Read about a long weekend in Malta including recommendations for St. Julian’s, Valletta, Mdina, Marsaxlokk, private boat rental to the Blue Lagoon and more!
After years on our bucket list, Malta finally became a reality. We decided to spend a four-day weekend there at the end of August. It wasn’t nearly enough time — Malta has so much to offer! — but we were able to do and see some incredible things.
Transportation & accommodations
We flew via Air Malta from Frankfurt International Airport. We rented a car for about $20 per day for our stay in Malta. Buses and taxis can get you around Malta, but may not be convenient or cheap. Because we wanted to cover so much ground in so little time, we decided renting a car was the best choice. If you decide to rent a car, be advised that in Malta they drive on the left side of the road and driving can seem lawless and stressful. Luckily, Ben is a calm driver with a quick response time — I would have certainly been involved in an accident if I attempted to drive here!
Note: Be advised that the rental car deposit was €1,000 — best to use a credit card if you don’t want that taken from your spending balance during your stay.
We stayed at the H Hotel by St. George’s Bay in St. Julian’s. This modern, adults-only hotel is stunning. We enjoyed beautiful views over St. Julian’s from our balcony, an exquisite breakfast buffet, and a rooftop pool and bar.
The H Hotel is part of the Hugo monopoly in St. Julian’s. In this area, seemingly everything belongs to the Hugo brand, whether it be a restaurant, bar, lounge or hotel. We had a pretty good experience at every location we visited (shout out to the burger restaurant at H Hotel — perfect late-night food!).
I would stay at H Hotel again; however, it would be convenient to have a hotel or Airbnb with parking included. There was a public garage just a block up the road, but it ran us about €15-20 per day, so this is something to consider when making reservations.
Things to do
Before we dive in, my first recommendation is to allow yourself more time than needed when driving from one destination to another in Malta. We often found ourselves stuck in traffic or unable to find parking, which delayed our arrival times and led us to miss the ferry a couple times.
Explore St. Julian’s
St. Julian’s is arguably the liveliest part of Malta. Its nightlife — made up of late-night restaurants, clubs, bars and lounges — keeps things exciting every night of the week.
From our balcony we could see people hanging out on the beach well past midnight. We loved taking part in the action, whether down on the streets or watching from above at our rooftop bar.
The walled city of Valletta is Malta’s capital. Valletta’s buildings and walls date back to the 16th century. Around every corner there is a beautiful pop of color, whether it be the intricate balconies, tall painted doors, or red telephone boxes which serve as a reminder that Malta was once a British colony.
It’s a bit of an uphill climb, but areas such as the Lower and Upper Barrakka Gardens offer beautiful views over the Grand Harbour and across the water to the Three Cities — a popular name given to the neighborhoods of Birgu, Senglea and Cospicua. I would’ve loved to explore the Three Cities (as well as take in the view of Valletta from that side), but we did not have enough time.
Note: We took a ferry from Sliema to Valletta because we heard parking in Valletta can be difficult. Parking at the ferry terminal at Sliema was also full, but we found a city garage nearby. The ferry takes about 15 minutes and only costs €2.80 per adult for a round-trip journey.
Walk through the Silent City of Mdina
The ancient city of Mdina is quite a sight to see. The plateau it is built upon has been inhabited since as early as 700 BC! Most of the present buildings were built or restored around the 16th to 17th century.
No cars are allowed inside (except for a limited amount of residents), so it’s very quiet and peaceful. I absolutely loved walking through it and could have easily spent an entire afternoon just wandering the streets.
Also, you may recognize Mdina Gate. It was used as the entrance to King’s Landing in the first season of Game of Thrones.
See the colorful boats at Marsaxlokk Harbour
Marsaxlokk is a picturesque fishing village with a harbor full of colorful wooden boats called luzzu. A daily open-air market is held at the harbor, and on Sundays a fish market sells the freshest catches.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that Malta came on my radar, and it was a picture of a colorful luzzu in Marsaxlokk that caught my eye. It was special to see it in person, even though we had unpleasant weather that morning.
Look for special events and festivals
Malta hosts a wide array of music festivals and other special events throughout the summer time. Our visit coincided with the Malta Craft Beer Festival at Fort St. Elmo in Valletta. We sampled craft beers made locally in Malta and from locations around the world, combined with great food and live music. It was a blast, and we got to keep cute commemorative pint glasses to remember this fun night.
Visit the island of Gozo
Gozo is a scenic, rural island that can be reached via car ferry from Malta. Although Gozo is part of Malta, it carries a different vibe — so different, in fact, that people from Gozo are called Gotizans instead of Maltese.
Gozo was home to the Azure Window, which collapsed in 2017. There are still several other scenic spots on Gozo, such as the Wied il-Mielaħ Window, the secluded inlet of Wied il-Għasri, the salt pans and several bays.
We didn’t get to enjoy as much of Gozo as we wanted to — we overslept from a late night at the Malta Craft Beer Festival and awoke to a rainy, overcast day (quite a change from the marvelous weather we’d been having), so we were off to a slow start. Exploring Gozo requires a decent bit of time — factor in driving to, boarding and riding the ferry, and driving around Gozo itself, and allow yourself a full day on this beautiful island.
The highlight of Gozo for us was Wied il-Għasri, where an inlet from the sea flows into a small but steep valley. It was a beautiful place to swim in calm water, and Ben enjoyed flying his drone overhead.
Rent a boat and go to the Blue Lagoon at Comino island
I saved the best for last! The Blue Lagoon was my number one must-do in Malta, and it certainly lived up to my expectations!
The water is the bluest blue you can imagine. It’s such a beautiful, relaxing setting — if you’re on a boat.
The beach area is small, and large ships coming from Malta unload more people than can comfortably fit. We decided to rent our own private boat from BlueWaves so we could do it on our own schedule and have somewhere to hang out away from the crowded shore. It was perfect!
Ben loved driving the boat, and we were able to stop at other locations around Comino and Gozo as well (within the allowed radius). We stopped at the Crystal Lagoon and swam into some of the caves there.
The only downsides were not being able to leave the boat — except to swim near it — and not being able to consume alcohol (I did swim to shore for one pineapple drink since Ben was doing all the driving — but passengers are to remain sober as well).
But the upsides are no crowds, more freedom, and an all-around enjoyable experience listening to our own music, flying the drone and eating the picnic lunches we packed. I would definitely recommend renting a boat to visit the Blue Lagoon!
In conclusion, we really loved our time in Malta. It was too short, but we managed to do and see a lot, and we certainly got a taste for what Malta has to offer. Add it to your bucket list — it’s well worth the trip!