Malta: The Family-Friendly Islands That Are Europe's Best Kept Secret - Family Traveller (USA)
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Tower of Palazzo Santa Sofia in Mdina, Malta

5. MDINA

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 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.

View of Mgarr Port on Gozo island

4. GOZO

While 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.

View over Valletta with the church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Paul’s Anglican Pro-Cathedral

3. VALLETTA

Malta’s capital city is every inch the Mediterranean daydream, full of tall and cheerfully wonky sunbleached houses with colorful 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.

Popeye’s Village sits over beautiful turquoise waters in Anchor Bay

2. MELLIEHA

In northern Malta you’ll find the small town of Mellieha. The town is ideal 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 a family attraction – Popeye’s Village. You could start your day on one of the beaches, pop over to Popeye’s Village, and then on to the second beach all in one day at a slow and leisurely pace. There are also a couple of great scuba diving spots if you’re inclined to explore below the surface of the sea.

Popeye’s Village

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 crystal clear waters of Blue Lagoon, Comino

1. COMINO

The smallest of the three islands, Comino has 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 swimming, sunbathing 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.

The Lowdown

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 club in the festival period December to January and in the peak summer months of July and August. The spa is fabulous and they provide realxing treatments for kids, too, for some family bonding pamper time.

Getting Around

Buses run regularly and connect all of the main hotspots, although they can be a little unreliable. Renting a car is easy, but be sure to get one with GPS to navigate the winding roads. Also be aware that they drive on the left hand side of the road here.

Best for

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 water sports, hiking and more for active families.

Best Time to Go

Peak season is August when the weather averages 80°F. Visit the country in December for cheaper prices and winter sun, with sunny but cooler weather at 57-62 °F.