Admittedly, Malta was never on my bucket-list. Sure, the island looked nice but I had other travel priorities. However, when you come across a £30 flight to Malta, you’d be mad to turn it down. That’s my logic anyway. Once again, I found myself falling into the off-peak travelling category. A theme which first emerged from a trip to Fuerteventura in winter. Now I’m here convincing you to visit Malta outside summer months. Oh, and I’ll walk you through some places you need to see, restaurants you must try, and give you the heads up on the best gelato I’ve found. Sounds pretty sweet, right?
Before we start, let me set the scene for you. After grabbing a morning flight, I checked into ‘Seaview Hotel’, where I’d spend the next few days. We’re looking at 164 euros for 4 days. As the name suggests, you’ll find the hotel right by the seafront. The minute I stepped inside the building, I could see how off-peak season would work to my advantage. Check-in was made possible hours before my allocated time-slot. No queues anywhere. Listen, I’m a Brit and know how to queue but when it’s not needed, I appreciate that. However, it’s the small touches which made my stay most memorable. I mean, receiving an invite to mingle with the directors over drinks is pretty cool.
When it comes to transport, a car was rented. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s worth noting Malta drive on the same side as the UK. Car rental companies all mentioned how the majority of accidents stem from visitors struggling with this transition. I did ask locals what the bus services are like and was surprised to hear a common theme – buses are to be avoided during summer at all costs. I listened to 20 minutes worth of stories citing poor conditioning, severe delays, broken windows and cramped seats as main factors. ‘It’s a nightmare from start to finish’ one person added. Right then…
Day 1 – On The Hunt For Epic Food.
As you can imagine, the combination of an early flight and heavy backpack makes you hungry. It wasn’t long before I threw my belongings onto the bed and headed outside to seek out must-visit food spots. The fact I stumbled across one of the best Indian restaurants I’ve ever tried was a major moment. Inside, Su Swagat Indian Restaurant is humble. There’s just a few tables with minimal interior. I’m there to judge the food though. You understand real quick why the restaurant has rave reviews. Every single thing on the menu was cooked with genuine love. The prices? Backpacker friendly. My experience was sensational to the extent I went back and ordered takeout for the evening. It was that good.
Now, I don’t know about you but I always have room for dessert. Directly opposite, I laid my eyes on Congusto Ice-Cream Parlour. Again, from the outside the place didn’t look particularly appealing but residents praise this spot. The best food always seems to be found on small side-streets, right? I wasn’t disappointed. Now, at this point I was getting full but directly next door I noticed Malta Chocolate Factory. Well, I’d say it’s more of a café/shop but you can see chocolate being made and can participate in chocolate-making. That’s activity number one for you. Personal recommendation? Get the chocolate shots tasting board. For less than 5 euros, you can sample various flavours.
One thing I wish I tried, but didn’t book in time, was cooking class at Mediterranean Culinary Academy Malta. That’s another activity option for you. I first heard about it through the local tourism magazines you can pick up at airport stands. You’ll have access to all the events and activities occurring in that month, including festivals, exhibitions and live music. Pick one up!
Day 2 – Getting All Touristy.
Of course, I had to see the sights. I hope you’re ready for a jam-packed day because this one is about to be. First up was St Agatha’s Tower. You might know it better as the ‘Red Tower’. The views from the castle are spectacular. From here, you’re not too far from your next activity – Popeye’s Village. Yes, the original film set from the 1980 Robin Williams film. The best way to describe this quirky experience is an attraction park without the rides. Popeye’s village sure is entertaining though. Whilst you can typically expect to spend 1.5 hours here, there’s enough interactive events to take up the entire morning. Entrance fee is 12 euros and includes a souvenir postcard. Nice.
Before I knew it, I’m strolling into the afternoon and heading towards St. Paul’s Metropolitan Cathedral. The cathedral is located within what feels like a little village, but there’s plenty to keep you occupied. A must-see, in my opinion. I loved browsing the cobbled paths, seeing the handmade glass stands and stopping at picturesque rooftops. One of the rooftops actually lead me towards Gustav Rooftop Café. The location was perfect for recharging at. The type of space nomads would welcome with open arms. Oh, and it’s the highest viewpoint in Mdina region. Whilst the food itself was pretty overpriced, they DO have gluten-free and vegan options which may appeal to you. After scoffing down all the gluten-free cake I could lay my hands on, I made moves onto Mosta Rotunda. I’d highly suggest purchasing tickets to explore the underground shelters. I won’t give spoilers but you’ll gain a lot of first-hand insight into historical events. The entrance fee will set you back a small 3 euros. Upon reflection, Mosta Rotunda easily makes up my top 3 moments in Malta. I loved it.
With the day coming to a close, I needed fuel. One place to add to your list is Tarragon Restaurant. It’s fancy, but not pretentious. Yes, the menu is slightly on the pricey side but still much less than what you’d pay in Spain or the UK for something similar. I’ll attach some photos so you can see the vibe. For reference, the below dishes cost me a little less than 55 euros and I also ordered a main course. The visit was around 100 euros in total.
Day 3 – Fruit In The Middle Of Nowhere.
If there’s one thing I love, it’s having no plans. That’s how I ended up exploring an abandoned Jerma Palace Hotel, got close to Zonqor Point Salt Pans and accidentally discovered a small truck serving the best strawberries I’ve ever tried. Whilst the abandoned resort is closed to public, you can still enter the ruins through rocks. It’s creepy but you’ll see plenty of interesting artwork. From here, a two-minute walk will take you near the mentioned salt pans above. As I was short on time, I couldn’t take the ferry to Gozo for the salt pans there so this was the next best thing!
Now, the annoying part of spontaneous plans is that I rarely know the exact location. I just seem to end up where I end up. That’s why I don’t have the name of the fruit stall I purchased from. However, you’ll see various fruit stalls dotted around the roads. If you’re from the UK, you’ll understand how amazing it feels to try fruit that actually has flavour haha.
Day 4 – Finalising The Trip.
Morning, we’re back to fast-paced adventure. If you’ve got a few hours free, make your way to the Blue Grotto. Essentially, the grotto consists of small sea caverns. Although, you ready for an insider tip? Locals at this small fishing zone say it’s best to visit Blue Grotto in the morning, as you can see different shades of blue in the water. Something to do with sunlight reflection. On Instagram, I mentioned how important it is to form connections when travelling. By talking to an individual in the car park, I found out about a viewpoint to see the caves up close. No boat ride needed. Never be afraid to ask for recommendations from others.
You might be reading this and wondering if I ventured into Valletta, the capital city, during my trip. My answer? Hell yeah. I fell in love with the Upper/Lower Barrakka Gardens. Take my advice and go up the elevator. Skip the stairs. After 5 minutes, I still wasn’t anywhere near the top. Imagine trying to climb all those stairs in summer? You’d faint. The gardens are a lovely spot for photos though.
I also checked out Valletta Food Market. It’s good for encountering an array of different cuisines under one roof. A food court, I guess you could say, with the interior making you feel like you’re in a film. Finding a table amongst all the eager diners can be challenging but once you’re seated? You won’t want to leave. I’m not a fine dining type of girl so street-food always draws me in. I didn’t get to try the notorious rabbit stew loved by Malta but I did sample my way around other Maltese offerings. One example was a soft-drink known as ‘Kinnie’. It’s made from bitter orange so not an experience I’d personally like to repeat, but I’m told it’s very love-or-hate.
Whilst it may seem like I maximised each day to the fullest, there was definitely an element of slow travel on this trip. Ditching the car to walk, talking to locals with no specific plans and buying from independent farmers, for instance. I swiftly came to the conclusion that the people of Malta really try to make you feel welcome. For a country so reliant on tourism, maybe that isn’t anything new but it sure helps make your stay that extra bit magical.
To see more visuals from my trip, alongside videos, I’ll leave you the link to my socials:
Until then, see you in the next post.