Sun and sea, boat trips and snorkelling, countryside and caves, forts and castles: there's lots for kids to see and do in Malta and Gozo. Add pedestrianised town centres, friendly locals, lots of laid-back, open-air restaurants, and short distances between places, and you have an ideal family holiday destination.
Pedestrianised lanes, piazzas, forts, fountains, boat trips and museums. Look forward to Malta's best ice-cream shops too.
Rocky beaches, one small sandy bay, and child-friendly cafes and restaurants. Waterfront playgrounds are also a feature.
Malta’s best beaches, with lots of water-sports facilities, boat-trip opportunities and the various marine species of the Malta National Aquarium.
Marsaxlokk's fun Sunday market, natural swimming pools, caves and hilltop temples. Perfect for adventurous children.
Malta’s neighbours are fun to get to (by boat) and once there you can slow your pace, swim, explore, snorkel, boat and dive.
As in most Mediterranean countries, families will receive a warm welcome, and the sunny weather and easygoing lifestyle makes it easy to entertain children without too much effort. There's a good healthcare system here and most people speak English; a smaller proportion also speak Italian and sometimes French. The Malta Baby & Kids Directory lists lots of useful information, including days out, activities and general advice. You can buy the directory online or register to obtain its listings.
If you're in need of a breather, large hotels will usually offer a babysitting service, or you can enquire at your guesthouse or apartment complex whether they provide babysitting. Otherwise, try Stepping Stones Early Learning Centre (www.steppingstonesmalta.com) on Malta, which offers trustworthy babysitting services.
Children are welcome at most restaurants, though many of the smarter places don't permit very young children. In child-friendly restaurants, high chairs are usually available, there's normally a children's menu, and sometimes changing facilities. Children's menus tend to offer a similar roll call of chicken nuggets, pizza and so on; if you want to provide more variety, ask for a half-portion of an adult dish instead. As in Italy, people won't blink an eye at children staying up late, particularly in summer when many children will have had a siesta in the heat of the afternoon.
Malta's sandy beaches tend to be the best for younger children, as they have gentle approaches and shallow areas for swimming. The more popular ones have water-sports and boating facilities, which makes them especially good for older children too. The rocky bays that dot the coast are better for older children and adults only, because these natural sea pools do not always have shallow areas for less-confident swimmers.
Although Malta's main roads are busy, the main square of each town is almost always closed to traffic, and village and town promenades are often pedestrianised, which means there's space to run about even in a town centre. Valletta's pedestrianised centre has choreographed fountains, on Pjazza San Gorg.
By the coast, long, wide promenades often have playgrounds (there's one at Sliema and a great one at Qawra as part of the Malta National Aquarium complex) and kiosks for snacks. Marsaskala, in the southeast, has the large, free St Antnin Park, which includes a climbing wall. Mdina has a large playground just outside the city walls, and the city's Ditch Garden is a good place to run around in. There's a small playground next to the ferry stop in Cospicua (Three Cities) and a recommended playground in Paola (close to the Hypogeum and Tarxien Temples).
As for parks, some of the best include San Anton Gardens in Attard and the Argotti Botanical Gardens in Floriana, and Valletta has the Upper Barrakka Gardens, Lower Barrakka Gardens and the Hastings Garden. The wooded Buskett Gardens near Dingli on Malta are somewhat wilder and a great place to explore.
On less-busy Gozo there are lots of walking trails, beaches and open areas to run around in, but Dwejra, with its rocky moonscape coast, inland sea and boat trips, is one of the most spectacular areas for kids.
For all-round information and advice, check out Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.
You'll find everything you need available for sale in Malta, so don't panic about forgetting something: formula, nappies (diapers), wipes, clothes, toys and English-language children's books are all easy to find. Mosquitoes are an issue – pack some child-friendly repellent or there's a chance kids will get badly bitten on their first night.
As Malta and Gozo are such family centred destinations, there are lots of suitable, reasonably priced options, including self-catering accommodation. The farmhouses for rent on Gozo are ideal; they offer plenty of space and often a pool. Most of the boutique hotels in Valletta only accept older children.
If you're travelling in July and August, when the weather is at its hottest, easy access to the sea or a pool is recommended. Plan for an afternoon siesta to avoid the heat of the early afternoon; there's usually a lull in general activity from around 1pm to 4pm, which is the hottest period of the day.
In late spring, early summer and autumn the sea is warm, the weather milder, prices lower and places less crowded. Children will enjoy the colourful parades at Carnival (February) and Easter (March/April), and the living nativity on Gozo at Christmas, but swimming will be chilly in these months; in March/April pack wetsuits and your children may still enjoy a dip.
Follow these recommendations for the best dining experiences with children.
Nenu the Artisan Baker, Valletta Arguably Malta's best ftira, and the kids will enjoy seeing the interesting recreation of an old bakery.
Is-Suq Tal-Belt, Valletta Plenty of variety with flavours and food outlets means no one is disappointed at this heritage food market.
Mint, Sliema Smoothies, wraps, easygoing Kiwi service, and in close proximity to a few good waterfront kids' playgrounds.
Munchies, Mellieħa Waterfront dining less than a metre from the sand. Tuck in and then dive in (after letting your food go down).
Rew Rew, Mġarr ix-Xini A laid-back location with the opportunity for a swim and snorkel in Rew Rew's perfect bay.
Sottozero, Buġibba Innovative flavours at the best ice-cream shop for many a mile.
Mellieħa Air-Raid Shelters Tunnels where Maltese residents sheltered during WWII air raids, with waxworks to bring the experience alive.
Għar Dalam Cave, Birżebbuġa Malta's largest cave, full of fossilised animal remains.
Boat trips Round the islands in a glass-bottomed boat; speed boats to see coves or to Comino and Gozo.
Diving Great beginners' diving and centres dotted all over the islands (over 10s only).
Horse riding, Golden Bay, Mosta and Gozo All have good horse riding centres.
Jeep safaris, Sliema A fun way to explore the islands.
Water sports All the major resorts offer sailing, dinghies for hire, pedalos etc.
Rock climbing Beginners' climbing or abseiling offered by local organisations.
Kayaking Take an organised sea kayaking trip to explore the coast.
Buġibba Water Park A free water play park, with colour-coded areas for different ages (up to age 12).
Malta National Aquarium, Qawra Qawra's state-of-the-art glimpse into the world of the sea.
Splash & Fun Park, Baħar Iċ-Ċagħaq Waterslides and playground.
Popeye Village, Mellieħa Film set from the 1980 film Popeye turned into a fun theme park; take boat trips and make a movie.
Golden Bay Gentle sandy beach with lots of facilities.
Għajn Tuffieħa Bay A bit hard to reach (186 steps) but gentle and sandy.
Mellieħa Bay Sandy, with safe paddling and swimming, and lots of facilities.
St Peter's Pool, Marsaxlokk Limpid sea pool; confident swimmers only.
Għar Lapsi Natural sea swimming pool.
Ramla Bay, Xagħra A lovely red-sand beach with cafe.
San Blas Bay, Nadur Another great beach, less crowded than Ramla; steep approach but you can hop on a jeep.
Mġarr ix-Xini A gorgeous little cove with good swimming.
Wied il-Għasri, Marsalforn Great cove with azure sea and adventurous steep approach.
Blue Lagoon, Comino The ultimate sea-swimming pool.
Waxworks Vivid evocations of the past are found at the Sacra Infermeria (medieval medics) in Valletta.
Rampila More waxworks can be seen at this Valletta restaurant with its own waxwork Maltese folkloric museum.
Fort St Elmo, Valletta A parade ground, missiles and the Malta National War Museum.
In Guardia, Valletta Costumed reenactments in Fort St Elmo and Fort St Angelo.
Fort St Angelo, Vittoriosa Restored by Heritage Malta, with magnificent views.
Fort Rinella, Vittoriosa Historic fort, enthusiastic volunteers and cannon- and rifle-firing.
Upper Barrakka Gardens, Valletta Get up close when they fire the cannon.
Inquisitor’s Palace, Vittoriosa Prison cells and cesspits.
Red (St Agatha's) Tower, Marfa Peninsula Mini-fortress with a chance to try on armour.
Old Prison, Victoria Prison cells in Gozo's castlelike capital.
National War Museum, Valletta In Fort St Elmo, a fascinating museum with lots of imaginative audiovisual exhibits.
Armoury, Valletta Older children will get a kick out of the audio guides and weaponry.
Pomskizillious Museum of Toys, Xagħra Houses historic toys in glass cases.
Toy Museum, Valletta Also home to historic toys.
Maritime Museum, Vittoriosa Lots of model boats and the chance to role-play in the mock sailors' bar.
Malta Aviation Museum, Rabat Impressive array of engines and aircraft.
Esplora, Three Cities Views aplenty, playgrounds and more than 200 interactive science displays.
National Museum of Natural History, Mdina A classic natural history museum, with stuffed birds and skeletons.