When on holiday some people like to down tools and relax for a week by the beach, drink and eat good food. All that is available on Malta and Gozo but many also like to see the sights and you will not be disappointed with what Malta and Gozo has to offer. Here is a list of ‘Must do’ things that are sure to please everyone.
Mdina is one of Europe’s finest examples of an ancient walled city, incredible in its mix of medieval and baroque architecture. Located in the South West of Malta, Mdina also known as the Silent City was built in the medieval times at a strategic military location with clear sight of surrounding areas, perched on top of one of the highest hills of Malta. The history of Mdina traces back more than 4000 years and has had different names and titles depending on its rulers and its role but its medieval name describes it best – ‘Citta’ Notabile’: the noble city. It was home then, as now, to Malta’s noble families. You may even recognise the main entrance featured in the very popular TV series Game of Thrones.
During your exploration why not stop at the Fontanella tea room from some delicious chocolate cake whilst you take in the magical views of Malta. Mdina is easily reached by bus and the following bus routes stop at Mdina and Rabat. From Valletta: Route 53 (destination Rabat – 30 mins). From Bugibba/Qawra (Bus Terminus) and St. Paul’s Bay (the main road – Triq il-Mosta): Route 186 (45 mins). From Sliema and St. Julian’s: Route 202 (45-60 mins). Top tip if you don’t manage to cover Mdina in the day then don’t rule out a visit at night, it’s even more spectacular as the sun goes down.
Built in the 16th century, Valletta was the first planned city in Europe, expertly designed by the Knights of St John during their reign in Malta. Valletta is steeped in history and rich in sites to see and explore, fascinating historical buildings around every corner: votive statues, fountains and coats of arms high up on its fortifications. Narrow side streets are full of charming shops and cafés, while Valletta’s main streets are lined with larger international branded shops for fashion, music and jewellery. Around 25 of the 360+ churches built on the Maltese Islands are to be found within Valletta’s walls.
The best way to get around and explore the most from your visit to Valletta is on foot and although the things to do & see are numerous, a good place to start and absolutely not to be missed is Valletta’s beautiful gardens. The Upper Barrakka Gardens, Hastings Gardens & the Lower Barrakka Gardens just three of the most popular ones. From the Upper Barrakka Gardens it is also possible to see the Saluting Battery as well as take the lift down the bastions to sea level.
Malta’s majestic Grand Harbour is one of the most spectacular ports in the world. A wide stretch of water separating the capital city of Valletta from the Three Cities which make up the historic towns of Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua. For over two thousand years the harbour has been busy with activity. With its imposing fortifications and vast panorama, Grand Harbour is Malta’s principal maritime gateway and a popular port for ships that are cruising the Mediterranean.
If your looking for romantic things to do in Malta or just things to do at night in Malta then Valletta is a great place to be. The city lights up with the streets lit up with lines of bars and restaurants. Find that perfect place for a romantic evening meal with sea views or for those nightlife lovers looking for something lively then there a number of bars with live music.
Mosta may not be one of the top tourist spots to come up in your research when you’re planning your holiday on the Maltese islands, however it definitely is worth a visit to the Mosta Dome. The Mosta Dome is possibly the most impressive church in Malta, with its’ massive rotunda, that is the third largest in the world. Built in 1860, and dedicated to the Assumption of Our Lady.
During the Second World War the church was almost destroyed during an air raid, a 200kg bomb fell through the dome without detonating. Thankfully all 300 people attending mass that morning were left unscathed. On the 9th April, 1942 the detonator was removed and a replica is now on display inside the church. The Mosta Dome, or Rotunda took 27 years to build and was designed by a French designer who resided in Mosta, George Grognet de Vasse. Not only is it a spectacular backdrop to some major religious celebrations it also goes by several names, Ir-Rotunda (the Rotunda), il-Bażilika (the Basilica), il-Knisja tal-Mosta (the Mosta church) – these are just a few of the names the locals use but officially the church is The Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady since it was elevated to the status of a minor basilica by the Vatican in July 2018. We advise to consider going earlier in the day (before 10am) or on weekdays to avoid the crowds!
Not to be confused with the Blue Lagoon (also very breathtakingly beautiful), which is located in the North West of the archipelago in the island of Comino, the Blue Grotto is a complex of seven caves found along the southern coast of Malta.
Securing its name In the 1950s, when a British soldier exploring the area compared it to Capri’s famous Grotta Azzura, which means ‘Blue Grotto’, this is because of its incredibly clear, bright blue waters. The deep, open waters of the area are what in fact created the ‘blue grotto’. Throughout the centuries, the tenacious crashing of waves against the hard cliff face caused the formation of the huge, arch like grotto, as well as several adjoining caves and neighboring rock formations. Even though the caves are a surprise within themselves, the true beauty really shines through on clear, sunny days. It truly is magical when the blue sky reflects off the white sandy seabed under the caves, resulting in vibrant azure and sapphire coloured waters. Not forgetting the cave walls mirror the orange, purple and green colours of the underwater flora ensuring a spellbinding vision of light and colour. The best way to explore the caves is by boat and will take around 20 minutes, trips available daily but are weather dependent.
The ancient citadel is situated in Victoria and has been aptly named the crown of Gozo. It was the centre of activity possibly since Neolithic times but it became the focal point of Gozo around 1500 BC, when it was first fortified by the Bronze Age people. A visit to the citadel is a must and the uphill climb is completely worth it. From the fortifications there is an excellent view all around with views over the tiny fields divided by stone walls, domes of village churches rising from clusters of houses and the Gordan Lighthouse.
The number of residents in the citadel is now less than ten and half the place lies in archaeological ruins which are constantly being restored. In the other half there is the Gozo cathedral and the Law courts, as well as the Museums including the cathedral Museum, the Gozo Museum of Archaeology, the Folklore Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Old Prisons. Lots to see here but the most impressive of all is the cathedral, dedicated to Santa Marija, the Assumption.
The cathedral is a fine baroque structure in the form of a Latin cross and is built entirely of the local limestone on a plan by the Maltese architect Lorenzo Gafa’. The other attraction is the statue of Santa Marija, the Assumption, undertaken in Rome in 1897. The statue of the Madonna was embellished with a diamond necklace, a gold belt and a solid silver plinth donated by Gozitans. If you are in Malta or Gozo around the 15th August, it is taken shoulder-high in a procession around the streets of Victoria.
Ta Pinu Sanctury – Gozo
The Sanctuary that is Ta’ Pinu is an architectural masterpiece built in a remote site between the villages of Gharb & Ghammar on the beautiful island of Gozo (ferry from Malta is around 25 minutes). A shrine to Our Lady of Ta’ Pinu which welcomes all visitors who wish to pray or simply appreciate the grand sculptures and craftsmanship of designs in Maltese Stone.
Amazingly the sanctuary was constructed in front of the original chapel which remains intact behind the altar and still contains the painting of the Assumption to Heaven of Our Lady from which the voice is said to have spoken to Karmni Grima. The Basilica of Ta’ Pinu is one of the most visited places on the island of Gozo. Admission is free and the opening times are Monday to Sunday 6:30am – 12:15pm and then from 3:30pm to 7pm, remember no shorts and women should cover their shoulders.
The above suggestions are just a small slice of what Malta and Gozo has to offer. There are so many places to see and fun things to do in Malta and Gozo it’s hard to choose what to do and what you may miss out on, check out our Explore Malta page for more idea’s, tips, information and inspiration.