Malta things to see and do

Tourist offices

Malta Tourist Office in the UK

Unit C, Parkhouse, 14 Northfields, London, SW18 1DD, Malta
Tel: (020) 8877 6990.
www.visitmalta.com

Malta National Tourist Office in USA

65 Broadway, Malta, United States
www.visitmalta.com

Things to see and do

Azure Window, Dwejra, Gozo

A relaxing boat trip takes visitors out to the stunning Azure Window, through caves shimming with orange and purple coral and past fascinating rock formations carved in the shape of a face and a mummy and baby crocodile.

Blue Grotto

The Blue Grotto is the most famous cave in Malta, with its deep waters displaying magnificent dazzling colours, ranging from turquoise to deep blue. Situated near the village of Zurrieq in southwestern Malta, which is famous for its rocky coastline, the waters around the limestone caves and archways are said to be at their most impressive in the early morning when the sun's rays glimmer through the opening to the grotto. The cave, which is known as Il-Hnejja, meaning 'The Arch', in Maltese, was given its English name by British soldiers who thought that its blue waters resembled the Grotta Azzurra (Blue Grotto) in Capri. To get to the grotto, visitors travel by boat, passing under a massive arch, deep into the 43-metre (140-ft) high cave which is hollowed out of the cliff rockface.

Blue Lagoon, Comino

The blockbuster film, Troy, was filmed by the shimmering turquoise waters of this lagoon. A popular day trip for swimmers and sun worshippers who come to lounge on the small rocky and sandy beaches, it gets horribly overcrowded in summer so visit early in the day or out of peak season.

Catch a bus

Public transport in Malta is cheap and easy to use, and the eccentric vintage buses prove quite an attraction for tourists - especially when greeted with various religious shrines upon getting on. Valletta is very well connected with buses to all other towns and villages, and other popular tourist areas are in easy reach. For more information see www.maltabybus.com.

Chill Out

Malta is home to a collection of beautiful and unspoilt sandy beaches. Take a book and a towel, and spend a simple day doing exactly what you are supposed to do on holiday: relaxing. Golden Bay is one of the most spectacular beaches in Malta, this long stretch of golden sand attractign families and sun worshippers by day and horse riders enjoying a canter at sunset. One-hour rides and sunset treks are available at Golden Bay stables.

Ggantija Temples, Gozo

These two UNESCO temples are the oldest buildings in the world. Built 5,000 years ago, the neolithics christened them Ggantija, meaning giants, because they believed that only giants could have brought such large stones to the fertile plan.

Go to the theatre

Check out Valletta's Manoel Theatre, reputedly the oldest in Europe, for opera, drama and ballet. St James Cavalier (www.sjcav.org) houses a cinema, a theatre and a gallery, as well as serving up a tasty selection of food.

Gozo

A pleasant 25-minute ferry ride from Malta, Gozo offers a chilled pace. Its rolling countryside and cliffs are popular with walkers, mountain bikers, abseilers and climbers while day trippers can enjoy the peace and beautiful flora and fauna. The small capital, Victoria, is worth a visit.

Gozo Citadel and Santa Maria Cathedral

The 7,000-year-old fortified city sits above the capital, Victoria, with its imposing façade, Baroque architecture and sweeping views. There is an interesting audio tour of the cathedral, with its 3D-effect painted dome and marble floor tombstones, and the museum has an interesting array of religious artefacts.

Grand Harbour

One of the deepest natural harbours in the world, it has been in use since Phoenician times - it provided a base to the Knights of St John and was used by the British for over 170 years - and its sheer size has to be seen to be believed. Today, it is a far more serene affair, with restaurants, bars and the tranquil Barracca Gardens. Admire the views, cruise ships and super mega-yachts from Valletta’s sandstone bastions or better still, take a habour cruise or water taxi to explore.

Hagar Qim & Mnajdra

Beautiful carvings of spirals and animals decorate the walls of these ancient temples. Built between 3600 and 3000 BC, it took archaeologists five years to unearth the four temples near Qrendi in the south of the island.

Hal Saflieni Hypogeum

This underground complex of halls, chambers, passages and carvings near Paola was built around 3600 BC and only discovered by accident in 1902. It’s a treasure trove of pottery, ornaments, animal carvings and entombed corpses. Booking is essential as visitor numbers are restricted. (www.heritagemalta.org)

Mdina

With its imposing walls, cobbled streets and fascinating architecture, this is one site you cannot afford to miss. Follow in the footsteps of medieval knights and visit the Cathedral, dungeons and 13th century Palazzo Falson (www.palazzofalson.com) with its extraordinary collection of art and antiques. From Bastion Square, see breathtaking views of the surrounding area and St Paul's Bay.

Mosta Dome

The cathedral has the world’s third largest unsupported dome. The cupola which is 67 metres high and 37 metres across is based on Rome’s Pantheon and took the people of Mosta 27 years to build. During World War 2, a 200kg bomb pierced the dome during prayers but failed to go off. A replica is on display.

Popeye Village

Take the family to visit the set of the film Popeye, which today is an open-air museum and entertainment complex (www.popeyemalta.com). There are shows, rides and museums, as well as play houses where children can climb and explore the village. Children may also get to meet the main characters from the show.

Ride a Karozzin

A traditional horse and cart is a great alternative to a cab. You can still find karozzin stands in Valletta, Mdina and in Victoria Gozo. Rides aren't cheap, but they are a wonderful and unique way to spend a couple of hours sightseeing.

Scuba-diving

An all year round activity in Malta with the best sites being found in the North. There are numerous accredited diving schools on the Island for those with no experience but a healthy appetite for excitement. See www.scubadivingmalta.com

St Agatha's Catacombs

According to a strong local tradition, during the persecution of Christians decreed by the Roman Emperor Trajanus Decius (249-251 AD), St. Agatha fled from Sicily and took refuge in Malta. A natural cave built underneath Malta's oldest parish church was altered into a crypt, typical of the underground Christian cemeteries of the time. The exstensive subterranean catacombs hold numerous galleries and graves. 

Valletta

This UNESCO fortress city was built of sandstone by the Knights of St John in 1566. Today it is filled with ornate churches, palaces, museums, gift shops and outdoor cafes serving traditional pastizzi (puff pastry filled with ricotta or mushy peas). Caffe Cordina, on the main Triq ir-Repubblika, has been in business since 1837.

Watch glass blowing

Entirely mouth blown and hand made, much of the glassware is a type of original Maltese glass in strong Mediterranean colours. Not only can you observe the glass blowers at work, but they can also create customised blown-glass souvenirs engraved with names, a family emblem or even your company's logo. Try www.phoenicianglass.com.

Windsurfing

The winter temperatures are appealing, with the North African wind pushing up between September and May giving the more experienced surfer something to get there teeth into. The summer months are perfect for those with little or no experience. See www.windsurfmalta.com.

Edited by Jane Duru
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