Malta is an island country in Europe, forming an archipelago in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Positioned between Sicily and North Africa, the country is the smallest member of the European Union by population, with only half a million people, but also by area, making it the fourth-most densely populated country in the world while being the tenth-smallest. Despite its diminutive size, Malta is an important freight trans-shipment point, financial centre and tourist destination.
Thanks to its strategic position, Malta has been continuously inhabited since prehistoric times, as well as conquered by pretty much all the civilisations with interest in Mediterranean domination, including the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Sicilians and, most recently, the British. All of them, as well as intensive trading across the region, left both material and cultural heritage on the islands, but the Maltese and their language remain unique in many ways. With universal knowledge and use of English among the population and a wealth of both man-made structures from all eras of human existence and sites of exceptional natural beauty, Malta has been a very popular holiday destination for decades.
There are also a number of aquatic activities to enjoy. Northern Malta is home to the country's beach resorts and holiday areas. Gozo and Comino, the country's two smaller islands, are also popular beach spots, although these tend to be quieter, rockier and better for snorkelling. The Mediterranean Sea surrounding Malta is popular for diving, and experienced divers may be able to find historical artefacts from World War II or earlier.
|Malta Island |
the largest of Malta's three islands and site of the capital city of Valletta, it sees the most visitors by a huge margin
the next largest, known for its scenic rolling hills and rich history
tiny island with a real feel of isolation; most of it is a nature reserve
- 1 Valletta – the capital, named for Jean Parisot de la Valette, a French nobleman who was Grand Master of the Order of St. John and leader of the defenders during the Turkish siege of Malta in 1565. Valletta is a UNESCO World Heritage site for the massive number of historical buildings found in a tiny space.
- 2 Cottonera (Three Cities) – The name used when referring to the three historic and ancient cities of Birgu (aka Vittoriosa), Isla (aka Senglea) and Bormla (aka Cospicua), three towns conglomerated by 16th century fortifications called the Cottonera lines.
- 3 Marsaxlokk – fishing village south of the island. A big market is held every Sunday.
- 4 Mdina – Malta's well-preserved quiet old capital; pronounced 'im-dina'
- 5 Mosta – 3rd largest city (in population) of Malta, boasting of Mosta Dome – the fourth-largest dome in Europe and the ninth-largest dome in the world.
- 6 Rabat – hosts numerous historical attractions such as St. Paul's catacombs and the Domus Romana (previously known as Roman Villa)
- 7 St. Julian's – perfect area for nightlife & entertainment.
- 8 Sliema – shopping area just north of Valletta.
- 9 Victoria – the main town on Gozo.
- 1 Hagar Qim and Mnajdra – two very beautiful Stone Age temples set on the cliffside of south west Malta.
- 2 Ġgantija – another Neolithic heritage in the island of Gozo.
- 3 Tarxien Temples – a Neolithic temple in Tarxien.
- 4 Mellieħa – a locality in Malta surrounded by the largest and some of the most wonderful sandy beaches on the Islands
- 5 Golden Bay – one of Malta's most beautiful sandy beaches, on the northwest coast of the island; the Radisson Hotel overlooking it damages the view somewhat, unless you're looking at the view from inside the hotel.
- 6 Għajn Tuffieha – "Apple spring", aka "Long Steps Bay", just behind Golden Bay. Just as beautiful or even more (unspoiled panorama), and even less crowded during the high season.
- 7 Blue Grotto (Taħt il-Ħnejja) – a series of seven caves and inlets on the southern side of Malta famous for deep blue waters and spectacular natural rock formations. The Blue Grotto may be accessed by small traditional boats, skippered by cheerful Maltese guides, which leave from a well-signposted pier just off the main road along the south coast.
- 8 Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni – a subterranean structure dating from 3000-2500 BC. Advanced booking is required.
- 9 Ghar Dalam – a prehistoric cave containing remains from the Pleistocene era.
- 10 Clapham Junction – an area of western central Malta (not far from Buskett woods) where deep ruts in the bedrock appear to have been formed in the remote past by wagons or carts. Some of these ruts cross rock-cut punic tombs, proving that the ruts existed before the tombs. In the vicinity there are large caves which used to be inhabited by troglodytes.
- 11 St.Thomas Bay – a quaint inlet, 1 km beyond Marsaskala, with a sloping, built up area on one side, and barren Munxar white cliffs on the other. There are 2 small sandy beaches ideal for swimming in summer. Beneath Munxar there is now a 'window' at the cliffside. Beyond Munxar Point there are amazing, very high, white cliffs, with 2 large and deep caves in them. Many amateur fishermen own boathouses in the vicinity and go fishing whenever the sea is calm.
- 12 St.Peter's Pool – a natural inlet in the south of Malta, Delimara area. It looks like a natural swimming pool carved into the rocks.
- 13 Manoel Island – is found in Gzira and is rarely used for some events/activities.
|Population||465.2 thousand (2017)|
|Electricity||230 volt / 50 hertz (BS 1363)|
|edit on Wikidata|
Although small, Malta has a vast and rich history, with evidence for habitation going back to the Neolithic era (5th millennium BC). The country boasts the world's most ancient standing buildings (the Neolithic temples), and its strategic location and good harbours in the middle of the Mediterranean have attracted Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Crusaders, the French and finally the British, with the colonial period lasting until 1964.
The Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, also known as the Knights Hospitallers and Knights of Malta, took over sovereign control of Malta in 1530, and by 1533 the Order had built a hospital at Birgu (one of the Three Cities) to care for the sick. In 1565, Suleiman the Magnificent, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, mounted a great siege of Malta with a fleet of 180 ships and a landing force of 30,000 men. In response the Order, with only 8,000 defenders, drove the Ottoman Turks away after a hard siege of several months. After this siege, the Order founded the city of Valletta on a peninsula, and fortified it with massive stone walls, which even withstood heavy bombing during the Second World War. By 1575 the Order had built a new large hospital known as the Grand Hospital or Sacred Infirmary in order to continue with its primary mission of caring for the sick.
In 1798, the French under Napoleon - en route to Egypt - took the island on 12 June, without resistance, when the Grand Master of the Order capitulated after deciding that the island could not be defended against the opposing French naval force. French rule lasted a little over 2 years, until they surrendered to the British Royal Navy, under Admiral Nelson's command, in September 1800.
Great Britain annexed Malta in 1814. The island staunchly supported the UK through both world wars. Malta became an important coaling station with the construction of the Suez canal but somewhat lost that role with the advent of ships with greater range.
The island was awarded the George Cross for its heroic resistance during the Second World War. An image of the cross is displayed on the flag. Malta has remained in the Commonwealth of Nations when it became independent from in 1964, despite becoming a republic a decade later, and became a member of the European Union in May 2004.
- Freedom Day, 31 March (1979)
- Sette Giugno, 7 June (1919)
- Feast of Our Lady of Victories, 8 September (1565)
- Independence Day, 21 September (celebrating gaining independence from the UK in 1964)
- Republic Day, 13 December (1974).
Malta's climate is influenced by the Mediterranean Sea and is similar to other Mediterranean climates. Winters are wet and windy. Summers are virtually guaranteed to be dry and hot. Temperatures range from a low of approximately 15° C in December, January, February and March to highs of approximately 29° in June, July, August and September.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Mostly low, rocky, flat to dissected plains, with a coastline that has many coastal cliffs and numerous bays that provide good harbours. The highest point is Ta' Dmejrek (near Dingli), with an elevation of 253 above sea level
- See also: Maltese phrasebook
The official languages are Maltese and English. By law, all official documents in Malta are in Maltese and English and many radio stations broadcast in both languages. Virtually all Maltese citizens speak English fluently and some may even speak with a standard British accent.
Maltese is a Semitic language, though it has borrowed a substantial amount of vocabulary from the Romance languages (particularly Italian and Sicilian). The closest living relative of Maltese is Arabic, particularly the dialect spoken in North Africa known as Maghrebi Arabic (spoken in Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria) though Maltese is written in the Latin alphabet instead of the Arabic script. Maltese is also more distantly related to Hebrew and Amharic, so if you speak any of these three languages, you'll recognise some similarities. It also has substantial English elements in it. Knowing a few phrases in Maltese may be useful.
Malta is a member of the Schengen Agreement.
- There are normally no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. This includes most of the European Union and a few other countries.
- There are usually identity checks before boarding international flights or boats. Sometimes there are temporary border controls at land borders.
- A visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty.
- Please see Travelling around the Schengen Area for more information on how the scheme works, which countries are members and what the requirements are for your nationality.
Visitors from outside the EU, including Americans, must fill out a landing card, available on board some arriving flights (sometimes) or in the entrance hall of the airport from the small box between the customs agents. As of January 2020, American travellers report having their passports stamped into the Schengen Area and being waved straight on to baggage claim.
The islands' sole airport is 1 Malta International Airport (MLA IATA) (in Luqa). The airport is the main hub for flag carrier Air Malta and a base for Ryanair with numerous flights all around Europe and the Mediterranean countries. The airport is also served seasonally by numerous European airlines from their respective hubs, but increasingly flights are available year-round.
Buses to various locations on the island (Valletta, Sliema, St. Julian's, etc.) are outside the terminal building. Ticket machines and schedules are by the bus station. As of February 2020, a ticket for one-way adult in summer is €2.00 (€1.50 in winter). It takes 30-70 min to get to Valletta or Sliema depending on traffic (which can be heavy).
Official Malta taxis have fixed rates to destinations. These rates should be described on a board in the arrivals halls.
There are frequent fast ferries to the Sicilian port of Catania (3 hours) and Pozzallo, Italy (90 minutes), but the seas can be turbulent with a heavy swell if it's windy. Usually the trip takes around twice as long on large passenger ships, but fares are lot cheaper, which makes it ideal for drivers of cars, trucks, or campers. Other destinations include Livorno, Salerno, Rome (Civitavecchia), Palermo, Genoa and Tunis. However, discount airlines like Ryanair, Wizzair, Windjet and Efly can be more convenient and the prices of their flights are often comparable to the cost of a boat trip.
The island of Malta is pretty densely populated and there is no rail transport of any kind, so expect crowded streets no matter how you try to get around. On the plus side, distances are relatively short and bus fares are low compared to Western Europe.
Malta has been known for its potpourri of vintage buses of all brands and bodies, with additional unique custom decorations added. Those have mostly been retired (yet many remain preserved purely as antiques), and the bus system is operated using modern, air-conditioned buses.
The Malta Public Transport is the operator of the bus network across Malta. The bus system is notoriously slow, with bus lines doing many detours and buses often stuck in traffic jams, especially around 6PM. There are many bus routes that overlap around Valletta, however these may be sparse the further out one goes.
There exists a national public transport route planner at Malta Public Transport. The website also will point to the related “Tallinja” app. It is worth planning your journeys using the website or the app, especially as sometimes buses can be cancelled at last minute and you need to consider another way of getting around.
A single ride fare is €2.00 in the summer (June through October), €1.50 in winter, and €3.00 at night, and you can buy the ticket directly from the driver. It allows you to travel within a two-hour period including changing lines (but doesn't allow returns) until you reach your destination.
Since 2021, it is possible to use contactless MasterCard and Visa cards to pay for the fares, as well as cash.
If you plan to travel around Malta by bus extensively, you may want to purchase the Explore card. These allow the addition of various add on passes e.g. 4-day unlimited travel, 7-day unlimited travel, or a tourist orientated “Plus” add on. Do note that you have to enable these add-ons via the Tallinja smartphone app: whilst the staff at the Valletta bus station will sell you the physical Explore card and add on the necessary credit, as of August 2023, they will not be able to use the credit to activate the add-ons. Whilst the Tallinja app is available for iOS and Android, and is relatively easy to use, some assistance may be needed for tourists who either do not have a smartphone or are technologically challenged. It may be worthwhile to either activate roaming on your mobile phone, or get a cheap eSIM, to make the most of the app whilst one is out and about.
As of August 2023 the Plus add on is €79 per person. It offers unlimited Malta bus travel for 7 days, unlimited Gozo travel for 4 days (do note the clock on this 4 days travel starts at the same time as the rest of the card is activated!), a return trip on the Valletta to Gozo fast ferry, a Valletta harbour cruise (€20 by itself) from ISeeMalta, and 2 trips on the Valletta harbour ferries.
Do note some of the add-ons may not allow use of some types of bus e.g. express buses. Do read the terms and conditions carefully.
Many lines depart from Valletta, which makes it almost always necessary to transit there. Buses are often full, especially on weekends, on the lines passing by the tourist spots. Hence, it is almost always impossible to board at another station than the first station - the bus won't even stop. With very low frequencies (most lines pass every 30, 60 or 90 minutes), you need to wait for the next bus, which can be full too. You may thus want to first head to the terminus (e.g. Valletta), even if it is your opposite direction, and then take the line in the direction you wish. For example, to go to Gozo from St. Julian's, first go back to Valletta (or Sliema Ferries, if using line 222), and then head towards Gozo.
At an end station, buses often change lines. Don't watch the bus number before it is fully stopped and empty from its passengers, as it can change its number at that time (e.g., a bus can arrive to Valletta numbered as 51, but then depart as number 53).
For tourists a combination of the Explore Plus and a Heritage Malta pass may serve your needs. An alternative is the ISeeMalta combination tourist pass with access to sites as well as a few days unlimited travel on their Hop On Hop Off circular route tourist buses. Do note though that the “HOHO” type tourist buses seem particularly poorly reviewed on TripAdvisor.
Malta's white taxis are the ones that can pick you up off the street. Figure on €15 for short hops and not much more than €35 for a trip across the island. There are now government approved fares for taxis from the airport ranging from €10 to 30.
For cheaper airport transfers and local taxis try using one of the local "black cab" taxi firms such as eCabs, Peppin Transport (cheaper online prices), Malta Transfer airport shuttle, Transfers Malta, any.cab Malta Airport Transfers or Malta airport transfers with a high quality of service and online booking available. Their rates are normally lower than white taxis but their services must be prebooked (at least 15 minutes notice). Ride share company Bolt also operate at Malta. Airport to Sliema cost aprox €19.
If you would like a taxi tour, it is a good idea to book it in advance with an agreed price and arrange to be picked up from your hotel or apartment. The tours are best kept short, around 3 to 4 hours should do it. In a car you will be able to cover Mdina, Rabat, Mosta, Valletta and the Blue Grotto. However, some people say that when visiting historical sights it is best to also hire a licensed tourist guide (who will wear their licence while on tour) and accuse taxi drivers of often giving inaccurate information.
Renting a car in Malta is a fine way to see the country, since it's cheap and driving conditions have steadily improved greatly. Having your own car allows you to make a lot more of your trip and discover the many hidden charms these small islands have to offer. UK driving rules apply, with drivers keeping to the left side of the road.
Prebook your car rental online as this works out cheaper than booking when you arrive. According to the Mediterranean markets, Malta has very low rates for car rental. Any driver and additional drivers must take with them their driving licenses in order to be covered for by the insurances provided by the local car rental supplier.
There are also a number of local rental companies that operate on a meet & greet basis at the airport. Most of the times these companies provide more of a personalised service to the clients.
There is GPS coverage of the island by popular brands; however, do check with your rental company as to whether they make this available to you or not. Popular opinion states that the GPS mapping of Malta isn't altogether that accurate, where certain routes planned on the GPS, will send you up one way streets without warning, best to use common sense in conjunction with this technology. Also the Maltese can be a very friendly bunch of people when giving directions are concerned.
Within the Valletta region
There are several ferry lines within the Valletta region, in particular linking Valletta to Sliema, and Valletta to Birgu (Vittoriosa - part of the Three cities). Malta Public Transport has bus links to Valletta Ferry Services which run the Valletta region services.
Between Malta and Gozo
There is the regular ferry service between Ċirkewwa on Malta and Mġarr on Gozo, it goes every 45 minutes in the summer and almost as often in the winter (with lower frequencies in the evening, and very low frequency at night). You buy a return ticket at the Gozo end for €4.65 (no ticket required in Malta, though you can buy your return ticket from there, and save time in Gozo). The ferry is not strictly on time, and it can even depart before schedule.
There is also the passenger fast ferry from Valletta (Lascaris berths) to Gozo (Mgarr). These leave every hour, and take 45 minutes to complete the journey. There are special ferry bus services in Valletta to get passengers to the ferry, and similar bus services exist in Gozo. Note that whilst there are multiple websites for the fast ferry, this is due to the fact that the service is run jointly between multiple companies (as described the Maltese Government on this webpage). The definitive timetable exists at the Gozo High Speed website. For most tourists in Valletta this is likely the most convenient service to use.
There are tourist services to Comino. Some of the boats depart next to the terminal of the larger ferry, offering a return ticket for €15 (April 2023). One boat brings passengers to the Blue lagoon, then there is a choice - either return to the same ferry terminal or take another boat to Gozo. Both options are included in the ticket. There is no return trip from Gozo to Malta - use the regular ferry. Each trip takes around 10-15 minutes. The departures are hourly, from 09:00 to 17:00.
Renting a bike in Malta is not a very common and popular practice but it doesn't cost much, and offers enough flexibility to explore. Bicycle rental shops are present all over the island but it is always better to book them from beforehand via their websites so as not to be disappointed.
Cycling is an original and fun way of discovering Malta and Gozo, known for their very small size. It is a good idea to cycle on the west of Malta, in the areas of Dingli Cliffs and Fomm ir-Rih as they are far from congested cities and offer a pleasant view.
However, most roads in Malta are dangerous for cyclists; most Maltese motorists are not friendly towards cyclists and there are no bicycle lanes. It is best to stick to country roads making sure to rent mountain bikes as country roads can get bumpy and uncomfortable for city bikes. In summer, do not go cycling between 11:00 and 16:00 as the heat is unbearable.
By charter boat
The boat charter industry has grown considerably in Malta over the last few years. Malta's favourable tax regime for commercial yachting and its central location in the middle of the Mediterranean sea has meant that large, famous charter yachts – such as the Maltese Falcon and a whole range of small and midsized yachts – are now available for day and week charters. The Grand Harbour Marina has become the principal centre for bareboating (self-hire yacht chartering). It is the headquarter of such companies as Yachthelp and Navimerian Malta Yacht Charters.
The ancient capital of Mdina, also known as the Silent City, rests at a high point in the heart of the island. Surrounded by the scenic town of Rabat, this fortress is one of Malta's finest jewels, boasting architecture, history and a quality cup of coffee with a splendid view. Mdina gets very peaceful and romantic in the evenings when the day trippers leave.
Valletta is similar in that it boasts a rich history, only being the modern capital, it is very much alive and much more modern, serving as both a shopping area during the day and offering an array of museums and cultural sites. Of particular note is St John's Co-Cathedral, built by one of the earlier Grandmasters of the Knights Hospitaller. It contains the various chapels of the Knights' langue's, with Caravaggio paintings, tapestries and various relics of immense value to the Maltese heritage. The floors of the cathedral are the tombs of the most famous knights of the Order of St. John, and a crypt, though off-limits to tourists, hosts the bodies of some of the most illustrious of Grandmasters, including the city's founder, Jean de Valette.
The Megalithic Temples of Malta are some of the oldest buildings in the world, as such they have been included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Seven megalithic temples are found on the islands of Malta and Gozo, each the result of an individual development. The two temples of Ggantija on the island of Gozo are notable for their gigantic Bronze Age structures. On the island of Malta, the temples of Hagar Qim, Mnajdra and Tarxien are unique architectural masterpieces, given the limited resources available to their builders. The Ta'Hagrat and Skorba complexes show how the tradition of temple-building was handed down in Malta. Beware, that access to the Hypogeum is restricted to a maximum of 60 persons a day (10 persons in six shifts), which means tickets must be booked well in advance. This site is well worth visiting - last minute tickets can be looked for the day before and can be enquired at St Elmo’s fort; however these last minute tickets do have a mark-up (€50 last minute v €35 booked in advance as of August 2023)!
In Gozo, a rural atmosphere is predominant. Billy Connolly purchased a home in Gozo several years ago, owing to the island's quiet and relaxing nature. Visitors will be interested in taking a look at the impressive geographical feature of the Inland Sea, carved out by the Mediterranean. One is also obliged to visit the Citadel, Gozo's version of Mdina. Gozo is 5 km northwest of Malta and can be reached by a 25-minute crossing from Cirkewwa, the harbour of Malta.
For a look into more traditional Maltese life, the seldom seen south of Malta is a possible option for visitation. Townships like Ghaxaq often escape public notice, but some of the island's finest churches lie in the south. The many churches of Malta are testaments to the style and design of their times. Many towns in the north were stripped of their culture due to rapid urbanisation, but this has been felt less in the south of Malta.
If you visit Malta in summer, be sure you visit one of the town/village feast. Every town or village has at least one feast dedicated to a saint. The feast usually lasts for one week (in most cases from Monday to Sunday), with its peak being usually on Saturday. During this week, the village or town will be decorated with several ornaments and works of art such as statues, lights and paintings on tapestry. In most cases, the feast would also be furnished with fireworks, both air and ground (which are quite spectacular and rather unique to Malta). In most cases, the ground fireworks are presented the day before the actual feast day late at night. There are differences between one village feast and another, and some are more attractive and more famous than others. Some of the most famous feasts are those of Our Lady of the Lily in Mqabba (third Sunday of June), Saint Philip in Zebbug (second Sunday of June), Mount Carmel in Zurrieq (Sunday before the last of July), Saint Mary of Imqabba, Qrendi, and Ghaxaq (on the 15 August), Saint Catherine of Zurrieq (first Sunday of September) and the Nativity of Our Lady in Naxxar (on the 8 September).
During the month of April, a fireworks contest occurs in the Valletta/Floriana area, where different fireworks factories compete with each other exhibiting their finest works both ground fireworks and air fireworks. It is spectacular and above all it's free to attend to.
Quite a few wine festivals are organised during summer, two of which are organised in Valletta and one in Qormi. It is a great experience to taste several Maltese wines at very cheap prices. (In the Qormi festival (September) and Delicata wine festival (August), you buy a €10 cup, and you can drink as much as you like; in the Marsovine wine festival (July), you buy a cup and 14 tokens for €10). A beer festival (July–August) is also organised in Ta' Qali.
Finally, Malta's megalithic temples are the oldest free-standing structures on Earth, and one should not forget to take walks in the countryside. The most popular tourist destinations of Sliema and St. Julians probably have the least to offer as regards a taste of Malta, though they continue to be the most frequented. They are the most modern of locations, with most old buildings having been knocked down due to the monstrous construction industry fuelling the economy. Malta's main nightlife area can be found here, especially in Paceville.
As a tourist if you are wishing to see a lot of sites it may be worth getting a tourist card.
One card is the Heritage Malta Multisite Pass. For €50 (as of August 2023) you have entry into most of HM’s sites - the only exception is the Hypogeum which is worth seeing but needs to be booked in advance. This card can be paired with a Malta Public Transport pass to effectively get around and see all these sites.
An alternative is an ISeeMalta pass - this allows entrance to a similar (but not exactly the same) number of sites. The pass uses the ISeeMalta as the method of transportation.
It is worth comparing the passes, what’s available, and the prices to see what is most suitable for your needs. Note that the ISeeMalta buses are not well reviewed on TripAdvisor - however this may not be your experience if you choose to use it.
Sample the local delicacies.
In the summer, the island is perfect for water sports and beach activities. The island has been described as an open-air museum by some; one is unlikely to run out of things to see during a visit to Malta. Each township has its own unique sights to offer if one pays close enough attention. Most Maltese citizens have not even visited all the wonders and attractions that this island offers.
Hiking in the countryside offers a taste of rural Malta, especially if trekking along the coast of Gozo.
Although Malta is not famous for its tennis [dead link], it is a popular sport throughout the islands. Players on all different levels can congregate at the various tennis courts spread out across Malta to play a game of tennis or watch as regular season games are being played. Because of the warm climate, even in the winter months, tennis is therefore a sport that can be played all year around in Malta. Sailing is a wonderful option, as Malta boasts an impressive array of caves, scenic sunsets, and other views.
The island is surrounded by a limited number of beaches. They get crowded in the high season, so keep this in mind when planning your visit.
There are a number of great annual festivals worth attending. Valletta Carnival - February/March Malta Carnival national activities will be held in Valletta and Floriana. Dance and costume competitions will take place in the capital and Floriana followed by defiles which include triumphal floats, bands, grotesque masks and lots of dance. Malta Carnival is an unforgettable experience of fun, colour, art and merriment.
Għanafest - Malta Mediterranean Folk Music Festival - June The Malta Mediterranean Folk Music Festival is a fabulous 3-day event of Mediterranean folk music, including Maltese folksongs (għana), Maltese songwriters and folk ensembles, together with guest folk musicians from neighbouring Mediterranean countries. Għanafest also hosts a series of workshops on traditional instruments and a special programme for children, and is complemented by traditional Maltese food and the marvelous surroundings of the Argotti Botanical Gardens in Floriana.
Malta Jazz Festival - July The Malta Jazz Festival has a special place in Malta’s cultural calendar, attracting great stars of the international jazz scene to Malta. It has become a hub for the exchange of musical experience – an encounter between musicians of international fame and gifted local artists. The magnificent setting of the historic Ta’ Liesse wharf in Valletta’s Grand Harbour makes the Malta Jazz Festival a uniquely memorable experience.
Malta Arts Festival - July The Malta Arts Festival is the highlight of Malta’s cultural calendar – a showcase of diverse top quality theatre, music and dance performances, and offers something from almost all artistic forms, including collaborations between Maltese and foreign artists. The festival events are held in various venues in and around Valletta, mostly open-air, taking advantage of Malta’s cool summer evenings. The festival’s joint performances and workshops, together with its specially commissioned works, enhance local artistic development and provide impetus for cultural innovation.
Notte Bianca - September/October Notte Bianca is held annually in Valletta and is a spectacular, night-long celebration of culture and the arts. State palaces, historic buildings and museums open their doors almost all night, playing host to visual art exhibitions and music, dance and theatre performances. Streets and squares become platforms for open-air activities, and many cafes and restaurants extend their hours and run pavement stalls. All areas of the capital city, from the entrance gate to the far end of the peninsula are involved and all events are free of charge.
Isle of MTV Malta Special[dead link] - Held annually at the Fosos square in Floriana, it is the largest open-air free concert in Europe. Worldwide acclaimed artists take the stage in front of an enthusiastic crowd of over 50,000 people.
Malta is a great place to dive, with it being possible to dive all year around. The water temperature varies from a cool 14°C in February/March to warm 26°C in August. The visibility of water is generally high, making it a good place to learn diving as well.
The dive sites are close to shore. Consequently, most dives start there, making everything easier and cheaper. The dive sites include rocky reefs, some wrecks and cave diving (especially interesting is the dive in the Inland Sea in Gozo). There will tend to be more marine life during the warmer months, when you can hope to see tuna, octopus, moray eels, seahorses, fire worms, soft coral along with the usual sea grass and underwater ridges.
Being an island in the middle of the Mediterranean, Malta offers up numerous amazing surf spots stretching all over the coastline. In the summer air temperatures average at 31˚C and sea temperature is a comfortable 25˚C, creating perfect conditions for spending hours in the clear blue ocean. Check out surf spots [dead link] Ghallis, Palm Beach and St. Thomas, they are all close to the tourist centre of Malta on the north shore.
Christmas in Malta
Christmas is a largely religious affair on the Maltese islands. This is because most Maltese people are Catholic. During the festive season, various Christmas cribs, or Presepji, as they're called in Maltese, can be seen on display in churches and shopping centres.
The Maltese people have many Christmas customs that are unique to the island. A very popular traditional Christmas dessert is Qagħaq tal-Għasel. These are light pastry rings filled with honey.
Exchange rates for euros
As of January 2023:
Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE.com
Malta uses the euro, like several other European countries. One euro is divided into 100 cents. The official symbol for the euro is €, and its ISO code is EUR. There is no official symbol for the cent.
All banknotes and coins of this common currency are legal tender within all the countries, except that low-denomination coins (one and two cent) are phased out in some of them. The banknotes look the same across countries, while coins have a standard common design on the reverse, expressing the value, and a national country-specific design on the obverse. The obverse is also used for different designs of commemorative coins. The design of the obverse does not affect the coin's acceptability .
Major currencies other than the euro are not acceptable as an over-the-counter currency. In the past, they were widely accepted years ago and changed on the fly at restaurants and bars. So if you have dollars or pounds, it's best to change them at the plethora of exchange bureaus or banks across the island prior to going out.
Transportation costs are cheap by European standards. A weekly bus pass costs €21.
Food costs are reasonable, compared to western European capitals. Having a Maltese-sized pizza in a decent restaurant costs from €7 to €12. Snacks (sandwiches, burgers, pizza slices) can be bought from €1.50 to €5. A main course in a higher-level restaurant typically costs €20-30.
Accommodation is reasonably cheap by western European standards. A bed in a dorm can cost around €15, and a double room in rather cheap hotels around €40.
There are many small familyowned businesses in Malta. You might experience lack of servicemindedness by the children of these business owners, since it is traditionally the children that has to help out in the business, whether they like it or not.
Distinctly Maltese cuisine is hard to find but does exist. The food eaten draws its influences from Italian cuisine. Most restaurants in resort areas like Sliema cater largely to British tourists, offering pub grub like meat and three veg or bangers and mash, and you have to go a little out of the way to find 'real' Maltese food. One of the island's specialities is rabbit (fenek), and small savoury pastries known as pastizzi are also ubiquitous.
The Maltese celebratory meal is fenkata, a feast of rabbit, marinated overnight in wine and bay leaves. The first course is usually spaghetti in rabbit sauce, followed by the rabbit meat stewed or fried (with or without gravy). Look out for specialist fenkata restaurants, such as Ta L'Ingliz in Mgarr.
True Maltese food is quite humble in nature, and rather fish and vegetable based – the kind of food that would have been available to a poor farmer, fisherman, or mason. Thus one would find staples like soppa ta' l-armla (widow's soup) which is basically a coarse mash of whatever vegetables are in season, cooked in a thick tomato stock. Then there's arjoli which is a julienne of vegetables, spiced up and oiled, and to which are added butter beans, a puree made from broadbeans and herbs called bigilla, and whatever other delicacies are available, like Maltese sausage (a confection of spicy minced pork, coriander seeds and parsley, wrapped in stomach lining) or ġbejniet (simple cheeselets made from goats' or sheep milk and rennet, served either fresh, dried or peppered).
Maltese sausage is incredibly versatile and delicious. It can be eaten raw (the pork is salted despite appearances), dried, or roasted. A good plan is to try it as part of a Maltese platter, increasingly available in tourist restaurants. Sun dried tomatoes and bigilla with water biscuits are also excellent. Towards the end of summer one can have one's fill of fried lampuki (dolphin fish) in tomato and caper sauce.
Try to have a bite of ħobż biż-żejt, which is leavened Maltese bread, cut into thick chunks, or else baked unleavened ftira, and served drenched in oil. The bread is then spread with a thick layer of strong tomato paste, and topped (or filled) with olives tuna, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, and the optional arjoli (which in its simpler form is called ġardiniera).
For other suggestions, see "Eat" listings in city articles.
A local speciality in Malta is Kinnie, a non-alcoholic fizzy drink made from bitter orange (called "Chinotto orange") extract. It has a unique but very bitter flavour, so it is not for everyone but is worth a try. Most other varieties of soft drink are produced locally under license as well.
The main local beer is called Cisk (pronounced "Chisk") and, for a premium lager (4.2% by volume), it is very reasonably priced by UK standards. It has a uniquely sweeter taste than most European lagers and is well worth trying. Other local beers, produced by the same company which brews Cisk, are Blue Label Ale, Hopleaf, 1565, Lacto ("milk stout"), and Shandy (a typical British mixture pre-mixture of equal measures of lager and 7-Up). Other beers have been produced in Malta in direct competition with Cisk such as '1565' brewed and bottled in the Lowenbrau brewery in Malta. In late 2006 another beer was released in the market called "Caqnu". A lot of beers are also imported from other countries or brewed under license in Malta, such as Carlsberg, Lowenbrau, SKOL, Bavaria, Guinness, Murphy's stout and ale, Kilkenny, John Smith's, Budweiser, Becks, Heineken, Efes, and many more.
Malta has two indigenous grape varieties, Girgentina and Ġellewza, although most Maltese wine is made from various imported vines. Maltese wines directly derived from grapes are generally of a good quality, Marsovin and Delicata being prominent examples, and inexpensive, as little as €0.60-0.95 per bottle. Both wineries have also premium wines which have won various international medals. There are also many amateurs who make wine in their free time and sometimes this can be found in local shops and restaurants, especially in the Mgarr and Siġġiewi area. Premium wines such as Meridiana are an excellent example of the dedication that can be found with local vineyards.
The main Maltese nightlife district is Paceville (pronounced "pach-a-vil"), just north of St. Julian's. Young Maltese (as young as high school-age) come from all over the island to let their hair down, hence it gets very busy here, especially on weekends (also somewhat on Wednesdays, for midweek drinking sessions). Almost all the bars and clubs have free entry so you can wander from venue to venue until you find something that suits you. The bustling atmosphere, cheap drinks, and lack of cover charges makes Paceville well worth a visit. The nightlife crowd becomes slightly older after about midnight, when most of the youngsters catch buses back to their towns to meet curfew. Paceville is still going strong until the early hours of the morning, especially on the weekends.
As it does not rain much on Malta, almost all of the drinking water is obtained from the sea via large desalination plants on the west of the island or from the underground aquifer. Tap water in Malta tastes a bit salty compared to tap water elsewhere. Buy some bottled water if you do not feel comfortable with the slight salty taste of tap water. Cooking tap water for tea or coffee does not help on the salty taste.
Malta has promoted itself successfully as an entirely bilingual nation for Maltese and English. It counts for many educational institutes in the rest of the world as a country where English is the first language and they therefore will often even subsidise students to go there to learn it. The majority of Maltese citizens speak English well, but as in any other country many do not. Overly relying on being able to communicate in English might prove an issue outside the main tourist areas.
For foreigners, work is unfortunately often very hard to find. The Maltese are rather insular and figures show that even in the tourist sector, they are very reluctant to hire people not from the island, though there is a sense that since joining the EU, there is more willingness to hire professionals from abroad as the business sector diversifies.
The two main industries that provide jobs for foreigners in Malta are tourism and gaming. Both employ many expatriates. It's easiest to get work in tourism from May to September or October, selling tickets, doing promotions, or working at a bar or in a hotel. Jobs in gaming are often available to those who speak a foreign language and include call centres, support, sales and IT related work. These jobs are season independent and more stable.
Malta is generally considered safe. However, visitors to Paceville at night should exercise caution.
Due to Malta being a major Mediterranean port, sailors with shore leave tend to become quite rowdy after long voyages. As well, the advent of low cost air travel coming to Malta has brought an influx of teenagers from across Europe enjoying short cheap weekend breaks in the sun.
Despite that most public parking lots are free in Malta, parking attendants will importunately extort tips from you calling it "donation". They will make you think it's obligatory telling you that everyone does it. However keep in mind that giving tips is completely voluntary and you don't have to do that, especially if you feel that the parking attendant is rude. Feel free to just walk away. The parking attendants won't damage your car in case you deny tipping (but be prepared that they may yell at you). Remember, if the parking is not free (like at the airport), there will be a sign.
People of colour have been known to experience racial discrimination on Malta.
In 2021, Malta became the first country in the EU to legalize recreational use of cannabis. However, while growing your own and social clubs for sharing are permitted, sale and public consumption remain prohibited.
The main health risk in Malta is the fierce sun in the Spring and Summer, which can scorch unsuspecting tourists. Apply sunblock liberally.
Water from the tap is safe to drink but has a slightly salty taste to it because much of it is obtained through desalination.
There are many free and usually clean public toilets all over the country. Toilet paper is not always available though.
For ambulance, fire or police dial 112. The main hospitals are Mater Dei Telephone: +356 2545 0000 and Gozo General Hospital in Gozo, +356 2156 1600. The Maltese Ministry of Health maintains a complete list of government hospital services[dead link].
- While a bit reserved, Maltese people are friendly, generous, and helpful in nature.
- Maltese people tend to speak more loudly than the mainlanders, so they may sound like they are shouting at you even if the volume is normal.
- Malta is a strictly Roman Catholic country; carousing by tourists, while tolerated to some extent, is not looked on very favourably, especially outside of St. Julian's and Paceville.
- Dress respectfully when visiting churches. As a guide, men must remove any hats and sunglasses. Make sure your knees and shoulders are covered. Some churches, especially those on popular package tours, provide shawls and/or skirts for any inappropriately dressed visitors.
- You may be refused entry to a church if a mass has already started, so make sure you arrive promptly if you wish to visit.
The country has three mobile phone networks available: EPIC, GO Mobile, and Melita Mobile. Due to international agreements with providers around the globe, EPIC, GO and Melita are sure to be a part of your carrier's roaming plan. Malta uses GSM for its mobile services and alternatively, travellers can get a SIM card for their own unlocked smartphone to roam with.
The three mobile networks also offer eSIMs that can be purchased before arrival. There are also other providers which provide Malta-only and pan-EU eSIMs that are suitable for use.
Wi-Fi is almost always available in hotels and hostels, and many cafés and restaurants offer a free connection too. Additionally, there are some "Free Wi-Fi" zones around the island. The ferry from Malta Island to Gozo also offers free Wi-Fi.