Beyond the capital city of Valletta, visitors to Malta might be wondering where else they can go. A general sightseeing list of Malta usually includes the neighbourhoods immediately around the capital, plus the islands of Comino and Gozo. But for those looking to go further afield, there are plenty of extra places in Malta to visit.
What’s great with the size of Malta is that you can still stay in or around Valletta and then head out each day to explore different pockets of the island. Yet, despite the scale of Malta there are plenty of sites crammed onto its humble land mass. Regardless if you’re a first time visitor or looking to see more on a return trip, this list of places in Malta should help your sightseeing list.
Despite being wedged in between Valletta and the neighbourhood of Gzira, Manoel Island isn’t all that popular. Home to a historic fortress, the island had long been used by the military until recently. Now, construction is taking place in certain parts, locking the island down during the week. Public access is granted on weekends, allowing you to walk through the former base and admire its coastline.
Besides the cute duck village you pass as you enter, the most interesting part of Manoel Island is Fort Manoel and its views to Valletta. The fort was built in the 1720s, and while the interior is closed off, the outer courtyard is a nice place to see. Down from the fort, a stretch of rocky coastline grants you a noteworthy viewpoint of Valletta’s distinctive cityscape. You won’t be able to see all of Manoel Island, but what you can see is worth allowing a little time.
For those looking to immerse themselves inside an ancient city, then Mdina is the place to be. Dubbed the Silent City, Mdina was once the capital of the island when Malta was in the hands of the Phoenicians, Romans and Arabs. Secured inside a dramatic fortress, Mdina is found within the larger town of Rabat. Entry into the town is free, but its many museums require entrance fees.
If Mdina looks at all familiar, you likely watch Game of Thrones, as the show filmed inside the city for a time. Visiting Mdina it’s not hard to see why, as its narrow stone streets and grand old buildings certainly reflect a long-gone era. If walking isn’t your thing, you can even take a horse and cart ride around the fortress sights to the lookout point, with views right across the island.
Despite its many varied landscapes, there’s one in which Malta is quite lacking – woodland forests. Because it is an isolated island, much of the native woods on Malta were felled centuries ago to build ships. Today, there are only a few patches of woods and Buskett Gardens is one of them. Designed as a hunting reserve, the garden sit upon an ancient woodland site, used for pagan and christian celebrations.
Lying just short of the south-east coast, Buskett Gardens cover 30 hectares of woodlands and orange groves. While the nearby Verdala Palace is off-limits as a residence of the President, the woods are open to the public. Accessible by bus, the gardens a perfect place for those seeking peace and quiet, with trails and picnic tables galore. I never found anything else like it on Malta and almost had it all to myself.
Clapham Junction Ruts
One of the more humorously named sites, Clapham Junction as it’s known is a remote, prehistoric site. Near the south coast of the island, you can find a network of gouged tracks passing through rocky fields. The gouged tracks are actually ancient car ruts left behind by early settlers of the island.
In Maltese, the site is known as Misrah Għar il-Kbir. Beside the cart ruts, you can also find the Għar il-Kbir Cave here. Sunk into the ground, this cave was actually used to live in for centuries, as is indicated by the man made walls seen below. It was quite common before British rule for people on the Maltese islands to live in such cave networks. Communities of people actually thrived in these caves,, with private and communal areas.
A visit to the rural area of Selmun is a great chance to explore a few interesting landmarks, not to mention some typical Maltese countryside. Sitting on the northern side of the St Paul’s Bay, Selmun is basically a rural community linked up by country lanes. It can be challenging at time to find less urban places in Malta, which explains the appeal of somewhere like Selmun.
It’s not uncommon to find old stone houses with horses in their front yard as you wander about. This in keeping with the traditional nature of the place, not a modern high-rise in sight. The main landmarks to visit here, both abandoned, are Selmun Palace from the 18th century and Fort Campbell. The latter has stellar views across St Paul’s Bay and out to St Paul’s Island.
At the heart of the island’s north lies the hilltop town of Mellieha. Although the beaches below the town on Mellieha Bay may draw bigger crowds, the town of Mellieha itself has enough to entertain visitors for a while. In fact, if I were to stay in northern Malta on my next visit, I’d be looking at Mellieha rather than other spots closer to the water.
For starters, as a hilltop town you’re in for some spectacular views out over the island’s north. Just behind the town’s viewpoints lies the grand Parish Church of Mellieha, with its cute little courtyard. Further up the hill lies the old Air Raid Shelters, which look quite spooky even for those who aren’t claustrophobic. There’s also just the more laid-back vibe of Mellieha, which you can feel as you wander its scenic streets.
Given that Malta is a series of island’s adrift in the Mediterranean, it’s no surprise that fishing is an important part of life there. The best place to see this side of Maltese life is definitely the village of Marsaxlokk on the east coast. It’s here in Marsaxlokk that you can experience a quieter, humbler side of the island.
Probably the most attractive thing about Marsaxlokk is all of its vibrant, traditional fishing boats. Known as luzzu, these bright and colourful vessels transform the harbour into a visual spectacle. A common lunch spot for those circling the island, it makes for a wonderful view as you dine on some local seafood. During my weeks in Malta, I barely saw any luzzu around other places in Malta. So if you’re after a colourful scene on the island, Marsaxlokk is the place.
The Three Cities
While they may only lie across the Grand Harbour from Valletta, the Three Cities are far less explored. Made up of the Birgu, Senglea and Cospicua neighbourhoods, the Three Cities are a fantastic opportunity to witness more of Malta’s history, all the while ditching crowds of tourists. In fact, the neighbourhood of Birgu predates Valletta and was the island’s capital before the city was built.
Wandering through the Three Cities, there are an ample number of things to do. Probably the easiest is to simply wander their quiet, traditional streets that are still inhabited to this day. There are also a host of museums, including the Inquisitor’s Palace and the one inside Fort Saint Angelo. There’s also a good chance that no matter where you are, you’ll be treated to vistas off the neighbouring areas, as well as over to Valletta.
Have you been to any of these other places in Malta? Where else would you include on this list of destinations in Malta? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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