Malta is one of those rare places that appeals to any kind of traveller. Not only is it charmed with awe-inspiring natural scenery, sandy beaches and a pleasant climate, it also has an absorbing history and a captivating local culture to discover. Even better, its Mediterranean setting means there is plenty to do all year round! After exploring this beautiful country in the midst of January, we have compiled this guide to visiting Malta in winter, including what to expect, how to get around, and things to see and do.

To help plan your trip, you can also read our perfect 3-day Malta itinerary for sightseeing and exploration.

This article contains links to products and services we love, from which we may make commission at no extra cost to you.

When is winter in Malta?

First things first. When exactly is winter in Malta? If you didn’t already know, its winter season lasts from December to March, in accordance with the northern hemisphere.

Is it worth going to Malta in the winter?

Malta is a popular summer destination, especially for Europeans who flock here for the long, hot days and crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean.

For a change, we decided to visit Malta in winter. We found that there were many advantages. It suited our active travel style perfectly!

These are some of the many benefits of visiting Malta in winter:

  • It’s cheaper to reach from elsewhere in Europe. Low season means that flight prices are rock-bottom. We found flights from the UK for less than €30 each.
  • The temperature is much better for sightseeing. In July and August, highs of over 30°C could make it laborious to do anything more than laze around. The mild winter temperatures of 10–16°C are perfect for getting outdoors.
  • Many things are cheaper. In the low season, transport fares come down, and you can get cut-price deals for tours and activities. Accommodation is cheaper too. We stayed in a self-catered apartment at a better price than premium summer rates.
  • It’s less crowded. The summer months see the biggest influx of tourists into Malta. Visiting in January, we found it much more pleasant to explore with fewer people around, and it was easy to get tables in restaurants without booking in advance (especially in midweek).
  • On a similar note, if you are interested in working remotely in Malta, winter is a great time to do it as it’s more peaceful with fewer tourists around. Read about my experience of taking a workation at Hilton Malta.
  • Museums and attractions are still open, and less crowded than in summer.
  • Winter lighting makes for some great photos. The sun being slightly lower in the sky brings out the yellows and oranges of the sandstone buildings that Malta is famous for.
  • Although transport is scaled down, it’s still easy to get around the islands.

There are some downsides of visiting Malta in winter. While the climate is mild, there’s more rain and the winds can get pretty strong. And as mentioned above, transport and other services are scaled back a bit due to lower demand.

On balance, though, we thought that the benefits of visiting Malta in winter far outweighed the drawbacks.

Is Malta warm in the winter?

Malta has a much warmer climate than most of Europe during the winter season. The average high temperatures in Malta during the winter months are 17°C in December, and 16°C in January and February.

By comparison, these average high temperatures are milder than the coldest winter months in Paris (8°C), Rome (12°C), Athens (14°C) or Barcelona (15°C).

So, if you are looking to escape the cold for a European winter getaway, Malta is a great option to consider.

What do you wear in Malta in winter?

When packing for Malta in winter, you should be prepared for different weather scenarios. These are some essentials we recommend packing:

  • Warm-weather clothes and gear – t-shirts, swimwear, sunglasses and sun cream. The winter sun in Malta can be surprisingly fierce!
  • Warmer clothes for evenings and colder days – pullovers, sweaters, a warm coat.
  • Protection from the elements – a wind-proof rain jacket and umbrella. It can get wet and windy during the winter months in Malta.
  • Outdoor gear – including good hiking boots and a day pack. It’s a great time of year to get on the trail.

Things to do in Malta in winter

Explore the sandstone capital, Valletta

Valletta, Malta, is one of the world's smallest capital cities
Valletta, Malta, is one of the world’s smallest capital cities

With a population of just 6,000, Valletta is one of the world’s smallest capital cities. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in charm, character and pale sandstone beauty.

On cool or mild winter days, Valletta makes for a great day of exploration. Its central streets and narrow cobbled alleys are a pleasure to wander around, while there are a multitude of museums, churches and eateries to escape into should you need an injection of indoor warmth.

The main entrance to Valletta is through its imperious City Gate. The structure has changed its appearance many times over the years, with today’s V-shaped version designed to blend into the city’s sandstone visage, and flanked by two 25-metre spikes that resemble knights’ sabres.

Valletta street food tour group Malta
On the Valletta street food and culture walking tour, which runs all year round!

We would usually take a free walking tour to discover a city for the first time, but in Valletta these are seasonal and mainly run through summer. As an alternative in winter, for about the same price as a typical free tour tip, you can book onto a 3-hour Valletta walking tour.

One tour we took on our last visit that runs year-round is a Valletta street food and culture walking tour. This was a great introduction to the city as it had a perfect balance between history, quirky stories and learning about food culture. And of course, we got to try a lot of local delicacies!

The tour usually runs on Saturdays and Mondays – read our complete review for more, or check availability using the form below.


The highlights to see in Valletta include the Royal Opera House (now an open-air theatre after it was destroyed by a 1942 air raid), St John’s Co-Cathedral, Manoel Theatre and the Upper Barrakka Gardens. For museums, try the National Museum of Archaeology and the Museum of Fine Arts.

Another great indoor activity to try is a trip to Malta 5D. For €10 you can see a unique simulated documentary of Maltese history, complete with moving seats, water spray and air blasters. The show runs every 30 minutes through the day.

Find more ideas in our complete rundown of the top things to do in Valletta.

Tip: be careful with your footing in Valletta. The weathered stones can get very slippery, and the steep backstreets are unforgiving – we found this out the hard way when Lisa slipped and hurt her knee.

Learn about 7,000 years of Maltese history

The National War Museum in Valletta covers 7,000 years of Maltese history
The National War Museum in Valletta covers 7,000 years of Maltese history

Malta’s human history is as long and eventful as almost any civilisation in the world, predating even ancient Egypt and Greece. As a result of its strategic position in the heart of the Mediterranean, it has endured a chequered past of war and plundering.

The relics of this history can be explored all over the Maltese Islands, but perhaps the best starting point is Valletta’s National War Museum (entry fee €10). Its grounds occupy a stunning setting inside Fort St Elmo on the tip of Sciberras Peninsula, with views into both Marsamxett Harbour and the Grand Harbour either side.

The museum depicts Maltese wartime history dating back as far as the Bronze Age, but has a strong focus on the 20th century world wars. Among the many artefacts on display is the George Cross medal awarded to the Maltese people in 1942 for their bravery.

Elsewhere around the Maltese Islands you can find intact structures several millennia old. Qrendi, on the south side of Malta, is home to the Mnajdra Neolithic and Ħaġar Qim temples, each with origins as far back as 3,600 BC.

The entry fee to each is €10 if you visit independently. Another option is to take a Malta prehistoric temples tour, which runs on Fridays throughout winter. The tour includes guided visits to various heritage sites such as Ħaġar Qim, and more highlights on the south of the main island, such as caves, sea inlets and the famous Blue Grotto.

Over on the island of Gozo, the Ggantija Temples (entry fee €10) are the oldest and most impressive example of a megalithic complex in Malta, older even than the Egyptian pyramids.

For us, Malta’s most enchanting historic sites were the medieval citadels of Mdina and Cittadella – more on both of those below.

On rainy days, The Malta Experience in Valletta provides an alternative means of learning about Maltese history. For €16, this audiovisual show covers the earliest human settlements through to the 21st century in just 45 minutes.

Visit the historic walled city of Mdina

The walled city of Mdina, population less than 300, was once Malta's capital
The walled city of Mdina, population less than 300, was once Malta’s capital

The old fortified city of Mdina has a population of fewer than 300 people today, but was once Malta’s capital. Confined within the town of Rabat in the north-west of Malta island, Mdina is in line to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Like Valletta, the main entry point to Mdina is via a beautiful gate across a sandstone bridge – the Mdina Gate. Inside, Mdina is characterised by narrow streets, sandstone walls, and colourful doors and window-frames.

Occupying an area less than one square kilometre, Mdina is quick and easy to get around on foot. The centrepiece is St Paul’s Cathedral, a towering structure built originally in the 12th century. We pivoted from here and enjoyed getting lost in the pretty winding alleys leading away from it.

Mdina offers various indoor activities in addition to its picturesque exterior. Soon after entering the main gate you will pass Mdina Glass, a small shop selling beautifully crafted colourful glasswork that is one of the citadel’s artistic trademarks. There are museums to try too, including the Cathedral Museum (entry €10) and the National Museum of Natural History in Palazzio Vilhena (entry €5).

Once you’ve had your fill of history, you can relax with a cuppa and a legendary homemade cake at the famous Fontanella Tea Garden.

For some organised exploration, you can book onto the very popular Mdina and Rabat walking tour, which runs in all seasons and is great value.

Explore the historic Cittadella in Gozo

La Cittadella in Gozo is great to explore in the mild climate of Malta in winter
La Cittadella in Gozo is great to explore in the mild climate of Malta in winter

No trip to Malta would be quite complete without spending some time on the island of Gozo. Its main city, Victoria, is slap-bang in the middle and the perfect launchpad for exploring the island. It is also home to the architectural heritage site of La Cittadella. This hilltop castle served as a refuge and defence for the people of Gozo for many centuries.

The old citadel now makes for a captivating mixture of indoor and outdoor activities, with magnificent grounds, jaw-dropping views across the island, and various museums and historic buildings inside. You can access all of this for just €5.

We began with the Visitor’s Centre, which was opened in 2016 and has won awards for its interactive presentations. Our timing was perfect, as an audiovisual show was just about to start as we arrived. Standing in the centre of a square room, we watched as the history of Malta was projected all around us in an impactful eight-minute 360° film.

The open ticket allows you to explore the Cittadella at your own pace. With far fewer people around in winter, we enjoyed slowly working our way around from the outside in, and taking time to appreciate the features.

From the top levels, the views across Gozo are mesmerising. You can see as far as the giant domed Rotunda of Xewkija church in one direction and the Christ-the-Redeemer-like Tas-Salvatur Hill statue in the other. When the sun comes out, the sandstone villages sprinkled among brilliant green fields and hills is an awesome sight.

Within the confines of the walls you can spend hours perusing the Gozo Museum of Archaeology, Gran Castello Historic House, the Old Prison, the Natural Science Museum and the Cathedral of the Assumption. It’s an educational haven for inquisitive travellers.

Gozo is also surrounded by beautiful waters. On a full-day sightseeing tour, you can see the historic highlights on the island as well as seeing many of the marine treasures that surround it, such as the Blue Lagoon and sea caves.

See the sunset at the Azure Window ruins

The site of the Azure Window ruins in Dwejra, Gozo, is a fantastic spot for sunsets
The site of the Azure Window ruins in Dwejra, Gozo, is a fantastic spot for sunsets

The Azure Window was once the most famous natural feature of the Maltese islands. The giant limestone arch over the sea was an Instagram hotspot and a filming location for the likes of Game of Thrones.

Sadly, it is no more; the Azure Window collapsed into the sea during ferocious storms in 2017. But even though the arch has gone, the rocky-cliffed coastal scenery at the site is still amazing to see. What’s more, it’s on the west-facing shore of Gozo, making it an ideal spot to catch a sunset.

Check the sunset time and aim to arrive at least 20 minutes beforehand. While the sun descends you can hop about the rocks and pools, and take a look at the Blue Hole and Dwejra Tower, which are just a stone’s throw away.

The great thing about doing this in winter it that the sun sets early, between 5–6pm, so you can enjoy it after a day’s sightseeing and then round it off with dinner.

Visit the Blue Grotto

The Blue Grotto is one of the most iconic features of Malta's coastline
The Blue Grotto is one of the most iconic features of Malta’s coastline

With the Azure Window fallen, the Blue Grotto has risen to claim the title of Malta’s most photographed spot. This system of sea caverns on the south side of Malta looks quite spectacular from a viewing point perched high above it, and in good weather conditions you can take a boat trip into it.

While it’s possible to reach the Grotto viewpoint directly in a public bus or by car – and most people do – we took a bus to the town of Qrendi, a couple of kilometres inland. The route from here to the Blue Grotto is a scenic one through lush fields and farmland, and the moderate winter climate is perfect for a bit of hiking.

From the viewpoint, you can walk downhill to the small village of Wied iż-Żurrieq on the waterside. The walk back up is a steep one (as we found out), so you may want to go the viewpoint first. In the village there are a few places to eat and a nice scenic spot down in the bay. This is also where the boat trips to the grotto depart.

During winter the buses only run past here once an hour, so check the schedule and get your timing right – or you may be waiting around a while.

Try scuba diving

Malta is one of the best places in Europe to try scuba diving
Malta is one of the best places in Europe to try scuba diving

The only place we have ever scuba dived in January is Malta!

Surrounded by pristine azure Mediterranean waters, Malta is one of the top locations in Europe for scuba diving. Not only is there a diversity of marine life and interesting underwater rock formations waiting to be discovered, as a historic wartime battleground the islands are dotted with fascinating wrecks to dive as well.

You can dive in Malta at any time of the year thanks to outstanding levels of visibility and mild waters. While the summer months offer particularly excellent conditions, it’s also great for diving throughout winter, and there is the additional benefit that there are fewer people in the water and you can expect a smaller, more focused diving group.

We had a fantastic experience diving in Malta with Watercolours Dive Centre, a five-star registered PADI dive centre located in Sliema, a popular area for tourists. You can read all about our experience here, as well as some of the best dive sites and information on how to book.

Take a harbour cruise

View of Grand Harbour from St Elmo in Valletta
View of Grand Harbour from St Elmo in Valletta

One of the best ways to see the historic sites around Valletta’s harbours is from the sea. There is no shortage of options for cruises, even during winter.

When walking along Triq Ix-Xatt in Sliema, the main road along the waterfront, we couldn’t walk ten metres without being offered a deal for a cruise. It’s also possible to book one in advance with GetYourGuide.

On a two-harbour cruise you will see the forts and walls of Valletta from different perspectives, and venture into the various creeks and marinas around the headland.

Harbour cruises last a couple of hours at most. If you’d like to make a full day of it, you can instead book a longer cruise to the Blue Lagoon on Comino Island.

We did this, but opted to do it as a sunset cruise to the beaches and bays, which also stops by at the Blue Lagoon. There’s an optional BBQ (definitely go for it!) and the water sunset views from the bay are incredible.

Malta sunset cruise Alex
Enjoying the scenery on a Malta sunset cruise to Comino and the Blue Lagoon

Eat Maltese food

Maltese food is a pleasure to indulge at any time of year. The national cuisine incorporates influences from Italy, France, Spain and the UK, but with a distinctively Maltese character. The typical ingredients reflect the Mediterranean setting, with fish, olives, cheeses and regional vegetables commonplace.

We loved Maltese food because it’s satisfying, tasty and versatile. There’s a fix for any kind of hunger. For a light bite you can try a fish soup or Mediterranean salad, or with a bigger appetite you can stodge out with some traditional Maltese ravioli or hot lampuki pie. You can barely turn a corner without finding somewhere to buy pizza either.

Maltese food is distinctively Mediterranean, and incorporates influences from Italy, France, Spain and the UK

Rabbit stew is considered the national dish, which tends to be on the pricey side in restaurants. We tried a roasted rabbit instead, another popular meal.

At least once during your trip you must try a pastizzi. This is a savoury snack that costs as little as 50 euro cents, consisting of puff pastry filled with mushy peas, ricotta cheese or meat. You will find them sold everywhere from street carts and bakeries to restaurants.

Our favourite spot for traditional Maltese food was Café Jubilee. We have eaten several times in their Valletta restaurant. The prices were extremely reasonable, and the food was delicious.

Read our guide to food in Malta for more background about Maltese cuisine and traditional dishes you can try.

Where to stay in Malta in winter

Most of Malta’s hotels, guest houses and hostels offer cheaper prices in the winter months. You can often find great deals, especially if you book in advance.

When visiting Malta in winter it’s a good idea to stay close to the attractions you want to visit, as the transport services are less frequent.

Our guide to where to stay in Malta compiles accommodation options all over the Maltese islands, including recommendations for different budgets.

You can find some incredible luxury options in our guide to hotels in Malta with jacuzzi in room if you’re planning an extra-special getaway.

Malta at Christmas

Malta is a predominantly Roman Catholic country, and Christmas is celebrated in style. If you visit Malta in December you will streets and houses full of decorations, and many special events happening throughout the festive season.

Most of Malta’s 365 churches hold carol-singing congregations, with the most famous of these taking place at St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta.

Many restaurants will put on special menus for Christmas. Also look out for many traditional festive treats in bakeries around the country, such as Maltese honey rings, Christmas logs and bread pudding.

Maltese honey ring
Maltese Christmas honey rings are a traditional snack for the festive season

How to get around Malta in winter

The main island of Malta is just 27 kilometres long and 14.5 kilometres wide, and with a good road infrastructure it’s easy to get around.

One option is to hire a car. Rental prices are at their cheapest in winter; you can hire a vehicle for as little as €6 per day. Browse for the best deals.

If, like us, you’d prefer to avoid the hassle of driving, you can use Malta’s excellent public bus system instead. Bus routes cover all the major sites and urban areas around the islands, including the airport.

We paid €21 each for a seven-day travelcard that gave us unlimited travel on buses. This worked out quite a bit cheaper during the course of our trip. Another card offers 12 single journeys for €15. Single bus fares in winter are €1.50 (compared to €2 in summer), so calculate beforehand which option works out best for you.

The downside of the bus service in winter is that it runs less frequently. Some services run just once an hour. This can make it extra tricky when you need to take more than one bus to get somewhere, as it can cost you a lot of time if you miss a connection. It’s best to plan your journeys in advance to try and avoid this. The ferry services, like the buses, are scaled back in winter.

The ferry between Malta to Gozo runs every 45 minutes (in summer there are extra services during the peak time in the morning).

You can find more information on services, schedules and fares on the Malta Public Transport website.

One final tip: you can save time and hassle when arriving in Malta by pre-booking an airport transfer. It’s especially good value if you’re arriving with a group. We did this on our first trip to Malta, and it was so satisfying to have that hassle removed when we arrived.

Things to do in Malta in winter: map

Click on the map below to see the locations of the sights, activities and eateries detailed in this article:

Things to do in Malta in winter map

Looking for more options for your off-season adventures? Read our collaboration with travel bloggers on the best winter destinations in Europe.

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Visiting Malta in winter is great for exploring the island nation, with a mild climate and fewer tourists around. This guide explains all you need to know. #maltainwinter #malta #visitmalta #thingstodoinmalta #maltatravel

12 thoughts on “Everything you need to know about visiting Malta in winter

  1. Sippin Gypsy says:

    I was so surprised to learn that human history on Malta predates so many other prominent civilizations! And rabbit stew!?? I’ve never had rabbit stew… will have to try it!

  2. Kemi says:

    Yeah. St. Paul was imprisoned in Malta, no? I forget my Sunday School lessons. Oops! Malta has literal Biblical history that they market too and that I’d love to experience. I’ve seen its pic in summer and it’s crowded so low season seems to be the best time to visit.

  3. paddockfamily4 says:

    Malta looks amazing- it’s a place that I had never considered before blogging but now I’m finding it very intriguing! Although I have to say your transition into Europe is throwing me off!!! I’m so used to reading your South America posts!!! Looks like you guys are having the time of your lives!

  4. Sydney | A World in Reach says:

    A friend of mine went to Malta a few years ago and I’ve been dying to go since! Winter does sound like a great time to visit. Those temperatures sound perfect and it’s always nice to have smaller crowds!

  5. alison says:

    I love travel off season and Malta sounds like it does not disappoint. How fun to see live music in a beer cave. I’m slightly obsessed with beer so I hope they had good beer, or was it just called a beer cave? Looks like a great trip.

  6. Arunima Dey | Namaste, Solo Travel! says:

    Amazing post! I want to share an incident: The Azure window collapsed one day before we were planning to go there. We were already in Malta when it happened, so I guess we were the first people to see the ‘ruins’ the very next day. And I loved the rabbit stew! It was divine. In March, I remember Valleta being very windy, though I am not sure if it was spring already.

  7. paddockfamily4 says:

    Looks like a gorgeous place to explore in the winter! We love traveling in the off season because you often have popular locations all to yourself and you don’t have to deal with the crowds!

  8. Nina Out and About says:

    I was supposed to go to Malta last year, but the flights were too expensive. I’m going to have to look into going this year because it looks wonderful! I had no idea the Azure Window collapsed, but it still looks like a beautiful place to look out 🙂

  9. juliemsa says:

    I’ve been wanting to go to Malta for ages! Such a great and extensive guide. The winter seem great for exploring the cities, still I would love to visit the beautiful beaches during the summer. Will take this post into account and might try to go out of season:)

  10. Helene says:

    Where should I be during Christmas time and New Year’s Eve ? La Valette or Gozo ? I found that traveling in some countries during Christmas time a lot of restaurants are closed. I will spent 3 weeks in Malta and I am just trying to book at the right place. I know that Christmas time is a family time, when is the best place to be to eat if I am in an hotel. Thanks.

    • Alex Trembath says:

      Hi Helene, thank you for your comment! Where to stay during the festive season will depend on the vibe you’re looking for, but if you want to be around places that will stay open, I’d recommend Valletta, Sliema or St Julian’s. Some restaurants do close but there are plenty that are open Christmas Day. For example, Merkanti in Valletta (above the food market hall) was open Christmas Day last year with a special menu. Cafe Jubilee is another one of our favourites that takes Christmas bookings. Hotels are always a good option but some local restaurants so open as well (booking in advance is essential). Hope this helps!

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