If you’re looking for an affordable autumn/winter sun holiday destination, let me introduce you to Malta. A European country sitting just south of Sicily, Malta weather stays above 20 degrees until mid-to-late November.
An archipelago of three islands — Malta, Gozo and Comino — there’s plenty of things to do in Malta as well as exploring the islands. Here’s everything you need to know including what to do in, where to stay, and the best bars and restaurants in Malta not to miss during your stay.
You can book your trip to Malta with Jet2holidays, including flights, airport transfers and hotels. This is how I booked and not only did it make the planning process easy and travelling seamless, it also gave me additional peace of mind with regards to Covid-19 because they ensured safety measures were followed the entire time and gave advice on what to do and how to stay safe during the holiday. If you don’t want to book the holiday altogether you can just book flights to Malta with Jet2.
Where to stay in Malta: Urban Valley Resort Review
Just a 10-minute drive from Valetta or Sliema, Urban Valley Resort offers you the chance to switch off and do nothing. With two outdoors pools and a poolside bar with local beers for just €3 and cocktails for less than €10 (with a daily happy hour) it was hard to pull myself away. Inside the hotel you’ll find a third pool in the fitness suite, with a small workout area and large spa area with sauna, steam room, jacuzzi and relaxation room surrounding the indoor pool. Staying here helped me balance my time between exploring Malta and actually relaxing — something I desperately needed to do! I arranged my stay at the Urban Valley Resort with Jet2, and the hotel has a free shuttle service everyday going in and out of both Valetta and Sliema.
Things to do in Malta: walk around Valletta
Visiting Valletta, Malta’s capital, should be top of the list. Decreed in the 16th century to be ‘a city built by gentlemen for gentlemen’, the cream-coloured architecture has an air of sophistication. And, at just 1km by 600m, you can easily explore it in an afternoon on foot.
Be sure to visit the Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens, built in the late 1600s for Italian knights. Here you can explore the gardens, gaze at historic monuments and read about Maltese and European history on various commemorative plaques. You can stop for a coffee, or simply enjoy the views across the sea and over to The Three Cities: Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua — fortified cities entrenched in Malta’s history.
Skip lunch and stop for a Pastizzi or two as you walk around the capital — a Maltese speciality of puff pastry filled with peas or meat, or Ricotta cheese (Pizelli). Bakeries are strewn throughout the island selling them for around 50 cents.
Stay in Valletta until the evening and watch the city come alive as people gather to eat and drink with live performances scattered throughout. You’ll find large restaurants taking over the main streets with tables and chairs but, in my experience, the best places can be found on side streets and down stairways towards the edge of the island (think Lisbon surrounded by water, if you’ve been).
Things to do in Malta: dip in the Roman baths in Sliema
This was probably the highlight of my week in Malta. If you visit anything, visit this. Commonly referred to as the Roman Baths or Fond Ghadir, they’re actually tied to the Victorian era (1837-1901). This was when the idea that the seaside could be a place of leisure began, possibly even founded by the Brits in Malta (the country gained independence from the British Empire in 1864). They were likely created by rich British families looking to bathe, and history tells of women fully clothed in the water up until the 1930s (for modesty).
The small pools, just three feet deep, run along the coastline and are surprisingly not that busy. I always spent two days at the baths and there were always free pools waiting to be dipped in.
It’s worth noting, that all along the coastline Maltese people will happily swim. They can often be seen sunbathing on rocks and diving in, with steps seemingly placed at random on edges of the island so you can make your way into the water anywhere. But, unless you’re a very strong swimmer, I’d stick to the beaches and pools.
Things to do in Malta: visit Mdina for sunset
Mdina – the old capital, known as Malta’s ‘silent city’, is a pebble street fort on the highest point of the island. It’s a residential area so offers some escape from other tourists, but with a few good restaurants and bars for the evening.
Head down in the afternoon to explore the area and take in the architecture (a mix of medieval and Baroque) and then stop in at the Fontanella Tea Garden. If you’re lucky, grab a seat upstairs and you’ll have incredible views to enjoy with a cup of tea and a generous portion of homemade cake.
Make sure you’ve got a good spot for sunset and watch how dramatically the city changes at night.
Things to do in the south of Mata: Hagar Qim, the Blue Grotto and Dingly Cliffs
If you’re considering renting a car, visiting the south side of Malta will make it worth your while. The Blue Grotto consists of several caves you can explore by boat, as well as stunning blue waters perfect for snorkelling and diving. But without much space to relax out of the water, it’s not somewhere you can spend the day, which is why I suggest doing heading to Hagar Qim and the Dingly Cliffs as well. For a day by the beach in Malta, head to Melleiha Bay or Golden Bay.
The Hagar Qim temples (pronounced Ha-jar-eem) are some of the oldest structures created by man ever found on the planet — dating back to 3,600BC. Described by the World Heritage Sites committee as “unique architectural masterpieces”, the Megalithic Temples are well worth a visit and also offer views across the Mediterranean.
Finally, the Dingly Cliffs, offering more dramatic cliffs and stunning views — another great spot for the sunset.
Things to do in Malta: where to eat and drink
I didn’t eat traditional Maltese food during my stay, as it’s pretty meat-heavy and I only eat fish, and then fish was surprisingly expensive for an island surrounded by water. Thankfully, we found a true hidden gem.
Not located in any of the main cities, The Seafood Market Grill by Adam’s Fish Shop has reasonable prices and some of the best food I’ve ever tasted. The tuna steak, in particular, is unmissable, but the lobster, sea bass and sea bream were all worthy opponents (I may have visited a few times).
Due to its proximity to Italy you’ll find an abundance of Italian restaurants around. I recommend San Paolo Naufrago. You’ll find it on a staircase in Valletta, and you’ll always find it full so book ahead (advisable for any restaurant in Malta, as this seems to be the custom). If you find yourself in Valletta in the evening and haven‘t booked, go over and reserve a table and then head to the next street on the right and have a cocktail or two at Café Society.
In Mellieha? Visit Bouquet Garni, Commando or Rebekha’s. In Mdina head to Bacchus or Cork and Fork, and in Sliema try Barracuda or Marrobbio Restaurant.
Travelling from London? See where else you can catch Jet2 flights from London Stanstead to visit.