Fancy stretching out your summer with a quick, sunny getaway for two, or with friends? I’ve found THE perfect location: Valletta, the capital city of Malta.
Let me set the scene: picture a sunbathed, human-scale archipelago, with a rich variety of local activities. Malta truly has something to please everyone, so let me share with you my 5 ‘essentials’ for a successful city break to Valletta:
1. Wander along the lively streets and enjoy the bars
Getting around and finding your bearings in the fortified city of Valletta is super easy: the roads are laid out like a checkerboard. From the City Gate’s Tritons’ Fountain to Fort Saint Elmo on the other end of the island, most of the roads are pedestrianized, which also means the bars and restaurants profit from large outdoor seating areas. Don’t miss Republic Street and Strait Street, two parallel roads which run through the centre of the city. There, you’ll find the iconic Caffe Cordina and the famous Bridge Bar, a jazz bar. And as goes for any self-respecting modern capital, you should get an overview of the city from the hotel rooftops: the bars and lounges are plentiful, and you can sip on a refreshing cocktail as you admire a panoramic view over the city.
2. Savour the local gastronomy at the Is-Suq Tal-Belt covered market
Malta has a unique gastronomy, comprising a mix of italian and mediterranean influences. Whether you’re after a quick little nibble, or you fancy a sit-down meal in a traditional restaurant after a day of discovery, you’ll be spoilt for choice between the tapas bars, michelin-star establishments, and everything in between!
Another must-visit for any foodie is Valletta’s covered market. It’ll fire up all your senses: the aromas of the different stands, the taste of the pastizzi, the goat’s cheese, or the Imqaret, the colour of the sun-kissed fruits… there’s something to suit all tastes (and all budgets). The building is home to a local product market, found underground, takeaway meal stands on the ground floor, and restaurants and bars on its rooftop.
3. Look upwards and admire the unique and colourful architecture adorning the city’s narrow streets
Malta’s architecture is unique for its use of globigerina, a local honey-coloured limestone. Make a mental note of that term, because you’ll be seeing it a lot around Malta!
In addition to its unique colour, all of the capital’s buildings, from houses to the presidential palace, have enclosed balconies each more colourful than the last. The locals take great care of them, for the enjoyment of both our eyes and our camera lenses. Everywhere you turn you’re sure to find an explosion of colour. If you’re looking for a patch of nature, the Upper Barakka Garden up above town provides a green setting for a stunning view overlooking the port.
4. Sail away to discover the city
The most beautiful viewpoint over the city would probably be from the riverbanks of Sliema or The Three Cities, two cities on either side of the peninsula on which Valletta is found. It couldn’t be easier to get there: just hop in one of the traditional taxi boats, called dgħajsa (pronounced “dye-sah”). The crossing takes barely five minutes, and allows you to uncover another viewpoint over Valletta, as well as other places outside of the capital’s walls. This city takes Instagram worthiness to another level!
5. Valletta is also the historical and cultural centre of a millenia-old archipelago!
We can’t gloss over the fact that Valletta is often compared to an open-air museum – hardly surprising, considering its UNESCO World Heritage listing. You’ll be spoilt for choice on how you spend your time there. Numerous museums and private houses will introduce you to Maltese art across the ages, such as the Muza, the museum of modern art, or the Casa Rocca Piccola, a traditional palace that is maintained to this day by a baron. Meeting the owners of places like this in person is not unheard of.
Among other must-visit locations, each one just a stone’s throw from the last, you’ll find Fort Saint Elmo, at the end of the peninsula, and the gardens of the Upper and Lower Barakka, for a splash of greenery. Wrap up your discovery of this island with a visit to Saint John’s Co-Cathedral, which was the cathedral of the Knights of the Order of Malta. This structure isn’t much to look at from the outside, but with a well-maintained Gothic style sure to catch anyone’s eye, inside is where the magic happens: from its golden chapels and marble floor to the oratory, which houses two monumental Caravaggios, these places will leave you awestruck.
So, who’s up for stretching out the summer in Valletta, for a weekend – or maybe even longer? What are you waiting for? Jet off to Malta, because the only thing missing from this gorgeous location is you!