With beautiful natural scenery and a long fascinating history, 3 days in Malta are a great start for exploring these Mediterranean islands. Check out this great Malta itinerary and take note for your next trip to make sure you don’t miss anything, be it its beaches or its historical cities.
**Guest post by Ed Lansink of Malta Uncovered
The islands of Malta receives around 2.5 million visitors per year. It is not difficult to see why when you consider how entwined Malta’s history and culture are with the history and culture of the world. It played a pivotal role in World War 2 where it is was the most heavily bombed region by square mile in the conflict. Thanks to its location, it was an important base of operations to disrupt Axis shipping helping the Allies win in North Africa.
Let’s throw in Neolithic relics, historical treasures dating back to the Phoenician times, combined with a present that embraces art, music, and fine food, and you have arguably one of the most amazing countries to visit in Europe.
Now your appetite has been wetted, let’s look at a three day itinerary for your holiday in Malta that will help you make the most of your time here.
READ MORE: Planning a Europe trip? Check out our detailed 2-week Italy itinerary.
Your Three-Day Malta Itinerary:
- Day 1 – Valletta
- Day 2 – The Three Cities
- Day 3 – Gozo
Day 1 of your 3 days in Malta itinerary – Valletta
The island’s capital, this 3-day Malta itinerary will give you a full Valletta day. Founded after the Great Siege in the 16th century, here, a greatly outnumbered Knights of Malta together with locals repelled a vicious and brutal Otterman Empire attack.
The city is named after Jean Parisot de La Valette, a Knight of Malta who fought bravely to achieve the victory that happened against the odds.
When Valletta was rebuilt, it was constructed in a logical grid network which is rare for many cities in Europe which are based around the fusion of medieval villages. As such it is probably best traversed on foot although you can hire bikes both electric and pedal-powered to get around.
What to do in Valletta?
St John’s Co-Cathedral
Constructed between 1573 and 1577, St John’s Co-Cathedral was designed to be both a city fortification and a conventual church for the Order of St.John. It is dedicated to their patron Saint John the Baptiste.
Visiting the cathedral is best done in early mornings, and it is wise to phone ahead to see if they have tour bookings. The cathedral is a place of worship and sees millions of visitors a year both tourists and worshipers. You may be denied entry should you arrive at a time that is too busy.
The cathedral enforces a strict, modest dress code, and you must remove your shoes before entry to avoid damaging the floor. You can purchase slippers if you wish. It is strongly advised you check the website and make yourself familiar with the rules.
When you are inside you will be in awe at the baroque ornate finishing and marble floors. You will admire the Caravaggio paintings of ‘St. Jerome Writing’ and ‘The Beheading of St. John the Baptiste’.
Allow about 3 hours to soak in everything the cathedral offers before moving on to your next stop.
Upper Barrakka Gardens
When you emerge from St John’s Co-Cathedral a few hundred metres to the South is the Upper Barrakka Gardens. To reach it take the lift. The views are wonderful as you ascend 58m!
Built in 1661 as a private garden for the Order of St. John, they were opened to the public a 150 years later. Today visitors enjoy the tranquil and historic garden that offers the highest views in Valletta. From here, you can enjoy wonderful views of the Grand Harbour together with Senglea, Birgu, and Kalkara, collectively known as The Three Cities.
A stroll through the gardens is a treat. They are beautiful in their own right, and various plaques and statues honour Malta’s past and are a reminder of their colonial roots. One of the most memorable is in honour of Operation Pedestal when the Santa Maria Convoy made it to Malta in August 1942 and brought much-needed supplies to the islands.
If you can be here before midday, you will have the perfect spot to watch the saluting battery fire.
If you’re hungry or need a coffee, you’ll find various places where you can enjoy a pastizz. Consider going to Storie & Sapori. Panorama or The Harbour Club are close by too.
Not far from the Upper Barrakka Gardens you’ll find a range of museums. One of which is the Lascaris War Rooms.
Lascaris War Rooms
To help defend Malta during World War 2, the British constructed a secret underground bunker and used it as a base of operations to coordinate wartime operations. This is now a museum, and you can get a flavour of life during this time by visiting. The museum has been lovingly restored by a team of volunteers who also serve as guides.
They are knowledgeable people and help to explain and bring the museum to life. When you enter, you are given an audio guide which will be handy as not all of the museum is covered in the guided tour. It is advisable to book tickets online.
The National Museum of Archaeology
Valletta is a city which is packed full of places that can show you snapshots of the country’s history. To get a sense of prehistory, the best place to go is The National Museum of Archaeology. Exhibits date back to 5200 BC and feature Phoenician tools and statues from that period. The best is arguably the Sleeping Lady which is 5000 years old.
Other exhibits include pottery, animal figures, and jewellery from the Bronze Age.
If you’re ready for a good evening meal, consider the Trabuxu Bistro, L’Artiglio, or the ORTYGIA Food Experience. Both are nearby and have great reviews.
Day 2 of your 3-day Malta itinerary – The Three Cities
Just across the water from Valletta are the towns of Vittoriosa (Il-Birgu), Senglea (L-Isla) and Cospicua (Bormla) collectively known as The Three Cities. They are far older than Valletta and have been used by Empires throughout the ages to provide both trade and protection from their enemies. In many respects, it can be said that The Three Cities are the cradle of Malta’s civilisation.
That said, many of the buildings you will see here were built by the Knights of Malta who first used the region as a fortified base. They built a fortified wall that encased the whole region. Much of Bormla was heavily damaged in World War 2 and was subsequently rebuilt.
Today, thanks to investment, The Three Cities is a vibrant place. The people that live here are proud, and the three towns have their own culture a little different from the rest of Malta.
It is easy to stroll through the winding streets of The Three Cities, or you can hire an electric self-driving car and let that take you around the region. They give you an audio tour of much of The Three Cities.
Things to see in Vittoriosa (Il-Birgu)
Vittoriosa is an intriguing town with narrow streets flanked by historical buildings. It offers a lot to savour and is even better when you emerge into a plaza.
Fort St. Angelo
Visitors to Vittoriosa are often greeted by Fort St. Angelo. It sits on the tip of the peninsula. You can’t enter the building, but you can see it from the outside. It is both imposing and impressive and was once home to the Grand Master of the Order of St. John.
When you’re ready, make your way to the Inquisitor’s Palace which transitioned from a courthouse to the base and home of the Inquisitor’s for over 200 years. Its rooms and cells have been lovingly restored to give you a flavour of what life was like. One of the most intriguing exhibits are the carvings made by former prisoners.
Malta’s Maritime Museum
Malta’s Maritime Museum offers you a chance to discover Malta’s 7,000-year seafaring history. Exhibits feature a Roman anchor believed to be about 4,000 years old.
St. Lawrence Church
St. Lawrence Church is designed in the baroque style built in the 1600s by Lorenzo Gafa. Before St. John’s Co-cathedral was constructed, this was used by the Order of St. John as their official church.
If you’re hungry head towards Osteria VE or Tal Petut restaurants which are close by.
Things to do in Senglea (L-Isla)
With three-quarters of the town destroyed by Axis bombs much of the town was rebuilt. There is still history here to see and still fits with the rest of The Three Cities.
Safe Haven Gardens at Senglea Point (Il-Gardjola)
For amazing views of the Grand Harbour and Valletta head towards the Safe Haven Gardens at Senglea Point. Sitting at the end of the peninsula you can savour amazing panoramic views. The gardens are quite ornate and are a good place to come to gather your thoughts.
When you are ready, head towards the Our Lady of Victories Parish Church. It is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and features beautiful interiors and amazing works of art.
Things to do in Cospicua (Bormla)
Cospicua was given the name by the Knights of Malta to honour the bravery of the people. The name translates to conspicuous. The winding streets are a joy just to walk around, and many gravitate to its main attractions.
There are two fortifications to visit in Cospicua. The Firenzuola Fortifications were constructed in 1638, and the Cottonera Lines were built later in 1670. It is believed that these fortifications protected the town from various hostile forces throughout the region’s history.
When you are done, visit The Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. The church miraculously survived German bombs even though surrounding buildings were destroyed by intense bombing.
Today The Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception features stunning works of art such as The Madonna and Child by Italian painter Polidoro Veneziano.
Day 3 of your three-day Malta itinerary – Gozo
Malta is a country of three islands, the second biggest of which is Gozo. It is easily reachable from the Malta mainland and offers a slightly different kind of Malta to the rest of the country. It is easy to get around Gozo, especially by car.
The island was settled around 5,000 years ago and like the rest of the country fell into the hands of different Empires.
In 1551 many of the 5,000 inhabitants were taken into slavery by Turkish forces. This demoralised the island for many years, and it was not until the Knights of Malta fortified it that people overcame their fear of pirate slavery.
Today, after careful reconstruction in 2016, Gozo like the rest of Malta are strong at celebrating religious traditions, music, art, and cuisine. The fusion of old and new can be seen in many places at Gozo and is well worth spending a day to savour them.
Top things to do in Gozo
Victoria / Ir-Rabat
Victoria, still referred to as Ir-Rabat by locals, is Gozo’s capital city. It features The Citadel or Cittadella, the You could easily spend an entire day or two exploring the city. It is best to visit Victoria in the morning before heading off to a different part of Gozo.
Pjazza Indipendenza (Independence Square)
When you first arrive head towards Pjazza Indipendenza also known as it-Tokk. You can’t fail to miss the Banca Giuratale which was constructed in 1738. Today it serves as the local council office and is the former seat of the municipal government.
In the mornings, the square features an open-air market and cafes. A great place to find breakfast. When you are ready, move on to St George’s Basilica in the square just behind It-Tokk. This acts as a gateway to explore Republic Street and Main Street.
Packed with vibrant shops, you will be able to people watch as well as shop.
The Old Prison
Gozo is packed with museums. One of the most fascinating of which is The Old Prison. In use from the 16th century to the early 20th century the museum recreates a communal holding cell and six individual ones.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the museum is the prisoner graffiti.
The Cathedral Museum
The Cathedral Museum is a beautiful building containing in essence three halls. Each hall contains its own form of art. The silver vault contains a varied collection of silverware, while the main hall features exhibits such as Vatican and Malta coins and various exhibits. The upper floor, The Picture Gallery features amazing tapestries and works of art. It also offers a brilliant view of Gozo.
Just two miles from Victoria is the coastal fishing village of Xlendi. It has a small beach to relax on, and you have opportunities to participate in water sports if you wish. There are plenty of great places to eat in Xlendi, so why not enjoy a meal in one of its excellent restaurants.
When you are done, head to Dwejra Bay.
With its natural rock formations and natural wonders, Dwejra Bay is perfect when you only have a day to enjoy Gozo.
If you’ve seen Clash of the Titans or The Count of Monte Cristo films you’d recognise the location straight away.
In fact, this region inspires filmmakers today with the location being used in films and TV programmes time and again.
The region also features a great beach and fantastic views. If you don’t’ want to participate in water sports, you can go fossil hunting in the limestone cliffs.
The picturesque village of Mellieha is another coastal region to take in. Here, you’ll find the village sitting on the coast with the cliffs as a backdrop. The buildings are colourful and wooden, and the experience is unique. Take the time to walk the streets and savour what you see.
If you have kids, you can take them to the water-based theme park for fun.
Tips For Your 3 Days in Malta
Transport in Malta
Malta is served by a good and reliable bus service that can take you to popular places in the country. The islands are small and easy to traverse. That said, you may want to consider hiring a car as this will help you maximise your time.
Hotels in Malta
- High-end: Radisson Blu Resort & Spa
- Mid-range: Azur Hotel by ST Hotels
- Budget: Ta Gianni Guest House
Festivals in Malta are frequent. Most take place in the summer months although it is rare in the Maltese calendar that a festival isn’t taking place somewhere. Malta people are religious tending to follow the Catholic faith. As such, religious festivals are common and thanks to the country’s commitments to the arts, so are festivals that celebrate music and culture.
If you can catch a festival during your stay, you should. They tend to be colourful and unique and in many instances simply joyous. Festivals tend to be enjoyed by the whole country, and it is great to attend just to see how the people of Malta celebrate.
Malta is packed with things to do and places to see. Three days is not enough time to enjoy all of it. This 3 day Malta itinerary will give you a good flavour of the country, and you will get to see some great places and have wonderful experiences.
After you spend three days in Malta, you will want to spend three weeks. Have a great time when you are here.
Author Bio: Ed Lansink is a tourist-turned expat who runs Malta Uncovered, a travel guide for curious travellers looking to get the most out of their holiday in Malta. Ed provides insider knowledge on cultural events, the best places to visit, where to get a taste of local cuisine, insight into the best hotels in Malta and much more!
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