Many people think of Malta and think of a week or two long holiday but we love Malta for a city break. We spent 3 nights and 2.5 days on the island discovering just some of its jewels and look forward to returning again soon.
Where to stay
- 5* luxury – The Westin Dragonara, St Julians Bay
- Best boutique – Valentina, St Julians Bay
- For the location – Phoenicia, Valetta
- Beach hotel – Radisson Blu Resort & Spa, Golden Sands
What to do and how to get there
If you don’t fancy driving, the Hop on/off bus is an easy option. Just remember to pick up a timetable and note the departure times. There are North and South tours and on some days, these are combined and so check with your hotel or with the tour company to see which tour is running. We took the combined tour on day 1 and took in Valletta, Mdina and a tour of the island. On day 2 we took the South tour and saw the 3 Cities and Marsaxlokk. You can save money if you buy the 2 day tour and so have a think about what you would like to achieve before you buy:
- St John’s Cathedral – The most stunning cathedral we have ever visited. Every inch has been decorated with a thoughtful touch and no picture can do it justice. Take the free audio guide and be absorbed in the beauty of this cathedral.
- Wander the historic streets – They undulate, they are characterful and they host a fine mix of eateries and great opportunities for shopping.
- Lower Barrakka Gardens – Situated towards the far end of Valletta, you can start at the Waterfront and ascend to the Upper Barrakka Gardens via the Barrakka lift in just 25 seconds which saves those muscles for later on! From here, it’s a lovely walk to the Lower Barrakka Gardens where you will find a tree planted in April 2012 to mark the 70th anniversary of the award of the George Cross to Malta by King George VI for its bravery in the Second World War.
- Wander the historic streets – Mdina is like a maze. Around every corner there is a beautiful building, a stunning old wooden door, pretty flowers climbing the walls or a quirky shop selling Maltese produce. It’s a fun maze to get lost in and explore, eventually winding your way to the viewing point out towards the sea.
- St Paul’s Cathedral – Make your way through the narrow streets and you will find that they open up into a large square where the sheer size of the cathedral will leave you with a wow moment, its size having a greater impact due to the small avenues you have just been travelling through. You may notice the clocks on the outside give you different times. It was thought that this would confuse the devil who may attempt to attend mass and sway people from the right path if he could be sure of the right time for mass!
- Beautiful boats – Take a stroll to see the Grand Harbour Marina, Vittoriosa. You will see an array of boats you could only dream of owning or even sailing on.
- Gardjola Gardens – A reasonable walk from Vittoriosa over a bridge and right at the end of Senglea but worth the walk for the views across to Valletta.
- St Lawrence’s Church – a stunning church right next to the hop on/off bus and so no excuses not to take a quick peek!
- This is a pretty place to wander and there is a market every day where you can stock up on local honey, figs, biscuits and nougat (as well as some very touristy souvenirs). Even better, if you visit on a Sunday morning you will be treated to its main market. You will see hundreds of beautifully and brightly decorated boats here, fisherman mending their nets and repainting their boats. It’s a lovely brief stop or take a little longer and have lunch here.
On our last day we visited the Catacombs in Rabat and took a local bus. It took about an hour and 15 minutes to get to Rabat from St Julians Bay. On our return the speedier bus which was timetabled did not show and so we had to wait 40 minutes for the slow bus which then took an hour and a half to get back to St Julians due to traffic and so do plan well and allow for the unexpected.
Hire a car and see more! The Maltese drive on the left making it much less daunting. You can get around the island far more quickly by car and see what we did on our hop on/off bus plus a few more attractions which we’re saving for next time including the Blue Grotto, the Tarxien Temples and the Hagar Qim and Mnajdra Temples.
Where to eat
- For ice-cream – L’Accademia Café in Valletta – a VERY large scoop of delicious (and incredible value!) ice-cream! 🙂
- For fish – Zeri’s Restaurant in Paceville. We had a starter of octopus, calamari and fishcakes, a main of red snapper, brown meagre and seabass all with potatoes and vegetables, a bottle of wine and water and a dessert each of Chocolate melt in the middle pudding with Bailey’s cream for 60 Euros each with a nice tip included.
- Lunch stop – The Three Sisters, Marsaxlokk. Run by……yes…..three sisters……with most fish served having been caught by their husbands……terribly romantic we know! A sense of community draws you in to eat at this perfect lunch spot overlooking the harbour which bobs away with brightly coloured boats.