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Seeing Malta in 3 days sounds like an impossible mission, I know. I actually had more time in Malta, but because of the most annoying vertigo, I had to spend a part of my vacation in the hotel room. I didn’t get to visit beautiful places like the Three Cities, Mellieha Bay, and Comino Island, and missing out was definitely not fun. Not exactly what I had in mind for this trip, but it is what it is.
Nonetheless, I feel like I used my healthy(ish) time properly and I want to share my itinerary with you, so if you only have three days in Malta, here’s how to make the most of them.
WHERE TO STAY IN MALTA
The city of Sliema is a great base for day trips in Malta, and I stayed at the wonderful Slimiza Suites. This cute hotel is located only two minutes away from the promenade where you can find the ferry to Valletta, all the buses, and many shops and restaurants. It offers clean and comfortable rooms and a nice breakfast, and the staff was very welcoming and helpful. It was a perfect stay, and I would absolutely go back to this hotel. Browse Slimiza Suites’ latest prices and availability.
For a more budget-friendly option, check out the highly-rated Corner Hostel that has both private double rooms and 4-bed dorm rooms. For something more upscale, check out The Waterfront Hotel (that offers spacious, rooms with sea views and has an on-site restaurant and bar) or the 1926 Hotel & Spa (that offers elegant suites, a highly-rated breakfast, and a variety of spa facilities).
3 DAYS IN MALTA – ITINERARY SUMMARY
Here’s what you’ll see on this itinerary:
- Day 1: Valletta.
- Day 2: Mdina, Ghajn Tuffieha (Riviera Beach).
- Day 3: Blue Grotto, Marsaxlokk.
If you have a full extra day or want to make some changes to this itinerary, take a classic day trip to Gozo and Comino, Malta’s other two islands. You can visit them independently or with a full-day tour (read my Malta travel tips for more info on that).
If you have an extra half a day or you prefer doing something more relaxed, stay in Sliema. Enjoy the sun and the water at Sliema’s Roman Baths and rocky beaches. Take your time and continue walking along the promenade towards the town of St. Julian’s. Apart from all the cafes and restaurants, you can enjoy the end of your trip relaxing and savoring the sea views.
3 DAY MALTA ITINERARY – GENERAL TIPS AND NOTES
- To know what to expect from this beautiful country, check out my 18 Malta travel tips you have to read before your trip.
- This itinerary does not require hiring a car. I used both buses and taxis to get around the island. I know a taxi is a lot less budget-friendly, but it’s cheaper than car hire, and it can save you time and energy, especially when it comes to Malta’s bus routes (read my travel tip post for more info on that).
MALTA IN 3 DAYS – DAY 1
With everything there is to do and see in Valletta, it’s hard to believe that it is the EU’s smallest capital city yet clear why it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. All the shops and cafes on the main streets make it seem slightly modern, but everything else about it just screams ‘history.’ Although it does get a bit crowded in summer, you can always find quiet corners away from the popular streets. To enjoy the best of this city, here are the things you have to do when visiting Valletta.
Getting from Sliema to Valletta: Take the ferry or buses 13,14,15 or 16 from Sliema to Valletta.
1. HIGHLY-RATED WALKING TOURS YOU CAN TAKE IN VALLETTA
- A walking tour in Valletta: Learn about Maltese history while discovering Valletta’s main sights. Read reviews and book a 2-hour tour here or check out this highly-rated 3-hour tour.
- The dark side of Valletta – a night tour: If you’re looking for an alternative tour, why not see the city after the sun has set, and hear mysterious legends about it? For more details about this unique tour, read here.
- A night tour of Valletta, Mdina, and Mosta: A 4-hour tour that also includes a 5D show in Valletta. Read all the reviews and book it here.
2. VALLETTA’S STREETS AND MALTESE BALCONIES
Strolling through the streets of a city is the best way to see it and discover its hidden treasures, especially when it comes to a city as enchanting as Valletta. With a mix of European and Middle Eastern vibe and the abundance of colors of the traditional Maltese balconies, Valletta is one big maze of uniqueness.
Some of the streets you should explore are St. Christopher’s Street, Old Mint Street, Old Bakery Street, and Republic Street, but that’s just a taste of Valletta, and you can spend hours wandering around the city.
3. CASA ROCCA PICCOLA
Dating back to the 16th century, Casa Rocca Piccola is the palace and home of the Maltese noble family de Piro (That still lives in it today!). Some of its rooms are open to the public, and they allow you to have a glance at a noble family’s lifestyle. From silver items and antique furniture to paintings and clothing, this place is the definition of old-school luxury.
Address: Republic 74.
Price: 9 Euros.
Opening hours: Monday-Saturday 10 AM-5 PM.
4. GRANDMASTER’S PALACE AND THE PALACE ARMOURY
I have much respect for royal palaces, but visiting the residences of actual knights has always seemed cooler to me. I had already visited one on my Portugal road trip, and I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to see a second one.
Dating from the 16th century, the Grandmaster’s Palace is the largest palace in Valletta and one of the first buildings that were built in the city. Let me tell you one thing – this place has been through a lot. After serving as the residence of the Grand Masters of the Order of St. John, it was also the Governor’s Palace during the British rule and the seat of the Parliament of Malta. Nowadays, it’s the Office of the President of Malta.
When visiting the palace, don’t miss the Palace Armoury. Seeing such a large and impressive collection of original knights’ armory is simply amazing. If you don’t want to visit the entire complex, you can also buy a ticket to the Palace Armoury alone.
Address: Palace Square.
5. ST. JOHN’S CO-CATHEDRAL
Probably one of the most visited landmarks in Valletta, the St. John’s Co-Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral that was built in the 16th century by the Order of St. John.
With so many intricate architectural and decorative details, it’s practically one big piece of art and one of the best places in Europe to appreciate Baroque architecture. It also has immense religious importance, so expect this place to be busy. For more information about the cathedral including tips for visiting, read this. If you want to visit it with a guide, book this walking tour.
6. LOWER AND UPPER BARRAKKA GARDENS
Both gardens are exactly where you want to be when you’re looking for a peaceful scenic spot in Valletta.
While the Lower Barrakka Gardens offer views of the Grand Harbour, the Upper Barrakka Gardens has a special treat for you – the Saluting Battery. Looking down from the gardens’ main terrace, you can watch a cannon firing every day at 12 PM and 4 PM (For free!). I don’t about you, but to me, that was one hell of a unique experience.
The main terrace is also a perfect place to enjoy the views of the magnificent Fort St. Angelo (which was also built by the knights).
7. AUBERGE DE CASTILLE, AND CHURCHES OF ST CATHERINE OF ITALY AND OUR LADY OF VICTORY
Located one next to another, these three beautiful buildings are worthy of at least a few minutes of your time.
Now housing the Office of the Prime Minister of Malta, the Auberge de Castille was once the official seat of the knights of the Langue of Castille, Leon, and Portugal.
Right next to it, you can marvel at the oldest church in the city, the Church of Our Lady of Victory, and the Church of Saint Catherine of Italy that was built by the Italian knights of St. John.
8. THE ROYAL OPERA HOUSE AND THE PARLIAMENT OF MALTA
Two more points of interest in Valletta located right in front of each other are the Royal Opera House and Malta’s Parliament. While you can appreciate the modern architecture of the parliament building, you can only see the remains of the opera house. Sadly, it was destroyed in an aerial bombing in 1942, but I did find its remains pretty charming thanks to their Greek-like quality.
9. THE CITY GATE AND THE TRITON FOUNTAIN
If you want to make an official entrance to Valletta, head to the City Gate, which is actually the fifth one built in that location. But the true icon in this place is the Triton Fountain. It became such a beloved landmark right from the start (60 years ago), so who am I to argue with three mermen holding up a giant plate?
10. A HIDDEN GEM IN VALLETTA: SUNDAY IN SCOTLAND CHOCOLATE BOUTIQUE
I know it’s the last thing you’d expect from this post, but to me, hidden gems come in all shapes and forms. Besides, I’m not going to say no to chocolate. With their adorable interiors, tempting pralines, and picture-perfect patisserie desserts, you won’t say no to Sunday in Scotland either.
Address: St. Lucia 172.
MALTA IN 3 DAYS – DAY 2
Also known as ‘The Silent City’, Mdina is a thing of beauty.
For those of you who love mazes of charming alleys, Mdina has you covered. I know that this UNESCO city has other highlights like the city gate, the Vilhena Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the Cathedral Museum, but its streets have won me over the most. Strolling through them truly felt like stepping back in time, and I loved their tranquility. If you want to explore Mdina’s streets with a guide, you can book a walking tour.
To cool off, head to Gelateria Fior di Latte (Villegaignon 21). Apart from devouring the delicious gelato, you can enjoy a fantastic lookout point right next to it.
Getting from Sliema to Mdina: Take bus 202 from Sliema and gett off at Rabat station, which is only a minute away from Mdina’s gate.
GHAJN TUFFIEHA BAY
Also known as Riviera Beach, I knew I wanted to visit this bay ever since I had laid my eyes on it on Instagram. It’s the perfect spot for both relaxing and enjoying some scenic viewpoints. The jaw-dropping sight of the bay reveals itself right when you climb down the stairs from the parking lot above it.
You can get another angle of it by walking towards the Ghajn Tuffieha Tower before taking the stairs down to the beach. I also highly recommend climbing up to the Ghajn Tuffieha viewpoint on the other side of the beach to see yet another gorgeous little bay.
Important tip: Don’t do any of these climbs with flip flops. They may be short, but you need to wear decent shoes or sandals.
Good to know: The facilities and services in this bay include a restaurant, toilets, and beach chair and umbrella rentals.
Getting from Mdina to Ghajn Tuffieha: To save time, I took a taxi. It should cost about 20 Euros (yeah, not very budget-friendly), but it only takes about 20 minutes instead of 90. The alternative is to take bus 186 or X3 to the town of Bugibba and switch to bus 223.
Getting from Ghajn Tuffieha back to Sliema: Climbing back up, right next to the parking lot there’s a bus stop called Riviera. From there, take bus 225 that goes all the way to Sliema.
MALTA IN 3 DAYS – DAY 3
THE BLUE GROTTO
Let’s just say that boats and I are not the best of friends, but I made an exception for the Blue Grotto. Located on the island’s southern coast, this complex of seven caves is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places to visit in Malta, and taking a cave boat tour is a must-have experience.
On the 25-minute tour, you get to see some impressive arches and rock formations, and the most mesmerizing hues of blue water courtesy of the sunlight. In one word: MAGICAL.
Price: 8 Euros.
Opening hours: 9 AM – 5 PM during summertime. 9 AM – 3:30 PM during wintertime.
Good to know #1: You don’t need (and can’t) book the tour in advance. Buy your ticket at the ticket office and wait in line. Boats always come and go, and you won’t be waiting for too long even it’s a bit busy.
Good to know #2: You can also swim in this area, so be sure to have your swimsuit with you.
Getting there from Sliema: Take the ferry from Sliema to Valletta or buses 13,14,15 or 16. From Valletta’s bus terminal, take bus number 74 and get off at Grotto bus stop.
Tip #1: Choose a sunny day to visit the Blue Grotto and take your tour before noon to enjoy the best of the best of blue colors. Also, the tours don’t operate if the weather doesn’t allow it.
Tip #2: Don’t miss the Blue Grotto’s viewpoint where you can feast on the iconic picture-perfect views of the main (and tallest) arch. It’s located next to the bus station called Panorama, which is one stop before Grotto on bus number 74. You can either get off the bus there and continue downhill towards the ticket office or climb back up after taking the boat tour.
The colorful boats and the tranquility of the fishing village of Marsaxlokk (pronounced Marsashlok) have made it one of my most favorites places in Malta.
The village is small, and there isn’t much to see beyond the boats in the port and Marsaxlokk’s Parish Church, but I still think it’s worth the visit. The village also hosts a popular market on Sundays, and I even came across a cute little souvenir market in the middle of the week.
If you’re feeling hungry, you can find countless restaurants along the promenade. I had some delicious pasta at La Nostra Padrona Restaurant, which also serves fresh seafood.
From Marsaxlokk, you can take a short boat ride to St. Peter’s Pool (you’ll see many signs while walking alongside the port), a natural swimming pool with crystal clear water. Whether you want to take a swim, soak up some sun, or go for a snorkeling adventure, that’s the place to do it.
Price: A one-way boat ride to/from St. Peter’s Pool will cost you about 5 Euros.
Getting from the Blue Grotto to Marsaxlokk: Again, to save time, I decided to take a taxi. It should cost about 20 Euros (again, I know it’s not cheap), but it only takes about 15 minutes instead of an hour and a half. The alternative is to take bus 201 from the Blue Grotto the airport (yes, the airport) and bus 119 from there to Marsaxlokk. Other bus routes include even more switches and take more time.
Getting from Marsaxlokk back to Sliema: Bus 81 goes from Marsaxlokk to Valletta’s bus terminal. From Valletta, you can take either a bus (13,14,15 or 16) or the ferry back to Sliema.
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