This Life Recipe reveals how you can enjoy beautiful beaches, incredible food and historical sights to make your own unique adventures in Malta for less.
Key ingredients (serves two – all prices per person)
1 x return flight, London – Valletta booked through Skyscanner (£82)
2 x nights in Mellieha (£115)
2 x nights in Valletta (£130)
1 x night in a Gatwick hotel (£25)
1 x all day boat tour on The English Rose (£10)
1 x tasting menu at Legligin (£23)
2 x 2-4-1 cocktails (£5)
1 x firing of the cannon at The Saluting Battery (£2.50)
1 x Valletta harbour boat tour (£2/£6)
1 x Valletta road train tour (£4)
I didn’t really know much about Malta until a few months ago when my girlfriend Amy suggested going there to celebrate my birthday last week. I don’t think many other people would know that much about the island either…but what I can be sure of, after seeing what Malta has to offer (even on a budget), is that this is going to change – as one of Europe’s best-kept secrets will surely become an “in” place to go.
So as I always do with my holidays, I start by checking flights on Skyscanner. I put Malta as the destination and said we could fly to and from any London airport across a range of dates in the middle of June that included my birthday (the 13th!). This meant we could book the best flights (arriving early on the first day and leaving late on the last) for the best price. Now because of this, we ended up booking an extremely early flight to Malta (leaving at 6am and arriving before 10am – as Malta is one hour ahead), so we decided to spend the night before in a Gatwick Airport hotel instead of getting a taxi from home at 3.30am. This was a much cheaper and easier option – and even though we didn’t get a great night’s sleep because of the noisy hotel room, we didn’t have to get up as early or spend as much to get the airport on time.
We arrived at Malta’s only international airport called Luqa Malta with the whole day ahead of us. The heat hit us as we stepped off the plane to see nothing but blue sky and sunshine, which didn’t change for the whole of the five days we were away. We then took a cheap local taxi to Mellieha where we spent the next two nights.
Now Mellieha isn’t the most beautiful town in Malta (that comes later!), but as you start to explore the side streets, historic pockets and quieter parts of the beach away from the crowds – you’ll fall in love with its unusual charm. We decided to make the first half of our holiday a relaxing one in Mellieha before what was going to be a very busy city break in the second half. So the first day was spent by our hotel’s rooftop pool, soaking up the much-needed sun before venturing out to explore the town.
We ate exceptionally well in Malta. Lunches consisted of olives, freshly cooked ciabatta, antipasti meats, local cheeses and seafood and our evening meals included succulent steaks, fresh fish and pasta dishes (all washed down with some delicious local wines). There are loads of restaurants with meal deals in Mellieha (including the popular three courses for €15 set menus), but if you’re looking for something extraordinary, I’d recommend checking out One80 Restaurant for its tapas and homemade gin and tonics and Rebekah’s Restaurant where you can sit out in their historic courtyard and enjoy a tender, tasty steak.
We spent the next day exploring a bit more more before heading down the long, windy road to the beach on Mellieha Bay. Our faces fell when we saw the swarms of people on the beach, but we didn’t give up. We pressed on to find our own private spot a few hundred metres down where we could swim in our own “exclusive” part of the crystal clear sea. Perfect.
The next day we took a boat trip on The English Rose, which we had already booked at home. We couldn’t believe that it only cost £10 for the whole day (10.30am – 5pm), but sure enough the small but well-maintained boat picked us up and took us for a jam-packed day of exploring caves, diving into lagoons, relaxing on beautiful beaches and seeing Malta and Gozo from the sea.
My top tip is for when you arrive at the tour’s premier attraction, the Blue Lagoon. This stunningly clear expanse of water rightfully attracts a sea of tourists, which obviously spoils the views and experience a bit. As always, we didn’t give up and decided to turn left out of the boat and walk ten minutes around the small island to the next bay called Santa Maria where we discovered our own mini blue lagoon with a quiet golden beach to unwind on.
At the end of the trip, we said bye to the friends we made on the boat and our welcoming local captain and took a taxi straight to Valletta – where we spent our last two nights. Malta’s historic capital is amazing. It reminds me of Italy, with its attractive old buildings and quaint stone alleys where you stumble across small bars and restaurants with mouth-watering homemade food – mixed in with a North African, Spanish and French influence from its long history of being invaded.
The next morning (my birthday!), I woke up to a surprise birthday breakfast and presents on our balcony with this breath-taking view over the harbour. This has to be my highlight of the entire trip.
We made the most of our time in Valetta, after relaxing for the last two days on the other side of the island, and spent the whole of the next two days walking up and down the city’s steep paths to explore its gardens, churches, public squares and view-points over the waters.
Our highlight was The Saluting Battery and Upper Barrakka Gardens, an impressive artillery battery looking over the spectacular harbourfront where you can learn about Malta’s long, tough history of being invaded. We very luckily turned up at 11.45am, as every day at midday they fire one of the cannons. You can either pay £2.50 to watch it up close and listen to a short talk from a local guard or watch it from the viewing platform behind for free. I’d highly recommend paying the small entry cost to make the most of this captivating experience.
Our culinary highlight was having dinner at Legligin, a trendy basement restaurant that doesn’t have a menu. Instead you are brought course after course from their tasting menu (up to 11 courses in total), which included Maltese dishes ranging from seafood to fish, steak, lamb, dips and olives. We were absolutely stuffed by the end of the meal (and glad we had done a lot of walking up steep hills over the last few days), as the food was so good – we had to finish it all (and it just kept coming!).
Other must-do activities included visiting the striking St. John’s Co-Cathedral, taking the 30 minute road “train” tour around the city, catching a small local motorboat taxi to the Three Cities and enjoying 2-4-1 cocktails (Aperol Spritz is the local favourite) in the charming local bars. All of which didn’t eat into our euros much.
After one last lunch and afternoon in the sun, it was time to leave. On the flight back we talked about our adventures and looked at our pictures – and we couldn’t believe how much we had done in just five days. I’d definitely recommend Malta to anyone who likes fantastic food and weather and a mix of beach, history and sights – although I’d say a long weekend or staying four nights like us is the best way to do it (it’s only a very small island). And by saving our annual leave by taking a short trip, and by getting the best deals on the holiday, we can now dive head-first into planning our next exciting adventure for less.
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