Malta might just be one of the best sunny escapes in Europe for a long weekend. The island is very budget-friendly, full of history, and known for having beautiful weather. To top it off, the island is small enough that you can easily see the best of Malta in 3 days.
Be aware travel time is not factored into this itinerary. To make the most out of your visit, I’d recommend arriving in the evening, so you can have a full 3 days. To give you an idea of how much travel time to account for, our flight from Paris took roughly 4 hours.
After my own visit to Malta, there were activities we did that I particularly felt weren’t worth it. So I structured this 3-day itinerary to feature my top recommendations and must-visits. Feel free to use this itinerary for your upcoming trip to Malta or even as a starting point for your own trip planning!
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Tips on spending 3 days in Malta
📍For a quick visit, I’d recommend staying closer to Valletta: When we stayed in Malta, we stayed in the north of the island at the Maritim Antonine Hotel & Spa. However, most of our favorite places were actually further south. In the interest of optimizing your time, I’d recommend looking for accommodations in Valletta, the capital city.
📆 Best time to visit Malta: Malta is in the Mediterranean, so you can expect the climate to be very similar to Italy, or Greece. This also means that the summer months tend to be the hottest time of year and also tend to be the busiest months in Malta. Shoulder season is ideal to visit, around May and June or September and October, since crowds will be thinner and prices should be cheaper.
🚗 We opted for a car rental: Although a rental car isn’t a necessity because Malta has a pretty comprehensive bus system, we found having a car incredibly convenient. A journey that would have taken us between 1-2 hours to get somewhere by bus, only took us 30 minutes by car. You can read more about the pros and cons of renting a car in Malta here!
Day 1: Uncover historical gems in Valletta
Day 2: Visit some of the other islands
Day 3: Get a closer glimpse into Maltese culture
Arriving in Malta
✈️ Arriving by plane: Malta being an island means that the most likely way to arrive is by plane. From the airport, you can either drive, take the bus, arrange a transfer, or take a taxi. By car, it is approximately a 20-minute drive from the airport to Valletta. This means that a taxi could cost roughly 30 euros one way.
🚌 Taking the bus to Valletta: If you are not opting for a car rental, I’d recommend taking the bus as it is the cheapest option. Buses in Malta cost 2 euros per person (which you pay to the driver when you board) and the journey to Valletta will take roughly 30 minutes. To get to the bus station at the airport, leave the arrivals section and the bus terminal will be on your right. You want to take the X4 bus which terminates in Valletta. You can find everything you need to know about the bus routes in Malta on the Malta Public Transport website.
🚢 Arriving by ferry: Alternatively, you can also travel to Malta by ferry. They run only from Italy from Genoa, Sicily, or Salerno arriving in either Gozo or Valletta. The trip will take approximately 5 hours, depending on where you are departing from. This option might be appealing if you are arriving from Italy, or want to visit Malta with your own car. You can learn more about the different ferry options to Malta on the Direct Ferries website.
To keep in mind: In Malta, they drive on the left side of the road, so if you are bringing your car with you make sure you are familiar with the road rules!
Day 1: Uncover historical gems in Valletta
Explore St. John’s Co-Cathedral
Kickstart your 3-days in Malta with a visit to one of Malta’s most iconic buildings. St. John’s Co-Cathedral is absolutely stunning from top to bottom! There are intricate details everywhere you look and its one of the best places to learn more about the city’s history.
If you’ve never heard of the Knights of Malta, you’re about to! The Order of St. John is a Catholic religious order that has been around since the 1050s! While touring this Cathedral you’ll learn about their role in Malta’s rather bloody history. I personally didn’t think that heading into a Cathedral I would be learning about Malta’s fortresses, Crusades, and history or knights and pirates! It’s really quite fascinating and was one of my favorite spots in Malta.
📆 The Cathedral is open from 9 am – 4:45 pm Monday- Saturday.
💰 We spent 15 euros per adult but for 5 euros more you can get a guided tour!
⏰ We spent an hour visiting
🚨 Even when we visited in November, there were crowds!
Have some pasta (or pizza!) for lunch
Maltese cuisine shares a remarkable resemblance to Italian cuisine due to them being very historically linked. Which means in Malta, you’ll find lots of pasta and pizza! The best pasta I had from our entire trip was in this very lively neighborhood, with hanging lights and a great atmosphere in Valletta! We ate at San Paolo Naufrago and it was honestly such a cool spot and was a great place to sit down and enjoy the vibe. I later learned that this is also one of the most photographed locations in Valletta – I mean I can see why!
Admire the view from the Upper Barrakka Gardens
To get jaw-dropping panoramic views of the city, head to the Upper Barrakka Gardens. I personally believe your 3 days in Malta would not be complete without a visit to these gardens. This peaceful oasis features fountains, lush gardens, and a spectacular view.
If you happen to be visiting around 12 pm or 4 pm, these gardens might begin to feel a bit less peaceful. Every day at these times, an official ceremony takes place to fire the resorted cannons. Even if you’re not here during the ceremony, I’m sure you will be able to it hear happen!
HIGHLIGHT: Take a traditional taxi to Birgu
I highly recommend riding the traditional boats, called Dgħajsa, if you plan on visiting one of the other cities around Valletta. These are gondola-style boats that have been in use since the 17th century. You can find the traditional boats at the Valletta Waterfront just below the Upper Barrakka Gardens, which you can easily access using the Upper Barrakka Lift.
You might have heard the term ‘the 3 cities’ which refers to some of the other important cities across the bay from Valletta. These cities, Vittoriosa, Senglea, and Cospicua are more authentic and less touristy, compared to the hustle and bustle of Valletta.
We chose to visit Vittoriosa (also known as Birgu). The ride took no longer than 10 minutes and it only cost us 2 euros per adult. We spent the afternoon wandering the quiet streets and admiring the authentic Maltese way of life. You don’t need to spend too much time here, there aren’t necessarily many tourist attractions, but it is a place we enjoyed!
Visit the Lower Barrakka Gardens
After your afternoon across the bay, be sure to pay a visit to the Lower Barrakka Gardens. These gardens offer a similar slice of paradise as the Upper Gardens with full gardens, fountains, and beautiful views. Even though the views are not quite as panoramic as their twin, you should definitely still pay a visit! Personally, I was mostly surprised by the amount of flowers still in bloom even when we visited in November!
Wander around and explore
Whether it’s at day or night, simply allowing time to wander around Valletta is an absolute must. You’ll get to admire the famous colorful balconies, you’ll stumble across some British symbols (think mailboxes and phone booths) and you’ll most likely fall in love with the city’s streets! We found Valletta to be very safe, clean and we just loved the warm colors of the buildings. It is a hilly city so do expect some climbing from time to time. Of course, the perks of walking around at night also mean you get to witness the city lit up in all its glory!
Have dinner in one of the best restaurants in Valletta
Beati Paoli was one of the highest-rated restaurants we saw in Valletta and is known as being one of the best. This is also a great restaurant to try some of classic Maltese dishes. I opted for a rabbit dish since Malta is known for its rabbit stew but you can also try local fish or even some typical desserts.. The food was incredible, the staff was super friendly and the price was super reasonable considering it had a more fancy vibe!
To keep in mind: we arrived right when the restaurant was opening for dinner and grabbed their only walk-in table. I’d recommend making a reservation or doing the same if you want to eat here!
Day 2: Visit some of the other islands
Visit to Gozo
Gozo is probably my favorite day from these 3 days in Malta! It’s the second-largest island on the peninsula and despite being so close to Malta, had a very different energy. We found Gozo to be way less touristy than Malta and the energy to be very slow-paced and relaxed. I also generally preffered the landscapes in Gozo, it felt a bit more lush compared to the mainly arid Malta. My top recommendation would be to visit Ramla Red Beach, the Tal-Mixta Cave (pictured above), the salt flats, and Victoria Citadel!
⏰ We spent the entire day exploring the island at our own pace. You could probably visit for half a day depending on what you want to see.
⛴️ You can visit Gozo from Malta by taking a ferry. There are ferry ports in Valletta or in the north of Malta.
💰We left from the north and it cost us 4.65 euros per person to take the ferry roundtrip. You pay in Gozo on your return to Malta.
✨We felt the best, and most thrilling, way to visit the island was by renting a quad bike!
Day trip to Comino
Comino, although the smallest of the 3 islands, has some of the bluest waters in Malta. You can visit the Blue Lagoon, Crystal Lagoon or the Santa Maria caves to experience the vibrant turquoise waters and rocky shores. What you should know about Comino is that it is also a nature reserve. There are no cars and only one open hotel during the summer months.
This means that to visit the island, you have to hike everywhere or take a boat tour. Be sure to keep this in mind, especially if you are visiting during the summer months. You will have to hike to the beaches you want to visit and you most definitely should expect there to be crowds! To give you a frame of reference, it should take roughly 4 hours to hike around the entire island.
Another amazing way to explore this area is by diving. Malta is one of the best diving sites in Europe with tonnes of marine life, exciting shipwrecks and deep caves. If diving isn’t really your thing, there are also plenty of snorkelling options available with the boat tours below!
Want to visit both?
Visiting both islands independently, although possible, might feel a bit rushed. You’ll have to rely and keep an eye on the ferry schedule and make sure you get your timings right. You also will waste part of the day taking ferries back and forth. The best way to visit both islands in one day is to take a tour! Check out some of the tour options below that visit both Gozo and Comino!
Day 3: Get a closer glimpse into Maltese culture
Cooking Class in Sliema
Start the last of your 3 days in Malta by diving into the local culture with a cooking class! This is something I try to do with every country I visit and I find it is one of the best ways to connect with locals and learn about local foods and traditions.
We booked this 2-hour cooking class on Airbnb Experiences and were taught how to make Pastizzi. This is a classic Maltese pastry with many different fillings to choose from. During your time in Malta, you will see these pastries everywhere! Fun fact we learned on this cooking class. The different filling options are inspired by the previous rulers of Malta. For instance, there is a mushy pea filling is inspired by Queen Victoria!
Highly recommend spending your morning learning more about Maltese cuisine! This particular course is located in Sliema, on the other side of Valletta!
Visit Game of Thrones locations in Mdina
You can’t visit Malta for 3 days without visiting Mdina. This is one of the most beautiful cities in Malta and a lot of people can agree on that. Why? Because its been used as a backdrop to film several movies and series! Most notably Game of Thrones and the Count of Monte Cristo were filmed here. The most well known Game of Throne locations you should stop by include the Mdina Gate and Mesquita Square. But walking around, you’ll definitely recognize some other spots! As a matter of fact, Malta in general has been used quite frequently for films including Troy and the Gladiator.
Wander around the Silent City
Mdina is known as the Silent City of Malta. It used to be the capital of Malta, but when they moved the capital to Valletta, the city more or less became a ghost town explaining its ‘silent’ status! We spent 2-3 hours wandering around; even though it’s small in size, it definitely should not be skipped! There are several bus routes that go from Valletta to Mdina, the 51, 52 or 53 just to name a few. I’d suggest checking the bus schedule using the Malta Public Transport website to find the best route for your journey!
Enjoy some pizza in a historic square
We dined in Coogi’s pizzeria for one last celebratory pizza. Coogi has both a bistro and a restaurant, but we chose the bistro and pizzeria. We left very pleasantly full, but also got to learn more about Mdina and the restaurants history. In the menu, you can learn about the history of the square and its building. Starting from the 1600s up until the 1950s this building has a story to share!
3 days in Malta: is it worth it?
For more tips and advice about visiting Malta, I have put together a FULL budget breakdown guide, to give you an idea of what prices are like in Malta (spoiler: it is a very budget-friendly place!). Also, there were many places in Malta that we enjoyed, but if you are interested in making the most of your time, you can read about some of the activities I thought were skippable.
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Your busy 3 days in Malta will probably leave you feeling full and possibly tired. If you’re in need of a more laid-back trip, I’d suggest either adding a day for some downtime or optimizing your island day by hanging out at the beach, instead of busily touring the islands. Either way, I hope you now have an idea of all of the amazing things you can experience in Malta in 3 days and that it makes you eager to book your trip!