5 things to do in… Malta

Small print: out of season.

We spent a week in Malta last month and while it was lovely: 16C, fairly quiet and generally, a beautiful and interesting country – due to it being out of season, there were things we couldn't do, places were shut, and we probably didn't see it at its best. If you're planning on visiting outside of peak holiday season, here's what you need to do and see.

1. Take the boat to Gozo for the day

When we originally booked to go to Malta, we had planned to stay on the island of Gozo – and while our daytrip was lovely, I think we would have run out of things to do and would have spent a lot of time on the mainland.

We took the catamaran from Sliema to Mgarr, and the journey was about 50 minutes each way. Going out, it was quite choppy, but coming back was much calmer and upon arrival, the sun was setting. There were only two return boats (at 2pm and 4pm), with the first one also stopping at the Blue Lagoon. As we arrived on the island just after midday, we decided on the later crossing which gave us (some!) time to see the island.

We saw the Ta’Pinu national shrine, a really beautiful aqueduct and also visited the capital of Gozo, Victoria, for lunch and shopping. As we were on the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus but pressed for time, we didn't get off much – but listening to the commentary as we went around was fascinating. There are usually 15 stops on the route, but I'd imagine you could see it all in a day.

Red classic restored, in museum

2. Visit the Classic Car Museum

A bit closer to where we were staying now in Buggiba, there's a classic car museum – and you don't even need to have an interest in cars to enjoy this place. Not only are there over 100 classic cars and motorbikes, but plenty of other memorabilia and antiques too – think old gramophones, jukeboxes, slot machines and even fashion. I particularly loved looking at the outfits on display.

There's a workshop on site where the team restore old cars from yesteryear. And in the museum, there was an example of a car which had arrived in a bit of a state, covered in rust – and look at it now. The sign says: Found after 49 years in a garage in Luqa.

The cinema room also showed documentaries and short feature films. I was really enthralled on one about the Mille Miglia (1,000 Miles) race, formerly taking place in Italy… Alfie, on the other hand, fell asleep!

Tickets: Adult (10); Child (€4.50)

Limestone walls, narrow cobbled streets, in Mdina

3. Lose yourself in Mdina

Nicknamed The Silent City, Mdina is a stunning walled city which is less than 1km2 in size and home to under 300 people. With its mixture of Medieval and Baroque architecture, it’s just beautiful and offers up many points of interest – Saint Paul's Cathedral and the Cathedral Museum were just two of my favourites, although Mdina Gate, known as the Main Gate, was pretty impressive too. And apparently the location in a Game of Thrones episode.

Once you’re done marvelling at the architecture and getting a photo outside one of the houses with their beautiful floral displays, there's always the Mdina Dungeon, National Museum of Natural History and the Knights of Mdina Experience amongst its attractions.

View over Grand Harbour, Valletta

4. Visit Valletta for the midday canon firing

I was going to make a joke about spotting cruise ships in port – one of my favourite things to do, and we saw the MSC Grandiosa. You can take the girl out of travel, but you can't take travel out of the girl. However, one of the most fantastic things is a firing of the cannons. It happens twice a day at midday and 4pm, and boy is it loud. We visited Valletta on a public holiday, and I was adamant someone had been setting off fireworks during the day. But on reflection (and the time I had taken the photos), it was in fact this re-enactment, that nods to Malta’s rich history and takes place on the saluting battery – also open to the public.

The views over Grand Harbour are breathtaking, so be sure to have a wander. Afterwards, for peace and serenity, but still spectacular views – head to the Upper Barrakka gardens. Valletta also offers up some great shopping opportunities, vibrant bars, and coffee houses, and plenty of restaurants. I can guarantee you won't be sure things to do.

We took the public bus from Buggiba to Valletta for just €1.50 each (Alfie was free), and it was a 40-minute ride, each way. Bus tickets have a 2-hour expiry, so offer great value and they run frequently – so it’s a great way to explore the island.

Boy pointing at clownfish, aquarium tank

5. Hunt for jellyfish in more ways than one

Head to the Malta National Aquarium! With five zones of sea and aquatic life, including a wide range of fish, sharks, crustaceans, and starfish – as well as a reptile and amphibian area – there's so much to see and learn. We spotted Nemo and Dory, who just kept swimming. Some areas were interactive, and you could find out the species in each tank by scanning the QR code displayed throughout the aquarium, although there were some touch-screens available too.

The conservation areas were really interesting. There was one particular display on how long plastic and other litter takes to biodegrade. It was particularly concerning – for example, why someone would choose to launch a laptop into the sea – but a real eyeopener to the harm that is caused. There was also a baby station where many different species were being bred. We saw lots of tiny fish and turtles.

Tickets: Adult – 13+ years (€13.90); Child – 4-12 years (€7)

And once you’ve seen the jellyfish at the aquarium, head to the bay to see them in real life. Or explore the rocks and perhaps go crabbing. It was particularly rocky, and I couldn't have imagined building sandcastles – but it was still a nice beach, nonetheless.

With its beautiful weather, an off-season break wasn't too bad at all.

Have you been to Malta? What are your recommendations?

Love, Lucy xx

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