It’s rare to hear a negative word spoken about Malta. Some well-travelled individuals even go so far as to say it’s their favourite country in the world. Many have fallen so in love, they’ve moved there permanently. So what’s so special about Malta?
Is it being surrounded by the beauty of the Mediterranean Sea? The fresh seafood, artisan produce and local wine? Perhaps it’s the genuine hospitality of the Maltese people? Could it be the intriguing political history, the archeology, or diverse architecture?
It could simply be that the Republic of Malta is one of the world’s smallest countries with the smallest national capital in the European Union, yet it delivers something for everyone.
A recent visit had me joining the Malta fan club and for those of you heading to Malta for the first time, here is my 5 day itinerary to get you started.
Sliema, on the opposite bank of Marsamxett Harbour from Valletta, may not be the quiet fishing village it once was but it still hasn’t lost its charm.
The coastline promenade surrounding Sliema is the perfect avenue for taking in Sliema’s magnificent views, architecture and shopping! Yes, Sliema is Malta’s shopping capital so if you’re in need of some retail therapy, then you’re in the right place.
Sliema is also the perfect place to pick up harbour cruises, fishing tours and cruises to Gozo and Comino, the other 2 inhabited islands in Malta’s archipelago. The views of Malta are incredible from the water so include a cruise into your plan at some point.
Wandering the residential streets of Sliema is rewarding too. Seeing how locals go about their day is always fascinating and you’ll find small family owned corner groceries, quaint neighbourhood churches and local pubs.
Restaurants and bars dot Sliema’s coast taking advantage of the magnificent Mediterranean views. Happy hour sundowners are a must and most restaurants serve the famous Maltese Platter, an array of local produce including Bigilla - a bean paste and Gbejniet - white cheese.
Firstly, let’s hit the “party capital” title head on. Yes, there are numerous places to party in St Julian’s but it doesn’t apply to the whole of St Julian’s. In fact, you don’t have to party at all if you don’t want to.
Paceville is littered with clubs and bars to drink and dance the night away, but there are literally hundreds of options for a quieter time in other areas of St Julian’s.
Spinola Bay, St George’s Bay and Balluta Bay, all have fabulous water view restaurants serving delicious Maltese and Mediterranean fare. An emphasis on seafood is evident and the fresh catch of the day is displayed over ice for you to select your dinner.
Malta’s special style of pizza - Ftira, is woodfired, delicious and perfect to share as a starter. Eclectic topping combinations and a hole punched in the centre of the dough to allow even baking are the hints that you’re eating true Ftira.
A couple of Malta’s most beautiful of its 359 churches on the island are found in St Julian’s. The Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St Julian’s Old Parish Church. Both open to the public and both with a colourful history.
Spinola Palace is a worthwhile stop for architecture and history enthusiasts. Now a museum the palace has had quite a past while changing hands from a Knight of the Order of St John to the Catholic Church to the British Navy.
Most enthralling is St Julian’s street art. Street art is encouraged in Malta to the extent that it is on the school curriculum. Wandering the continuing promenade from Sliema around St Julian’s many murals are focal points. Multi story in size, showing off the skill and talent of the artists.
It’s here where I begin encouraging you to spend more than 5 days in Malta. We haven’t been to Mdina yet, The Three Cities or Marsaxlokk for a lunch of fresh fish straight from the boats. Realistically, you need an extra couple of days to do that, but you simply can’t miss Gozo & Comino.
Gozo is the 2nd largest island in the Malta archipelago. It’s on Gozo where the incredibly beautiful and incessantly instagrammed Azure Window once was. Having crumbled into the sea after a particularly violent storm in 2017, Dwejra Bay, the area where the Azure Window stood is still a stunning location and well worth taking a boat from the inland sea through caves to the open ocean.
Dwejra Bay is where Daenerys and Khal Drogo were married in season 1 of Game of Thrones. For anyone interested.
The capital of Gozo, Rabat, requires your attention for at least half a day. Visit The Citadel, Gozo Museum of Archaeology, Il-Haggar Museum, Villa Rundle Gardens, St George Basilica, Independence Square and the list goes on.
Stay overnight on Gozo to explore Xlendi and it’s picturesque harbour. Take a coastal walk to the promenade restaurants of Marsalforn. Venture back to Neolithic times when giants populated Gozo at the Ggantija Temples in Xaghra and while in Xaghra, visit Ta’ Mena and join a tour of the property’s olive groves and vineyards. Finish with a wine and local produce tasting.
There’s so much to do on Gozo it really deserves more than a day.
Spending 5 days exploring magnificent Malta: it’s a thing we love….
Shona’s award winning travel blog shares tips and tricks on where to eat, drink, explore & shop in any given destination. At home ordering street food or perusing a fine dining menu, she seeks out venues with a conscience who promote local produce and sustainability. Find her in markets, museums, art galleries and on walking tours as well as wineries, breweries, distilleries and restaurants. Wherever she is, she’s always looking for something a little different to share with her readers. Follow her travels at www.paraphernalia.co or subscribe to her Shenanigans Report http://paraphernalia.co/subscribe-form/ so as not to miss a post. email@example.com.