Malta is an irresistible draw for holidaymakers throughout Europe and beyond. The island is situated in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, making it an ideal destination for those who don’t want to be locked up in the confines of an aircraft any longer than necessary. Flying beyond the tourist-polluted confines of Spain, or focusing on a historic destination closer than faraway Greece, Malta is an ideal choice for all.
Colonized by ancient civilizations from around the Mediterranean, classical societies responsible for the art, language and religion that’s fundamental to the modern world, let’s take a look at a single day spent discovering the culturally rich island that is Malta.
You’ve Arrived in Malta, Island of Culture
Before exploring neolithic ruins or medieval citadels you need a top hotel, and Malta has a selection of world-class lodgings for every budget. From hostels to five-star hotels, you’re accommodation needs are covered.
- 5-star hotel – The Hotel Phoenicia is Located near the City Gates of Valletta.
- Mid-range – The Grand Harbour Hotel overlooks the harbour and is a minutes walk from shopping areas.
- Budget hotel – The Alborada Apart Hotel is a five minute walk from the Sliema Bus and Ferry Terminals
Early Morning Exploration
You likely can’t wait to get inside the many tourist attractions exhibiting cultural and historical sights, but the sun is freshly up, and there’s an orange hue to the aged neolithic structures and the limestone temples. Start the morning off slow with a walk through Valletta the capital city of the island. Most of the streets are pedestrian friendly, and there are plenty of choices for getting around. A funicular removes the strain of climbing steep inclines, while tiny Smart cabs nip through the narrow streets with ease.
Stop at Cafe Ranieri for breakfast or brunch. This centrally located stopover will clear the last cobwebs of sleep as you sit and sip a strong coffee and ponder your next move. Sit back and watch the city of Valletta come alive. The gentle strain of climbing the streets may already be taking its toll so head out to the funicular and be dropped off on the top of one of those hills to look down on the splendour of the island.
Late Morning and On Top of The World
Here you’re within the boundaries of the Upper Barrakka Gardens, soaking in late morning sun in a place of serenity that’s full of statues and monuments. Look down and you’re greeted by a panoramic view of Valletta, a scene that ends in the picturesque sight of the Grand Harbour, Fort St. Elmo and Fort Ricasoli, a bastion of defense constructed by The Knights of Malta. It’s an impressive structure and a popular backdrop used for countless movies.
Start down the narrow streets, passing architectural features adorned with baroque beauty. Stroll down Triq Melita, taking the option to explore tiny side streets, and enter The National Museum of Archaeology to learn of the many influences that create Malta’s unique identity. Continue downward, through Republic Street, main thoroughfare of Valleta, and explore Republic Square, St. John’s Co-Cathedral, Auberge de Castille, and St. Lazarus Bastion, one of several Bastions guarding Grand Harbour.
Early Afternoon Boating
Now’s as good a time as any to get out of Valletta, climbing into a long, sturdy boat for an excursion around the many grottoes and caves that exist on the rocky coast of Malta. The Blue Grotto is one of these features, a world-famous spot capable of reducing jaded tourists to a moment of silence as they regard the beautiful colours created by phosphorescent flora combined with the deep blue of the Mediterranean sea.
Rest and Plan in Republic Square
The stunning view of Valletta lodges in your memory forever as you return to the city gates. Make your way back to Republic Square in the early afternoon sunlight and find shade in one of the many open-air restaurants. Cafe Cordina is a well-established restaurant in the heart of the city. Take a seat and order authentic Maltese Cuisine. From this central location you can easily make your way on foot to Manoel Theater, a 17th century stage that’s still active, or move on to the Palace of The Grand Masters just off of Old Theater Street, center of Malta’s parliamentary process, worth visiting to see the Knights Armoury, open 9am to 5pm.
Time to decide on another excursion, but first a late afternoon meal at Malata Restaurant in Palace Square. Sit in terraced comfort and enjoy a cool glass of wine, a selection of pastries and an entree of seared sea bass fresh from the Mediterranean. Make your next move, if you can after partaking in such a banquet, and direct your feet out the city gate where you can pick up a ride on a bus or taxi. You’re moving on to ancient Mdina.
Ending the Day in Mdina
If you’re late for the re-enactment of the Norman Invasion of Mdina, don’t worry it’ll rewind and come around again. Instead, take a dip in the medieval history of knights and falconry. Every building is touched by history, from Phoenicians to the Knights of St. John. It’s a true citadel attracting many thousands of visitors every year.