For most people coming to Maldives, Malé – its capital will most likely act as a small transit before heading off to a resort or local island. The city, a famous trading post since the 10th century houses over 220,000 people in an area of just 8.3 square kilometers (3.2 sq miles) making it the 8th most densely populated island in the world.

The airport located a small drive away in Hulhule Island will be your first taste of Maldives. As soon as you leave the gate, turquoise water along with taxis and yachts await. When you’re informed this beautifully colored water is considered subpar by Maldivian standards is the moment you know you’re in a special place.

A six to seven US dollar taxi ride will bring you to Malé and as soon as the taxi crosses the bridge, a city buzzing with energy emerges. High rise buildings, traffic, graffiti, all signs contradictory of one has come to expect of Maldives. Indeed, the capital of the country is an anomaly when compared to the chilled-out, relaxed vibe of Maldives.

Accommodation – Choices, choices, choices

Malé is one of the few islands in Maldives which actually has hotels (other islands comprise of guesthouses or luxury resorts). The options are not at all limited either – hotels come in all price ranges. Then there’s Airbnb which has properties from highly affordable to ultra-luxurious along with hostels and some guesthouses peppered throughout the city.

Explore Away

One day perhaps won’t be enough to fully explore the city but, hey, one can always try. You can just explore local markets which offer some truly exotic fruits or more importantly, the fish markets – I mean the belly of an island nation probably resides in its fish markets. The Republic Square is also a must visit and is located close the Presidential Jetty. The area is always brimming with people and it is shadowed by an elegant glass police building.

Live Through History

The Tsunami Monument is also recognizable because of its striking architecture, though its history brings with it, sadness. It was built to commemorate the people who died as a result of the Tsunami that affected nearly 30% of Maldives’ population in 2004.

The Grand Mosque’s perfectly executed minimalist style is also a sight to behold and the National Museum of Malé will also provide an insight into the rich history of the Maldives.

Explore the Essence of Life

Of course, what Maldives’ ‘things to do’ list can go without water-based activities. Malé will certainly not disappoint – the city offers surfing, diving, swimming and submarine excursions to reefs around the city.

Shop

Whilst shopping has never been known as a primary attraction in Maldives, there are quite a few options. Chaandhanee Magu and Majeedhee Magu roads are where most of the shopping areas are located which range from souvenir shops to electronics and everything in between.

On a side note, do not forget to visit Hulhumale – a manmade (or reclaimed) island connected to Malé through a bridge. The city is not only bigger than Malé, but it also offers a better beach and is a testament to human ingenuity.

Where to Eat    

If you’re a foodie, you’re in luck! Malé is packed to the brim with restaurants and cafes. It is never hard to find a place to eat, what is difficult, however, is deciding on an eatery given the number of choices at one’s disposal. Considering fishing is Maldives’ second biggest industry, local diet primarily consists of seafood (especially tuna) – make sure to check it out as the fish are almost always fresh and scrumptious. Other dining options are also readily available; however, fast foods are few and far between (Malé island only has KFC, Pizza Hut, Gloria Jeans and Mary Brown).

Visiting Malé is usually not in the itinerary when visiting Maldives but by not visiting the capital, one would be missing out on culture that is centuries old and a chance to get in touch with the people who make Maldives so special. The city is unlike any other in Maldives and deserves at least a day – especially since most trips to Maldives inevitably start and end here.