The Maltese Islands are surrounded by twinkling, azure Mediterranean sea. Occupying an important place on routes between Europe and Africa, they have been fought over for millennia. The most pronounced stamp on the islands was left in the 17th century by the Knights of St John, a warrior Christian brotherhood that was born out of the Crusades. They fought off the Ottoman Turks here following an epic siege in 1565, which put Malta on the map and led to the building of the capital, Valletta.
There’s an enormous amount to see on Malta, from its fortified towns, cathedrals and citadels to the amazing prehistoric sites that dot the islands, and artefacts in its museums dating from over 5,000 years ago. Gozo, the much smaller sister island to Malta, moves at a much slower pace, and is a great place to head to relax. Either base yourself here and make day trips (via a half-hour ferry ride) to sightsee Malta, or spending part of your holiday here.
Valletta’s beautiful baroque St John’s Co-Cathedral has a multi-coloured, carpet-like marble floor and 2 Caravaggios in its Oratory.
The Hypogeneum is over 5,000 years old but you can still see traces of paint on the walls. It's an underground necropolis carved out of rock in such a way to make the caverns look like built architecture.
Don't miss the Grand Master’s Palace. The grand State Rooms and Armoury constructed by the Knights in Valletta are filled with beautiful, celebratory decoration as well as fascinating, fearsome weapons.
Malta and Gozo make a great place to take boat trips and explore the rocky, cave-pocked coast. If you’re so inclined, here lie some of the best dive sites in Europe. You can also visit the picturesque island of Comino, with its famous turquoise Blue Lagoon.
Maltese and Gozitan cuisine has lots of exotic influences and the seafood is particularly good.
Head to the Gozitan countryside for a meal at country-house restaurant Ta’Frenc, which offers delicious fine dining; choose a table outside in their aromatic herb garden. Alternatively, set atop bastions in the ancient walled city of Mdina, De Mondion is rated as Malta’s finest restaurant, with a sophisticated array of Mediterranean dishes.
Wherever you dine, look out for hobz biz-zejt. A classic dish served across Malta, it combines bread with oil, tomatoes, garlic, olives and capers - like a local and very tasty version of bruschetta.
Valletta, the capital of Malta, is packed with museums. The Museum of Archaeology has figurative carvings dating from 5,000 years ago, beautiful carvings from Malta’s temples, and much more - a must-see museum. Malta’s essential role in WWII is laid bare in the National War Museum, an artefact-packed small museum.
Victoria, Gozo’s capital, also has many places of interest. The Museum of Archaeology is small in size but big on interest, with carvings from Gigantija and other temples around the island.
Malta and Gozo are rocky islands, but harbour some lovely little beaches - best visited out of season when there are fewer people to share them with.
On Malta, Golden Bay is an arc of golden sand that gently shelves into the sea; great facilities make it ideal for families with kids.
On Gozo, our favourites are Ramla Bay and San Blas Bay. The former is a curve of red sand meeting the azure Mediterranean and overlooked by Calypso’s Cave (named after the legend of Odysseus). The latter is a lovely little bay on Gozo’s northwestern coast. Being accessible via a steep path helps keeps it less crowded than other beaches.