3 days in Malta, itineraries with things to do based on your type of holiday
Planning 3 days in Malta can be quite hard. There are so many things to do and see.
In this guide, I have organised five itinerary options based on your budget, meaning of transportation (car or public bus) and type of holiday (family, romantic couple or active traveller)
The great news is that it’s a small country and with 3 days in Malta, you will see and experience a lot.
My first recommendation, in fact, is to stay in only one place and from there explore the island with day trips, so much easier.
Now, without further ado, let’s get into it
Table of Contents
- 1 3 days in Malta – in a nutshell
- 2 3 days in Malta on a budget
- 3 3 days in Malta without car
- 4 Malta for families in three days
- 5 A romantic 3 days in Malta for couples
- 6 How to move around Malta during your stay
- 7 Frequently Asked Questions on 3 days in Malta
3 days in Malta – in a nutshell
Are 3 days in Malta enough?
That is quite a common question.
To cut a long answer short, in a long weekend you will explore the highlights of Malta with an option to have a few hidden gems in your itinerary.
Here below a map with all the major destinations and attractions that I will talk in this post. Feel free to download and print the map for future reference.
- 3 days in Malta on a budget: if you are on a budget I would suggest staying in Valletta, the capital city, where you will find some of the most well-priced accommodations too. It’s a lovely town to wander around, a real open-air museum with plenty of attractions. You can then organise a day trip to Birgu, on the opposite side of the bay, and of course the unmissable Grand Harbour boat tour. The third day can be spent at either one of the beautiful beaches or, if you are in Malta on Sunday, in Marsaxlokk to experience the fishing market and you will be also a short walk from the St Peter’s Pool. Check the detailed day-by-day plan below
- 3 days in Malta without car: Valletta is again the perfect place to be if you do not have a car and you are planning to use the bus every day. Most of the busses start the route from the centre of the town, so easygoing and, in most cases, you will have direct buses to the final destination, so handy. However, if you plan to have some time off with restaurants and bars, and join 1 or 2 day-trips then St. Julian is a better place to be based. Read below the detailed plan for three days
- For families: St Paul’s Bay is the favourite area for families with Bugibba and Qawra offering the best options. You will find some package deals in case you are looking for an easy stay with a pool and a few beaches, small but nice ones. Mellieha is also another option if you plan to spend most of your time having fun at the beautiful wide Ghedira Bay Beach (one of the best in the island). From your base, you will be able to organise one or two day-trips, of which the Popeye Village is absolutely a must. Check below more info for a family stay
- For romantic couples: With just three days I would suggest staying in Birgu and start your exploration from there. Birgu by night is unmissable, with the small lanes and the traditional bars and restaurants. It’s also not as touristy as Valletta, although still as beautiful, and this will give you more seclusion. Read below for a romantic short trip for couples
I wrote a dedicated guide to the best places to visit in Malta where you can find more information about the attractions on Malta Island as well as Gozo and the small island of Comino. I am linking to the single highlight wherever possible in this post.
Where applicable, I have also suggested a bunch of locally organised tours.
The great thing is that most of them (if not all) have a free cancellation policy up to 24 hours from the start of the experience.
I usually book them as I go and then cancel if I change my plan (actually I do the same with the accommodations 🙂 ). Very flexible.
With a limited budget, I suggest concentrating on the Valletta area for 2 days and spend the third day on a short trip at one of the highlights of Malta
- Day 1: Walk inside the Valletta walls, a real unmissable open-air museum, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a maze of narrow streets. Start the morning from Palace Square (St. George’s Square) direction Queen’s Square. Keep walking on Republic Street till one of the top highlights of Malta, the St. John’s Co-Cathedral (a popular destination, the best time to visit it is in the early morning). From there in 200 metres you will be at the National Museum of Archaeology. The entrance ticket is actually quite cheap. In the afternoon you should plan a visit to the Upper Barrakka Gardens, for the amazing views over the Grand Harbour, and the unmissable Fort St Elmo. Definitely a busy long day, however, you will come out with such a great overview of Valletta. You can also think to join this inexpensive walking tour for more insiders information, including the history of the Grand Masters of the Knights.
- Day 2: Time for the iconic Grand Harbour Boat Tour. It lasts 90 minutes and you will have the unmissable view of the harbour towns from the sea. Grab the bus #1 nearby the Triton Fountain to Birgu. This is another lovely old town facing the harbour. Get lost in the many small lanes, walk through the Armoury of the Knights of Malta, pass the Norman House and the Auberge d’Auvergne and Provence and finally visit the Fort St Angelo. You can read my full guide to Birgu and its waterfront for more details. Time for the trip back to Valletta.
- Day 3: On a nice summer day take the #44 bus to Golden Bay Beach, one of the best in Malta and enjoy your day sunbathing
- Day 3 (alternative): On Sunday you can go to the early Marsaxlokk Fishing Market (bus #85) and from there, walk down to the St Peter’s Pool for a swim (it’s a kind of long walk though). This part of Malta is much less touristy.
One of the best viewpoints in Valletta for sunset is at the Hastings Gardens, a must.
The Upper Barrakka Gardens are instead the best viewing area for the Grand Harbour that you can also reach with a direct lift to the water level.
All of the above are the best things to do in the Valletta area (or easily reachable from there). There are also a few hidden gems that would require more time in Malta, though.
For lunch in Valletta, you should checkout Soul Food, affordable and providing great quality food.
The Bridge Bar is a great place for drinks at night.
- Hotels: 8vilhena (AirBnb style), Valletta Ajkla Mansion (Rooms/Studio), more information on my Where to stay in Malta Guide
- Tours: Great value 3-Hours Valletta Walking Tour, Grand Harbour Boat Tour
You can read also
Malta is a great island to visit by public transportation. The bus network is efficient and usually on time.
There is only one drawback: the transportation is designed in a hub and spoke network, so to go from A to B you will be very likely to pass through Valletta.
For this reason, I have suggested Valletta as the best place to stay, so handy.
I have added at the end of this guide a full chapter about transportation with available tickets, cost, travel planner tool etc.
- Day 1: Visit Valletta similarly to what I explained on day #1 for 3 days on a budget above (St. John’s Co-Cathedral is the must-visit of the day). If you have an early wake-up call you may be able to squeeze in also the Grand Harbour Boat Tour on the same day. You may also think of joining this guided walking tour for more information on the history of Malta and Valletta.
- Day 2: Take the direct bus #74 (~30 minutes) to the Mnajdra and Hagar Qim Historical Parks (both listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site) where you spend all the morning. Then grab the bus #201 that will take you to the Medieval town of Mdina (the old capital of Malta), where you can wander around and visit the St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Palazzo Vilhena (two great example of baroque architecture in the country) and St Paul’s Catacombs. From there, jump on the bus #51 (#52 and #53 are also good options) for a direct trip back to Valletta.
- Day 3: It’s time for a day-trip by boat to Gozo, the small island of Comino and the amazing Blue Lagoon, one of the must things to do in Malta
- Day 3 (alternative): If you are not too much in love with a boat trip, then why not joining this Full-Day Jeep Tour to Gozo (including lunch). This is a great tour if you are visiting Gozo in winter. Or why not a unique tuk-tuk day tour. You can also think to rent the car and do the trip yourself to Gozo catching the ferry and driving around at your own pace (check out my itinerary of Gozo)
Gozo may not be a popular destination, however, it hides so many things to do and places to experience like the lovely salt pans or the unique cliffs on the south coast (even more beautiful than the Dingli Cliffs in the south of the main island of Malta).
The biggest difference is that Valletta is a historical town, full of lovely buildings with a more romantic feeling. Meanwhile, St Julian has more to offer for the night with the best bars and clubs in Malta, besides great restaurants facing the Mediterranean Sea.
In St. Julian, you have also a public beach.
In Valletta, there is one private beach accessible only by the hotel guests.
The organised tours of day#3 can pick you up from both Valletta and St Julian.
- Hotels in Valletta: 8vilhena (AirBnb style), Valletta Ajkla Mansion (Rooms/Studio), Grand Hotel Excelsior (access to a private beach and swimming pool)
- Hotels in St. Julian: Holiday Inn Express (amazing value for money), Hotel Valentina (one of the best options)
- Tours: 3-Hours Valletta Walking Tour, Grand Harbour Boat Tour, Gozo-Comino Island and the Blue Lagoon boat tour, Full-Day Jeep Tour to Gozo
The main difference is that Mellieha is a much quieter place with a bigger and wider beach, great if you have small kids.
Bugibba is busier (but not crazy busy) and probably better if you have bigger kids (more bars, restaurants and shopping). However, the beaches are much smaller and not as amazing as in Mellieha.
Either way, besides enjoying the beach, I also suggest one of the following day trips
- Day trip to Valletta, starting from the city gate, Republic Street, Merchant Street and including a visit to Esplora, a great hands-on science museum that will be loved by your children. It is an interactive experience, which means your kids will be always busy trying and understanding practical exhibits, with the help of the local “physicists” (museum employers explaining the exhibits when requested). Also add the Upper Barrakka Gardens to your itinerary, the best viewing point to the Grand Harbour.
- Boat trip to Blue Lagoon: with this organised trip leaving from Bugibba you have also the possibility of visiting Crystal Lagoon and the sea caves.
- Malta National Aquarium
- Bird Park Malta
- Bugibba Water Park
- Pjazza San Pawl Playground
- Popeye Village
- Rent a car to visit the Blue Grotto, the Marsaxlokk Fishing Market (best on Sunday morning) and St Peter’s Pool, alternatively catch a Hop-On Hop-Off Double-Decker Bus Tour, the best way to explore Malta, very popular with kids
- Hotels in St Paul’s Bay: Park Lane Boutique Aparthotel (great value), AX Seashells Resort (mid-budget)
- Hotels in Mellieha: db Seabank (great value), Radisson Blu Resort & Spa (lux experience)
- Tours: Blue and Crystal Lagoons Boat Tour, Hop-On Hop-Off Double-Decker Bus Tour
There are many beautiful places to stay in Malta for couples, however, Birgu is probably the most romantic of all.
This is a lovely medieval town with plenty of tiny lanes and beautiful building, the perfect place to get lost wandering around.
During the day, you will spot a few visitors exploring the town. However, it’s at night that Birgu gives its best with more of a real local life enjoying the streets and the traditional family-run restaurants.
The Birgu waterfront is another gem that only a few travellers wander around. A fantastic spot for aperitivo and dinner, with a view of the Marina and L-Isla.
- Day 1: explore Birgu at your own pace or with an organised tour with a local guide (2 hours). The highlights are certainly Fort St Angelo and Malta at War Museum, however, you should also not miss a walk through the Armoury of the Knights of Malta and a visit to the Norman House, the Auberge d’Auvergne and Provence, the St. Lawrence’s Church, the Inquisitor’s Palace, and the Notre Dame City Gate. You can also think to take the dgħajsa, the traditional Maltese boat, to Valletta for some exploration there too. Check more info on these sites on my guide to Birgu.
- Day 2: Rent a car and drive to Hal Saflieni Hypogeum (10 minutes), one of the most outstanding neolithic world heritage sites in the world. From there go to the Marsaxlokk Fishing Market (best on Sunday morning) and St Peter’s Pool for a swim. In the afternoon, it is time to visit the Mnajdra and Hagar Qim Historical Parks (megalithic temples). This tour could be done also by bus but it would take longer and you would need to change many buses, unfortunately.
- Day 3: on a summer day you can take the bus #A2 to Valletta and from there the #1 to Golden Bay Beach (around 1:20 hours one way). Alternatively, rent a car and split the day between two amazing beaches as Golden Bay Beach and Paradise Bay Beach or the amazing Ghadira Bay Beach (the Mediterranean Sea turns to a turquoise colour in this bay)
In Birgu, book a table for dinner at the Tal-Petut Restaurant to experience some of the best Maltese dishes.
Alternatively, go down to the Birgu waterfront for a nice sea breeze from the north Africa and plenty of bars and restaurants options. In this area, I suggest the Cargo Restaurant/Bar.
On a warm night, you should also check out the Osteria.Ve, book a table on the small lane and enjoy the lovely Italian inspired food.
Birgi is one of the favourite bar/cafes around thanks to its location, right in front of the water, the great coffees and the amazing pastizzi.
- Hotels: Casa Cara, one of the best boutique experiences in Malta
- Tours: Birgu walking tour with a local guide
How to move around Malta during your stay
In a separate guide, I have detailed how big Malta is and how to get around.
I’ve outlined a few points below
- Organised tours are the simplest and best way to get around, since they pick you up and drop off at your hotel or at the meeting point
- Public transportation is well planned and usually on time. On the Malta Transport website, you can access the Journey Planner tool to find out the schedule and what destinations you can reach. Typically, you can find a bus stop at every attraction. The drawback is that the network is centric to Valletta and in some cases the buses are on a hourly basis.
- You can also consider renting a car for one or more days if you need more flexibility. DiscoverCars.com is my favourite site for comparing deals on rentals. Excellent prices always.
I have built a new guide to renting and driving a car in Malta, with plenty of information and rules to follow, some unique to this small country.
Frequently Asked Questions on 3 days in Malta
How many days do you need in Valletta?
I suggest staying in Valletta for 2 nights at least. Besides being beautiful, it’s a great base to explore the Grand Harbour and the three cities (Birgu/Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua)
Is 3 days in Malta enough?
A long weekend is enough time in winter to explore the highlights of Malta Island. You may require 5 or more days if you are there in summer and you want to see also the beautiful beaches and famous lagoons and pools. You definitely need more than 3 days to see also Gozo Island
How can I visit Malta in 3 days?
You can visit it using the buses (reliable and economical) or by renting a car. I highly suggest renting a car if you want to visit the south and west of the island, with plenty of natural destinations rarely connected by direct bus.
Is Valetta worth visiting?
Totally. If you want to add only 3 towns to your itinerary, then you should not miss Valletta, Birgu and Mdina.
Is 2 nights in Malta enough?
It is enough to explore Valletta, the Grand Harbour, Birgu and you can also squeeze in a day trip to Mdina. You have not probably visited the entire Malta, but still a great experience!
What is the best time to visit Malta?
I would say between mid-April and mid-June when it is warm but not hot and you can also have a swim at the beach (towards the end of May). The summer months are also good, but very warm (30-35 degrees during the day usually).
Should I go to Malta or Sicily?
It is a hard to compare the two islands. I would say that Malta is perfect if you have 5 days or fewer. To explore Sicily, you need at least two weeks. Btw, I wrote a full guide to Sicily that you may find useful.