With its ancient sites, famous film locations and incredible food, the tiny archipelago of Malta offers something for the entire family.
Keeping older kids entertained on a trip can be a challenge, but Malta offers plenty to impress even the most cynical teen. With its warm climate, stunning island setting and seemingly endless list of ancient landmarks, it has something for the whole family. This small island nation may be just a few miles across, but in that small area you can explore ancient temples, visit famous film and TV locations, wander through underground tombs, go kayaking or horse riding, and dine out on world-class cuisine with influences from all over.
What to see
Rich with history and brimming with culture, Malta has sights to appeal to young and adult alike.
Classic Car Museum, Qawra
Created and curated by a local petrol-head, the retro-styled Classic Car Museum features roughly 100 lovingly restored vehicles including Jaguars, Fiats, Alfa Romeos, MGs, Ferraris and Bentleys.
The Malta Experience, Valletta
Speed through 7000 years of Maltese history with a 45-minute audio-visual spectacular shown in a purpose-built panoramic theatre. Even the theatre has history: it’s located in the basement of the Mediterranean Conference Centre, home to the Holy Infirmary of the Order of St John.
Mnajdra Temples and Ħaġar Qim, Qrendi
Pre-dating the pyramids and Stonehenge, these incredible UNESCO-listed megaliths make for an awe-inspiring visit. Entry includes access to the information centre, including a 4D introductory film, as well as all-day access to the site. Get there via bus from Valletta.
Esplora Interactive Science Centre, Bighi
Set within the historic Villa Bighi, this hands-on science centre offers more than 200 interactive science exhibits aimed at all ages. A planetarium, science shows and workshops round out the offerings, while a gadget shop makes for a unique souvenir opportunity.
Popeye Village, Mellieha
Built as a film set for the 1980 film, today Popeye Village is a quaint theme park featuring rustic buildings, a cinema, live-action shows and “meet and greets” with Popeye characters. Entry also includes a scenic boat trip around Anchor Bay.
Malta National Aquarium, Qawra
Located along the promenade of St Paul’s Bay, this small but impressive aquarium is home to 41 tanks brimming with fish, rays, eels and even sharks. The standout feature is the tunnel-like main tank, which arches overhead to bring you up close with the exhibits.
GoT Tour, Malta and Gozo
If you have teens in tow, a filming locations tour will pique their interest. Locations that fans will recognise include the 17th-century Fort Ricasoli in Valletta, the hamlet of Manikata, St Dominic’s Priory, San Anton Palace and Gozo’s Azure Window (unfortunately, the Azure Window collapsed in 2017, yet the rocky scenery is still worth a visit).
What to do
With its warm climate, island setting and rugged terrain, Malta has plenty to offer families on the move.
Golden Bay Horse Riding, Millieha
This family-owned stable has been offering trail rides and lessons since the ’80s. Newbies and experienced riders are all catered for with a variety of trails and mounts, and kids can feed and pat the horses. The sunset ride offers stunning views.
Segway Tours, Dingli
For sheer novelty value it’s hard to beat a Segway. Book a tour and enjoy the breeze in your hair as you zip around the island taking in scenery such as the Dingli Cliffs, the Verdala Palace, Buskett Gardens and the Laferia Cross. If you want to take it up a notch, hop on a ferry and try a quad bike tour with Gozo Quad Hire.
St Peter’s Pool, Marsaxlokk
A stunning natural turquoise swimming area wrapped by white limestone, St Peter’s Pool is an incredible spot for swimming and snorkelling – you’ll also spot people jumping from the cliffs. Younger kids might want to skip the swim and go exploring some of the nearby sandy coves instead.
Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum, Paola
This ancient prehistoric underground burial site dating back to 3300-3600 BCE was discovered in 1902. Book in advance to go exploring its massive subterranean chambers, and be sure to check out the museum as well.
Bugibba Kayak Hire, Bugibba
Hire a kayak and explore the calm, clear St Paul’s Bay, which is protected by St Paul’s Island. After your kayaking session, take a dip in the stone swimming pools hewn into the rocky coastline.
Events to catch
When it comes to events, Malta likes to stay busy. If you can, plan your trip to coincide with one of the following.
International Fireworks Festival, Valletta
Fireworks are part of Maltese life, and you can enjoy them supersized at the International Fireworks Festival, held annually in April or May. Local and international fireworks technicians compete for pyrotechnic supremacy, with the event taking place overlooking the Grand Harbour.
Pageant of the Seas, Valletta
Head to Valletta’s Grand Harbour for a water-based spectacular. A competitive swim event, a regatta, carnival floats and the unique Tellieqa Telliqun – consisting entirely of hand-made boats – fill out the day, while the evening brings fireworks and light shows.
Summer Carnival, Bugibba
At the end of August every year, Bugibba comes to life with a five-day festival featuring colourful floats, vibrant costumes and all-day dancing and music. The fun starts at the Bugibba Promenade and moves on to Marsaskala.
Earth Garden, Ta’ Qali
This huge music and culture festival offers up endless family fun, including live acts from local and international artists, a musical playground, an enchanted forest, a local market and a fun park.
Saluting Battery, Valletta
Head to the Upper Barrakka Gardens at midday or 4pm to witness the firing of what claims to be the oldest active ceremonial cannon in the world. Not only is the ceremony great to watch, but it’s set against spectacular ocean views.
Where to eat
Malta is generally a kid-friendly place to dine, with most restaurants offering separate kids’ menus. Here are a few that stand out.
Crystal Palace, Rabat
This tiny hole-in-the-wall place serves up freshly made pastizzi (stuffed savoury pastries) with fillings including cottage cheese and mushy peas. Grab a couple to go and eat them as you explore the historic city of Rabat.
Little Argentina, Sliema
Focused on steak and barbecue, and with a kid-friendly menu including hot chips and empanadas, this cosy restaurant is great for all ages. The friendly staff will accommodate any requests.
Jungle Restaurant, Mellieha
Serving up American-style cuisine in a venue featuring a designated play area, this restaurant will satisfy both kids and adults. Decorated with trees and foliage as its name suggests, it’s located in the db Seabank Resort + Spa.
Grab some dessert at this tiny gelataria, which serves up beautifully presented ice-cream and gelato. The list of flavours is huge and ever-changing, and the servers will pile up your cone as high as it will go.
Ta’ Kris, Sliema
This ultra-popular venue serves up a mix of Mediterranean and traditional Maltese eats. Bragioli, rabbit, octopus and quail sit alongside pastas and salads, with something to appeal to both the adventurous and less so.
Where to stay
From beachside resorts to boutique hotels to bucolic quietude, Malta has accommodations to suit your family’s style.
By the water
Gozo: out-of-the-way waterfront antiquity
A picturesque island just 25 minutes from Malta, Gozo is renowned for its swimming and diving. It’s also home to some of the oldest religious monuments in the world. Must-see destinations include the Citadel, the Xwejni Salt Pans and the Azure Window Ruins. For family-friendly accommodations, try The Calypso Hotel or the Kempinski Hotel; the Cornucopia Hotel offers more rustic digs with kid appeal.
Bugibba: modern leaping-off point
Located along Malta’s rocky northern coastline, Bugibba is a lively, modern town perfectly positioned for day-tripping, whether by car or boat. It’s home to The Malta National Aquarium, a waterpark, and the Malta Classic Car Collection, as well as a handful of towers dating to the 17th century. Bugibba is a popular destination for families, with highly rated accommodations including the AX Seashells Resort at Suncrest and the Qawra Palace Hotel.
Mellieha: laid-back, local indulgence
A quiet area to the north of the island, Mellieha offers a small-town vibe with plenty of options for day trips. St Agatha’s Tower, Popeye’s Village, the stunning Golden Beach and the WWII-era underground air raid shelter are all worthy of your to-do list. Popular family-friendly accommodations include Solana Hotel and Spa and the db Seabank Resort.
Rabat, Mdina & Marfa: quiet antiquity
Rabat is a small town neighbouring Mdina, Malta’s ancient former capital. Boasting St Paul’s Catacombs and the Domus Romana, and close to the Hagar Qim Temples and the Dingli Caves, this quiet, historic destination has plenty to round out your family’s itinerary. Consider booking your accommodations at the Xara Palace Relais & Chateaux or slightly further afield at the BB De Rohan.
St Julian’s: bustling beachfront hotspot
Overlooking the spectacular Spinola Bay, St Julian’s is a thriving hotspot notable for its stunning views and endless dining options. Nearby St George’s Bay and Balluta Bay are ideal for whiling away a lazy afternoon by the water, and neighbouring Sliema offers shopping galore. Top-notch family-friendly accommodations in the area include the opulent Hilton and the upscale Corinthia Hotel.
Valletta: baroque capital of culture
Malta’s postage-sized capital city squeezes a lot into a little. Inside this walled city you’ll find St John’s Co-Cathedral, the Upper Barrakka Gardens, a 16th-century palace and dozens of tiny subterranean restaurants hidden behind brightly painted doors. Families can stretch out at the Grand Hotel Excelsior Malta or the Palazzo Consiglia.
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