“What’s there to do in Malta for kids?” asked lots of my friends and colleagues. Apart from saying that we would be guaranteed plenty of sunshine and pool time, I struggled to answer.
However after returning from our summer family holiday in Malta, I can now confidently say there is plenty to do here for all the family, in fact Malta has become one of my favourite destinations in Europe.
Many families, (like we did for years) overlook this beautiful island, opting for the likes of Spain, Portugal, Turkey or Greece but Malta is the hidden gem of the Mediterranean.
At around a 3 hour flight from Cardiff, Malta is well connected from most UK airports. Its stunning coastline, amazing history, marvellous Mediterranean climate and lots of luxury family friendly hotels make it an excellent choice for families.
I can now see why Lonely Planet called Malta a “must visit destination” and how Malta is one of the Queen’s favourite countries.
We stayed at the luxurious Hilton Malta (you can read our full review here) which was in the really family friendly area of Portomaso, in St Julians. The Hilton is easily one of the finest hotels on Malta and one of the best Hilton hotels that you will visit across Europe. It’s worth the extra for the executive rooms for the lounge access and the higher floors ensure you wake up to views like this each morning.
For families the Hilton Malta, is in one of the best locations in Malta, away from the party goers at the busy Paceville area of St Julians and less than a 20 minute drive away from the capital.
We made the mistake of using taxis for the first 2 days of our stay until we came across Malta’s own version of UBER called BOLT. When we downloaded the app we found it much easier to get around the island and at a lower cost compared to the traditional taxi cabs.
During our week long stay, we managed to coax the kids to leave the gorgeous pools of the Hilton and explore Malta.
We originally planned to just visit Rabat and Mdina the ancient capital of Malta but our taxi driver convinced us that we needed to stop off en-route at Mosta to check out the Mosta Dome which was designed and modelled after the Pantheon in Rome. I am so glad he did, as many tourists may miss this, but it’s well worth stopping here to see the gigantic dome of the church, the third largest unsupported dome in Europe.
My husband was really excited to visit Mdina or ‘The Silent City’ with its fortified high walls as it was used in movies such as Gladiator and Troy as well as being the original location for Kings Landing in the hit TV series Game of Thrones.
Once the capital of Malta, Mdina is full of history stretching back over 4,000 years. You really feel you are stepping back in time here, with stunning examples of medieval and baroque architecture. Mdina is as impressive as it’s beautiful.
It was fun just wandering the cobbled streets of this ancient city and finding what was around each corner. We even came across a giant Playmobil Maltese figure – this was one of our favourite days out.
Nearby it’s worth making the short drive to the coast to check out the towering Dingli cliffs, one of the highest points in Malta.
When we got out of the car, a local trader was selling prickly pears which reminded me of The Disney film – Jungle Book. We enjoyed a stroll along the coastal path which had some of the finest coastal views you will find anywhere in Europe. A short drive away you’ll come across the Playmobil Fun Park, that will be another fun stop for kids. Inside there is a play park and several themed zones plus a huge range of Playmobil toys to choose from at the store.
We also stopped off at Popeye Village at Anchor Bay in the north of the island, the film set with colourful houses created for the Disney movie, Popeye in the 80’s starring the late Robin Williams. It’s now a mini family attraction with boat trips, small water park and the chance to meet Popeye and friends as you walk around the village.
After a few days rest and relaxation at the pools in the Hilton, using the Bolt app we called a taxi to the capital city of Valletta which was just a short drive away.
We had an early breakfast to beat the crowds and began our day at the Triton Fountains facing the city entrance. The 16th century bastion walls of the city gates and the huge moat surrounding the city, reflect the city’s historic past.
Valletta was the 2018 European Capital of Culture and is a UNESCO world heritage site and after visiting it’s easy to see why, and is a must visit when in Malta. As we walked around Valletta we came across lots of examples of the islands colourful history, from architecture of the buildings to the red phone boxes and post boxes which are all remnants from British rule.
Inside the city gate, we walked up the steps to the top of the fortifications which is next to Malta’s first purpose-built parliament. Then we strolled down the city’s pedestrianised main street Triq Ir-Repubblika lined with stores, mansions and monuments until we arrived at the Grand Masters Palace.
Inside the kids were fascinated with the armoury, (one of the world’s biggest) and the grand public rooms . This was once the home of the Grand Masters of the Order of the Knights of St John – this was much more fun learning about history than from a textbook.
Next up was the impressive St Johns Co-Cathedral in the centre of the city one of the sights worth visiting especially to see its ornate interiors.
It’s worth visiting the city early especially in the summer to escape the midday heat and also to miss the thousands of cruise ship passengers that descend on the city as it’s a popular cruise stop for the mega ships that sail around the Med.
Tip – A fun way of seeing the city is using Rolling Geek’s cars (rolling-geeks.com; from €60 per car)
Standing on the ramparts of the stunning Upper Barrakka Gardens, the highest point of the city provides some of the best views of the Grand Harbour, the largest in Europe. If you arrive at midday you will see the cannon fire a salute across the harbour to honour the Knights from the Saluting Battery below.
The 60 metre high glass lift from the gardens takes you down to the waterfront, where you can either catch a ferry across to the three cities or walk along the seafront to the numerous restaurants located there.
With temperatures rising we made our way back into the city centre for lunch at Café Cordina the oldest café in Valletta, established in 1837. I can now see why it’s one of the city’s most famous places to eat . With its gilt ceilings and chandeliers, not only are its interiors impressive but the cakes are just as good – they were too pretty to eat.
Valletta was the perfect city to wander around. There are lots of narrow side streets to discover although it can be very hilly. It was a great adventure with something to see around every corner with cafes, churches and quaint shops. It’s also a dream city for photographers, with its attractive doors, vintage shopfronts and the distinctive, brightly coloured Maltese balconies on the sandstone buildings.
After calling in for some Percy Pig sweets from Marks & Spencer, we did a little shopping picking up some unique gifts to remember our trip to Valletta. The girls spotted Amaretto, which serves some of the best gelato you will try and was the perfect way to cool down as we made our way back to the city gates for our ride back to the hotel.
For shopping, Sliema, just across the bay from Valletta, is the place to visit. You might be forgiven for thinking that you are in the UK with stores such as Debenhams, Next, M&S on the high street but it’s this trusted mix of favourites such as Zara, Flying Tiger along with stores that cannot be found back home which were the biggest hits with both Chloe and Holly.
We saw on Instagram that a new Korean store Mumuso – the first one in Europe, had recently opened which was full of cool products and was a big hit with both the kids as they stocked up with their products.
After shopping at the new Point Mall in Sliema, take a visit to Tigne Point for some of the best views of the skyline of Valletta.
At Spinola Bay, a 5 minute walk from our hotel, colourful fishing boats called luzzu filled the marina and the streets were full of flags, coloured festoons and bunting.
We asked the executive lounge concierge at the Hilton and they told us that it was Fiesta weekend for St Julian’s (every village in Malta has a fiesta weekend). The Maltese love fireworks and it was great to celebrate this traditional religious Maltese event one evening.
The harbour was full of stalls selling food and traditional produce. Each night ended with a spectacular fireworks display. It was the perfect way to end our visit to Malta.
We all thoroughly enjoyed our first visit to Malta. It offers so much for all the family, I can’t believe it’s taken us so long to visit.