Day 1 – Arrival and Cultural Exploration

From the airport to Valletta, the best way to travel is to take a bus. It’s a single bus, no transfers, and if you get the Explore Card it’s very cheap. (Journeys on buses in Malta are two euros otherwise, which is still cheap). What was particularly interesting about this travel day was that upon arrival at the apartment, we found we were unable to get in. This lead to several coffees and drinks in cafes around Valletta until finally we had the code to enter the apartment. Entering Valletta, we found red and gold banners strung up around most of the city. We soon discovered that today was one of Valletta’s festival days. If it works with your timings, I’d highly recommend being in Valletta for one of their traditional festivals. Here’s a link to an article about the festival we went to: Why you should go to Valletta’s ‘Our Lady of Mount Carmel’ Festival – wanderlustandarucksack.

Day 2 – Mdina and the Catacombs

After having a small exploration of Valletta when we arrived, we left the capital on day two. We visited the old city of Mdina. Again, the buses are the best option for travel here. I can’t recommend them enough for budget and effective travel on the island.  When we first arrived at Mdina, my first thought was – it’s very touristy. There were loads of people taking pictures at the entrance, little carts going in and people milling about in the main square. However, first sights can be deceiving. My best advice to avoid the tourists? Get lost in the city streets. Mdina is a very old, almost ghost, city. Within two minutes of walking away from the crowds, there wasn’t another person in sight. There, you can really appreciate the atmosphere of the city.

The City of Mdina and the catacombs

There are some little cafes in the heart of this old city. The one we stopped was called ‘Coogi’s’, which had a range of smoothies, and other drinks, for a quick stop before leaving Mdina, to head back in Rabat. In Rabat, there are loads of catacombs which are absolutely unmissable. One thing to be careful of is that you go to St Paul’s catacombs – the largest in the city.

I ended up exploring WW1 shelters and catacombs at a museum before later finding St Paul’s catacombs. If you have time, do both but prioritise St Paul’s catacombs. It’s well worth it and they all signposted with which religion they belong to. Most are Christian, Jewish or Pagan. I would also highly recommend the All Flavours Deli in Rabat for both quality and price for a lunchtime snack (All Flavours | Rabat | Facebook).

Day 3 – Casa de Rocca Piccola and Malta MTV music festival

Casa de Rocca Piccola is situated in the heart of Valletta and is an old house of Maltese nobility. There are also some underground parts of the house where you can look at where they sheltered during the war, as well as older cultural history inside the house. From Casa de Rocca Piccola, you can head to the Lower Barraka gardens which have stunning views over the ocean as well as a lovely little break from city life.

The main event of the day for me was the Malta MTV music festival. For those who don’t know, this music festival is the largest free music festival in Europe. In 2023 (when I went), the headliners were One Republic, Tom Grennan and many other performers. You still have to book tickets, however it is one of the best nights of evening entertainment I’ve had – and totally free. Even the drinks inside the square aren’t unreasonably priced and staff handed out free water, as well as tote bags and canned drinks from some companies.

Malta MTV Music Festival

Day 4 – Sunset Boat Trip to the Blue Lagoon (and Food Festival)

Day 4 was when we took a trip out to the blue lagoon, stopping at some other swimming spots on the way. I’d highly advise that if you do want to visit the blue lagoon, go as late as possible. Until six, the place was crammed with tourists, no space to get down to the lagoon and people trying to sell spots on sunbeds. After six, you could start to appreciate the beauty of the place as the crowds began to clear out. The sunset on the way back was also beautiful to watch from the boat. One thing I will say is that boat tours to the Blue Lagoon are very touristy, so do be careful with exactly what you want out of the day.

It seemed the perfect week to be in Malta for festivals. After the local festival, the MTV Music Festival (paid entry into venues/nightclubs continues this festival through the week), the International Food Festival had begun just outside the city walls. It was about two to three euro entry, and then food costs on top of that – still within a cheap budget. There was a huge variety of food, a great atmosphere and live music as well as some craft stalls. If you do happen to be there for Malta’s International Food Festival, I would recommend going. If you still want to experience local culture and food, there was a really nice maltese stand selling maltese platters when I went. Have a look at their website here: Home | maltafoodfestival (maltainternationalfoodfestival.com)

Day 5 – Tarxien Temples and Swimming

This day was intended to be a day to visit the Hypogea. If you do want to do that, you will need to book well in advance – I’m talking weeks, maybe months, unless you want to pay the possibly on the day fee of 50 euros to enter. However, this day turned into a lovely day, exploring the close by megalithic ruins – the Tarxien Temples. I’d highly recommend the temples for a little bit of history into your trip to Malta, and an exploration of the area surrounding the temples. Walking around here was the first time I felt entirely off the tourist and city path.

For the afternoon, we headed back into Valletta and down one of the roads to a bar that we had found a few days prior, where you can access the sea to swim. Although the bar is down on the rocks, you don’t have to buy a drink unless you want to. It’s just a lovely place to soak up some sun, swim in the sea and enjoy the company of locals in the water.

Day 6 – Gozo

On Day 6, we took a trip to Gozo. The two main places we visited here were the citadel in Victoria and the Ggantija Archeological Park. To begin with, we got the bus from the ferry port to Ggantija, which is a complex that dates back to at least 3600 BC. The bus system works the same as it does in Malta, so it’s no extra cost if you’ve already bought Explore Cards. The Ggantija site was brilliant, though there is very little shade there so you will need to pause for regular breaks if you’re travelling in the heat of summer.

The city of Victoria is lovely, and the citadel is a must-do. You can walk all around the inner walls of the city which, like Mdina, give you an idea into the history and culture of the place.

Day 7 – Blue Grotto

The Blue Grotto has stunningly coloured waters. You can get the bus from Valletta to the blue grotto, although it is a long journey. (For more information Transport in Malta – Exploring Malta – foot, car, boat or bus?) At the blue grotto, you get thirty minute boat tours around the grotto and the surrounding caves/grottos such as window cave (below). As we were leaving relatively early the next morning, we went back to the rocks in Valletta for a swim and had a last meal out, enjoying traditional maltese octopus and traditional maltese rabbit at a more local restaurant. Both of these were dishes I would recommend to anyone.

Malta – Summed Up

Overall, Malta is a fantastic place to visit for a week. It gives you enough time to do what you want, without it stretching on and having to try and fill your days. Valletta and the bus stop there were a perfect base to explore Malta and Gozo, and I’d recommend making sure that you’re near a bus station wherever you stay. You can definitely do Malta on a budget if that’s your kind of style, and you can island hop to Gozo if you fancy a switch of place at any time.

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