Tucked between Sicily and the coast of North Africa, Malta is a small archipelago that boasts plenty of big reasons to visit. Not only do the islands get more than 300 days of sunshine per year, but the clear blue waters here are some of the cleanest in the Mediterranean. Malta has an incredible number of historical sites, the oldest of which date back to the neolithic period. You won't have any problem filling your days up, but here are the 25 best places to visit.
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The largest of the "Three Villages" in central Malta, Attard is a charming town that has historically been well known for its many fragrant citrus orchards. Today, many of these orchards are on private property, but visitors still flock here to see the beautiful San Anton Gardens. There are plenty of picturesque spots in the gardens to enjoy a walk or a picnic, but visitors also come for the annual Shakespeare Festival and the occasional floral competitions. Despite the town's small size, other notable attractions include a 17th-century palace, the Ta´Qali Market, and the remains of a 16-km-long aqueduct.
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Also known by the name Città Vittoriosa, Birgu is the oldest of Eastern Malta's three fortified cities. It's located right in the Grand Harbor, and because of this has a rich maritime and military history. The city is surrounded by fortified walls, but can be entered through three different gates. Historical attractions here include the Notre Dame Gate, Fort St. Angelo, and the Inquisitor's Palace, which was the seat of the Inquisition on the island for more than 200 years. There are also several worthwhile museums, including the Malta Maritime Museum and the Malta at War Museum.
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Only 8 miles away from the Maltese capital, Birzebbuga is a popular seaside resort town. Many visitors come here for the sandy beach of Pretty Bay, which offers plenty of restaurants, shops, and other tourist amenities, but the rocky beach of St. George’s Bay is popular with snorkelers, sailors, and fishermen. However, there's more to the town than the beaches; Birzebbuga has a long and colorful history, and visitors can explore pieces of history such as the Farretti Coastal Battery, entrenchments from the 1500s, and archaeological sites that date back to the neolithic period and the Bronze Age.
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Located on the northern coast of the island, Bugibba is a well-developed resort town that has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. The town doesn't have as much history as some other places on the island, but there are plenty of restaurants and hotels as well as a bustling nightlife scene, a casino, and companies offering SCUBA diving trips. Another popular activity in the town is visiting the promenade, which goes all the way from Salina Bay to St Paul’s Bay and offers beautiful views, excellent swimming, and entertainment options for all ages.
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Another of the three fortified cities in Eastern Malta, Cospicua is located on the east side of the Grand Harbor and sometimes goes by the name of Bormla. Although now filled with excellent examples of traditional Maltese architecture, the city has been inhabited since neolithic times, and visitors can learn about its history in the Bir Mula Heritage Museum. For visitors interested in the city's more recent history, attractions include the fortifications that surround the city, known as the Cottonera Lines, and a 17th-century church that's well known for having somehow survived the destructive bombings of World War II.
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A small farming community until the 1960s, Fgura is now an important commercial center with one of the largest population densities in the country. Despite being more of a residential town than a tourist destination, the area has its fair share of attractions and is an enjoyable place for visitors to spend a few days. The Reggie Miller Gardens and Patri Regent Gauci Gardens are both worth a visit, and anyone interested in architecture will enjoy the parish church, which is one of the most unique on the island as it was built in the shape of a tent.
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Although it was originally meant to be a suburb of the capital city Valletta, Floriana quickly became a town in its own right. Located on the waterfront, it's known as the "Gate to Valletta" and is located within easy walking distance of the capital. The streets are lined with cafes and restaurants, many of which sell freshly caught fish dinners, but there's more to the town than its culinary scene. Highlights include the parish church, the Wignacourt Water Tower, and the beautiful Argotti Gardens, which have been a highlight of the city since they were created by knights during the 1700s.
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Home to Malta's largest fishing harbor, Marsaxlokk is a small yet picturesque fishing village with just over 3,200 inhabitants. An open-air market can be found in the harbor, where the water is usually dotted with plenty of colorful boats known as luzzus. There are also four beautiful coves in the village, which offer excellent snorkeling and swimming. However, it's worth coming here for the food alone; the town boasts some of the best seafood restaurants in all of Malta. Freshly caught fish is also sold directly to the public at the Marsaxlokk Market, which takes place every Sunday morning.
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The Maltese capital until the 16th century, Mdina is a walled medieval town with a population of less than 300 people. Set on top of a plateau, the town offers incredible views of the island and the Mediterranean. The streets are extremely pedestrian-friendly and very few cars are permitted to pass through the gates, which has led to the town sometimes being referred to as the "Silent City." Visitors can also admire the well-preserved Norman and baroque architecture, wander through the town's charming lamp-lit streets after dark, or visit the Cathedral Museum, one of the best religious museums in Europe.
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Perched on a ridge overlooking both St Paul's Bay and Mellieha Bay, Mellieha is a resort town that has managed to retain an authentic, local feel. Many people are drawn here by the white sandy beaches, which are widely acknowledged as some of the best on the island, but there are more things to do here than swim and sunbathe. Plenty of walking trails wind through the surrounding countryside, leading to beautiful viewpoints and affording the opportunity to get a glimpse of some of the many colorful birds and protected species of animals that inhabit the area.
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One of the most populated Maltese cities, Mosta is conveniently located near the center of the island. The primary attraction in the town is the Mosta Dome, also known as the Rotunda, which is one of the largest church domes in the entire world. The church is also notable for having had a bomb pierce the roof during World War II; the bomb landed in the middle of a congregation of people, but did not explode. Other tourist attractions include the lush San Anton Gardens, the Malta Aviation Museum, and a network of catacombs that date back to the 4th century AD.
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Encompassing 11 square kilometers in Northern Malta, Naxxar is a charming village whose inhabitants have retained much of their traditional culture and customs. An enjoyable day can be spent simply wandering through the town's narrow streets, visiting the town chapels, or relaxing in the public gardens, but anyone interested in art or architecture should make time to stop by the elaborate 19th-century Palazzo Parisio & Gardens. The town has plenty of restaurants and cafes as well as several pleasant wine bars, but the true culinary highlight here is the village feast held every year on September 8th.
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Originally developed to attract British tourists, Qawra is a lovely seaside resort town with plenty of hotels and other tourist amenities. There are no sandy beaches in the town, but people can still swim and sunbathe near the water thanks to the many large rocks on the shore. The area also offers the opportunity to try many different watersports, including snorkeling, SCUBA diving, banana boating, jet skiing, and kayaking. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes in the town, and visitors looking for a night out will find a vibrant nightlife scene complete with nightclubs, bars, and casinos.
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Like many other towns in Malta, Qormi has been inhabited since the Bronze Age. However, the city really sprang to life during the Middle Ages; the main attractions today are from the 1400s, including the beautiful Church of St. George. Qormi also used to be the biggest bread production center in the country, and it is still widely acknowledged as the producer of the best bread in Malta and a great place to try traditional bread-based dishes. The town is also notable for hosting many festivals throughout the year, including a wine festival, a bread festival, and the Malta Spring Fest.
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Rabat was a suburb of Mdina when it was the capital city, but it is now a separate village located only a few minutes away from the old capital on foot. One of the most interesting things to see here is St. Paul's Grotto, a cave in the moat around the city where the saint allegedly lived after being shipwrecked. From here, an underground tunnel leads to the Wignacourt Museum, which houses various pieces of artwork and antique furniture. Also worth a visit are the catacombs of St. Paul and St. Agatha, which were used as a cemetery during Roman times.
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Sitting on a peninsula in the Grand Harbor, Senglea is the smallest Maltese town by land area and the third of the Three Cities. The local church is one of the biggest sights; dedicated to "Our Lady of Victories," it was destroyed completely during the Second World War but later rebuilt. Anyone looking for a bit of relaxation or for excellent views of the Grand Harbor can visit the beautiful Gardjola Gardens. There are also several interesting statues to see in the town, including the famed statue of Jesus Christ the Redeemer and the Madonna tan-Nofs statue.
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Located in the south of Malta, Siggiewi is a charming village with narrow streets, beautiful architecture, and an authentic atmosphere. The bay of Ghar Lapsi is one of the biggest attractions in the area; it offers an interesting cave, sparkling blue-green waters, and excellent views from the cliffs. Another interesting sight is the prime minister's official residence, which was built in 1625 and was formerly the summer home of the Maltese Inquisitor. The village is a pleasant destination all year round, but it's especially lively in June, when a week-long feast is held in honor of St. Nicholas, the town's patron saint.
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One of the most modern towns in Malta, Sliema is a popular tourist destination with many different hotels, restaurants, bars, and shops. The town is located on a peninsula right across the water from the capital city Valletta and offers great views of the city and of the surrounding Mediterranean Sea. There are plenty of beaches for swimming and sunbathing, and there are even a few diving schools for anyone interested in the sport. A promenade known as the Sliema Front runs along the shore, and is an excellent place for a daytime walk or a romantic moonlit stroll.
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Named in honor of its patron saint, St. Julian's is located just north of Valletta and is an excellent place to base yourself for day trips of the surrounding area. The town was formerly a fishing village, but it has seamlessly developed into a popular tourist destination with plenty of authentic charm. It also offers the biggest nightlife scene in Malta, but there are plenty of family-friendly entertainment options as well. During the day, popular activities include relaxing in Ballutta Square, visiting the boatyards, going to the water to sunbathe and swim, and exploring the stunning Spinola Palace and Gardens.
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20.St. Paul's Bay
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St. Paul's Bay is the largest resort town in Northern Malta, and it can be divided into four distinct areas: Xemxija, Bugibba, Qawra, and the Old Town. Each area has its own attractions; Xemxija offers a peaceful fishing harbor, Bugibba is known for its lively nightlife, and the Old Town and Qawra are home to plenty of hotels and restaurants. The beach is mostly rocky, but this doesn't stop visitors from jumping in the water and lounging in the sun. The area is great for snorkeling and SCUBA diving as well, and there are plenty of diving schools for visitors to choose from.
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Famous for having been built by the Knights of St John, Valletta is the capital city of Malta and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city sits on a tiny peninsula, but it has plenty of tourist attractions despite its small size. The oldest buildings here date from the 16th century; visitors should try to see the Grandmaster's Palace, St. John’s Cathedral, and the Casa Rocca Piccola. Other popular activities include relaxing in the beautiful Barrakka Gardens, strolling along the waterfront, catching a performance at the 18th-century Manoel Theatre, and visiting the city's many fascinating museums.
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Sometimes called Città Hompesch, Zabbar is a relatively large city in the southeastern part of Malta. There are several beautiful churches for visitors to admire, including the Church of Our Lady of Graces and the Annunciation Church. The Hompesch Gate is another popular spot with tourists; it was erected in honor of Malta's last Grandmaster, who granted Zabbar city status in 1797. The city is also an excellent place to base yourself for day trips of the surrounding area, as it offers a wide range of accommodation and is located within easy driving distance of many attractions.
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As one of the oldest towns in the country, Zebbug has a rich history that goes all the way back to prehistoric times. A number of Phoenician tombs have been found in the area, and the town was one of the most important in Malta when the country was under the rule of the knights. Nowhere is this importance more visible than in the parish church, which is dedicated to St. Philip and lavishly decorated with beautiful paintings and sculptures. A feast is held every June in honor of St. Philip; it's worth attending to marvel at the fireworks and the parade.
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Zejtun was named after the many olive trees found in the area; the city used to be one of Malta's top producers of olive oil, and it still hosts the popular Olive Festival at the end of every September to celebrate the olive harvest. Another important event is the Feast of St. Catherine, which takes place every summer. The best churches to visit are the stunning Parish Church of St Catherine, designed by the famous architect Lorenzo Gafa, and the Church of St Gregory, which was formerly used as a watch tower and contains several secret passages.
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One of the oldest towns in all of Malta, Zurrieq offers visitors plenty to see and do. Because of the city's long history, visitors can ogle at ruins and relics that date back to the Bronze Age, the time of the Romans, and the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. There are a number of different chapels scattered throughout the city, but one of the best is the Parish Church of St. Catherine, which is arguably one of the most beautiful churches in Malta. Other significant attractions include the Xarolla Windmill, the Nigret Palace, and the Wardija Tower.
25 Best Places to Visit in Malta
- Attard, Photo: Courtesy of carinthian - Fotolia.como
- Birgu, Photo: Courtesy of Alex Green - Fotolia.com
- Birzebbuga, Photo: Courtesy of agnieszkawr - Fotolia.com
- Bugibba, Photo: Courtesy of Andrey Shevchenko - Fotolia.com
- Cospicua, Photo: Courtesy of fottoo - Fotolia.com
- Fgura, Photo: Courtesy of Stephan Sühling - Fotolia.com
- Floriana, Photo: Courtesy of Maurice Tricatelle - Fotolia.com
- Marsaxlokk, Photo: Courtesy of Freesurf - Fotolia.com
- Mdina, Photo: Courtesy of Calin Stan - Fotolia.com
- Mellieha, Photo: Courtesy of Ionut David - Fotolia.com
- Mosta, Photo: Courtesy of gallas - Fotolia.com
- Naxxar, Photo: Courtesy of JC DRAPIER - Fotolia.com
- Qawra, Photo: Courtesy of allard1 - Fotolia.com
- Qormi, Photo: Courtesy of Andrea Seemann - Fotolia.com
- Rabat, Photo: Courtesy of arkanto - Fotolia.com
- Senglea, Photo: Courtesy of Alizada Studios - Fotolia.com
- Siggiewi, Photo: Courtesy of JC DRAPIER - Fotolia.com
- Sliema, Photo: Courtesy of Fred - Fotolia.com
- St. Julian's, Photo: Courtesy of elephotos - Fotolia.com
- St. Paul's Bay, Photo: Courtesy of photobeginner - Fotolia.com
- Valletta, Photo: Courtesy of Anton Zelenov - Fotolia.com
- Zabbar, Photo: Courtesy of Andrea Seemann - Fotolia.com
- Zebbug, Photo: Courtesy of tilialucida - Fotolia.com
- Zejtun, Photo: Courtesy of Rudolf Tepfenhart - Fotolia.com
- Zurrieq, Photo: Courtesy of Debu55y - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of allard1 - Fotolia.com