City break in Malta

Malta and its sister islands are so much more than a beach destination – although there are some gorgeous stretches of sand. This is a place drenched in history, and though they’re tiny in comparison with cities in other countries, the historic città of Malta and its sister island Gozo pack a real cultural punch. We’ve picked our favourites, from the current capitals to more off-the-beaten track ancient gems.

City break in Malta

Valletta 

Malta’s UNESCO-listed capital is tiny, which makes it all the better for ambling around at your own pace, taking in all the main sites (all within the imposing bastions of the Old Town) in a day.

Established in the 1500s on a peninsula by the Knights of St John, this is a charming walled city packed with grand churches, palaces and museums. Its most famous landmark, St. John’s Co-Cathedral, has the only painting ever signed by Caravaggio, The Beheading of St John the Baptist. The cathedral was a shrine to the Knights and you can also see the intricate, marble-inlaid tombstones of many of the sons of Europe’s noble families from the 16th to 18th centuries here. Also unmissable are Valletta’s Upper Barrakka Gardens with their glorious views of the Grand Harbour.

Just a five-minute ferry ride from Valletta, Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua are the place to see authentic local life in action. Regarded as the cradle of Maltese history for having provided a refuge for almost all the settlers who came to these islands, they were the first homes to the Knights of St John, meaning their palaces, churches, forts and bastions are much older than Valletta’s. The best way to see them is by electric self-drive buggy, pre-programmed to guide you via GPS around the narrow streets.

Days Out from Valletta: Sliema

Across the bay from Valletta, easily reached by ferry, this is a buzzing neighbourhood with plenty to see and do, from discovering old golden-stone churches and modern art galleries to swimming in Roman-era baths. The disused British military barracks of Tigne Point has now been transformed into a 21st-century high-rise complex with contemporary boutiques and more, plus fabulous views.

Days Out from Valletta: Mdina

Built on a plateau with views across the island, Mdina was once Malta’s capital but now has a population of just 250 or so, in Norman and baroque homes lining the labyrinth of dimly lit streets. One of the finest examples of an ancient walled city in all Europe, with a breathtaking mix of medieval and baroque architecture, this ‘Silent City’ dates back more than 4000 years and is said to be where Apostle St  Paul lived after being shipwrecked on the Islands in 60AD. Visit in the evening, when Mdina is lamplit.

City break in Malta: Victoria

While there’s plenty to see all over Gozo, Malta’s little sister a 45-minute ferry ride away is best visited for its capital Victoria (also known as Rabat), complete with a medieval citadel and folklore museum, an archaeology museum, a baroque cathedral and a 16th-century prison. It’s also near the Neolithic temples of Xaghra, thought to be the oldest free-standing structures in the world.

City break in Malta: In-Nadur

On Gozo’s easternmost hill of, with spellbinding views, this traditional village is home to the spectacular baroque Parish Church and a maritime museum. It’s also surrounded by lush green valleys, peaceful bays and beautiful beaches, including Daħlet Qorrot with its unique boathouses – most of them converted from natural caves and ledges at the bottom of the cliffs.

To book your Valletta city break or Malta holiday with full financial protection, call your Travel Counsellor today.

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