MALTA, MEDITERRANEAN – Malta is a tiny country made up of 3 islands: Malta, which is a rather huge 17 miles by 9. Gozo, which is approx. 8 by 4.5 miles, and Comino, which is maybe 1 square mile.
Yet, even though it’s small, Malta offers up a thick slice of history – 7,000 years of it, in fact. So you can easily spend a short or long weekend in Malta, and feel profoundly richer for it. Here are my top 4 things to see and do, tried and tested by yours truly.
Soak up the sea views in St. Julians
St. Julians is a petite fishing town glistening on Malta’s east coast. Laced with charm, character and authenticity, it comes complete with enough ‘grab-a-bite’ bars and “OMG, you have to taste that” seafood restaurants for your hips to permanently be huffy about. And they’re all within a few minutes of one another. Raffael was my favourite evening haunt – where I ate enough linguine with salmon, vodka and caviar to sink a traditional Maltese luzzu.
If you’re looking for a good hotel for your long weekend in Malta, I’d highly recommend Hotel Juliani.
Ghost hunting in Mdina (The Silent City), Malta
As Mediterranean ghost towns go, Mdina has to be the most beguiling and timeless of them all. Once the capital of Malta (thanks to the Normans who claimed it as their own in 1091 and, subsequently, the Knights of Malta in the 1500s), today it rules supreme as Malta’s historic overlord.
It’s not hard to see why Mdina is one of Europe’s finest ancient walled cities: an architectural patchwork of medievaland Baroque buildings, a virtual blanket ban on cars, and strict noise regulations for residents and businesses. Hell, it absolutely charmed the pants off me.
My advice? Get lost down Mdina’s ribboning back alleyways – you’ll stumble across traditional Maltese apartments, gardens full of orange trees, crumbling churches, and noiseless piazzas.
Azure cruise around Valletta Harbour, Malta
As mentioned, Malta isn’t a giant on the topographical scale, which means a cruise from Sliema to Valletta’s Grand Harbour is an ideal way to see this craggy Mediterranean gem and get a complete picture of its historical beauty.
Expect sand-coloured buildings, pockmarked by centuries of marauding canon fire; proud ancient forts eyeing the comings and goings of all who sail past; an expanse of royal-blue sea sprinkled with colourful luzzu fishing boats; and, if that’s not enough, a collection of fascinating limestone battlements and crenellated castles.
Hit the road on a Maltese bus, Malta
And finally, you can’t go on a long weekend to Malta without seeing (or riding on) the island’s iconic Maltese buses. Imported into Malta as early as 1905, these canary-yellow fume-belchers may be unpopular with many environmentalists and some Maltese, but they’re loved by tourists.
Each one of these vintage delights is owned by its driver – or handed down by proud father to son. And although the drivers may (at times) err on the icy side, the ride itself is a bouncy blast back to a bygone era. A highly recommended way to go.
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