Last updated on May 31, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in Malta

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

View of Valletta and Sliema
View from Valletta, the capital city and a great base for 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.

Malta map with destinations and attractions
Malta map with destinations and attractions – See and download the full-resolution map here
  • 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.

The end of Valletta town and the start of Fort St Elmo
The end of Valletta town and the start of Fort St Elmo

3 days in Malta on a budget

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

3 Days in Malta on a budget
3 Days in Malta on a budget
  • 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.

Rubino and Beati Paoli are both iconic beautiful places for dinner (book a table, they are small eateries).

Malta is also famous for the great Italian food and St Paul’s AFT (Sicilian restaurant) and Sally Port (Pizzeria, very affordable) are just amazing, 

The Bridge Bar is a great place for drinks at night.

Resources:

Beautiful lanes of Valletta overlooking the Harbour
Beautiful narrow streets of Valletta, the capital city, overlooking the Harbour

You can read also

3 days in Malta without car

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.

3 days in Malta without a car
3 days in Malta without a car

I have added at the end of this guide a full chapter about transportation with available tickets, cost, travel planner tool etc.

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).

For the above itinerary, you can either stay in Valletta or St. Julian.

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.

Resources:

Blue Lagoon, as beautiful as popular
Blue Lagoon, as beautiful as popular

Malta for families in three days

If you are travelling with a family, I would consider either staying in Bugibba (St Paul’s Bay) or in Mellieha (Ghedira Bay).

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.

3 days in Malta for families
3 days in Malta for families

Either way, besides enjoying the beach, I also suggest one of the following day trips

Resources:

Popeye Village
Popeye Village

A romantic 3 days in Malta for couples

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.

3 days in Malta for couples
3 days in Malta for couples

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.

Resources:

Marsaxlokk old fishing market
Marsaxlokk old fishing market

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.

Check the car prices

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.

Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

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