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Known for its historic sites and unspoiled landscapes, Malta is dotted with underwater caves, ancient temples and medieval architecture. Sitting in the Mediterranean Sea, it offers an array of activities, from cave diving to museum hopping and day-tripping to nearby islands. From ornate cathedrals to intricate catacombs, here are the best things to do in Malta.
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Explore the old capital of Mdina
Mdina is the ancient capital of Malta and is famous for being surrounded by dominating fortifications and picturesque, cobbled streets. Step back in time with a stroll around the city to discover 4,000 years of history and admire its mix of Baroque and medieval architecture in well-preserved churches, beautiful palaces and fortified walls, which creates an ambiance of an outdoor museum. Pop into one of the quaint shops or sip coffee at an outdoor cafe, then indulge in Mediterranean cuisine at a traditional restaurant.
Enjoy panoramic views from Upper Barrakka Gardens
Sitting next to Valletta, the Upper Barrakka Gardens offers the best views of the city. Take a scenic stroll around the colorful flora and fauna that lines the beautifully landscaped grounds, then take a break from sightseeing to admire the stunning panoramic vistas of the Grand Harbor. Sitting atop a bastion, you can watch as every day at noon characters dressed in British Artillery uniforms fire a salute from the cannons below.
Step back in time at the Lascaris War Rooms
History enthusiasts should put Lascaris War Rooms on the top of their itinerary. Located 150 feet under the Upper Barracca Gardens, the rooms are actually tunnels that were used in World War II. Explore the chambers that were used as strategic headquarters from where the defense of Malta was conducted. You can get an up-close look at the complex deep inside the bastion walls of Valletta and see ops rooms with maps, phons and plotting tables.
Wander the streets of Valletta
A must on any trip to Malta, take a stroll through the UNESCO World Heritage-listed streets of Valletta. The capital city boasts charming narrow streets, trendy restaurants and hilly streets with colorful enclosed balconies that date back to the early 17th century. Like an open-air museum, you’ll want to marvel at its Baroque architecture and pop into the quaint cafes and wine bars as you take a breezy walk along the promenade and watch sunset views across the water.
Take a tour of Casa Rocca Piccola
Casa Rocca Piccola was built in the 1680s and is the result of the Knights of St. John, who wanted to build a city beautiful enough to be compared to the likes of Paris or Venice. You can take a guided tour of the 16th-century palace to admire its aesthetic appeal in over 50 rooms that include two libraries, drawing rooms and its own chapel. The museum features an extensive historical collection with paintings, silver antiquities and antique costumes on display.
Swim in Comino’s Blue Lagoon
For underwater adventures, Comino is the best spot to explore. While its an ideal area for reef and cave diving, it’s also a popular for its pristine Blue Lagoon, a large swimming pool with aquamarine colored waters that are postcard-perfect. Considered a water lover’s paradise, this small island is car-free and is virtually uninhabited aside from its day trippers. If you’re looking for an adventure, go diving at the famous Calypso Cave.
Admire the interior of Mosta Dome
One of the best examples of Malta’s lavish architecture, Mosta Dome features beautiful Neo-classical style. You’ll be taken aback with the 220-foot-high dome, which is the third largest rotunda in the world. Modeled after the Pantheon in Rome, once you step inside the Mosta Dome you’ll discover marble floors and intricate gold and blue details, including a pipe organ with 2,000 pipes. You can also see the bomb that fell through it in 1942 and failed to detonate.
Explore Fort St. Elmo
Built in a star formation, Fort St. Elmo looks out over Valletta’s picturesque harbor. Take a guided tour around the fort and take in the fascinating history of the fortification. It was the scene of a heroic defense during the Great Siege of 1565 and has seen continuous use over the centuries, from World War II to the present day. Walk around the historic site and imagine what life was like back in 1552.
Visit St John’s Co-Cathedral
A gem of Baroque art and architecture, St John’s Co-Cathedral is the Knights of Malta’s main church and is an extraordinary place of worship. Step inside to discover a dazzling display of beauty with every inch covered in gold, marble or paint while you’ll also find details that include decorative frescoes from stories from the Bible. Grab an audio guide and hear about the history of the cathedral and the oratory that is home to Caravaggio’s largest painting, the Beheading of St. John.
Learn something new at the Malta at War Museum
Located at Couvre Porte, the Malta at War Museum highlights what the brave people of Malta and their defenders endured during the days of the Malta Blitz. Detailing Malta’s Second World War, you can see a shelter below ground where people spent time in the hard-cut rock tunnels with only small oil lamps for light. Sign up for an informative guide to explore the barrack block and air-raid shelter.
See the abandoned film set at Popeye Village
Also known as Sweethaven Village, the Popeye Village is a fun attraction for both kids and kids at heart. Take the entire family to this unique place, as it is the former film set of the 1980 musical “Popeye” that features water trampolines, boat rides and sunbathing spots for adults. Meet the main characters Popeye the Sailor and Olive Oyl, then spend an afternoon enjoying the rides, puppet shows and face painting at this pre-built theme park.
Go on a day trip to Gozo
The perfect place for a day trip, the island of Gozo can be accessed by hopping on a 20-minute scenic ride by ferry. Here you can enjoy a range of cultural activities in addition to the island’s stunning coastline and secluded sandy beaches. The tiny sister island is great for enjoying the outdoors with plenty of spots to go swimming, snorkeling and diving while admiring storybook scenery with dramatic cliffs, prehistoric temples and rock formations.