Last updated on April 23, 2023
Tourists coming to Malta are spoiled for choice when it comes to planning their trip itinerary. There are quaint fishing villages, baroque towns, and youthful seaside resorts with a rich culinary scene and bustling nightlife. As we were planning our trip, we didn’t think twice about staying in the heart of Bugibba – one of the most popular and vibrant tourist resorts without the hefty price tag and notoriety of Paceville.
Along with Qawra and St. Paul’s Bay, they form a cluster of villages. They lie in such close vicinity that sometimes it’s hard to tell where one ends and another begins.
Throughout our stay, we would often take a stroll along the promenade. We would get lost in the streets lined with charming limestone houses and just take in the beauty of this place. Thanks to the local bus terminal and Malta’s extensive bus network, we were only a bus ride away (or two, if we were travelling to the other corner of the island) from the most important attractions.
Visiting the Malta National Aquarium
Opened to the public in 2013, Malta National Aquarium located in Qawra is unquestionably one of the main attractions in the area.
Inside the modern starfish-shaped building, there are around 130 species of fish in 26 display tanks, including Mediterranean fish typically found in Maltese waters.
Some of the tanks are themed and include various replicas of underwater historical artefacts, such as a bronze Christ of the Abyss statue, a part of Grand Harbour, or wrecks of ancient ships and modern airplanes.
Our favourite part, however, was the ability to experience the species up close. We kept walking through the acrylic tunnel back and forth, as we admired majestic sharks and stingrays swimming right above our heads. We tried to get the perfect shot – sadly, we failed due to poor lighting. At the time of our visit, adult tickets were €13.90 at the ticket desk (you could get €3 off with an ISIC card) or €12.50 if you booked online on the Malta National Aquarium’s website.
Day trip to Birgu
Birgu, also known under the name Vittoriosa, is one of Malta’s famous Three Cities or La Cottonera. It’s a collective name describing the three fortified cities that stretch across the Grand Harbour and claim to be the cradle of Maltese history.
Birgu is the oldest of the three, with its origins dating back to medieval times. The city’s first settlers were the Phoenicians, but its character is a unique mix of different cultural influences over the centuries. Interestingly enough, it also served as the capital of Malta for almost half of the 16th century. The Order of Saint John founded Senglea and Cospicua, the other two cities, in the 16th and 17th centuries.
But, despite its rich history, Birgu is a place that might’ve slipped under our radar if we didn’t come across a post promoting Malta Artisan Markets at the Old Naval Bakery. Excited about the opportunity to meet local artists and craftsmen selling one-of-a-kind handmade goods, as well as to try local Maltese foods, we decided to head down and see what the city has to offer.
Unfortunately, we thought the event was a major let-down. There were way fewer stalls than we expected. The products on offer were unappealing to us (bearing in mind we were on a student budget at the time), and the food didn’t look appetising at all.
Walking around the Grand Harbour Marina
Not letting that discourage us, we decided to go for a walk along the Grand Harbour Marina. It turned out to be a great attraction in itself. With dozens of luxurious yachts berthed alongside traditional Phoenician fishing boats and sunlight reflecting off the water surface, we spent at least 30 minutes sitting on the ledge overlooking the marina, basking in the sun and enjoying this view.
Coffee break at Birgi
Afterwards, we made a quick stop at a local café named Birgi. We wanted to refuel with some pastries before we slowly started walking back to the bus stop. There were lots of locals around, which often means you’re in for a real treat. It definitely proved true in this case, as everything we tried was really tasty.
The streets of Birgu
The charming streets of Birgu are paved with stones and adorned with trees clipped into perfect cubical shape, as well as traditional red phone booths.
We admired colourful Maltese houses with intricate door knobs for a while. One of them even had a tiny pomegranate tree planted out the front! Then, off we went to our next destination… the capital city of Malta, Valletta.
Is Valletta one of the places on your Malta itinerary too? I prepared a blog post outlining the best things we did in the Maltese capital, as well as where to go to take that postcard shot of the city’s skyline…
If you’ve been to Malta, what area did you stay in? Looking in retrospect, do you think it was a good choice, or is there anything you would’ve done differently? If you haven’t been and could only visit one of these places, which would you pick and why?