Things to do in Malta

Things to do in Malta

Malta might be small, but don’t let its tininess fool you—this sun-kissed archipelago packs a thrilling variety of experiences into three sublime Mediterranean islands. A veritable playground for history buffs, Malta has a higher density of historical sights than any other country, which pays tribute to the island nation’s 7,000 years of storied, if at times turbulent, history. Then there’s Malta’s coastline, a dramatic stretch of jagged limestone cliffs punctuated by secluded coves and golden sand beaches. Soak in the dazzling panorama while sailing through the warm turquoise water, or perhaps head below the surface to discover world-class scuba diving. The best part? You can enjoy it all while knowing you’re in one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world—one of only a handful of countries in Europe which give equal constitutional rights to the LGBTQ community. Uncover the best of gay Malta with these Mr Hudson approved things to do.

Whether at rocky outcrops with vibrant snorkeling or secluded sandy coves, a quintessential gay Malta vacation should include plenty of time basking in the Mediterranean sun

Photo: Ferenc Horvath

Sun, sand, and sea in Malta

Whether at rocky outcrops with vibrant snorkelling or secluded sandy coves, a quintessential gay Malta vacation should include plenty of time basking in the Mediterranean sun. Malta has no designated gay beaches, but there are a handful of gay-popular spots. Perhaps the most celebrated is Ġnejna Bay, a relatively large orange sand beach that’s tucked between clay slopes and cliffs. Or, tackle the 200 stairs to arrive at Għajn Tuffieħa Bay, another gay-popular Malta beach that’s particularly mesmerizing at sunset. (Find the gay sunbathers about 200m down at the very end of the beach.) One of Malta’s most sought-after destinations, the Blue Lagoon draws a crowd for a good reason. Luminous white sand, shallow azure water, and craggy rock outcrops set the backdrop for a serene day of swimming and sun-bathing. The paradisiacal spot is located off the coast of Comino and accessible via boat only. Avoid the transportation hassle with this Blue Lagoon tour.

Photo: Francois Kaiser

Photo: Ben White

Unbeknownst to many, Malta delivers some of Europe’s best scuba diving. Discover a myriad of subaquatic historical gems alongside beguiling rock formations and mysterious underground caves. Even better, warm water temperatures and visibility make diving in Malta a good option any time of year. Above land, why not dry off with a stroll through the Upper and Lower Barakka Gardens? Of particular note are the garden terraces which provide unhindered views of the Grand Harbour, with the picturesque cities of Birgu, Senglea, and Cospicua dotting the horizon. Continue wandering through the Upper Barakka, and you’ll find a replica of the celebrated ‘Les Gavroches,’ a remarkable piece by Maltese sculptor Antonio Sciortino.

man scuba diving

Photo: pxhere

Historical wonders in Malta

Valletta is Malta’s elegant capital, a mesmerizing 16th-century walled city and harbour that boasts UNESCO World Heritage status. The maze of cobbled streets overflows with architectural treasures. Arguably one of the finest is the St John’s Co-Cathedral, a baroque masterpiece that showcases one of Caravaggio’s most spectacular paintings, ‘The Beheading of St John.’ Not only is this Caravaggio’s largest canvas ever produced, but it’s also the artist’s only signed work. Other palatial jewels include the recently renovated City Gate, Parliament Building and Opera House (all designed by esteemed Renzo Piano.) That said, the EU’s smallest capital city is more than a relic to the past; modern Valletta promises contemporary sophistication in its many independent restaurants and chic boutiques. From here, travel father back in time with a visit to Mdina, the old capital of Malta. Picturesquely perched on a hill in the centre of the island, today Mdina is known as ‘The Silent City’ due to its noise restrictions and sleepy, seemingly abandoned streets. But don’t be deceived by its moniker; you’ll find some of Malta’s top restaurants hidden in Mdina’s quaint, Bougainville-laden side roads.

St George's Basilica | Photo: Ostap Senyuk

Mdina | Photo: Jana Sabeth Schultz

The EU’s smallest capital city is more than a relic to the past; modern Valletta promises contemporary sophistication in its many independent restaurants and chic boutiques

Continuing with the best things to do in Malta, don’t miss the island’s famed fortified cities: Birgu, Cospicua, and Senglea. Of these, Birgu is perhaps the most magical, in large part because it existed well before the arrival of the Knights, but also due to revitalization from the Birgu Waterfront Project. Restored forts and museums provide a window into medieval Malta, while a glimmering yacht marina, cosy wine bars, and Maltese fine dining options promise plenty of modern-day amusements. Experience prehistoric Malta at Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra, well-preserved megalithic temples that lie atop dramatic sea cliffs. These ancient limestone religious sites are believed to be some of the oldest surviving free-standing structures in the world, and a visit to these architectural wonders is a must-include on any gay Malta travel guide.

Birgu | Photo: pxhere

Stone Monument in Malta

Mnajdra | Photo: pxhere

Where to eat and drink in Malta

When strolling through labyrinthine Mdina, keep an eye out for the aptly named Medina Restaurant. Located in an original Norman building, the ambience at Medina exudes old-world charm, with golden stone walls and a vine-laced courtyard setting the scene. Expect imaginative takes on Mediterranean cuisine; the tagliata is delightful. Also in Mdina is the multi-award winning de Mondion, one of the island’s most decadent dining options. Maltese takes on traditional French dishes shine on the menu. You’ll find it in the equally luxurious five-star boutique Xara Palace Hotel. If the weather’s nice, opt for a table on de Mondion’s airy terrace with expansive views. For traditional Maltese cuisine in a mom-and-pop eatery, Ta’ Kris is an institution with locals and tourists alike. The welcoming bistro is warm and rustic—the kind of place where it’s easy to spend an entire afternoon lingering over lunch and a bottle of wine (or two.) The menu features hearty classics like homemade beef stew, rabbit, and, our choice, ‘Dad’s Favorite Bragioli.’ You’ll find Ta’ Kris in Sliema on thrumming Bisazza Street.

Juicy Burger in a Vibrant Interior

Photo: Jakub Kapusnak

Nightlife in Malta has long been synonymous with the neighborhood of Paceville, a pulsating playground for hedonism and indulgence

Harbor, Slima | Photo: Alexander Serzhantov

Nightlife in Malta has long been synonymous with the neighbourhood of Paceville, a pulsating playground for hedonism and indulgence. While the fun remains in Paceville, you’ll find a new crop of stylish jazz cafes, wine bars and sexy speakeasies throughout Malta. Start at The Birdcage Lounge, an elegant LGBT-friendly cocktail bar with live music, karaoke and fun cabaret shows that always draw a crowd. One of Malta’s best gay events, Lollipop is a pop gay dance event that happens at various venues across the island. Follow them on Facebook to discover when the next glitter-fueled party will take place. Then there’s Uno Village, a sultry, open-air dance club that can accommodate up to 4,000 clubbers. There’s no better place to be on a balmy, Mediterranean night. When you want to escape to a prohibition-inspired bar that doesn’t require any ridiculous shenanigans to gain entry, head to The Thirsty Barber. At this sensuous, wood-panelled cocktail bar, bowtie-clad mixologists create gorgeous takes on classics from the Roaring Twenties. Opt for the BIJOUX, refreshingly herbaceous and executed to perfection.

Photo: Felipe Benoit

When you’re not taking in the museum-worthy pieces, BOCO’s luminous terrace makes a lovely spot for a sundowner

Where to stay in Malta

Occupying a prime location in historic Valletta, Palazzo Prince d’Orange is an intimate boutique hotel with spacious suites and a sublime harbour-view rooftop terrace. The design makes chief use of original 17th-century limestone walls and antique detailing, without sacrificing contemporary comforts in the process. A fabulous Bohemian boutique hotel, BOCO is dripping with colourful artwork and Art Deco decor. When you’re not taking in the museum-worthy pieces, the luminous terrace makes a lovely spot for a sundowner. You’ll find BOCO in the equally trendy area of Bormla/Cospicua, right on the banks of the Grand Harbor. One of Malta’s most iconic hotels, The Phoenicia dates back to the 1930s when it was a favourite residing place of the Queen. Today the neoclassical hotel retains its old-world opulence, with spacious blue and white rooms, a critically-acclaimed restaurant, and romantic dark wood and leather bar.

Photo: Ferenc Horvath

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