Often neglected by visitors to southern Europe in favor of popular hotspots like Italy and Greece, Malta offers travelers a fabulous Mediterranean alternative. If you spend 3 days in Malta, you will have enough time to see the main highlights of this little but marvelous country. On this page you’ll discover all the best things to do in Malta on your short trip to the island nation. 

Malta might be low on people, but it is rich in history and natural beauty. A 3-day trip to Malta will give you a good introduction to the country and its culture. It will be a busy 3 days, but I know you’re up for it. Better get going, there is a lot to see!

Malta – What You Need to Know

Where is Malta?

Malta is in the Mediterranean Sea, just south of Italy’s island of Sicily and north of Tunisia. It consists of two main islands, Malta and Gozo, with the tiny island of Comino in between. Both Malta and Gozo are small, compact, and densely populated. Malta is the main island, home to the vast majority of the population. 

It’s a bit confusing that the country is named Malta and the largest island is also named Malta. So in this article when we say Malta we are referring to the country, though nearly all the destinations mentioned here are also on the island of Malta. 

How to get to MaltaMalta - Mdina

As Malta is a small island nation in the middle of the Mediterranean, there are only two ways in and out: by air and by sea. Most people arrive by air, flying into Malta International Airport just outside the capital city of Valletta.

There are direct flights to Valletta from many European cities, but not from overseas. If coming from outside Europe it might make sense to book a separate local flight to Valletta from a larger city like Amsterdam or London. Flights from northern Europe can be pretty damn cheap. We paid only 90 euros direct return from Amsterdam (though that was pre-covid)!

The other way to reach Malta is by boat. There is a ferry from Sicily to Malta that runs twice daily. At over 100 euros per person (not including car) and taking between 4 and 5 hours, I’d only consider the ferry if you live in Sicily or you really, really, really want to take your own car. 

How to get around MaltaMalta - water taxi

As beautiful as Valletta is, it’s likely you won’t want to spend all your time in the city, so avoiding transportation options other than your feet won’t be possible. In Valletta, you can walk, but to leave the city you’ll need transportation. 

Malta has popular ride-sharing services Uber and Bolt that will take you anywhere you want to go. Be sure to download the apps before your trip. 

There is also an extensive bus network that can get you anywhere you need to go. We took the bus from the airport to Valletta and also to the Blue Grotto on the south side of the main island. It’s cheap and safe. 

If you really want to explore the island in depth you might want to consider renting a car. Cars are affordable and available from the airport. For renting cars in Europe we use Rentalcars.com You can find a great deal on a rental car using the search bar below. Just note that Malta drives on the left side of the road.  

There are also dozens of tours in Malta that will take you around the island of Malta and the other islands with a licensed guide. You can check out all the tours on GetYourGuide or Viator. Here are a few suggestions.

Southern Malta Tour – Blue Grotto, Hagar Qim & Marsaxlokk 

Comino, Blue Lagoon & Gozo Boat Cruise 

2.5-hour Mdina and Rabat Tour (requires you to get to Mdina on your own though)

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Weather and when to visitDingli Cliffs

The weather in Malta is pretty damn perfect, though summers can get pretty hot. Summer highs average about 89 degrees (32 C) and rainfall is rare. If you visit between May and August you’re basically guaranteed to have sunny skies. The capital city of Valletta has never even recorded a temperature below freezing. 

Daily winter highs average about 60 degrees (15.5 C), though winter brings more rain, with rain falling about 10 days per month. Malta is a great place to visit in winter, especially late winter when the days are longer and it’s warm enough to walk around in a t-shirt. 

Malta is not nearly as visited as popular destinations in Italy, Greece, or Spain, but it’s a very compact island so it can feel quite crowded during the summer months. So when considering when to visit, the best times are April to early July or late September through October. 

Where to stay in Malta

Determining where to stay will be one of the toughest decisions you’ll make when planning your trip to Malta. There are endless hotels and accommodations all across the country. But staying in Valletta gives you the best restaurants at your doorstep and easy access to anywhere on the main island (since all the buses go through Valletta). 

Valletta is also far more historic and beautiful than the surrounding cities that are full of large hotels and resorts that lack character. Here are some recommendations for where to stay in Valletta.

The Embassy Valletta Hotel 

Sally Port Suites 

Casa Rocca Piccola B&B 

How long to stay

Two nights in Malta is the absolute minimum you should consider. There is a whole lot to see and do in this little country. This post assumes you have 3 days in Malta so you’re either spending two or three nights. It’s possible to spend longer and still have a great time, or Malta can easily added onto a trip to somewhere in southern Italy like Sicily or Puglia.

Language 

There are two official languages in Malta: Maltese and English. Malta was ruled by the Brits for over 150 years so English is pretty standard. Their native language has also survived. Additionally, about of the country can also speak Italian. 

Population

For a tiny country, over 500,000 people call Malta home. This gives it a pretty high population density. It’s the seventh most populated country on earth when ranked by people per square mile. If you’re looking to get away from it all, Malta isn’t the place for you. 

Maltese Food

The Maltese have some of their own unique culinary creations. You can think of it as if Italian food and British food had a baby. One thing you should be sure to try is the slow-cooked rabbit, Malta’s national dish. It’s basically a full rabbit on a plate with veggies. Superb. 

Travel insurance

When visiting Malta, it’s advised to have travel insurance so that you’re protected in case of unexpected circumstances or illness.  

A Quick Introduction to MaltaMalta

Malta is a stunningly gorgeous country in the southern Mediterranean. It’s dry and lacks trees, but makes up for its lack of green with its turquoise-blue water and colorful old buildings.

There are three islands that make up the country: Malta, Gozo, and Comino. Malta is the main island. It’s the largest and where the vast majority of the population lives. There are no bridges between the islands, only a ferry. 

Malta has some of the oldest man-made structures on earth, tracing back almost 6000 years. There are various archaeological sites and museums on Malta Island that showcase this rich history. 

Due to its strategic location in the middle of the sea, it’s been ruled by everyone from the Romans to the British. The modern country of Malta has been independent since the 1960s and today is a thriving island nation. 

With 3 days in Malta you will get a good introduction to the country, even if you won’t be able to see all the fascinating places it has to offer. Let’s now walk through all the main things to do and see in Malta. 

Things to do and see in Valletta 

Malta’s capital city, Valletta, is probably one of the most beautiful cities you’ll ever set eyes upon. The city itself is tiny, the smallest capital city in the EU, and it’s surrounded by ancient walls that basically make it a big fort. The streets are narrow and the buildings are nearly all constructed from light brown sandstone masonry, giving it a unique charm. 

It reminds you of the Italian villages in Tuscany or Dubrovnik in Croatia. Valletta itself is a UNESCO World heritage Site, and it doesn’t take long to see why. 

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If you have 3 days in Malta you’ll want to spend at least a half day exploring Valletta. Start from the main entry gate (remember it’s an ancient walled city) and cover the sights on foot. Walking around the city will be the highlight of your day, even if you never step inside a single building. Here are some of the main stops to make on your walk around Valletta. 

 

Fort St. Elmo – National War Museum

Fort St. Elmo (https://heritagemalta.org/national-war-museum/) is a massive fort that sits on the end of the Valletta Peninsula. Built in 1552, its main purpose was to defend Malta against attacks from the Ottomans. Today it showcases the amazing maritime architecture of the Maltese while also featuring a war museum with artifacts collected over the centuries. 

St. John’s Co-Cathedral 

Perhaps the most elaborate of the cathedrals in Malta is St. John’s (https://www.stjohnscocathedral.com/). Exquisitely decorated inside, it was completed in 1578. Entry to the church is pretty pricey at 15 euros per person. But many argue that it’s worth it to see the lavish interior. 

Upper Barrakka Gardens

Upper Barrakka Gardens is a beautiful little park with amazing views. From here you can see south to some other neighborhoods on the other side of the bay. You can also get a pretty decent view of Fort Ricasoli, another large Maltese fort (closed to the public) across from St. Elmo. There is no fee for the gardens and it’s also a lovely place to just take a break from walking around the city. 

Lower Barrakka GardensMalta - Lower Barrakka Gardens

A little down the road is Lower Barrakka Gardens. Similar to its counterpart, it offers awesome views of Fort Ricasoli and the amazing coastline of Malta. 

National Museum of Archaeology 

Malta has a rich human history (see Hagar Qim below) and the National Museum of Archaeology features fascinating exhibits on the islands’ early history. The museum is open 9:00-16:30 and only costs 5 euros to visit. A quick trip into this museum will give you further appreciation of the historic sites you’ll see outside the city.  

St. Lucia’s Street St. Lucia’s Street 

One of many picturesque pedestrian streets in Valletta is St Lucia’s Street. Calling it a street is a bit of a misrepresentation though. It’s really more of a wide stairway flanked with restaurants and shops. Nothing beats stopping on St Lucia’s Street for a cold aperol spritz on a hot summer day!

The Red Phone BoothThe Red Phone Booth

One of my favorite charming squares in Valletta is known for having bright red balconies and an old red phone booth. The backdrop makes for some splendid photos. 

Malta’s West Coast

The west coast of Malta is less populated and more rugged than the east coast, where most of the cities and hotels are. Full of steep cliffs that drop into the sea, the west coast is where you’ll go to see the most breathtaking natural scenery in Malta. 

The Blue GrottoThe Blue Grotto

The Blue Grotto is a stunning landscape of rocky cliffs and natural arches coming out of the Mediterranean. From the parking lot / bus stop it’s an easy walk to the various viewpoints. If you want to get up close and personal with the grotto, head down to the shore at Wied Iż-Żurrieq and book a 20 minute boat tour. The short tour will set you back 8 euros and only runs if sea conditions are favorable. 

Popeye VillageMalta - Popeye Village

Popeye Village is the most visited destination in Malta. So what is it? It’s the movie set for the 1980 Hollywood film Popeye. It was actually filmed here and today the set has been repurposed into a tourist attraction complete with pools, a mini golf course, and cinemas. 

It’s in a beautiful location and it really is a little village. The movie set was pretty elaborate, having constructed numerous wooden houses and buildings. A visit to Popeye Village is especially fun for those traveling with kids.

MarsaxlokkMarsaxlokk

Marsaxlokk is just a little bay full of fishing boats but it’s quite possibly the most beautiful water you will ever see. It’s worth a visit just to see that amazing water. Just look at that water in the photo below!

There isn’t a whole lot to actually do here other than walk the bay and take in the sights and sounds and maybe grab a bite at a cafe. But just the view of the colorful fishing boats in the harbor is worth your time. If you’re going to skip one of the places mentioned in this post, do not make it this one.

Dingli Cliffs

Possibly the most spectacular cliffs on the south coast of Malta are the Dingli Cliffs. It’s free to visit but there aren’t really any trails to any viewpoints. You just have to scramble. Note that parking is limited if you’re in your own car (easy to get to by bus though). 

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Golden BayMalta - Golden Bay

One of the best beaches on Malta is Golden Bay in the northwest corner of the island. There’s not a whole lot of sandy beaches on the island, but the sandy beach at Golden Bay is deep and there’s plenty of room to find a nice spot to sunbathe, even on a crowded summer day. There is parking nearby and numerous restaurants to watch the sunset over the beach. 

Hagar Qim and MnajdraHagar Qim

Hagar Qim and Mnajdra are two of the oldest archaeological sites in the world. Dating back nearly 6000 years, these are both small sites of stacked rocks, sort of like Malta’s Stonehenge. 

There’s nothing particularly special about the sites other than their age and condition. The little villages are remarkably intact. These days, a sunshade canopy has been added over each side to keep them protected from sun and rain. 

Other Stops to Make if you Have 3 Days in Malta

While the west coast may be the best coast, there are tons of other amazing sights in Malta. With only 3 days in Malta you won’t have a lot of time to spend on each of these spots, but you should be able to hit them all if you’ve rented a car.

The Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon

photo courtesy of Billy from BRBgonesomewhereepic.com

Possibly the most famous spot in Malta is the Blue Lagoon. While it’s not quite as well known as Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, it’s spectacular in its own way.  

Situated off of the small island of Comino, just north of the main island of Malta, the Blue Lagoon has some of the clearest, bluest water you will ever see in your life. The water is turquoise due to its shallow depth. Just be advised that this place gets busy. To get there you can take a boat tour or a ferry or visit as part of an organized tour as suggested previously. 

St. Peter’s PoolSt. Peter’s Pool

One of the best natural swimming holes on the island is St. Peter’s Pool. It’s usually busy with tourists and locals alike. It’s very small so on a busy summer day it can be too crowded for comfort, so go early in the morning. Some locals operate a parking lot so if you’re driving yourself you’ll have to pay. Otherwise, it’s free to jump in the water. 

Mdina

MdinaMdina, also known as the Silent City, is an ancient fortified city built on a hill in central Malta. The 11th century medieval wall is brilliantly intact and the city streets are arguably as beautiful as Valletta. 

Mdina is car-free other than the vehicles of the limited number of residents who live within the ancient walls. So you can walk the city streets without interruption. Spend an hour or so wandering around the city, making sure to stop by St. Paul’s Cathedral before moving on. 

St. Julian’s

If you’re looking for some action and nightlife, the neighborhood of St. Julian’s is where you want to be. The main promenade is lined with fancy resorts, boutique hotels, restaurants and nightclubs. 

Be aware though, that this area looks as much like Miami than it does Valletta. While there are plenty of typical Maltese buildings, they’re overshadowed by modern mid-rise hotel and resort buildings. But if you want to stay out all night drinking you can’t beat St. Julian’s.

Sliema

Sliema is actually Malta’s biggest city, with a population of over 20,000. It’s situated on the peninsula just north of Valletta and has a similar look to St. Julian’s – i.e. more modern architecture. 

Perhaps the best thing about Sliema is the amazing views you get of Valletta from the promenade. There are also a lot of great restaurants and bars in Sliema, should you want to eat where the locals eat. 

3 Day in Malta – Frequently Asked Questions

Are 3 days enough in Malta?

3 days are enough to get the main highlights of Malta and take in the local culture and customs. You won’t get to extensively explore the islands, but you’ll get a solid taste. 

What is not to miss in Malta?

Malta’s top sites and landmarks that you shouldn’t miss are:

  • Valletta
  • The Blue Lagoon
  • The Blue Grotto
  • Marsaxlokk
  • Mdina

Can you visit Malta without a car? 

Malta is easy to visit without a car. The main island of Malta has an extensive bus network. Malta also has popular ride sharing services Uber and Bolt that will take you anywhere you want to go. 

What food is famous in Malta?

Malta’s most traditional and famous food is slow-cooked rabbit, the national dish. You can also get rabbit stew and all sorts of pasta variations. Moral of the story: when in Malta, try the rabbit.

Final Word

On this page you learned what to do with 3 days in Malta, focusing on the main island of Malta. There are of course numerous other amazing places in Malta to visit, including the northern Island of Gozo. But with only 3 days, you won’t really have time to do everything. 

The places listed in this post will make for one heck of a busy three days, but it just might be the most memorable trip of your life! You will be in complete awe of the beauty of Malta just like I was and you’ll be dying to get back one day. 

Guest Author: Chris at aroundtheworldwithme.com.

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