I cannot recommend Malta enough for a unique, culturally enriching, yet relaxing family holiday.
Found in the Mediterranean Sea, between Sicily and North Africa, Malta is an island nation with a fascinating history and mesmerising coastline.
I knew very little about Malta, aside from its package holiday heyday in the 80s, and what I found on our visit there in April 2023 were historic, biscuit-coloured towns stuffed full with forts, churches and eye-catching architecture.
We loved pootling across the turquoise waters of the Grand Harbour, coming across gun salutes in Valletta and chic dining spots in the Three Cities. We also found a good number of family-friendly activities that were affordable and engaging and, being a relatively small island, it didn’t take all day to get to them!
We split our days between relaxing at the amazing pool at The Westin Dragonara Resort and uncovering layers of Malta’s history. Of an evening we found child-friendly menus and activities in many restaurants, including trendy ones on Birgu Waterfront. The weather was also glorious, mostly sunny and low 20s, even in spring.
In short, Malta is perfect for holidays with little ones. And now I have you convinced, here’s everything we loved about it.
Disclosure: Our stay at the Westin was hosted, as were some activities mentioned here, as part of the Traverse Keyframe Conference. Everything else was self-funded.
Best places to visit in Malta
Malta’s capital city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site stuffed with biscuit-coloured churches and fortresses and dotted with vibrant shutters, doors and balconies. In fact, Valletta’s 320 monuments, all within an area of 55 ha, make it one of the world’s most concentrated historic areas. Add to that the fact it is surrounded by gleaming turquoise natural harbours and you can see why I think it is one of the most beautiful capital cities in Europe.
Some of the best things to do in Valletta are:
Explore the Lower and Upper Barrakka Gardens
Valletta has 2 beautiful, must-see gardens with incredible views of the Grand Harbour – the Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens. They are a great place to sit and enjoy a snack, and if you time your visit to the Upper Barrakka Gardens for around 12pm or 4pm you’ll get to see the cannons being fired from the Saluting Battery.
The cannon salute is free to watch from Upper Barrakka Gardens but it does get very busy. To guarantee a decent view, book a tour of the Saluting Battery where you’ll not only be closer to the action but will get a guided tour of the oldest saluting battery still in operation anywhere in the world.
Wander some of Malta’s most photogenic streets
Valletta is the kind of place you just want to wander with no agenda. For photography fans, St Paul Street & Old Mint Street are my favourite photogenic streets.
Take a traditional taxi boat to Three Cities for 2 Euro per person
More on this below, but if you’re in the Upper Barrakka Gardens look out for a lift down to the Valletta Waterfront (1 Euro per person) as this will take you down to the pier for Three Cities taxi boats, which are definitely worth a ride.
Visit St John’s Co-Cathedral
In the heart of Valletta, you’ll find the impressive St John’s Co-Cathedral, which was built by the Knights of Malta in the 1500s. St John’s Co-Cathedral (co because it shares the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Malta with the older Cathedral of Saint Paul in Mdina) is one of the finest examples of baroque architecture in Europe. It’s also home to priceless works of art, including 2 Caravaggio masterpieces.
Cut down queuing time by booking tickets in advance online.
Explore Fort St Elmo
It’s hard to miss Malta’s star fort, Fort St Elmo. Protecting the Grand Harbour since the Knights constructed it in 1552, Fort St Elmo has played a key role in Malta’s history. Inside the Fort today you’ll find the final resting place of Knights who fought during the Great Siege. It’s also home to the National War Museum, where you’ll find the George Cross, as well as aircraft wreckage, weapons, and various military vehicles.
Marsaxlokk is a traditional fishing harbour on the south-east coast of Malta known for its colourful boats and lively Sunday fish market. It’s a great place to come and grab a seafood lunch. You can also hop on a boat here to famous swimming spot St Peter’s Pool, which is just around the headland.
Also in the south-eastern region of Malta is PlayMobil FunPark, which is great for younger children. See below for more information.
I highly recommend you spend a few hours exploring Mdina, an ancient walled city in the centre of Malta that was once the island’s capital.
Mdina’s history expands over 4000 years, having been founded by the Phoenicians, conquered by the Normans and then pretty much abandoned by the Knights of St John who decided to move Malta’s capital to Vittoriosa. (One of the Three Cities on the Grand Harbour).
It was at this time that Mdina became known as the Silent City, and with less than 300 people living within its walls today it’s easy to imagine that not much has changed over the last 1000 years.
Some might say Mdina looks just like King’s Landing in Game of Thrones, and they’d be right! Many scenes from the show were filmed here, including at the impressive Mdina Gate.
Top tip: Break up your sightseeing in Mdina with a sweet treat at Fontanella Tea Garden, a popular spot for delicious cakes with a fantastic view over the surrounding countryside.
Then head to Crystal Palace, Malta’s most well-known ‘Pastizzeria’, which is found in Rabat, the town just outside Mdina Gate.
My absolute favourite thing to do in Malta is take a traditional taxi boat (known as Dghajsa) from Valletta’s waterfront to the historic Three Cities. (I made a reel all about it.)
It’s a super short & cheap journey but gives you a great view of Valletta and a chance to see the historic harbourside towns of Birgu, Senglea & Cospicua, collectively known as the Three Cities.
The Three Cities are the oldest part of Malta after Mdina and walking the streets here makes you feel like you are reliving history. We loved exploring peaceful Senglea (we actually stayed there for a couple of nights in an AirBnb) and dining on the trendy Birgu Waterfront, checking out all the yachts in Grand Harbour Marina. (Below Deck fans may recognise this area!)
If you’re travelling with little ones there is a road train that tours the Three Cities. It’s called Happy Train Vittoriosa and you board it in Birgu close to where the water taxis from Valletta drop you.
The good news is that while the Dghajsa water taxi looks just like a gondola you’d find in Venice, they are substantially cheaper! A ride from Valletta to The Three Cities in a dghajsa costs just €2 per person. It’s common to share rides, the taxi will leave when it has sold enough seats, and it can get a little wobbly as other passengers climb on and off – that’s all part of the fun though right?! You can also opt to do a 30-min tour of the harbour in a water taxi for €8.
If traditional taxi boats aren’t your thing though, don’t worry. There is a regular ferry service from Valletta to Senglea that costs €1.50 per person.
If you’re coming from the centre of Valletta, the best way to catch these boats is to take the lift down from the Upper Barrakka Gardens. Click here for directions to the Lascaris Water Taxi Station in Valletta.
Another beautiful place to visit in Malta is the island of Gozo. Here you’ll get a taste of a slower pace of life in Malta. Must see sights include the Cittadella of Gozo in Victoria and the inland sea, a natural saltwater lagoon and dive site on Gozo’s west coast.
Check out this website for information on the ferry options between Malta and Gozo.
Best things to do with kids in Malta
My 4-year-old loved spending a couple of hours here on an overcast morning. The PlayMobil FunPark has a huge, clean indoor play centre with stations of different themed PlayMobil toys. It also has an outdoor pirate themed adventure playground and lifesize PlayMobil models to engage with.
We liked that it wasn’t too big nor too busy (in April) and at €5 for children and €3 for adults it was affordable too. (Not counting what we spent in the gift shop!)
As mentioned earlier, PlayMobil FunPark can easily be combined with a visit to Marsaxlokk and St Peter’s Pool.
Another great thing to do with kids in Malta is visit Esplora, an interactive science centre with multiple educational galleries (signs in English), a planetarium and fun outdoor play areas overlooking the harbour. Like PlayMobil FunPark, we also found it was well-run, not too busy and very affordable at €6 for adults and €4 for children.
Esplora is found in Kalkara, close to the Three Cities, so can be easily combined with the taxi boat trips I mentioned earlier. Note it is closed on Mondays and only open until 15.00 Tuesday to Friday.
Grand Harbour Boat Tour
We also really enjoyed a 90-min Grand Harbour Tour with I See Malta (departing from Sliema) that was the perfect duration for a fidgety 4-year-old. Our son loved the commentary on all the forts, ships and naval history.
This tour also includes a stop at Kalkara for Esplora, so you have the option to combine your cruise with a visit to the science centre.
In the north of the island, near family-favourite Mellieha Beach Bay, is the Popeye Village.
The former film set of the Popeye movie made in the 1980s is now a quirky amusement park complete with splash pool, inflatables course, mini golf and soft play.
It’s one of Malta’s most popular tourist attractions for families, but please note that some parts of the film set are currently closed due to storm damage. Visit the Popeye Village website for updates.
Comino Island/Blue Lagoon Day Trip
The most popular day trip in Malta is a boat trip to Comino Island and the jaw-dropping crystal-clear waters of the Blue Lagoon. It’s such a popular excursion that you will find many tour operators offering slightly different itineraries, so I recommend hunting around to find exactly what you need.
If your children are over 12 years old this catamaran trip to 2-3 bays with an optional bbq lunch looks excellent.
The weather wasn’t quite good enough for us to do one of these tours in April and it’s the number 1 reason I want to return to Malta!
Top tips for getting around Malta
If you’re not in a rush, Malta has hop-on-hop-off buses that link all the major sites and are free for under 5s. We personally just used Uber and Bolt to get around all week. They are plentiful and affordable across the island and a little bonus for families is that if you book a Bolt most of them have a booster seat in the boot that you can use for free.
We weren’t aware of the free booster seats in Bolt taxis before we travelled to Malta so we came with our trusty Bubble Bum inflatable booster car seat anyway. This is a great travel booster seat for children aged 4+ that deflates small enough to fit in your hand luggage. If you are planning on renting a car, I recommend buying one of these to save a lot of money hiring a booster seat.
Where to stay with kids in Malta
For 5 nights of our trip we stayed at The Westin Dragonara Bay Resort and had a really wonderful stay.
The Westin Malta has something that no other 5-star hotel in Malta can offer and that’s a year-round outdoor heated pool. This pool is an absolute game-changer for families visiting Malta, especially those travelling outside of peak season, because even on overcast blustery days in April, we were out there with our son spending hours frolicking in the pool without freezing!
Aside from the pool we really liked the generous room sizes at The Westin Dragonara Bay Resort. We were lucky enough to be staying in a Tower Room that had 2 queen beds and an incredible terrace with wraparound views of the resort and ocean. In case you want to request it, it is room 777 and according to our 4-year-old it was the best thing about our trip to Malta. (I literally asked him for his holiday highlight and he said ‘Room 777’!)
We really enjoyed dining at the hotel too. We ate at ORVM Lounge & Piano Bar, which was chic without being stuffy. The food was excellent and the staff were really kind and friendly with the children. Miles sampled a couple of dishes from the Eat Well Menu For Kids, which are Westin’s specially designed kid-friendly meals that are nutritious and delicious. His favourite, the Penne Beef Bolognese, was priced at €8.50, which we thought was brilliant value for a 5-star hotel. We certainly didn’t find anything that affordable for him in our next destination, Sicily.
I’m usually more of an a la carte breakfast kind of girl but I thought the breakfast buffet at the Westin Malta was fantastic. There was a huge array of choice but it was the freshly prepared eggs benedict or fluffy lemon muffins that I kept returning to. I also liked that there were a couple of different areas within the Terrace Restaurant that you could choose to sit to have breakfast, including besides the pool or tucked away in a more relaxed café-style corner.
Other family-friendly facilities include an indoor pool, kids club and playground. We only used the latter during our busy week of sightseeing and it was very handy for letting off steam before dinner.
In terms of location, we found the Westin Malta to be a great base for exploring all the beautiful areas I’ve mentioned in this post. The hotel is found in St Julian’s, which was not my favourite part of the island as it’s more of a nightlife hub, but it was handy to have restaurants within walking distance when we didn’t fancy getting a taxi to Valletta. We really liked Gozitan, a highly-rated restaurant specializing in Maltese food that was just 4 minutes’ walk from the hotel. I actually dined there twice – the food and hospitality were so good.
I hope this gives you a wealth of ideas for your family trip to Malta. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments.
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