A few years ago, my ex and I spent a week in the Republic of Malta, also visiting its sister island Gozo. Below you can find our exact Malta itinerary, including the best things to do in Malta, where we ate, where we slept, what our experience driving in Malta was like, as well as plenty of Malta pictures.
- One week in Malta and Gozo: our Malta itinerary
- Day 1: Mdina, Rabat and Għajn Tuffieħa Bay
- Day 2: Dingli Cliffs, Buskett Gardens, Blue Grotto, and Marsaxlokk
- Day 3: Victoria / Rabat in Gozo, Rambla Bay, the salt pans of Zebbug, and Xlendi
- Day 4: road trip around Gozo
- Day 5: Xewkija, Mgarr, Senglea and Vittoriosa / Birgu
- Day 6: Valletta and Kalkara
- Day 7: St. Julian's
- Book excursions in Malta
- Where to stay in Malta and Gozo
- Getting around Malta and Gozo
- How to get to Malta
- Long live clean public bathrooms
- Is Malta cheap?
- A week in Malta: wrap-up
- Don't forget travel insurance
One week in Malta and Gozo: our Malta itinerary
Day 1: Mdina, Rabat and Għajn Tuffieħa Bay
On the first full day of our Malta trip, we combined city seeing with some beach time. Or maybe “town seeing” is the better expression, because the centers of both Mdina and Rabat are two tiny places.
Mdina reminded me a bit of the Umbrian towns we visited in Italy a few years ago, with many narrow streets and one of the best views in Malta from what must have been the old walls around the city.
Mdina goes by several names. “The Silent City” is one of them, “the Noble City” is another. Since the medieval times, Mdina is where Malta's noble families have lived and are still said to live to this day. I write “said to live” because we didn't see many locals while wandering Mdina's alleys and wondered if many people still lived inside the walls.
There are a few small museums inside Mdina's walls but we enjoyed just wandering around.
Prefer to visit Mdina with a guide so you don't miss a thing? This full-day Mdina guided tour with lunch comes highly recommended.
Lunch at Fontanella
I had read about Fontanella while researching this trip and as it was supposed to have great cakes and views, we went there for lunch. We entered the arched portal ways and stepped into the restaurant's courtyard. There are tables there and inside, but if the weather's nice, I recommend taking the stairs up so you can sit right on the fortifications of Mdina overlooking Malta.
Do take into account that it can get chilly up there and if it does, you can also go sit in one of the two glass rooms, one on each side of the terrace and a bit higher up so that you still get some views. We sat outside in the sun but we're still a bit cold as the wind decided to come from the wrong direction that day :-D
We ordered an Aperol Spritz (€5.5), tea (€1.75), a ham and cheese sandwich (€3.5), a ham and cheese ciabatta (€6.5) and a slice of cake (€3.5). I found the prices here to be very reasonable, especially since we were in a touristy place.
The portions were very decent as well. The only thing I was disappointed with, was the cake. Maybe I made a bad choice but my white chocolate cheesecake was more like whipped cream cake. I didn't really taste cheesy nor white chocolaty. I did see other people enjoy their cakes and the ones on display did look delicious, so maybe you'll have to go try another one and tell me if it's better :-)
If you check Rabat on Google Maps, you'll see it lies right against Mdina and is much bigger. Howewer, most of Rabat is agricultural land and the city center itself is very small and walkable. The main sites to see here are the Domus Romana or Roman Villa, St. Paul's Catacombs (also known as St Paul's Grotto or the Cathedral of St. Paul) and St. Agatha's Historical Complex and Catacombs.
We happened to be in Malta the week they were celebrating St. Paul in Rabat and when we went there for dinner one night, we heard cannon shots – lots of them! This made us curious and so we went back to the Pjazza San Pawl where we'd been earlier that day to see a procession and the church beautifully lit up.
I'd already read about the festas or events taking place around Malta practically every weekend and this was the first time we experienced one of them. In the course of our week there, we'd hear many more cannon shots and see some fireworks too.
Dinner at Bottegin Palazzo Xara
We spent our first nights in Malta in a rental apartment in Mosta and went out to eat in Rabat as there seemed to be better restaurant options. We ended up at Bottegin Palazzo Xara on our first night and went back the second because we enjoyed it so much and – honestly – didn't feel like looking much further.
Palazzo Xara or “Xara Palace” was built by the noble Xara family in the 18th century and has since been renovated. It now holds a bistro, a baroque event hall, a courtyard and a private room which can be reserved. Since 1860, it's also been home to the L'Isle Adam Band, which we could hear practice during our first dinner there.
That took place in the courtyard or – as it's officially called – the “Secret Garden”. The entry to the garden lies in a quiet alley and the garden itself is rather spacious, with tables sprinkled throughout so that you can enjoy your meal without feeling like you're part of the conversation going on at the table next to you.
For the World Cup, they'd also put a big projector screen up in the garden. Boyfriend admitted that was also one of the reasons he wanted to return here.
“Also”, because the service was friendly and the food was good. Over the course of those two evenings, we ordered a chicken salad (€12.5), a Cisk draught (the local beer – €1.65), a 330ml Perrier (€1.65), different cocktails (€6.5 each), Ravjul (Maltese ravioli – €11.5) and chicken with mushroom sauce (€16).
Again, very reasonable prices for big portions.
Where to park when visiting Mdina and Rabat
When you search for “parking Mdina” on Google Maps, it will show you different free parking lots just outside the old town. We first tried one right outside the Mdina gate, called It-Tomba, but that was full, with people being parked in places where they shouldn't have parked, and so we instead drove to “Parkplatz” (must have been entered by a German :-)) on Triq It-Tigrija.
It's actually better located as it's right of the big road when driving into Mdina (when coming from Mosta) and as it's a 5-minute walk from the entry to the old town, it's less stressful to park there as well. We parked at this spot both when we visited Mdina and Rabat during the day as well as when we went back to Rabat for dinner twice and always found a spot. This parking is free too.
Għajn Tuffieħa Bay
We ended our first day in Malta at Għajn Tuffieħa Bay. The original plan was to combine Għajn Tuffieħa Bay and Golden Bay Beach as they're next to each other, but we could see Golden Bay Beach from Għajn Tuffieħa Bay and as it looked less chill, with more people on it and big hotel and apartment blocks to one side of it, we decided to just stay at Għajn Tuffieħa Bay.
There are parking lots both by Golden Bay Beach and by Għajn Tuffieħa Bay. We parked at the one by Għajn Tuffieħa Bay which was free. What can happen in Malta – and this was also the case here – is that there's a man at the parking lot who acts kind of as a security guard and who might ask for some change when you arrive or when you come back to collect your car. It is not mandatory to give him anything. We've only seen parking attendants like that two or three times and somehow they never came up to us.
Anyway, back to the beach!
Or not quite yet, because when you've parked your car, it's worth it first walking straight toward the water edge and Għajn Tuffieħa Tower. The tower is of the kind you see everywhere along Malta's coastline, but the spot offers some nice views over the water and allows you to see both Għajn Tuffieħa Bay and Golden Bay Beach.
When we were there, some guys were playing around with a drone. They must have gotten some cool footage!
To get to Għajn Tuffieħa Bay Beach, you need to walk back to the entrance of the parking lot and then take the path down behind the little kiosk selling drinks, snacks, and sunscreen (smart of them!). You can then go for a drink at the beach bar on the right, go straight down to the beach or keep left to hike the trail up the cliff that encloses the bay on the other side.
It's a quick and easy walk on a clear path and I highly recommend you do it as the views from up there are – again – quite spectacular. On the other side of that viewing point, there's yet another bay. It's possible to hike down to it or you can even follow the trail of Ta' Lippija along the cliff line all the way to Gnejna Bay.
We just hiked up for the views and then went back so I can't comment on how difficult this is. According to Google Maps, it's only 1.4 km from the center of Għajn Tuffieħa Beach to the center of Il Gnejna Beach and you can clearly see the route on Google Maps if you zoom in on the area.
After your hike, make sure to crash on the beach a bit. We thought it was one of the nicest sandy beaches in Malta.
We didn't spot any public restrooms at Għajn Tuffieħa Beach but there were probably some at the beach bar.
Day 2: Dingli Cliffs, Buskett Gardens, Blue Grotto, and Marsaxlokk
We started our second day in Malta driving to Dingli Cliffs, a viewing point by a small chapel. It's a nice viewing point indeed, but we felt the ones we saw the day before at the beach were more spectacular and we'd see better ones later in the trip as well.
However, the Dingli Cliffs can be easily reached by car and there's a small parking lot. There's also a bus stop and the hop-on/hop-off comes here, but I'll talk more about getting around Malta further down.
Also fun to know is that the cliffs are the highest point in Malta, which is another reason to add a stop there and might be why it's one of the best-known Malta attractions. There's not any on-site explanation about the place, though, so if you want to know more about it, it might be worth taking this Segway tour of Dingli Cliffs and a few other sites.
Lastly, I want to mention that there's a small drink and snack truck here. You'll find these at most viewing points and beaches so while I always recommend you bring your own water just in case, you can usually buy something at every stop you make. We didn't spot any public restrooms here though.
We visited Buskett Gardens as it was just a 5-minute drive from Dingli Cliffs. I'd researched it before and the reviews were a bit mixed so if it had been further away, we probably would have skipped it.
So, should you go?
If you're following our route, I'd say just make the detour to have seen it and go for a little walk, but otherwise, it's not really worth it. While there are clear walking paths, the Buskett Forest isn't that well maintained and there's not much to see – if anything. This is also one of the very few places we didn't spot a drink and snack truck, a sign this place probably isn't that popular.
The only thing that's kind of cool is that it gives you views of the Verdala Palace, which is located at the edge of the Buskett Garden. The Verdala Palace has been the presidential summer residence since 1987 and is only open to the public on special occasions. It dates back to 1586 and its gardens were once the hunting grounds of the Knights of Malta.
We tried to see if we could walk up to the palace and to be honest, I still don't know if it's possible. According to Google Maps, there is a path that leads to it, but when we followed that, we were confronted with a closed gate.
There is free parking space at the entrance of the gardens. We saw a sign for toilets too, but didn't spot them.
Blue Grotto or the “Blue Cave”
The Blue Grotto is a cave with clear blue water which you can visit on a boat trip from Wied Hoxt, Il-Qrendi and see from a viewing point by the road. As we didn't know whether it would be worth it to go on the boat trip (Blue Grotto tickets cost €8/person for just a 20-minute trip there and back), we stopped at the viewing point first.
The viewing point is called “Blue Wall and Grotto Viewing Point” on Google Maps and lies right off the main road Trip-Wied Iz-Zurrieq. There are parking spaces on the cliff-side of the road from where you take a small path a few steps down before you get to the viewing point. The photo above is what you'll then see.
From there, you take the road down to the departure point for more and other views. Just take the street that takes a dip left when you're standing on the parking lot by the viewing point with your left side toward the water. There's a big parking lot at the end of the road and there are public restrooms when you follow the road down past the parking lot where only locals can drive.
There's also one of those typical Maltese towers there and you can walk along the water for a bit, catching more views. If you follow the road (on foot) until the very end, you'll be able to turn the corner and see from where the boat trips depart.
As we'd seen the Blue Grotto from above as well as the route the boats take (it's the same distance you drive from the viewing point down to the departure point), we decided that the view was probably better from above and took a pass on the Blue Grotto tours.
Marsaxlokk Bay with St Peter's Pool, the Xrobb I-Ghagin Nature Park and St. Thomas Bay
Marsaxlokk is a small fishing village known for the colorful traditional fishing boats in its harbor. “Marsaxlokk” comes from “marsa”, which means “harbor”, and “xlokk”, which means “southeast”. Its center is tiny and we simply parked (for free) along one of the roads leading to the harbor. I did read that there's a free parking lot somewhere as well and there are public restrooms at one end of the bay.
There are plenty of restaurants here with large terraces overlooking the water. We sat down at The Three Sisters where I ordered a shrimp salad with sparkling water and Boyfriend had fresh tuna with – I'm guessing – a beer. We had to pay cash here and I apparently didn't keep the ticket, but I remember that the price was pretty reasonable too. I think my salad was around €10-€12 and Boyfriend's fresh tuna around €18.
After lunch, we just walked up and down the Marsaxlokk port boulevard and past the little market that's always there. If you want to visit when the fish market is on, Sunday is the day to go. Apparently, lots of people flock to Marsaxlokk then as it's the best-known fish market in Malta and so it can get crowded.
From the center of Marsaxlokk, we drove to the salt panes of Il-Kalanka tal-Gidien. This is something I recommend you skip. We drove there because we were just checking on Google Maps what sights were in the area, but the road there is really hobbly, the environment not so nice and there are plenty of prettier salt panes around Malta. Also no drink and snack trucks or public restrooms here.
St. Peter's Pool
What was worth the stop, and this was on the way to Il-Kalanka tal-Gidien too, was the well-known swimming site St. Peter's Pool. It's a tiny bay that you have to walk down to (didn't seem hard to do) if you want to go for a swim there. We didn't, as we had another stop planned, it was pretty crowded and the waves seemed pretty strong.
Oh and also here, in the parking lot, one of those cool-looking drink and snack trucks. No restrooms though.
There's a parking lot right by the path that leads to St. Peter's Pool and it's indicated by signs from the road, but you can also just park by the road. There are quite a few spaces both by where you need to turn left to drive to the parking lot and just a few meters further down the road.
A benefit of parking there is that you can also have a look at the Delimara Marsaxlokk Power Station which lies right behind the wall on the other side. It's pretty impressive and a bit strange to see such a massive industrial installation right by this lovely little bay.
The road to St Peter's Pool in Malta lies pretty high up and when you're driving there and back, you'll get a great view of Marsaxlokk from afar. As it's a pretty calm road, it's not that hard to stop for a photo but I do recommend doing that on the way back as you'll be on the right (left :-)) side of the road then to do so.
Xrobb I-Ghagin Nature Park
From St. Peter's Pool we drove on to the Xrobb I-Ghagin Nature Park. Again, this was a place I'd spotted on Google Maps and as it got good reviews and we love a walk in nature, we decided to check it out.
Was it worth it? I'm not sure if it's not or if we just missed it.
There's a large parking area at the park and from there you have to walk back a bit to start the walk. The first part of the walk was just plain boring, without any views and in the same kind of scenery you see everywhere on Malta (pretty dry, not a lot of green).
If it had been the morning, we probably would have had more patience and would have pushed on, but it wasn't and so we decided to go for a drink and a swim in St. Thomas Bay.
Before I talk about that, I think it's good to mention that there are no facilities at Xrobb I-Ghagin Nature Park. While there is a hostel, there is no cafe, no public toilet (you often find those in Malta, and clean too!) and no drink and snack truck (at least not when we were there).
St. Thomas Bay
When we go sightseeing on vacation, we like to end our day with a chill activity, which, in places like Malta, usually comes down to going to the beach. St. Thomas Bay is close to the Xrobb I-Ghagin Nature Park (though you have to make a bit of a detour to get there as there is no direct road from the park along the coastline to the bay) and it seemed to have a “Zion Reggae Bar” (Boyfriend is into reggae and dub) so we decided that's where we'd end our day.
We parked somewhere along the road close to the water and went for a drink first. From the road, Zion Reggae Bar looks like a small cafe but it's huge inside and the place also has a big garden. It might have been chiller to sit there because at the terrace in the front there were quite a few flies who decided to join the party.
Nevertheless, it was a chill place to sit for a while and have a drink or two. I had a big smoothie and Boyfriend ordered a cocktail. I can't remember what it cost but I think it was about €4.5 for the smoothie and €6 or so for the cocktail.
From the bar to the beach! The beach at St. Thomas Bay is tiny, but it's a sandy beach and that's all we wanted at that moment. Boyfriend went for a swim, I read a book and we returned to Mosta full relaxed and full of sunny reggae vibes.
Day 3: Victoria / Rabat in Gozo, Rambla Bay, the salt pans of Zebbug, and Xlendi
Ready to go to Gozo island! While many people seem to plan Gozo as a day trip from Malta, I planned for us to spend two nights on the smaller island. Why? Because I'd read it's more relaxed than Malta (it is) and relaxed sounded perfect.
If you do only have a day in Gozo and you want to make sure you don't miss any of the highlights, check out this full-day Gozo guided tour from Malta with hotel pick-up and drop-off
You might also wonder why I booked our trip to Gozo in the middle of our week on Malta and didn't stay at the same place in Malta first to then end our trip in Gozo before flying back home. Well, our flight back home was at 4 p.m. and I preferred being close to the airport of Malta to avoid any pre-flight stress.
Turned out that not going to Gozo on the weekend (we went Wednesday-Friday) was genius. I honestly don't know if I partially also planned it because I read that Gozo can get busy on the weekends or if it was just luck but I'm so happy we went during the week. When we got off the ferry back on Malta that Friday, there was a traffic line of – I kid you not – at least a two-hour wait to get on the ferry. Not only was the weekend starting (apparently, lots of Maltese go to Gozo on the weekend) but it was also a holiday weekend with St. Paul's being celebrated.
Anywayssssssss, I'll tell you more about taking the ferry to Gozo and back below. First, on with our Gozo itinerary!
When we got to Gozo we checked into our The Duke Boutique Hotel Gozo, located right in downtown Victoria, the capital of Gozo and also known as Rabat. I'll review the hotel later in this post but can already say that it was just a few minutes walking from the Citadel and the little alleys by city hall and so we decided to head in that direction for lunch.
Victoria / Rabat
Lunch at It-Tokk Restaurant
While Victoria is the main city on Gozo, it didn't seem to have so many nice restaurants with an outdoor seating area. It-Tokk got good reviews and had a rooftop terrace, so we opted to have lunch there. I had a chicken salad with a small sparkling water and Boyfriend a Caprese salad with a beer.
While we were in the main city, on a rooftop terrace, with a view of a square, the prices were the same as everywhere else. We paid €19.10 in total. Service was correct but not particularly warm.
Visiting the Citadel
The Citadel or “Citadella” is the main sight in Victoria. It's built on a hill that had its first settlers in the Neolithic times, but the Citadel itself dates back to the medieval period.
It's a bit like Mdina in that, while there are a few small museums and shops, it's mostly fun to wander the small alleys and climb the walls for 360° views of the surroundings. There's also a modern visitor center but we didn't go in there and there are public restrooms.
Visit the Citadel twice, once in the day and once at nighttime. At night, you can still enter the Citadel and it's beautifully illuminated. When we were there, there were only a few other people.
Rambla Bay Beach and it's two caves
By the time we'd visited the Citadel, it was late afternoon and we could use some beach time so we drove to Ramla Bay. Ramla Bay Beach is a wide (By Maltese standards) golden sandy beach with a large road leading up to it on which you can park. Right in front of the beach, there are several food and drink shacks with a large, covered terrace. Behind them are public restrooms and an outdoor shower.
One thing you might want to pay attention to when going to Ramla Bay is the wind. When we were there the first time (we went the next day as well), the wind was coming from the sea and we got totally covered in sand. That's how strong the wind was!
If that happens to be the case when you're there too, or if you just love to explore like we do, then there are two sights that you can see from Ramla Bay.
Calypso Cave is the best-known one. You used to be able to visit it but it collapsed and now you can only get on the viewing platform which overlooks Ramla Beach. It's just a short drive up from the road leading to the beach, but it's a one-car-wide kinda road.
There's a large parking lot by the cave and there are public restrooms as well.
While it's marked on Google Maps, Tal-Mixta Cave, on the other end of Ramla Beach, seems to be lesser known. The last bit of the road up there is pretty shaky and there's no official parking lot, though there is space to leave your car just a few meters from the cave entrance. When we got there, there were a few other people too.
When you get out of the car, there are no signs pointing to the cave, but it's hard to miss. First, walk to the cliff's edge for a view of the sea. When you do that, you'll pass a little staircase going down to the cave on your left-hand-side. It's just a few steps down but the wind coming up there can be brutal, so be prepared for that.
It's not hard to walk, though, and once you get into the cave you can enjoy this view.
Pretty amazing, right? Together with Xlendi, which I'll talk about below, this was probably our favorite find of the trip.
Marsalforn Bay and the salt pans of Zebbug
By now, Gozo had gotten us all excited and so we decided to go to a last place that we'd actually planned for the next day: the salt pans of Zebbug. There are lots of salt pans around Malta and Gozo, but these ones are an actual “sight to see” as they're so big.
On our drive there, we passed Marsalforn Bay. We were almost past it when we realized it was actually quite pretty and so we stopped at a viewpoint for a photo.
Onward to the salt pans then. You can drive all the way to the parking lot which is I-don't-know-where because we just left the car at the beginning of them. We walked that road for quite awhile, spotting the salt pans along the way. I don't know how long they went on for because, after a while, we'd seen it and decided to go back to freshen up for dinner.
I think they're definitely worth a stop. It's just that the road running alongside them is just that – a plain road, so the walk itself isn't that nice aside from the salt pans being there.
Xlendi for dinner
As Victoria wasn't that nice for dinner, we drove to Xlendi twice in the evening. It was just a 10-minute drive and the closest coastal town to where we were. It also turned out to be a lovely place. I'll talk a bit more about what you can do there during the daytime below. Now I'll just tell you about the restaurant we ate at twice.
Yes, we again ate at the same place twice but we hadn't intended to. The first evening, we wanted to have dinner at Ta' Karolina Restaurant. What you need to know is that Ta' Karoline lies right at the end of the little bay of Xlendi, against the cliffs, and that you actually need to take a road that goes along the back of the buildings to get there. Otherwise, you need to walk through the terraces of two other restaurants.
That last thing is what we intended to do but you know how it goes: the waiter of the first restaurant asked us if we wanted a table and Boyfriend said “yes” before I could subtly tell him this wasn't the restaurant we'd planned to go to. Then again, I'd checked this one as well and as it had gotten good reviews too, I let go of my plan.
So where did we end up? At The Boathouse. And it was great. The staff was super friendly and the food was beyond delicious. The portions? Massive. I'd ordered a seafood spaghetti as a main course, while I should have known to order it in the starter size. Portions on Malta are pretty big in general but here they went even a little beyond that.
Boyfriend had ordered a mix of marinated seafood and on the menu, it said you could have it as a main course for one person or as a starter to share. Honestly, it would have been enough as a main course for us to share! He got this massive bowl full of seafood and on top of that potato wedges, fries, and steamed vegetables.
We did want to try Ta' Karolina the night after, but it was full and as The Boathouse had been so good, was so close (and was also showing the World Cup – Belgium was playing), we decided to go back there.
Over the course of two dinners, we paid:
- €14.9 for the main course-sized spaghetti frutti di mare and €10.95 for the starter-sized one.
- €20.8 for a lamb shank with potato wedges, fries, and steamed vegetables
- €28.8 for a massive bowl of mixed shellfish marinara with potato wedges, fries, and steamed vegetables
- €3.95 for a large bottle of sparkling water
- €5.25 for a cocktail of the house
- €3.2 for a glass of white wine
And it was all totally worth it.
Dessert tip: Gelati Granola
Both evenings we were way too full for dessert, but I did stop at an ice cream place the second night anyway because one of my Instagram followers had told me that he thought the best ice cream place of Gozo was in Xlendi. I obviously needed to try it.
Gelati Granola is located right by the big parking lot at Pjazza I-Anfori in Xlendi, just before you reach the bay. I had three ice creams at different places and they were all equally good, but this one was simply massive. I ordered one scoop and the photo above is what I got.
Did I struggle to finish it? Not at all :D
Day 4: road trip around Gozo
The next morning, we drove back to Xlendi to visit it properly. It turned out to be our favorite place in Gozo! But let's not get ahead of things.
We parked the car and walked to the bay where we spotted a small staircase running up the cliffs right behind the Ta' Karolina restaurant. We decided to go and have a look and came out on this path along the cliff with great views of the bay. It runs to the Viewpoint of Xlendi and then ends, but there's also this one spot along the route where you can go down along these steps in between the cliffs until you get to the water.
From the viewpoint we could see that there was also a path on the other side of the bay, so that's where we headed next and it turned out to be one of the things to do in Xlendi, for us at least.
Don't take the big road but pass the tiny Xlendi beach and then follow the concrete walking path that goes along the bay, past the restaurants with terraces and the stone benches that have people tanning on them in summer. At one point, that concrete path turns into a hiking trail. You might wonder if you can go on – you can!
After a few moments, you'll see a stone bridge that you'll have to cross to then turn right and walk toward the water again. At the end of the trail, you'll reach Xlendi Tower from which you, again, get a great view of the bay.
If you look down at Xlendi Tower, you'll see some salt pans and a flat piece of what looks like sand-turned-stone by the color of it. You can go down there by going right to the tower. We did and were amazed by how different it looked.
Down here, you can walk on along the bottom of the cliff, away from the bay, until the ground (there's no path) goes up again. Just keep walking straight until you reach another little bay for the views.
I believe you can hike even beyond that, but I really needed to pee (hey, sometimes bodily things get in the way of exploration!) and so we headed back. We loved this little hike though and if you plan on walking in Malta, I can highly recommend it.
Good to know:
There are public restrooms at San Xmum, the big street that runs along the Pjazza I-Anfori parking lot, on the corner of Xatt Ix Xlendi. There are signs pointing toward them when you're coming from the bay.
Lunch at Pirate's Galley
Bladder emptied, it was time for lunch and, as always, I had a look on Google Maps to see which place got good reviews. If I hadn't, I probably would never have taken a seat at a restaurant called “Pirate's Galley”.
I have to admit: a nice Caprese salad, good cake and a view of the bay. What more do you need for lunch?
In total, we ordered and paid:
- €1.8 for a small Sparkling Water
- €1.8 for a Cisk beer
- €5.95 for a Caprese salad
- €5.9 for a tuna ciabatta
- €4.25 for a slice of cake
Yes, I am aware that my cake cost almost as much as my salad but hey, the salad was light and the cake was super chocolaty filling :-)
Service here was okay. I'd read raving comments on how friendly the staff is but they were just correct when we were there. Not bad, not wow either. Maybe they save that for dinnertime :-)
Dwejra Bay with Fungus Rock
After lunch, we drove to Dwejra Bay. This is where you could see the Azure Window, a famous 28 meters- (92 foot-) tall natural arch at the tip of the headland called Dwejra Point, until it collapsed in March 2017. The spot where the sea window used to be is now one of the most popular Gozo dive sites, but that's not all there is to do at Dwejra Bay.
First, let's drive onto the large, free parking lot. From there you can walk right to Dwejra Tower – yup, one of those again – and then further until you reach the actual Dwejra Bay with Fungus Rock.
Now, I don't know why some rocks have a name and some don't, but this big one sticking out of the sea does, and then there's a smaller one close to it that's called “Crocodile Rock”.
Once you've seen those, head to the other side of the parking lot. You can get close to the water there but make sure to also walk up a bit behind the chapel. There are no signs or anything, but from there you get a great view of the Inland Sea Divesite, which is basically a big natural swimming pool.
Needless to say, that's where we went next after Boyfriend bought a drink at the – indeed – drink and snack truck and I made use of the free public restrooms.
There's a small cafe with an outdoor terrace by the natural pool, as well as plenty of little beach and boat cabins owned by locals. You can get in the water from the rock beach or the pier, but be careful! The pier itself wasn't slippery, but if you walk toward the end of it, you need to step on some stone surrounding the pier and that was slippery because of moss. We saw one girl slip and bump her head pretty badly. Other than that, it's perfectly safe there. Just mind your step.
Sanctuaria Nacional de la Virgen de Ta'Pinu
After a quick dip, we drove on to the Sanctuaria Nacional de la Virgen de Ta'Pinu a.k.a. the Big Pretty Church. It's a bit weird as it's actually really just this big, beautiful church by big road in the middle of nowhere.
The site is super well-maintained and when we got there, a wedding was taking place inside the church so we just looked around outside. There's a large parking across the road and yes, there was a drink and snack truck. No public restrooms here though.
Tas Salvatur is Gozo's Christ The Redeemer. It's a hill with a big statue of a risen Christ. We tried driving to it to possibly climb the hill, but failed as the road we took didn't really get close enough for our lazy *sses to walk all the way there.
I read later that you need to park on the main road (not sure which one that would be) and then hike there and up. Apparently, there's also a bus stop about 15 minutes walking a from the foot of the hill. There's no parking lot or anything.
We wanted to end our second day on Gozo on San Blas Beach, but there was a road deviation and when we somehow ended up at Rambla Bay, we took it for a sign and crashed there – this time without heavy winds. Besides, I'm pretty sure that this is one of the best beaches in Malta, as it's a rather large stretch of sandy beach with enough space to fit quite a few people comfortably.
We also had a pizza at the second of the stands at the terrace (the one next to the ice cream and pancakes place) but that's not to be recommended. We had a plain Margherita but it was too much cheese and too little tomato sauce. Then again, if you like cheese, it might be just your thing.
The ice cream stand there does have great ice cream, though :-)
Day 5: Xewkija, Mgarr, Senglea and Vittoriosa / Birgu
On the fifth day of our trip, it was time to take the ferry back to Malta – but not before we made two more stops!
When we arrived in Gozo and drove from the ferry terminal to our hotel, I had spotted this big, pretty looking church. I figured out where it was and as it was on the way back, we stopped at the Rotunda St John Baptist Church in Xewkija.
The church dates back to 1678 and is supposed to have beautiful marble floors but we didn't get to see them as there was a mass happening. As to not disturb the mass, we just walked around the church and then headed on to Mgarr.
Mgarr is the coastal town where you can take the ferry back from Gozo to Malta but it also has a lovely harbor. Luckily, I'd read that before our trip, otherwise we might have driven right past it.
We parked our car on the road that runs down to the harbor and the ferry terminal but there are some limitations as to when you can park there. If you're rather save than sorry, there's also a big free parking lot at the end of the harbor road, at Triq Martino Garces.
We just walked up and down alongside the harbor before heading to the ferry, but we saw some nice-looking cafes there as well if you'd like to stop for a drink or a bite.
Senglea and Vittoriosa / Birgu
Once we got off the ferry in Malta, we drove to Vittoriosa, also known as Birgu, where our next and last accommodation was. We stopped for a quick bite on the way at Da Roberto Triq Caruana Dingli and paid €4.9 for a sandwich with parma ham, €1.7 for a coke and €1.2 for small sparkling water. I didn't try any of the delicious-looking pastries they had.
After having checked in to our apartment in Birgu, we decided to visit the fortress there.
Forti Sant' Anglu
Forti Sant' Anglu or Fort St. Angelo is a medieval fortress that has been an important strategical site all-throughout Malta's history. It's been restored and adapted throughout the centuries and in one of the exhibition spaces inside the fortress, you can watch an interesting animation video that explains exactly who ruled Malta when and how the fortress played a part in defending the island on so many occasions.
I'm usually not a fan of explanatory videos, but this one was really well-put together, clear, brief and to the point.
Other than that, it's fun to walk around the fortress for the views of the harbour, but they aren't exactly views you can't get from anywhere else and while there are some more explanatory signs and (limited) exhibition rooms, I wouldn't consider it an absolute must – although I'm sure some people would disagree.
The entry price is €8 for adults and the St Angelo Fort is open daily from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Vittoriosa Yacht Marina
Once we'd seen the fort, we went for a walk along the Vittoriosa Yacht Marina toward Senglea, as I wanted to visit Gnien il-Gardjola or Gardjola Gardens there.
The Birgu Marina stands out because of the proper yachts anchored there. There are a few “normal” pleasure yachts, a few bigger yachts and sailboats and then there are those yachts who have cost up to over 20 million euros. Not kidding.
Boats with a crew of four or five people bigger than what most would consider a decent enough house.
Luckily, the Birgu waterfront restaurants overlooking that harbor haven't adapted their prices to the wallets of those lucky few.
Once you cross to the other side of the marina, you're in Senglea. Together with Birgu and Cospicua, it's known as Three Cities – the three cities that form the cradle of Maltese history and whose harbors have been in use since Phoenician times.
The Gardjola Gardens are, aside from perhaps the Knisja Maria Bambina church, the only real sights in Senglea. From the gardens, you get a great view of the capital of Malta Valletta and the bay that separates it from Three Cities. The rest of Senglea is known as a place to wander around if you want to get a glimpse of local Maltese life.
Want to visit Three Cities on a guided tour and throw in some wine tasting as well? Then have a look at this tour.
Dinner at d Centre
d Centre, a lovely restaurant with a super weird name for what it is, is where we had dinner our first night in Vittoriosa. Its terrace is located in a small alley, making it probably the most peaceful restaurant terrace to have dinner at in the city.
On the menu, you'll find a bit of everything, including some typical Maltese dishes. I have to admit we didn't try any partially because we didn't know what was considered local and what wasn't and also partially because the things that were clearly local, like a rabbit stew, sounded a bit too heavy for the warm weather.
The restaurant also has a large indoor seating area and the part where you'll find the bar is more like a cafe. Make sure to head up to the toilets, even if you don't need to go, because then you'll see how big this place really is, including two beautiful ballroom-like halls on the top floor which can be rented for private events.
Here, we enjoyed:
- a chicken salad (€8.3)
- King prawns (€18)
- a Perrier 75cl (€3.4)
- a Cisk pint (€3)
Day 6: Valletta and Kalkara
I definitely also wanted to visit Valletta but Boyfriend isn't a big city fan so while I'd planned a whole day there, I kind of knew beforehand that he might not last that long.
Now, Valletta isn't a big city in comparison with other capitals and it's not even the biggest city in Malta in terms of population. That's Birkirkara. But while Valletta is rather small, we did visit on a Saturday and so it was probably busier than during the week. We spent the morning and had lunch there but then decided to spend the rest of our day chilling around Vittoriosa.
So what did we do?
First of all, we took the water bus from the harbor to Valletta. The water bus is €1.5 single or €2.8 return. We'd actually wanted to take one of the small local boat taxis (€2 single) but a large group of people had just gotten there before us and it looked like they would take a while, so we decided to take the big boat – that was just about to leave – there and then a small water taxi back.
You can also go by bus, but it takes much longer.
The boat dropped us right by the lift that goes up to the Upper Barakka Gardens and it turned out we'd done well taking the big water bus because our ticket let us take the lift up for free (going down is always free).
From the Upper Barakka Gardens, you get a great view of Three Cities. There is a little cafe and a saluting battery which is operated daily around noon.
From the Gardens, you can walk onto Castille Place which is surrounded by several historical buildings. The streets running down from the square are where you'll find shops, cafes and more historical buildings.
As we often do, we just wandered around without visiting anything in particular. Valletta is a pretty city but as it was so busy, it was clear that Boyfriend wasn't enjoying himself so after we'd walked down most of the streets, we went for lunch at The Ordinance Pub.
Lunch at The Ordnance Pub
The Ordinance Pub was a terrific find. Located on the corner where Ordnance Street becomes Cavalier Street, it lies away from the craziness of the shopping streets. We thoroughly enjoyed taking place on its terrace and felt like we stepped into a sbruschettae.
I probably make Valletta sound much busier and crazy than it is, but with the heat and Boyfriend not enjoying the place that much, that's really what it felt like.
We first shared a plate with three different bruschetta and then had a Caprese Salad and a salmon and avocado salad with a small sparkling water for me and a beer for Boyfriend for the total sum of €28.8. Service was friendly too.
Before heading back to Vittoriosa, we walked to the Valletta Waterfront, an old warehouse converted in a multifunctional space that now houses restaurants and stores. It was about a 10-minute walk from the elevator and while that's not long, it's not the funnest of walks, along the road in the blistering sun (in our case).
The Waterfront itself is nicely renovated but it looked a bit desserted in comparison with the rest of Valletta, and the prices there seemed to be higher than elsewhere.
Valletta with a guide
If you want to properly visit Valletta and learn all there is to know about the city, check out this 4-hour walking tour. It even includes hotel pick-up and drop-off as well as entry to the sites you'll visit on the tour.
Once we got back to Vittoriosa, we decided to check out the little bay our apartment was overlooking, on the other side of this peninsula. It was pleasant walk, but we didn't check out the rest of Kalkara, the town on the other side of that bay. I did, however, notice Esplora, an interactive science museum which I read is great for kids.
Dinner at Sottovento
Sottovento is one of the restaurants by the Yacht Marina, offering views of the million-dollar yachts from their terraces. We had actually planned to eat at Don Berto, the restaurant with balcony located one floor up above Sottovento, but their outdoor space had been fully booked so if you want to go there, make a reservation!
Sottovento turned out to be a good choice as well, although we were quite surprised with how they charged for an Aperol Spritz. Instead of having a price for the drink, they charged €3 for Aperol and then another €7.95 for 1/4 Prosecco, which we thought was ridiculously expensive. Unfortunately, they came to ask us for drinks before we'd seen the menu so we didn't know it would cost this much.
The rest of what we ordered was reasonably priced:
- €12.95 for a risotto marinara
- the same for a spaghetti marinara
- €2.95 for a big bottle of sparkling water
- €5.99 for a cocktail
Service was friendly, the food was nice, just the price of that Aperol Spritz was a bit of a downer.
Day 7: St. Julian's
On our last day in Malta, our flight left at 4 p.m. so taking into account that we needed to drop off our rental car and be at Malta Airport on time, we still had a good morning left. As we felt like we'd seen it in Three Cities, we decided to drive to St. Julian's – a good decision!
We parked our car at the free Spinola Bay parking lot and walked around the left side of the bay until we turned left where we couldn't go any further to pass the Cat Village (a tiny playground for cats – it's quirky but not that well-maintained) and walk toward Portomaso Marina.
Plenty of nice yachts there too, but none as massive as the ones we'd seen in Birgu.
We walked all the way around the marina, on to the pier and then back to walk the other side of Spinola Bay to Balluta Bay, where we had lunch at Zeppi's.
Lunch at Zeppi's
We decided to have lunch at Zeppi's when we were hiding from the sun for a moment at Pjazza tal-Balluta. It got raving reviews and while Boyfriend was very happy with his Italian salad, I wasn't a big fan of my grilled chicken salad. The chicken had been grilled a bit too hard for my liking. Maybe it was just bad luck because I heard people on the tables around us complimenting the kitchen when they came to clear their empty plates.
- €3.15 for 3 bruschetta
- €9.95 for a grilled chicken Caesar salad
- €9.4 for an Italian salad
- €1.7 for an Ice tea
- €1.35 for a small sparkling water
I have to say, I was happy with how well-priced drinks were at restaurants and cafes in Malta!
And that was it. After lunch, we headed back to the car to drive to the airport and wave Malta goodbye. But it's not the end of this post because I still have a bunch of practical information for you, so read on!
Book excursions in Malta
We explored Malta independently and didn't really book any special activities as a lot of the cool sights to see in Malta are free anyway, but if you'd like to go on an excursion or take a guided tour, have a look on GetYourGuide. They have a wide range of fun activities in Malta on offer.
Where to stay in Malta and Gozo
We arrived very late in the evening in Malta and spent our first three nights in Mosta at this airbnb. I left a review of it but basically: it was wonderful. A very spacious, clean and fully-equipped apartment with an indoor garage for us to use in a quiet neighborhood and still right by the main road, which made it easy to go day tripping.
Mosta has one main site, the Rotunda, which we planned on visiting before driving to Gozo, but we took the car as we had to check out and that's the only time we didn't immediately found a parking spot, so we decided to skip it.
On Gozo, we spent two lovely nights at The Duke Boutique Hotel Gozo, located right at the heart of Victoria and less than a 10-minute walk from the famous Citadel. We had a room overlooking the next door park, with a view of Tas Salvatur.
As The Duke Hotel Gozo is located on the 4th and 5th floor of a shopping complex, it's easy to get good views here. Speaking of which, we also got a view of the Citadel from the breakfast and lounge area.
Nice to know:
Guests of the hotel get a discount at certain stores inside the shopping center.
Our room at The Duke Gozo had a large seating area, a balcony, tons of closet space, and a desk with coffee and tea facilities. The massive separate bathroom came with free toiletries included and flatscreen tv was strategically placed in front of the large double bed.
Have a look:
Hotel guests can make use of the hotel's private underground parking at an extra cost. There's a free outdoor parking lot just a 5-minute walk away as well, but we parked at the hotel as that way, the car was nice and cool when we needed it in the morning.
The breakfast buffet is included and offers, aside from all the things you'd expect, beautifully presented glasses of yogurt, cereal, and toppings.
We appreciated the friendly service here and if we needed anything, the reception was open 24/7.
Want to stay at The Duke Boutique Hotel Gozo too? Check here for more reviews, prices, and availability.
In Birgu, we again stayed at the Grand Harbour View rental apartment that's also bookable through airbnb, more specifically this one. It was a good choice, with wonderful views of the harbor, a fully-equipped kitchen, great working WiFi and super-friendly hosts.
The day we arrived was the St. Paul holiday and as they knew we'd be checking in when the shops had already closed, they'd bought bread, ham, cheese, and milk for us. Tea and coffee were also provided. So thoughtful!
The apartment is located in a quiet street of Birgu, just minutes from the St. Angelo Fortress and the Yacht Marina. There were parking spaces right in front of the door. I'd definitely stay here again.
Getting around Malta and Gozo
Taking the Malta to Gozo ferry and back
Wondering how to get to Gozo from Malta by ferry? don't worry, taking the ferry from Malta to Gozo and back is easy. You don't need to pay to go from Malta to Gozo, only when you get back. The ferry runs 24/7 and you can find the exact Gozo to Malta and Malta to Gozo ferry times here.
So how far is Gozo from Malta? About 21 km or 13 miles, which translates into a crossing of about half an hour with the Malta-Gozo ferry.
Going from Malta to Gozo
If you're going from Malta to Gozo by car, like we did, just drive to the Gozo ferry terminal in Cirkewwa in Melleiha Bay and follow the signs. You'll then get to the waiting lines where they'll show you when you can drive into the ferry. Once you've arrived in Gozo, you just drive out and on to wherever you need to go.
Once you're parked, you can get out of the car and go up to the deck for the views or to the indoor seating area. There are also free toilets and a kiosk with drinks and snacks. If you're on foot, you'll be at the passenger's deck already. There will be a bell sound when you're almost there and it's time for the drivers to go back to their cars.
On the ferry Gozo to Malta
When you go to Malta from Gozo, that's when you need to pay for your ticket. It's €15.7 for a standard car + driver and €4.65 for an adult passenger. If there's more than one person in a car, you'll pay the €15.7 + €4.65 for every person aside from the driver.
Again, when you get to the ferry terminal in Mgarr, just follow the signs for either car passengers or passengers on foot. If you're a foot passenger, you'll need to buy your ticket at the ticket booth. If you're by car, you'll pass a ticket booth when you're driving toward the ferry's waiting lines.
We had planned to take the ferry one later than the one we ended up taking because we first thought that we wouldn't be able to make the early one. When we saw that we might, we hurried toward the ferry to quickly buy our tickets.
The thing is, we didn't have exact change, and so the lady gave us a discount of a couple of euros so that we could still catch the ferry. That was so nice of her to do and I'm sure there are many places where they'd just make you miss the ferry to pay the exact amount.
She said: “It's okay, just go go go!” and so we went went went, driving past some men sitting about – or so we thought. Just like we thought they were also yelling “Go go go!” at us to make the ferry, while, in fact, they were yelling “Ho ho ho!” as they were the ticket inspectors and we still had to show their ticket. Luckily, we realized something was amiss and hit the breaks, after which one of the men ran up to us, quickly checked our ticket and let us get on the ferry.
We made it!
It would have been absolutely fine if we didn't, but we did and with a fun memory attached to it :-)
Our rental car and driving in Malta and Gozo
Do you need a car in Malta? Not really, but it'll make your trip much more hassle-free. We got a discount for our rental car from Auto Europe, a rental car booking platform which works together with local suppliers to offer a wide range in car options, both in terms of price and size.
Want to book a rental car for your Malta trip? Check them out!
Now, if you've researched Malta a bit, you might wonder why we decided to rent a car. I say that because when I was researching our trip, I kept having people say how crazy traffic is in Malta and how many traffic jams there are around Valletta and how driving around Malta is so stressful and so on.
Honestly? Malta was one of the chillest countries we've ever driven in. Very little traffic, generally courteous drivers and the “crazy” traffic around Valletta was about the same as driving around my hometown on a Sunday.
I don't mean to ridicule the people who warned me about driving in Malta, but I do want you to know it wasn't a problem at all.
You do have to drive on the left side of the road, but we'd both done that before and while Boyfriend did all of the driving this time, he didn't have any problem with it at all. If you've never done it before, I wouldn't worry about it too much as, again, most of the roads you'll be on don't have that much traffic and all you really need to do is follow the flow. It's not that hard to adapt as everyone around you is driving left too :-)
What about those parking attendants?
I had read beforehand that there are often parking attendants at free parking lots who look after your car while you're away, kind of like in South Africa and that you can give them a tip, but that it's not mandatory.
We only saw them two or three times and in none of the cases, they came up to us to ask for money. We did see it happen to other people though. Just so you know that you can give something, but our not obliged to.
The bus system
As we rented a car, we didn't make use of the bus system on the islands. We do know lots of tourists do, but we were also happy whenever we saw them waiting for a bus in the heat that we didn't have to.
Obviously, you might not want to or be able to drive in Malta for some reason and in those cases you can perfectly get around by bus as well, but a car just offers way more flexibility, especially to get to the places that are a bit further away from town centers.
You can find information on the Malta public transport system, including Malta bus routes, here. Be sure to check the Tallinha Card. It costs €21 for a week of unlimited bus travel in Malta and Gozo.
The hop on hop off Malta
And then there's always the hop-on/hop-off bus. It's great if you want to see a lot in little time or don't feel like figuring out which normal bus to take where. You can buy tickets for the hop-on/hop-off at various booths near the routes but be careful, because some might make you pay more than the actual ticket price and with others you can haggle to pay a bit less – or so I've read.
Want to avoid the hassle or risk of paying too much? Buy your ticket for the hop-on/hop-off online!
Get your ticket for the Malta hop-on/hop-off here.
Get your ticket for the Gozo hop-on/hop-off here.
How to get to Malta
We flew from Brussels Airport to Valletta Malta Airport with Air Malta. I believe they were the only airline offering flights to Malta from Brussels Airport at the time of booking. If you want to check your options from your departure airport for flights to Valletta, Malta, Skyscanner gives a good overview.
There are no direct flights to Gozo. To get to Gozo, you need to fly to Malta first and then take the ferry. You can take a taxi from Malta Airport to Gozo ferry or go by bus. If you want to make things easy on yourself though, consider booking a transfer beforehand.
As it's an island, you'll almost certainly fly to Malta – unless you take the ferry from Sicily, Italy, which takes about 1h 45 mins, or from Salerno, Italy, which takes longer. Grimaldi Lines are currently the only companies offering the crossing.
Long live clean public bathrooms
As you could read above, there are a lot of public toilets near sights and in town centers around Malta and Gozo. And to my surprise, they were all free and clean. Only twice did we see a “toilet attendant” and in those cases, I left some coins, but it wasn't mandatory to do so and they didn't have a price up of how much you needed to pay.
Is Malta cheap?
Is Malta expensive, or is it cheap? As you could see, I've indicated what we paid for our meals everywhere so you can check whether that's more or less than what you'd pay where you live. For us, it was a little less. Gas cost about the same as in Belgium and as we didn't really visit any museums, aside from Fort St Angelo, I can't really comment on those prices.
You can find accommodation in Malta at varying prices. When I was looking around, I found that rental apartments tended to be cheapest, followed by smaller B&B's. Check Booking.com to get a good idea of options and prices.
A week in Malta: wrap-up
To wrap things up, I think spending one week in Malta was ideal. We saw most of the things we wanted to see although, obviously, not everything. We consciously didn't go to the famous but supposedly overcrowded Blue Lagoon on Comino, which I don't really regret, and also didn't visit one of the Malta Temples, ruins dating back to Megalithic times.
if you would like to go to the Blue Lagoon, you can do so on this day trip from St. Paul's Bay.
I do wish we'd have had the time to rent a little boat for an afternoon or so but all-in-all I'd definitely recommend a week if it's your first Malta vacation.
I'm also happy we spent two nights on Gozo and didn't just go or the day as we actually liked Gozo a bit better than Malta. It was even more relaxed (when we were there, at least), the landscape was just a little more stunning and the island was a bit cleaner too. On Malta island, there was waste along the sides of the road in many places. Not a lot, but enough to notice.
As for the timing, I don't know if it's the best time to visit Malta, but June was pretty perfect for us. We had amazing weather all-week-long, with temperatures touching 30°C/86°F and sunshine every day.
And that's it! I hope this Malta travel guide has helped you decide what to do in Malta. Let me know in the comments if you're planning to travel there too, and how it was if you've been!
Don't forget travel insurance
Plan for the best, prepare for the worst. Travel insurance has you covered in case (part of) your trip gets canceled, you get sick or hurt abroad, and sometimes even when your electronics break or get stolen. I always make sure I'm covered every trip I go on.
Don't have travel insurance yet? Check out SafetyWing. They offer super flexible plans that you can even sign up for while you're already on your trip. On top of that, they were the first travel insurance to cover COVID, and when I got COVID, they reimbursed all of my expenses without making a fuss. Their customer support team is great and I can personally recommend them.
PIN FOR LATER
We were guests of The Duke Boutique Hotel Gozo during our stay there and received a discount on our rental car through Auto Europe as affiliate partners of the brand. As is always the case with partnerships like these, I was free to and will always write what I want about my experience with them.
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