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Here are some of the best things to do in Valletta, Malta, and the immediate surrounding area. This list should give you a good flavour of this intriguing honey-coloured fortress city, and how to make the most of it even if you’re only there for a short break.
Valletta is the capital of Malta. It stands proud on the ocean, rising up on the skyline in a mish-mash of Baroque architecture. The city is a photographer’s dream, overflowing with colourful doors and balconies, pots of flowers, and little cobbled streets. And although it’s not as well known as some of the European capitals, it became the European Capital of Culture for 2018, which really increased its popularity with visitors. The whole city is also listed as a UNESCO Heritage Site, given its wealth of history. Its churches, museums and palaces are all crammed into a very small space as Valletta is only 1km long and 600m wide. This makes it one of Europe’s teeniest capitals. So this means you can easily explore the city in a couple of days and also head out to see what’s just nearby.
Speaking of nearby, in this post I’ve also covered the Three Cities area, which is not actually in Valletta’s city walls but only a stone’s throw away. The Three Cities are a trio of (tiny) ‘cities’ built in close proximity to each other around the Grand Harbour, which separates them from Valletta. The Three Cities are only five minutes in a water taxi from the capital, so it’s dead easy to see both areas in one short trip.
If all this sounds up your street, read on for more detail on things to do in Valletta and beyond…
Things to do in Valletta, Malta: background information
First, I should probably warn you that I didn’t really like Malta. There are plenty of things to do there, and I enjoyed some of the things in Valletta. And you might love it, so I’m still writing about it. But it just wasn’t my cup of tea for various reasons. I’ll explain more on that at the end of the post. Apologies if you love Malta and now hate me.
Second, it’s useful to know a bit about Valletta’s background before you go. Mainly that everything revolves around Grand Masters and Knights. They really are the running theme throughout the country. The Knights of Malta were (and still are) a Roman Catholic military order under its own Papal charter, set up in the 11th century. They’re the reason there are so many historical buildings and things crammed into little Malta and Valletta itself. If you’re into history, you’ll probably enjoy reading up on them and their influence while you plan your trip.
Finally, the other important piece of background info is that the Three Cities near Valletta have two sets of names. Presumably, this was designed to confuse tourists. They’re simultaneously called Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua, as well as Il-Birgu, L-Isla and Bormla. Note that down.
Right, vital background info out of the way. On with the list of things to do in Valletta…
Things to do in Valletta, Malta: in the city
1. Stroll down Republic Street
As I mentioned in the intro, Valletta is really small. And Malta is the most densely populated EU country. Add tourists into the mix and it makes for a rather crowded epicentre. This goes some way to explaining why Republic Street, the main drag in Valletta, tends to be absolutely heaving. But it’s worth elbowing the other tourists aside to walk down it once or twice during your trip.
Republic Street stretches from the City Gate down to Fort St Elmo, on the waterfront. It’s lined with the classic Maltese yellow-coloured buildings, featuring shops, restaurants and some of the main attractions in the city. If you want to take in the architecture and get some decent photos, you’re best off heading here in the early morning to avoid the crowds.
Despite the hordes, it can be quite easy to get away from everyone. Turn down a side street and you may find it deserted. I had this happen every time I tried it in Valletta. And I’ve never been anywhere quite like that before, to be honest. Even in Venice, when you sort of escape the crowds down a side street you’ve usually still got a few others around. In Valletta, I could walk for 10 minutes and see no one until I turned back onto Republic Street. Surreal. Try it for yourself and please do report back to me if you have the same odd experience, or perhaps I was just losing the plot.
2. Do a (free) walking tour – one of the best things to do in Valletta on your first day
I always recommend starting any city break with a walking tour, preferably a free one, to get your bearings. There’s no better way to get to grips with both the layout and the feel of a new place. A walking tour is also really good if you’re only there for a short break because it’ll give you an overview of the big sights. And you can then go back and see the ones that appeal the most in more detail afterwards.
I recommend the free walking tour from Colour My Travel for when you’re in Valletta. This tour lasts about 90 minutes and runs twice a week: Saturdays at 10am and Wednesdays at 5pm. It meets at the city gate. But do check the website before you go, just in case. Obviously, it’s free but you should give a tip to the guide at the end. They take you around churches, gardens, the Castellana, the cathedral, the Grand Master’s Palace and other big sights.
If you can’t make the free tour, there are a few options for affordable paid ones. Here are some ideas:
- Private walking tour with a local (£25; 3 hours) – If you want to guarantee not having to make small talk with any other tourists, you can pay a bit more for a guide all to yourself.
- Small-group walking tour (£13; 2 hours) – If you can put up with other people for a bit, this is the best value.
- ‘Dark side’ walking tour (£21; 3 hours) – If you fancy something a bit different, this is a ghost walk in the evening, going around Valletta’s spooky sights. A bit like being in Edinburgh but without the rain.
3. Admire the gold and marble wildness in Saint John’s Co-Cathedral
I’m usually not into going into religious buildings on holiday. I tend to get really ‘churched-out’ on a lot of European city breaks (looking at you, literally anywhere in Italy). But it’s definitely worth popping into Saint John’s Co-Cathedral.
First off, it’s called the Co-Cathedral because it shares its duties with St Paul’s Cathedral in Mdina. Apparently, quite a few cathedrals share their duties with another one, but this is the only one I’ve ever come across that actually makes it clear in its name. I appreciate its honesty.
Anyway, it looks pretty nondescript from the outside. But the inside is really full-on marble and gold, and full of artwork. Many of the paintings inside were donated by Grand Masters and Knights back in the day. The whole thing is one big ‘wow’.
There are some downsides, though. You might have to suffer some annoying queues, which can be a pain in busy periods. And like with many religious buildings, you also have to cover your knees and shoulders to get in. The shoulders thing only applies to women, typically. Good to see sexism is alive and well. Luckily my usual attire of midi dresses tends to cover both anyway. But it’s worth knowing before you go.
4. Do a Grand Harbour cruise
The history of Valletta cannot be separated from the city’s relationship with the sea. Cultural influences literally sailed in from Italy and Tunisia, among other places. Wars were fought on the waters, with enemy ships facing Malta’s naval fleet and the well-fortressed city. Also, the fishing industry is still a large part of life on the whole island. So getting out on the water for an official cruise around the Grand Harbour is one of the best things to do in Valletta to appreciate all this.
There are, as you might expect, lots of tour companies offering a Grand Harbour cruise. Most of them tout their wares along the waterfront in Sliema. Here are a couple of well-rated and affordable options:
- Two Harbours Cruise – This 90-minute cruise costs 15€ per person and leaves regularly from Sliema Ferries.
- Marsamxett Harbour and Grand Harbour Night Cruise – A night cruise is a gorgeous idea as you get to enjoy the twinkling city lights as the sun goes down. This one covers both the Grand Harbour and nearby Marsamxett Harbour, lasts 90 minutes and is also 15€ per person, leaving from the same place.
5. Follow in the steps (literally) of Lord Byron: a fun fact for literature lovers
Valletta is a city of stairs. You’ll become familiar with them (all too familiar with them!) while you explore the place. And you won’t be the only person to have aching legs thanks to them. The famous and rather notorious Romanic poet Lord Byron also had a brief visit to Malta in the 19th century. And he wasn’t too happy with the stairs.
Lord Byron was quarantined in Valletta on his way home from Greece. Because he had a limp, the endless steps in Valletta obviously weren’t exactly his idea of fun. He even wrote a mildly offensive poem about his unfortunate time in Malta, specifically saying:
‘Adieu, ye cursed street of stairs, how surely he who mounts you swears’.
I mean he had a point. Endless steps don’t usually bother me, being well used to the equally undulating Madeira. But even I had sore calves after tackling a lot on my first day in Valletta. Good luck!
6. Take in the views from Victoria’s Gate
In Valletta, it feels like all roads lead down to the sea. And one of the best views to illustrate this is from the lovely Victoria’s Gate. Flags line the winding street and brightly coloured balconies are dotted with window boxes full of red geraniums. There’s also the aptly named Bridge Bar here if you want to pause for a drink.
Oh and look out for the classic English red phone box on the Victoria’s Gate, a leftover from British rule. This obviously isn’t a novelty for me and I don’t enjoy being reminded of home while trying to enjoy a holiday! But if you’re not from the UK, it might be a nice photo opportunity for you. And at least it adds to the general red theme in the area. Colour coordination should always be applauded.
7. Try a local craft beer from Gozo in one of Valletta’s coolest bars
While you’re in Malta, you should definitely do a day trip to the neighbouring Gozo island if you have time. It’s far less touristy and more like how Malta would have been in the past. Oh and it’s home to a fantastic local brewery…
If you’re a craft beer enthusiast, you’ll find that all over Malta, Lord Chambray beer is your one local option. Everything else seems to be Cisk and Heineken generic rubbish. Luckily, Lord Chambray is very drinkable in all its forms and well worth hunting out.
If you don’t have time to do a boat trip over to Gozo, you can find it in a few of Valletta’s best bars:
- Wild Honey – this is a cosy little bar with a trendy vibe and a wide selection of beers from all over the world
- 67 Kapitali – another lovely small bar, family-run and with a great atmosphere; it stocks plenty of Lord Chambray beers and more (including on draft)
- La Bottega – this has regular live music and offers a good drinks menu.
8. Wander the Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens and wait for the big bang
Look at any travel blog or guidebook about Valletta and it’ll tell you to see Valletta’s famous Upper Barrakka Gardens. There may also be a passing mention of the Lower Barrakka Gardens. But if you take one look at the Upper and clock that they’re too full of people, try the Lower. They’re still very pretty, there’s a kiosk where you can get a drink and a pastry, and you can return to the Upper once they’re quieter.
Like everything in Valletta, both gardens are on a tiny scale. In fact, calling them ‘gardens’ is pushing it. They’re more just a singular ‘garden’. It only takes a few minutes to get from one side to the other. However, Greek-style arches overlook the water and a fort, and the little courtyards are lovely for a sit and a drink in the shade.
Very tranquil. Well, almost.
The peace is disturbed bang on noon and 4pm, when officials from the Malta Heritage Society don military uniforms and head to the Upper Barrakka Gardens to fire off cannons. Make sure you’re not holding a hot drink at 11:59am or 3.59pm. This tradition has been going on for hundreds of years and is worth hovering around for.
9. Eat at Taproom, a gorgeous restaurant in the heart of Valletta
After walking past a few generic tourist places with plastic menus and people trying to beckon you in around the centre of Valletta, it’s a relief to see somewhere that looks like Taproom. And it does not disappoint.
The interior is gorgeous: metro tiles, rustic-chic picture frames and lots of copper features. Oh and an open kitchen, which is always a good sign. And the food is fantastic. There are some good veggie options and a handful of vegan (the quinoa salad with mango would be a lovely lunch option if you were there in the day). If you’re a pescetarian, you’ll be spoilt for choice here. I recommend the king prawn pappardelle with cashews, lemon and tarragon, or the fennel and leek risotto.
Taproom has a nice buzzy atmosphere without being too busy and it gets a good mix of tourists and locals. Highly recommend.
10. See how Maltese nobility lived at Casa Rocca Piccola
Casa Rocca Piccola is a beautiful little 16th-century palace and a sort of living museum, tucked away on one of Valletta’s oldest streets. It’s owned and still lived in by the current de Piro family, who are Maltese nobility, and has been passed down for centuries.
You can do a guided tour or just wander around on your own. It’s seriously swanky, as you’d expect, full of opulent original furniture and sweeping staircases. The interiors are bold and bright, which I love. Much more exciting than your average National Trust stately home and no greige in sight. There’s a pretty courtyard garden and WW2 bomb shelter to see too.
I think Cada Rocca Piccola is much better than some of the more well-known tourist attractions, such as the Grand Master’s Palace, so if you’re going to do any indoor historical activity, I’d recommend this.
11. Look up and enjoy the balconies (gallarija)
The balconies (or gallarija in Maltese) are a striking feature of traditional Maltese buildings. Like in many cities, it’s always worth looking up in Valletta as these beauties are dotted around the streets and they’re gorgeous.
There’s legislation to preserve the balconies, and I can understand why. All that character and the mish-mash of jewel tones should be protected at all costs! They remind me of North African architecture and apparently they may have been inspired by Arabic balconies that were designed so that people inside the building could look out without being seen. Sounds perfect for nosing on the neighbours.
Some of the balconies are open, as they were built. But some have been ‘closed’, with a structure built on them that extends the size of the living space inside. Given how crowded housing is in Valletta, this must have been a good idea at the time. But it’s apparently destroyed some of the historic facades. Oops.
12. Admire views of the city from the water
Any city on water is always worth seeing from the water itself, in my experience. And one of the best things to do in Valletta is to stand outside on the ferry coming over from the nearby town of Sliema back to Valletta.
The sandy-coloured fortress city grows bigger on the horizon, an array of higgledy-piggledy sandstone buildings nestled around the central dome. It’s even better with hazy evening light illuminating it. Have I sold it to you yet?
Make sure you make use of those incredibly cheap and useful ferries to pop over to Sliema, Gzira or St Julian’s for a meal/drink at some point so that you get to enjoy this view. It’s not to be missed.
13. See the (maybe) oldest working theatre in Europe
Like most impressive things in Valletta, the Manoel Theatre was of course a product of the Grand Masters. I told you it was a running theme.
Built in 1731 to provide entertainment for both the knights and the locals, the theatre is still in use and is said to be one of the oldest working theatres in Europe. It’s in a small but lovely building with a wrap-around gallarija. The interior is suitably beautiful and theatre lovers might enjoy experiencing a concert, play or opera there.
Note that events are few and far between though especially in summer. It’s worth checking on the official website if this is your kind of thing and something you’d like to book in for your trip to Valletta. If there’s nothing on while you’re there but you’re keen to see inside, you could book a short tour.
14. Wander the streets and get some pretty photographs
Weirdly to us European visitors, Valletta is built in a kind of grid system like American cities are. This is designed to let light in through the tall buildings and to allow fresh sea air to circulate through the city.
I must break it to you though, it creates some horrendous wind tunnels if you get unlucky with the weather.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so cold in bright sunshine as I was leaning into the mild hurricanes blasting down some of those pretty streets. However, the grid system gives the city a really different feel compared with most European cities with their typical winding streets, so it’s an interesting thing. It makes for some striking photo opportunities, too.
You might also notice that the houses tend to have brightly painted window boxes and doors. The Knights of Saint John once ordered that every street corner street should be decorated with shrines, statues and/or balconies. Clearly, they’d had a premonition about future tourists wanting to get some colourful Instagram snaps. I’m sure the Maltese tourism board is very grateful for their foresight.
15. See the Church of Our Lady of Victory
The Church of Our Lady of Victory was apparently the first building to be built in Valletta. It dates back to 1566, following the knights’ victory over the Ottomans in the Great Siege of Malta.
The church was the original burial place of Grand Master Jean Parisot de Vallette, the big daddy of the Grand Masters, who funded its construction. He’s not there now though because they shifted him to the Co-Cathedral, probably because it’s so much fancier. He didn’t have much say in the matter, of course.
Although the church is tiny, there’s some impressive ceiling art to gawp at. And it’s free, so worth popping in briefly.
16. Step into the Grand Master’s Palace
The Grand Master’s Palace is where the Grand Master of the Order of St. John, who once ruled Malta, had his digs. It’s on most people’s to-do list when in Valletta, in order to take in the history and see what the state apartments were like.
However, just a word of warning. It’s small, with just a few rooms open to the public. The main draw seems to be the armoury, which does host a large collection of knights’ outfits and accessories. But isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea (definitely not mine). It’ll only take you 20 minutes tops to see everything, which is fine. But unlike a lot of free museums and attractions, it’s 10€ to get in. And I didn’t think it was very well curated; a lot of it was poorly lit or too brightly lit, and it could have done with a good dusting when I went. While writing this guide though, I read on the official website that it’s currently being renovated. So that’s good news and perhaps when you visit it’ll be loads better.
Anyway, as a building, it’s absolutely stunning (like most of the golden buildings in Valletta TBH; they’re right up my aesthetic street). So it’s definitely worth popping in to see, even if it’s still under renovation.
17. Enjoy a drink on Valletta’s waterfront
Valletta’s waterfront is made up of a row of baroque warehouses that were originally used to store Grand Master’s stuff. As you might expect, they’re now all converted into restaurants, shops and bars.
This promenade is a good place to pause and have a drink while you watch the cruise ships docking. The views over to the Three Cities are gorgeous, especially in the evening as the sun goes down. Sadly, the restaurants there are all quite touristy, with stuff like the dreaded generic Hard Rock Café that you’d want to avoid with your largest of bargepoles. But they all have outdoor seating looking out over the water, so I’d recommend stopping for a drink at least. It’s worth it to enjoy the view and do a bit of people-watching.
18. Visit the Lascaris War Rooms and Valletta’s secret tunnels
Now, I will admit that I’m not into history particularly, and not interested in military or war stuff one bit. So a museum about war is normally something I’d steer clear of on any city break. Much like a Hard Rock Café. But given that the Lascaris War Rooms were recommended to me by a local, I thought I’d give them a go. It’s 13€ to get in or for 16€ you can do a short guided tour at either 10.30am or 1pm with one of the guides (very knowledgeable and perfect English speakers).
They’ll take you through the labyrinth of rooms and tunnels used to defend Malta against German and Italian air forces in WW2, explaining the history and trivia as you go. Being in the real setting makes it easy to imagine you’re beamed back to the 1940s. At some point, you’re directly under the saluting battery mentioned earlier. It’s not my cup of tea but it’s well done and even for me was fairly interesting. Any history nerds would love it.
If you’re debating between doing these War Rooms or the National War Museum at Fort St Elmo, do the War Rooms for sure. I found the War Museum completely underwhelming, hence not including it on this list of things to do in Valletta even though it’s in most of the guidebooks and digital guides normally.
19. Take in the eerie silence of Valletta at night
As darkness falls on Valletta, the city looks even prettier all lit up. But the crowds vanish.
I’d read about the general lack of nightlife in Valletta before I went. But I wasn’t prepared for how utterly closed it is after about 9pm. As soon as you walked away from the main tourist streets, where people will still be eating, it’s empty. There is just nobody about. You know how in warm European countries there’s usually some bars with people sat outside having a drink and a chat at night? Nowt in Valletta. Maybe the fact it was around Easter when I visited played a part but I’ve spoken to a few friends who’ve been and they’d found the same thing.
I’m far too old for real nightlife now but I usually go for a drink of an evening on my travels. Normally, I manage to find a little stretch of independent bars with somewhere nice to have a beer or two after a meal, and that’s the kind of place I’d include as a recommendation in my blog posts afterwards. But aside from a handful of bars with few people in, almost everything empties around 8pm, and some even close earlier. It seems everyone heads out of the city for drinks to nearby St Julian or Paceville. Very unusual for a capital city, and something to bear in mind for your trip.
Things to do in Valletta, Malta: just outside the city
20. Try traditional Maltese cuisine at Ta’ Kris Restaurant, Sliema
One of the best things about going to a new place is getting to try the local cuisine. A good place to do this is Ta’ Kris Restaurant, which serves a good selection of traditional Maltese dishes. The portions are really good sizes and you can tell it’s all proper homemade stuff. If you eat meat, the rabbit dishes are apparently what to go for. I personally recommend the trio of tiny date-based desserts. I’m really into anything with dates so this is a right treat.
You’ll find Ta’ Kris tucked away down a side street off a road of fairly naff shops in Sliema. Don’t be put off by its underwhelming surroundings though. The food is top notch. And if the weather is nice, sit outside and enjoy watching the world go by.
Side note: I’m so glad I do travel blogging and not food blogging, so I can get away with rubbish food photos. Food bloggers must have to eat all their main meals at lunchtime to get natural light for their photos. Still, apologies those shots are so dark.
21. Explore Birgu, one of the Three Cities
The Knights of Saint John actually lived in these three little cities while they were building Valletta itself, so they’re actually even older than the capital. Birgu is the oldest and seemingly easiest to get to of the Three Cities. It takes about 20 minutes on the bus from Valletta, for a bargainous 1.50€. Birgu is much less busy than Valletta, so it’s a good way to spend an afternoon if you want a quieter day. It’s also the most interesting of the three, in my opinion.
All three of the Three Cities are very small and more the size of a large village (Birgu has under 3,000 residents). It’s very attractive and nice to mooch around, full of warrens of picture-perfect streets, with flowers cascading down from balconies overhead and rows of brightly coloured doors. Other than taking photos and exploring, there are a handful of things you can do in Birgu:
- Pop into the Malta At War Museum, which documents Malta’s experiences during WW2.
- See the Fort St Angelo, which proudly sits on a hillock at the end of the Birgu peninsula. Historically, whoever controlled this fort could hold power in Malta. Today, it’s one of the best places for a panoramic view across the Grand Harbour.
- St Lawrence’s Church (if you’re not totally churched out at this point) on the roundabout is also worth pausing at.
22. Stop for a drink and try a pastizzi at Birgu marina
Emerging from Birgu’s narrow streets, it’s worth stopping to sit and watch the boats bobbing in the attractive marina on a sunny day.
Pick up some deliciously fresh ricotta- or pea-filled pastizzi and a tea in a glass the local way from the little café Birgi, which doesn’t look much from the outside but is a wee hidden gem. If you want something more substantial, go for a ftira, a tasty ring of leavened bread with various fillings from tuna to potato and onion. Lovely stuff.
A pastizzi is such an important part of any afternoon in Birgu that yes, I’m giving it its own place on this list.
23. Head over to Mint Café, Sliema, for a gorgeous veggie lunch
Another gem in Sliema, Mint Café is amazing. It has plenty of local options, as well as organic and vegetarian. Everything is displayed in a glass cabinet so that you can go and stare at it in the queue and feel overwhelmed by choice. And then go into a total panic of indecision when it’s your turn to order. Naturally.
I recommend getting a little sharing platter of delicious veggie bits and bobs, washed down with their homemade lemonade. You’ll also be needing a slab of top-quality carrot cake. This is absolutely worth
writing texting home about.
Also, a special mention has to go to their savoury, cheesy muffins. I need one of my keen baker friends to learn this wizardry.
Day trips to do from Valletta, Malta
24. Do a day trip to Malta’s smaller neighbour, Gozo
Gozo is Malta’s smaller and quieter neighbouring island, a much more rural and green land with some beautiful scenery along its rugged coastlines. Its landscape is punctuated with myriad Baroque churches and crumbling old stone farmhouses, and it’s far less built up than Malta.
It’s a lovely place and very easy to get to as a day trip if you’re staying in Valletta. Get the number 42 bus from Valletta to Cirkewwa (where the ferries are at). It takes about an hour. At Cirkewwa, get the ferry (which is very cheap if you’re boarding as foot passengers – about 4€). The crossing takes about half an hour and leaves quite regularly, especially in the busy summer months. Once you’re on board, head up to the upper deck to enjoy some beautiful views of the islands. The ferry deposits you in Mgarr Harbour on Gozo.
Oh and any lovers of Greek mythology will also like the fact that Gozo is said to be the real version of the legendary island of Ogygia, where Odysseus meets the nymph Calypso in Homer’s epic Odyssey. I have a full post on what to do on Gozo island, so do check that out for my recommendations.
25. Do a day trip to Mdina, the ‘silent city’ of Malta
Doing a day trip to Mdina was a highlight of my time in Malta and I definitely recommend it if you’re staying in Valletta. Mdina is a tiny walled city and Malta’s former capital, often known as ‘the silent city’. It really lives up to this name if you return to it at night when it’s so quiet and the streetlamps are your only company in the deserted streets. I have a full guide to Mdina, which you should read if you’re planning a day out there.
One of Malta’s most popular ghost stories is apparently that a woman stands silently at the end of the dark streets in Mdina, urging people to follow her, before walking straight through a wall (presumably to Malta’s version of platform 9 3/4?). There’s another one about a woman who killed a knight and was sentenced to death. Before being beheaded, they let her get married. Apparently, she now pops up in the background of Mdina tourist photos as a headless bride. Check your selfies.
Mdina is pronounced ‘m-dee-na’ and lies on a hilltop in the centre of Malta. To get there, get the number 51 bus from Valletta for an absolute bargain of €1.50. It takes about half an hour.
26. Visit Ghajn Tuffieha, one of Malta’s few sandy beaches
For some reason, there’s a myth that Malta only has rocky beaches. It does have plenty of them, but it has a fair few sandy beaches too. I’m really not fussy about what terrain beaches are. I don’t sunbathe and can’t swim, so they’re just somewhere to enjoy the sea and go for walks to me. But I know some people will be after the golden sand, and Ghajn Tuffieha delivers on both sand and nice walks fronts, so I recommend making the journey there to get away from the city for an afternoon.
You can get the 42 bus from Valletta and alight at Mixquqa. That bit takes around 45 minutes and the journey takes you through increasingly pretty and agricultural landscapes. Once there, it’s a 10-minute walk on the road to Golden Bay, another beach. From there, you can do a short clifftop stroll to Ghajn Tuffieha. Do not stop at Golden Bay. Golden Bay is a far tackier beach with some ugly hotels spoiling the view, and also very busy.
Ghajn Tuffieha means ‘Apple’s eye’ in Maltese, and it’s a beauty with its dramatic clifftop scenery and beautiful turquoise waters. You have to climb down about 100 stairs to get to the beach itself, but it’s not too much effort, and the route is lined with wildflowers. Keep an eye out for the cute little chameleons who live there. I have a full guide on visiting Ghan Tuffieha if you’re interested in going.
Disclaimer: things to do in Valletta and thoughts on Malta generally
Like I said at the beginning of this post, this may come across much less enthusiastic than my usual blog posts. I had mixed feelings about Valletta and Malta overall. I didn’t attach to Valletta like I do with many places I travel to. It seemed a bit soulless. The unfortunate traces of British rule, such as red phone boxes, put me off. And the heavily commercial tourism was more than I expected.
It was also difficult to get a sense of the real place: where do the locals go in Valletta? I wanted to sit outside a bustling bar with a beer at night, watching the world go by. But there was no bustling bar and no world going by. Maybe I got very unlucky but it wasn’t my cup of tea.
However, the food was a real saving grace. I didn’t have one bad meal in Valletta or around Malta in general, even in random places I’d not researched beforehand. It was top notch. And it wasn’t hard to find vegetarian options anywhere. Also, the architecture is unlike anywhere else I’ve been with those gorgeous honey-coloured streets. The mixture of European and Arabic influence in Malta is unique and incredibly photogenic. So there are plenty of things I like about it.
Things to do in Valletta, Malta: useful information
Where to stay in Valletta
Here are my recommendations for places to stay in Valletta. All prices are at the time of writing:
- Treat yo’self: If you want a proper fancy hotel, check out Iniala Harbour House. At 400€ a night, it’s definitely one for a special occasion.
- Mid-range: At 130€ a night, 19 Rooms would be my top pick for somewhere in the middle ground considering the average prices in Valletta.
- Budget: If you don’t want to splurge too much on somewhere to stay, Paulos Valletta is around 95€ a night so not as cheap as many European cities but won’t break the bank fully.
How to get around Valletta
Everything is very walkable in Valletta. You do need public transport to reach the Three Cities, and water taxis are nice and cheap. There’s a good bus system for exploring further afield.
When to go to Valletta
I went to Malta in April, when it was busy but also unseasonably cold all week. Not a good combination! Like with many places in Europe, spring and autumn usually tend to be ideal for visiting. Avoid in the height of summer as it can get heaving and far too hot to be able to explore comfortably.
Save and share: Things to do in Valletta, Malta
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You might also like my other Malta-based posts:
- A guide to things to do in Gozo, Malta, without a car
- A guide to visiting Mdina, Malta: the silent city
- How to visit one of Malta’s sandy beaches: Ghajn Tuffieha.
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Looks like a great trip – I’m going to Malta for the first time next month and I can’t wait!
Haha does it?! It wasn’t, tbh. But hope you have a good time – you might see a different side to it! x
Great tips!! I’ve been thinking about going to Malta for a while and this has been super helpful! I’m loving the colourful balconies, you’re pictures are great. Thanks for the tips!
Wow, great photos you have from Malta. It’s on our bucket list, but we have not made it there yet. Malta and Valetta looks so nice and pretty. And the food looks great too!!
The food was the best bit! It was pretty, but wouldn’t recommend it over other places.
Shame that you didn’t like Valletta because it looks so nice! Also good food is a saving grace!
The food was amazing. It had some good points but just wasn’t my cup of tea overall. It had some incredible photo ops though!
Lovely photos! I really want to visit Malta and this post has totally inspired me xx
Not sure if you saw the bit that said we didn’t actually love it haha but glad you liked the photos x
Personally I loved Malta! But I visited many other places! I thought Valetta was such a cute city but again I got lost and I avoided the crowds! 😊 I’d go back anytime!if you ever go back, explore elsewhere and you won’t be disappointed!
Hi Melissa, I did explore other places – as mentioned in the post – like Gozo, Mdina and Ghajn Tuffieha – and the Three Cities if that counts haha. I just didn’t love Malta as a whole sadly.
It is very sad to hear that you didn’t like my lovely homeland 🙁 Have you tried visiting the bars in Strait street in Valletta in the evening? It is one of the places where we usually go..Unfortunately we do get a lot of tourists all year round so you will always find crowds in the main roads of Valletta
Sorry! I did go to Strait Street nearly every night in Valletta, that was the only area I found anything open – Taproom was just round the corner. It was all pretty dead though I’m afraid. Maybe Easter is a bad time.
Our capital city is a little different from the other cities in Europe when it comes to nightlife it is true. It is very quiet and most of the people go to Sliema & St. Julian’s area. I am glad you at least enjoyed the food 🙂 Looking forward for your next posts.
🙂 The food was great and the scenery.
I’ve been seeing a lot of blog posts about Malta lately and have heard similar sentiments about the place – easily summed up as “ehhhhh”. The architecture looks pretty darn amazing (rather reminds me of Havana in Cuba) but yeah, the sheer volume of people would be hard to deal with. At least the food was good! But I’m with you – what on earth is up with bars closing at 5pm?! That red phone box looks so out of place too – thanks, colonialism!
Ah that’s interesting, I’ve not seen that many blogs on Malta to be honest. It had a lot of good points but just wasn’t my kind of thing overall. Can’t win them all I guess.
I’ve been curious to visit Malta for quite some time now but never actually hoped on a plane to do it… Do you think it was that quiet and empty because it was still kind of a low season? love those colourful doors and balconies though…
Is April that low season though – generally spring is fairly bustling in most places I’ve found – not the craziness of the height of summer, but not dead. Also there were definitely enough tourists there to fill the place in the daytime so where did everyone go at night? Strange!
Birgu looks so much calmer and quieter than Valletta, my kind of town for sure. And I had no idea that Malta is the densest EU country.
It was almost too quiet though – such a contrast. We saw maybe a dozen other people the whole afternoon. Streets and streets with nothing open and no one walking round. Very pretty though.
I love your photos and your styl of writing! I always thought of visiting Malta, but after reading your conclusion I am not so sure any more. Thank you 🙂
Give it a go if you want to – don’t let me put you off, maybe it’s just me! x
I think you did make the best of the weather and the crowds. Since there are very few posts on Malta, I will at least pin it for future consideration 🙂
Valletta looks so beautiful! I’d love to go to Malta one day and see all the Game of Thrones filming locations 🙂 Good to know there are some veggie/vegan options too – that’s always hard in the Med!
Thanks Kathi! It is beautiful but wouldn’t recommend it over other places.
Agreed with most everything you said about Malta. I didn’t really care for it. However Gozo is another story, especially if you like hiking or kayaking. I met you both at Lord Chambray Brewery on Gozo one afternoon. Was curious if you might do a write-up of Gozo? Nice meeting you both. Happy travels. Rich
Hello! Did you enjoy the rest of your time on Gozo? Nice to meet you too and thanks for looking up my blog – hope you manage to see more of Europe too! Here’s my Gozo post: https://www.packthesuitcases.com/things-to-do-in-gozo-malta-without-a-car/
Agree with most things you’ve mentioned here. I wasn’t able to fall in love with Malta and not sure why. It just lacked a little feeling. However, we loved Valletta. Can’t help but feel April may not be the best time, we were there in July. We’ve just got back home and thought Valletta night life was incredible. Really made the whole trip worthwhile. So many places off the beaten track that were spilling out with people. Bridge Bar especially had hundred of people drinking in and around it while there were a coupe of jazz bands playing. Can’t speak highly enough for the nightlife. It tended to be a bit more dull and lifeless in the daytime. Sliema was awful and didn’t make it to st Julian but got the vibe that it would be awful too. Really enjoyed he war museum. The island has had an interesting past and it a shame you didn’t like the British touches. From what I learned at the museum the islander asked for the help of the Britainish to rid them of nepolionic oppression and Britain answered to call. Was also a key staging point for the wwII and helped feel a little more close to Malta. Overall though I would recommend other places around the Mediterranean however you can carve out a nice time here but you probably wouldn’t come back for round two.
It’s definitely a place that divides. I know others who weren’t sold on it too. I think Easter was probably a bad time to visit – nowhere was spilling out with people sadly! I try to avoid British stuff when I’m away – the last thing I want is to be reminded of the horror of home. Glad you liked some of it and hope your next holiday is more of a 10/10.
I am visiting Malta Next month and I found this article today.I bookmarked it and will make sure I visit these cities.
Hope you have a good time!