Malta” articles. These showed how you could hit three or four big sights each day and were great itineraries for short breaks but didn’t seem to allow any time for relaxing. They also didn’t seem to account for any of the pesky frustrations and challenges of getting around Malta.
So here’s A Brummie Home and Abroad guide on how to see the best of Malta in a week (or technically six days, excluding arrival day…)
Day 1 – Valletta
We spent our first day exploring the capital city of Valletta. It’s a relatively small city, and the old town is easily walkable so the main sights are definitely doable in a single day. We arrived by way of ferry from Sliema after “bus challenges” and it would be easy to combine your time in Valletta with the seafront town of Sliema. In Valletta itself, visit St Johns Co-Cathedral, the Lower and Upper Barraka Gardens and take a ferry over to the Three Cities. Alternatively just spent your time weaving through the streets, spotting the beautiful architecture and iconic balconies and doors so beloved of Malta.
Getting to Valletta: The capital is served by buses from all over the island and the bus station lies just outside the city gates – make sure you leave enough time to find your bus bay! All bus numbers under 100 go to and from Valletta. You can also get the ferry from Sliema which is a great way to get views of the Valletta skyline. Driving into Valletta is not recommended, but there is a park and ride at Pembroke, about 9km outside of the city.
Day 2: Gozo
It’s definitely worth the trip over to Gozo, one of the main islands which make up the Maltese peninsula. We followed a handy driving tour from the Marco Polo guidebook which took us to the major sights. Explore the church of Xewjika, see temples and windmills, have a seaside lunch at Masalforn, visit the citadel of Victoria, dip your toes in the sea at Ramla Beach or Xlendi Bay and spot where the Azure Window used to be at Dwerja. It’s much easier to drive around than Malta, although we did see a quad bike tour that looked like great fun and would be a great option if you wanted to visit the island with a guide.
Getting to Gozo: Ferries leave regularly from Cirkewwa on the northern tip of Malta, and it’s a pleasant 30 minute cruise to Mgarr harbour. It’s just under 16€ for a car and driver, or 4,60€ per passenger/foot passenger. If you’re not driving there are bus services from all over Malta to Cirkewwa, and then from Mgarr all over Gozo, including hop-on, hop-off sightseeing buses.
Day 3: Beach day at Golden Bay
Malta doesn’t have many traditional sandy beaches, but there are a few notable ones in the north. Mellieha Bay is one of the main resorts in the region but we found ourselves stuck in a traffic jam due to a Maltese national holiday as everyone piled to the beach so we ended up at Golden Bay instead. Located on the north east of the island, it’s a popular choice, with – as it’s name suggests – golden sands and plenty of amenities, both at the beach and at the access road above. Make sure you get there before midday to snag yourself a sunbed, we paid 14€ for two sunbeds and an umbrella.
Getting to Golden Bay: Buses stop at Għajn Tuffieħa Bus Terminus for Golden Bay. However as this is a popular beach in summer, expect the buses to be very packed. There’s also ample free parking, we parked in an overflow car park about 5 minutes walk from the bay but there are closer spots if you get there early.
Day 4: Marsaxlokk, Blue Grotto and St Peters Pool
Marsaxlokk is that fishing village shown on the front of every guidebook for Malta, with its brightly coloured fishing boats bobbing around in the harbour. There’s also a small beach and loads of places to stop for lunch – we returned for dinner the following evening. From Marsaxlokk, we went to Blue Grotto and St Peters Pool, although geographically it would be better to do these in the reverse order. At Blue Grotto you can take a 20 minute boat ride through the caves where the water shimmers between cobalt and azure and light is reflected of the white sandy seabed below. We then drove back through Marsaxlokk to St Peters Pool, a natural inlet surrounded by limestone rocks. Considering its location it’s a popular spot; you can either plunge from the rocks into the pool or take the more sedate way in from a couple of ladders dotted around the edge.
Getting to Marsaxlokk, St Peters Pool and Blue Grotto: As with the other resorts, buses run to Marsaxlokk from Valletta and St Julians. There is seafront parking available and a large car park on the left hand side of the bay near tourist information. It will be particularly busy on a Sunday morning when the main market takes place.
There is a pedestrian route up to St Peters Pool from Marsaxlokk, but it looked like a lot of hard work in hot weather! We drove a winding narrow road, and parked in a “local enterprise” for 2€ but there is also parking available on the main road at the top of the cliff.
For the Blue Grotto, head for Wied iż-Żurrieq; this is where the boats depart from, and -unusually for Malta – is reasonably well sign-posted. There are direct buses from Valletta and Rabat
Day 5: Mdina and Rabat
These neighbouring towns are a must-see during a visit to Malta. Mdina is a walled city – but not completely car-free as some articles would have you believe – which transports you to a more peaceful time. You can get walking tours which point out the highlights, or take a horse-drawn carriage tour, or just wander around the narrow streets and alleyways. Make sure you get a gelato from Fior di Latte, and a slice of cake from Fontanella Tea Gardens (where we returned for dinner on our final evening). Rabat is more of a locals town, and none more so than on a festival weekend; we were there to help celebrate the Feast of St Paul’s and it gave a noisy and vibrant atmosphere to what is apparently usually a sedate and peaceful town.
Getting to Mdina and Rabat: Mdina is on a plateau and is visible from many areas of Malta so if you’re driving, head for Triq Mdina. Mdina and Rabat share a bus station and car park, although you will be expected to tip the attendants in the main car park. We drove past the car park and found an on-street parking spot on Triq Tat-Tabija, a short walk uphill to St Paul’s Piazza in Rabat. You can get buses direct from Valletta, Bugibba, St Paul’s Bay, St Julians and Sliema.
Day 6: Boat trip to the Blue Lagoon
Off the coast of Comino, the Blue Lagoon is a beautiful bay of turquoise waters with a small white sandy beach. Don’t get carried away with visions of paradise islands and isolation though – the reality is that the beach and lower rocks are choc-a-bloc with sunbeds and umbrellas and the cliffs are lined with fast food shacks and stalls selling cocktails in a pineapple. A little more peaceful is the Crystal Lagoon; the bay is only accessible for smaller boats so it’s less likely to be swarming with people and there are spectacular views of the clear waters from the cliffs above
Getting to the Blue Lagoon: We opted for a boat cruise with English Rose Cruises which was 13€ per person from Mellieha Bay; this can be pre-booked via their website. There are plenty of other day cruises, and all of the main resorts have stands selling their tours. There are also ferries from Cirkewwa at the nothernmost tip of Malta or Marfa in Gozo to the Blue Lagoon which are frequent and cost around 10€ per person.
So that’s how A Brummie Home and Abroad spends a week in Malta. Nightlife recommendations are few and far between: we spent a couple of evenings in St Paul’s Bay and Buggiba as they were our closest resort, but most days we were happy to have dinner somewhere and then chill for the evening back at our guesthouse. I hope this is useful if you’re planning a Malta visit any time soon, keep your eyes peeled for my day by day travel Diaries, coming soon!