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An island nation that lies in the heart of the Mediterranean, Malta is as dense with UNESCO Heritage Sites as it is densely populated; a cultural blend of English, Italian, and Arabic influences, with a rich history and a prehistoric past.
The largest of the country’s three main islands, Malta is the nation’s cultural centre. Exploring the island is rather easy as it is quite small, and English is widely spoken. Buses will get you to even the most remote parts of the island, or you can hire your own car to explore on your own schedule.
For such a small island Malta certainly packs a heavy punch; a holiday here allows you to take in prehistoric temples, some of the most beautiful beaches in the Mediterranean, fossil studded cliffs, incredible scuba diving, and a food scene which mixes Sicilian and Middle Eastern flavours with local Maltese ingredients like rabbit and honey.
Not yet convinced you should visit? You will be after reading more about the country’s top cultural treasures and cuisine!
Our Top Recommendations for Food and Culture in Malta
Header image by Giuseppe Milo. Above by Kirk Fisher.
With 7,000 years of history under its belt, Malta offers a surprising amount of cultural attractions for such a small island. With a population nearing a half million with an area around 100 square miles, Malta can be a bit crowded at times, but it is equally overrun with intriguing historical sites.
Currently Malta is home to 3 UNESCO Sites with a further 7 on what is known as the tentative list to possibly become additional Sites in the future. The following are sites that are not to be missed as part of your Malta experience.
Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum
One of Malta’s 3 UNESCO Sites, The Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum is an underground prehistoric burial site. With remains that date back to about 4000BC, it is Malta’s only prehistoric burial open to the public. A highlight is its red ochre paintings.
Valletta is Malta’s capital city and another site recognized by UNESCO. It is hailed as one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world where you will find museums, palaces, and churches dating back to the 16th century.
Be sure to check out the St. Johns Co-Cathedral, Lascaris War Rooms, and the stunning waterfront.
Megalithic Temples of Malta
Some of the oldest buildings in Europe are found in Malta. You’ll find 7 megalithic temples split between the islands of Malta and Gozo.
Built between 4000BC and 3000 BC, they are some of the oldest free-standing stone buildings in the world. See them all as each one is unique and offers incredible architecture.
Malta’s impressive coastal cliffs are home to many rare endemic plants and animals. Vertical rock faces rise from the sea over 100 meters where they plunge nearly as deep into the waters below.
Be sure to hike along the Dingli Cliffs which offers amazing views and a great place to watch the sunset.
Photo credits: Giuseppe Milo.
Grand Master’s Palace
Once the residence of the Grand Masters of the Knights of St John, the 16th century Palace now acts as offices for the President of Malta.
Tour both the state rooms and the armoury where you’ll experience marble paved corridors, paintings, suits of battle armour, swords, and cannons.
Malta offers some of the finest Mediterranean cuisine with a twist which changes with the seasons. Seafood lovers will be in heaven and you’ll find offerings such as rabbit stew for the more adventurous tastebuds.
The country takes pride in its incredible honey and you’ll find traditional Ġbejna cheese made from sheep’s milk in almost every restaurant. Wine connoisseurs can sample fine Maltese wines that are rarely found outside the country.
Here are just some of the local tastes that should be sampled during your travels to Malta.
With meat so tender it falls of the bone, rabbit stew is delicious. It must be popular since it has been served in the Maltese Islands since the Knights of St John. Ingredients include red wine, garlic, onions, carrots, potatoes, and of course olive oil.
Photo credit: Edsel Little
For a quick and delicious snack, you can’t go wrong with picking up a ftira sandwich. A disc-shaped flat bread similar to ciabatta, your ftira sandwich can be filled with a wide array of fillings.
Try hobz biz-zejt where the ftira is rubbed with tomatoes, bathed with olive oil, and stuffed with tuna and olives.
We’ve all heard of meat pies, but how about a fish pie. Lampuki is more commonly known as mahi-mahi, a mild white fish. This dish combines England’s savoury pie with Arabic flavours and Italian specialties such as olives and tomatoes.
Perfect for vegetarians and for eating on the beach, kapunata can be enjoyed hot or cold and consists of cooked green bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, capers, olives, and garlic. Non-vegetarians could opt to throw in some fish or shellfish.
You may be familiar with the pastizzi as it has found its way into other countries throughout the world. It is a savoury flaky pastry generally filled with peas and ricotta cheese, but can also include apple or corned beef.
Photo credit: Charles Haynes
Malta offers no shortage of restaurants around its archipelago. From fine dining to lovely little cafes, Malta provides more than enough places to eat to keep your stomach entertained. Here are some of our favourite Maltese restaurants.
Dinner in the Sky
Take your dining experience to new heights, quite literally at Dinner in the Sky. The restaurant accommodates around two dozen guests as it elevates them some 40 metres above the ground in a kind of large chairlift-like structure.
Enjoy stunning open air views of Malta’s Manoel island. The restaurant changes location from time to time, so confirm where they’re currently hanging when you make your booking.
Head to the rural island of Gozo with its scenic hills to eat at Ta’ Philip which prides itself in selecting locally grown produce. The restaurant offers a wood fire oven and the Candle Lounge which is perfect for an after dinner drink.
Be sure to taste one of their many wines from the restaurant’s large cellar.
Bahia is one of Malta’s newer restaurants, offering a fresh modern feel in Lija. The menu is constantly changing so there is always something new and exciting to try.
Marsaxlokk Fishing Village
Be sure to head to the fishing village to sample the freshest seafood from numerous restaurants that have sprung up to meet the demand of tourists.
Every Sunday the village comes alive with tourists and locals looking for the freshest catch of the day.
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