Winter weekend getaway to Maltese sunshine

Visited January 2020

Looking for some sunshine in the midst of a gloomy British winter, we started scouring Google Flights for warm options close enough to home when we came across £30 flights to the Mediterranean island of Malta in January. We had always wanted to go, and with flights that cheap, there was no way we could turn it down. While peak season is the summer months, it turns out that Malta is absolutely worth a visit in the winter – although not beach weather, there was still plenty of sunshine, comfortable temperatures and smaller crowds.



Exploring the capital city’s vibrant streets


A sunny afternoon at a small harbor town


Quick detour to an ancient walled city

Dingli Cliffs

Beautiful sunset along the windy cliffs


How we got around during the trip


Exploring the capital city of Valletta

We chose the capital city of Valletta as our home base for the weekend. Not only was it central and an easy 20 minute drive from the airport, it also had all the conveniences of a city like plenty of hotel options, tons of restaurants and cute wine bars, shopping streets, and churches – all within walking distance. On top of that, Valletta also had the quintessential elements you see in every Maltese postcard: charming wooden balconies, stunning coastline views, and hilly cobblestone streets (make sure to wear comfy shoes that don’t slip!).

Valletta is a very manageable size, and you can walk to all the main sites in a day. In fact, if you just wander the streets for a couple of hours, you’d probably hit all the things a guidebook would tell you to see anyway. We spent our whole first day here.

Typical Maltese street view

Our Lady of Victory church

Stairs near Victoria Gate

Things to Do

  • Upper & Lower Barrakka Gardens: Good photo spots and pretty gardens along the eastern part of the capital peninsula (the War Siege Memorial just outside Lower Barraka Gardens is also a great viewpoint of the harbor)
  • Churches: Saint John’s Co-Cathedral, St Paul Shipwreck Church, lots of small ones that we didn’t even know the names of
  • Shopping: Republic Street and Merchants Street were the two main drags for shops
  • St. Elmo Bridge: Walked down here along the water and got some great pictures. You can walk all the way out to the Breakwater Bridge at the end of the peninsula, which has good views of the capital and Fort St. Elmo
  • Castille Palace: Caught all of our Bolts and eCabs at the traffic circle right near here (more on transportation below)

Lower Barraka Gardens

Our Lady of Victory church

View along St. Elmo Bridge

St. Elmo Bridge stairs

War Siege Memorial

Food & Drink

  • Wine bars: We especially enjoyed Legligin Wine Bar. We initially went there for a quick bite and a glass of wine, but ended up with a 7 course Maltese tasting menu that lasted several unplanned hours but was worth every minute!
  • Restaurants: Palazzo Preca – Had a nice sit down dinner with a beautiful ambiance; La Vecchia Taranto – A tiny, casual pizzeria complete with an ancient TV showing Italian soccer
  • T’Anna Mari Fish Food Court: We didn’t eat here, but would have if we found it sooner. Lots of different cuisine options in a fun atmosphere

Dusk in Valletta

Dining on St Paul Street

Outdoor dining


An afternoon in Marsaxlokk

On our second day in Malta, we headed 25 minutes south of Valletta to Marsaxlokk, a small fishing village on the coast known for its colorful boats and Sunday fish market. We went on a Saturday so we missed the main fish market, but we are still so glad we decided to go because it ended up being one of the highlights of the trip! The colorful boats in the harbor and the seaside vibe were exactly what we were looking for, and there was a small market with food, crafts and souvenirs that we perused as we walked along the water. The real highlight for us was an outdoor lunch at La Nostra Padrona, soaking up the sun (even in January!) and indulging in mussels and wine. The village itself is really small, so between lunch and a quick walk around the waterfront, a few hours is all we needed.

Traditional wooden boats

Colorful benches to match the boats


Quick detour to Mdina

Our next stop on the trip was the ancient, fortified city of Mdina, a 25-30 minute drive northwest of Marsaxlokk towards the center of the island. Also known as The Silent City, Mdina is the former capital of Malta and sits on a hill overlooking the middle part of the country. Upon entering the city through the ancient Mdina Gate, you can immediately tell it is a really old, but very well preserved city. We enjoyed walking around the narrow streets and historic buildings, seeing the pretty churches like St Paul’s Cathedral and the Carmelite Priory, and taking in all of the Baroque and medieval architecture, imagining what it would have been like hundreds of years ago (which is not hard to do, given how authentic everything is in the city). The Fontanella Tea Garden is the perfect spot for an afternoon drink and beautiful views out over Malta – be sure to get a seat upstairs! Like Marsaxlokk, it was very manageable to see the city in just a few hours in the afternoon.

Colorful doors near St Paul’s

Hot chocolate with a view

Near Fontanella Tea Garden

Dingli Cliffs

Sunset at Dingli Cliffs

Our last stop of the day was Dingli Cliffs, a less than 15 minute drive from Mdina, located on the western edge of the island. The Dingli Cliffs mark the highest point in Malta and are a must-see, especially during sunset – be prepared for spectacular views out over the open sea and lots of wind! A tiny, old chapel (St Mary Magdalene Chapel) sits at the top of the cliffs – you can’t go in the church, but is very photogenic and adds to the beautiful scenery. There are also several benches to sit and enjoy the sunset – a great way to end the day!

Dingli Cliffs

St Mary Magdalene Chapel


Getting around

Since we wanted to visit multiple cities across Malta, our first inclination was to just rent a car. However, we were turned off by the extremely negative reviews (we’re talking 2 stars or below, with pages full of horror stories) of nearly every rental agency. Some of our friends had rented cars when they went to Malta and had no issues, and we usually go for a car rental in other European cities we have visited, but we decided against it.

Instead, to get around, we used a combination of Bolt and eCabs, both ride-hailing Apps similar to Uber, which worked out great. We would recommend downloading one or both of the Apps prior to arriving in Malta as this was our method of transport to and from the airport and between all cities. As prices were roughly the same, we just picked whichever had the closest vehicle to us when we needed it. Because Malta is not that densely populated, there were times when a vehicle was not immediately nearby and we had to wait a bit (for example, when we visited Dingli Cliffs), but we never ran into an issue where there were no cars available. All of the drivers were very friendly and Bolt/eCabs were both cheaper than a regular taxi – even for trips of a half hour or so, we never paid more than €20. From Valletta, we caught most cars right outside of Castille Palace, not far from the picture shown above.

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