When you and your brood wake up on a warm and sunny morning in Malta, it’s time to make that difficult decision; start the day sitting on a stretch of golden sand and paddling into crystal clear turquoise shallows, or take a step back in time and explore the winding streets of ancient towns and cities.
The Republic of Malta, made up of three islands – Malta, Gozo and Comino – is an idyllic mix of both a culture and beach holiday. Here are 5 tips on where to visit in Malta to make it a perfect family holiday.
Mdina – the former capital of Malta – is a must, especially if you’re a movie buff. Films such as Black Eagle and Trenchcoat and iconic scenes from Game of Thrones have all been filmed there. It’s incredibly beautiful and in steeped in a long, diverse and impressive history.
Grab a bite to eat at Fontanella Tea Gardens, who have hands down the best cake we’ve ever tasted and an outstanding view to match. Perfect for an afternoon treat after walking around Mdina in the Maltese sunshine.
Whilst much smaller than Malta, Gozo has its own distinct personality and dramatic landscape. The Cittadella – an ancient walled city – and the capital, Victoria, are both incredibly pretty, full of winding side streets and quaint nooks and crannies.
There are a number of craft villages on the island for you to buy some locally handmade wares, such as Ta’ Dbiegi Crafts centre – the oldest Crafts Village on the island. Or pop into a food store like Ta’ Mena, which is a treasure trove of delicious edible treats. Have a wine tasting, sample some of the typical Gozitan condiments, olive oils and local honey, and buy some Gozo cheeselets. A staple in any Maltese platter you’ll find on the island, these cheeses come in a soft, fresh version or a sea salt air-cured harder version. The traditional ones are plain or peppered and go beautifully with sundried tomatoes – another treat that Malta does incredibly well – but you can get chilli, herbed and more.
Malta’s capital city is every inch the Mediterranean daydream, full of tall and cheerfully wonky sunbleached houses with colourful shutters and quaint balconies – reminiscent of the Otto tradition made for the women of Valletta to keep an eye on the goings on of the city.
Quaint shops unwind their awnings each morning as the day begins in a quiet murmur. Spend the whole day wandering the cobbled streets and around the grand waterfront, stopping in a Piazza for street food with a chic twist and visit one of the many incredible churches and buildings that tell the tale of the country’s vast and unique history.
St John’s Co-Cathedral
The demure, honey-colored walls of the St John’s Co-Cathedral stand proudly in the main square of Valletta, concealing within it an ornate interior beyond anything you could image from its humble facade. If there’s one experience in Valletta that you can’t miss, it’s this. Head inside and take in the intricate, gold leaf decorated walls and ceiling which are breathtaking in themselves. If you’ve got teens who love language and history, you can take a look at the shrines created for the various languages that have ruled the islands. If they love art, there’s Caravaggio’s masterpiece in the oratory.
In northern Malta you’ll find the small town of Mellieha. The town is a lovely day out for families, with two small but beautiful (and incredibly family-friendly) beaches – Mellieha Bay and Golden Bay – and a movie set that’s been turned into family attraction – Popeye’s Village. You could start your day on one of the beaches, pop to Popeye’s Village, and then on to the second beach all in one day at a slow and easy holiday pace. There are also a couple of great scuba diving spots if your brood are inclined to explore below the surface of the sea.
Originally built for the 1979 film Popeye around the the turquoise waters of Anchor Bay, you can now enter this vintage set for a bite to eat, a boat trip, mini golf and a splash about in the crystal clear water.
The smallest of the three islands, Comino been used for multiple movies, including Brad Pitt epic Troy and Guy Ritchie’s Swept Away which both starred the infinitely-Instagrammable Blue Lagoon, just one of the beautiful sights along Comino’s stunning coastline. Best enjoyed from the water, charter a boat or take a tour and stop off at key spots for a swim, sunbathe and to spot famous views such as elephant rock, a key clue in The Count of Monte Cristo, and the beautiful coves where Popeye faces the clutching tentacles of a giant octopus.
How to get there
Flight time from London Heathrow or Gatwick to Malta Airport is 3 hours.
Where to stay
The Corinthia is a great family-friendly hotel in the touristy St Julian’s. Although you’ve got dozens of restaurants and a great beach on your doorstep, you’re close enough to everything to make it out everyday for a cultural excursion.
There’s a large family pool for keeping cool on hot days and there’s a kids clubs in the festival period December to January and in the peak summer months of July & August. The spa is fabulous and they provide lovely treatments for kids, too, for some family bonding pamper time.
Buses run regularly and connect all of the main hotspots, although they can be a little unreliable. Hiring a car is easy but you’d need a Sat-Nav to navigate the winding roads.
Families with kids of all ages. You can enjoy culture and history, beach days, or a mixture of the two. Foodies will find delight in local delicacies and there’s plenty of watersports, hiking and more for active families.
Best time to go
Peak season is August when the weather averages 27°C. Visit the country in December for cheaper prices and winter sun, with pleasant weather at 14-17 °C and sunny.