When scanning a map in search of a place to visit, the tiny island of Malta can be easy to overlook. But despite its size – or lack thereof – the country is a cultural powerhouse bleached by centuries of Mediterranean sun that boasts 7,000 years of history, prehistoric ruins and tales of the Knights of St. John. Only 19 miles long and 8 miles wide, the island can be explored in no time at all, though you’ll certainly wish you could stay for weeks on end. If an extended trip doesn’t seem to be in the cards, you can still join the Maltese in the experiences they love best in one single weekend adventure.
4 p.m. A VISIT TO VALETTA
The best place to begin your trip is in Malta’s capital. Easily walkable, Valetta is the perfect place to soak up the history (and the sunshine) that Malta has to offer. The buildings lining cobblestoned streets feature vibrantly colored balconies above, while cafes, restaurants and shops serve locals and tourists alike at street level. Take in views of the harbor at the Upper Barrakka Gardens as the sun sets – it’s not to be missed.
8 p.m. A MODERN MEAL
Guze Bistro in the heart of Valetta takes traditional Maltese food and offers it a modern twist. It doesn’t lack in ambiance either – the restaurant resides in a 400-year-old building built by the Knight’s of St. John.
If you’re looking for a traditional experience, try Fenek; pan fried rabbit served in a garlic white wine sauce.
9 a.m. SEE MALTA FROM THE SEA
First and foremost Malta is an island, and like other islands it is best viewed from the sea. Set off on a full day cruise with Hera Cruises for an experience both adventurous and incredibly relaxing. Around noon you’ll anchor for lunch in The Blue Lagoon, which boasts crystal clear waters perfect for snorkeling. Jump from the rocks (or your ship!) straight into the sea, but be prepared – the water remains brisk, even on the hottest of summer days.
7 p.m. FRESH LOCAL FISH
Your ship will dock in Sliema, making it easy to catch a ferry back over to Valetta for a dinner of fresh locally caught fish at Palazzo Preca, a restaurant owned by two sisters that is renowned for its seafood offerings, from swordfish to octopus to giant prawns.
11 a.m. HEAD TO THE BEACH
After a leisurely breakfast, take some more time to soak up Malta’s infinite sun. Among the country’s best sandy beaches are Mellieha Bay and Golden Bay. While these beaches are certainly no surfer’s paradise, the still waters offer supreme conditions for swimming and snorkeling, a flawless way to spend a warm late morning.
3 p.m. SNACK AS THE MALTESE DO
If you’re hungry, stop in Rabat for one of Malta’s most traditional and beloved snacks: The Pastizzi. This puff pastry stuffed with a mixture of ricotta or pureed peas is flaky and brittle, the crumbs shedding all over your palms and sleeves with even the slightest of movements. Pastizzi’s are sold in shop after shop for only a few cents a piece, though the absolute best can be found at the Crystal Palace Bar, tucked away on Triq San Pawl (Street Saint Paul) in Rabat. You’ll probably find a few old men lounging outside, pastizzi in one hand and cigarette in the other. If you’re feeling brave, wash down your pastizzi with a bottle of Kinnie Soda, a local beverege, though admittedly this bitter orange drink flavored with herbs is not for everyone.
4 p.m. EXPLORE AN ANCIENT CITY
Unlike Valetta, whose boulevards and streets form a perfect and practical grid, the walled city of Mdina is a mass of twisting roads and alleyways that all intertwine, no rhyme or reason to be found. Allow yourself to get lost for an hour or two. Climb one of the city walls for a panoramic view of the island – all the way out to the coast – that is nothing like you’ve ever seen.
8 p.m. MEDINA IN MDINA
The best way to finish out your perfect trip to Malta is with a perfect meal, and Medina Restaurant is arguably one of the island’s best. On a warm night you can dine out in the stone courtyard under swaying palm trees and you’ll feel like you’re in another world.
I based this weekend itinerary off of my own experience in Malta. I hope some of you find it helpful! If you have any other suggestions for things to see, do or eat, or advice for those hoping to travel to Malta, please share below in the comments!