Although the eat-sleep-beach routine is sure to keep the kids happy for a day or two, leave it much longer and you’re likely to have a full-scale riot on your hands. With its blend of European culture, beautiful scenery and family-friendly activities, Malta offers plenty for you and your kids to enjoy long after the bucket and spade have been abandoned. A ‘via media’ that avoids the vineyards and disposes of Disney, this guide to the top things to do in Malta with kids will take you from the shallow waters of Comino Island to the outdoor delights of the Ta’ Qali National Park and the depths of the Mdina Dungeons.
If you don’t believe the adage that the best things come in small packages, tiny Comino Island – which lies between Malta and Gozo in the Maltese archipelago – will give you some perspective. The set for several films and television shows, there is little construction, no cars and few residents; the air carries the fragrance of local herbs and its turquoise waters are without blemish. Ideal for a day-trip, Comino’s lagoons are shallow enough for young children to swim safely while offering plenty of opportunities to dive further out.
Under Roman control for ten centuries, vestiges of ancient empire are still visible in Malta today. Domvs Romana – the remains of a Roman townhouse – was discovered in Rabat in 1881, and is now the site of a newly renovated museum housing some of the best-preserved mosaic floors anywhere in the Roman Empire. A fun day out in Malta with kids, this is a great place to seek shelter from the midday sun while they learn all about the daily life of Roman aristocrats.
Nurturing marine life from the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean, the Malta National Aquarium in Qawra allows you to get up close and personal with over a hundred species, from sharks and jellyfish to seahorses and clown fish (otherwise know as Nemo). With an emphasis on saving aquatic life from extinction and simulating natural habitats, the aquarium has worked with a number of different NGOs to help local conservation efforts and spread awareness across the region. Even the building is shaped like a starfish, so you know they’re serious.
With its profusion of plants and wildlife, this national park has become a popular local spot for leisurely afternoon ambles and picnics. Once the site of an RAF airfield, and heavily bombed during the Second World War, the surviving nissen huts and military structures now house a crafts village where artisans sell filigree jewellery and other handmade gifts. With many of the merchants working on-site, take in the spectacle of their intricate techniques through demonstrations of glass-blowing, metal forgery, lace and woodwork.
In the days before carbon-fibre, car manufacturing was an art. The passion and skill that went into designing such vehicles as the 1956 Ford T-bird and the Honda Shadow are celebrated at Malta Classic Car Museum, a space dedicated to the golden era of motoring. Along with a collection of gramophones, jukeboxes and mid-20th century memorabilia, these exhibits will jump-start and fuel the family’s nostalgia for yesteryear. With its range of classic cars available to buy, tear up the plane tickets and plan a grand tour back home…or settle for a replica model from the gift shop.
Visitors to Malta have not always been as welcome as they are today; this strategically valuable archipelago has endured a unique and bloody history marked by invasion, occupation and revolt. In the medieval Mdina Dungeons, kids can discover the underground passageways, chambers and cells where enemies of Malta were kept under lock and key. Probably not the best activity for young children, but certainly one of the more exciting and spooky things to do in Malta with kids.