FCUS GUIDES

Maltese Cross on church, Malta (c) Malta Tourism Authority

VALLETTA, MALTA -
EUROPEAN CAPITAL OF CULTURE 2018

A short break in
Malta

View of Valletta, Malta (c)Malta Tourist Authority  Ghadira Bay, Malta (c) MTA / Clive Vella

Mdina, Malta (c)Malta Tourist Authority / Vanicsek-Péter

HOME
BOOKS
SITE
SEARCH

Google map
Valletta

Copyright

Malta
Our Twitter list


Useful guides? Bookmark and Share  

Thank you!
 



^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
 

Centuries-old buildings of golden stone, handsome arcades and curious enclosed wooden balconies, an exquisite climate and a melting-pot culture that’s like nowhere else, as well as a great love of all things British (they even drive on the left), make this tiny Mediterranean island nation utterly fascinating and an absolute joy for a short break.
  It's like a floating history lesson. The Romans were here, as were Arabs, Venetians and then, above all, the medieval Knights of St John – a powerful, wealthy, ungoverned Christian army who made it their base for centuries. In later centuries, the British also held it for 160 years.
  Malta attracts more than its share of international celebrity visitors - several have homes here, and stars of film, TV and sport can sometimes be glimpsed strolling on Republic Street, the beautifully paved traffic-free main street that cuts straight through the handsome little capital, Valletta.

Cafe Cortina, Valletta (c) Andrew Sanger

Republic St, Valletta

Cafe Cordina, Valletta


 Get the feel

Valletta has a civilised, orderly air, with quietly bustling streets, and a great love of style and tradition.
  Most people speak English - it's one of the island’s two official languages (the other is Maltese, or Malti, which is essentially an Arabic dialect written in Latin characters). On the other hand, the culture has long been influenced by its closeness to Italy and North Africa as much as its British past.
  Malta has been an important low-cost package holiday destination for many decades, especially for winter sun, and offers some of the best prices in the Med. The main resort areas differ considerably in style: Buġibba coast is popular with British budget travellers; the stretch from Sliema to St Julien has many mid-range, and several 4- and 5-star hotels, plenty of nightlife and entertainment and a string of modern high-quality spa-hotels; staying in Valletta itself (or Floriana, just outside the city walls) is best for those mainly interested in Malta's history and culture.

 What, why, where

The island of Malta, its smaller neighbour Gozo, and the even smaller Comino, together with four tinier uninhabited islands, make up the single nation of Malta. It's in the middle of the Mediterranean, midway between Italy's Sicily and Tunisia in North Africa.
  The islands have had a long and complex history, mostly of being a useful strategic base for occupying powers. For centuries it was the headquarters of the Crusading Knights of St John or Knights Hospitaller, who still exist and remain a powerful force with an embassy here.
  During the devastating World War II Great Seige of Malta, the island was constantly bombarded by German and Italian forces from June 1940 to December 1942. The people were reduced to starvation yet remained loyal to Britain, which led to the whole island of Malta being awarded the George Cross, Britain's highest honour for civilian bravery.
  Malta and its islands became an independent nation in 1964. It joined the EU and adopted the euro in 2008. It signed the Schengen Agreement and abandoned border controls in 2008. It has become a principal landing point for unregulated migration into the EU from Libya, although few landed during 2015, when migrants intercepted at sea were taken straight to Italy.
  Malta is densely populated. Its capital Valletta, together with its many suburbs, covers a large proportion of the land area.

 Climate

Malta is moderately warm almost all year. Rain is rare, averaging just 568mm a year. There's a daily average of five to six hours sunshine in mid-winter rising to around 12 hours in summer.
  The island has an unusual climate as temperatures remain within a very narrow range. Monthly averages range from 12º C (54ºF) at their coldest to 31ºC (88ºF) at their hottest. Winter is extremely mild - even the lowest temperature ever recorded was above freezing (1.1ºC in Jan 1905).
  Windy weather is normal. The winds have names according to the direction, each bringing its own weather. Malta's most frequent winds  are the Majjistral (cool northwesterly), Grigal or Gregale (dry northeasterly) and - mainly lasting a few days in spring and autumn - the Xlokk or Sirocco (hot, steamy southeasterly).

 Getting started

Malta tourist office is at the Auberge d'Italie, in Merchants Street (parallel to Republic Street; near the main City Gate).
www.visitmalta.com

 Compass points

Valletta - the grandly fortified capital of Malta lies between two impressive harbours, Marsamxett and Grand Harbour. Together with its suburbs on the other side of the harbours, the city occupies a large proportion of the island.
The airport  - is in the south-east of the island.
Gozo - the small neighbouring island lies off the north-west coast.

 Getting around

Bus - The island’s bus service, run by the Malta Public Transport company, provides 80 different routes: buses go everywhere, frequently and journeys are short. Tickets can be bought from the driver or at bus-station kiosks - please try to present the exact fare. An ordinary 2-hour single ticket bought on the bus costs €1.50 in winter, €2 in summer. An Explore Card costing €15 offers unlimited travel for a whole week.
www.publictransport.com.mt


Ferry - Frequent ferry services link Malta to Gozo throughout the day, taking about 25 minutes each way from Ċirkewwa at the northern tip of Malta. The standard one-way fare is €4.65. Less frequent passenger services also run from Sa Maison harbour on the edge of Valletta. There are also regular boat services between each island and Comino.
www.gozochannel.com

Water Taxis - Traditional colourful Maltese 'dghajsa' and 'luzzu' small boats (pronounced dysa and lutsu) are available for hire in Grand Harbour, either for a tour or a simple crossing.
www.maltesewatertaxis.com


The Barrakka Lift whizzes from the waterfront 58m up to Valletta city centre - in theory the fare is €1 to ascend, with no charge to descend, but it seems that in practice the lift is open for use without tickets.

 Eat and drink in Malta

Restaurants in Malta range from cafes with outdoor tables to fast-food eateries to smart gastronomic establishments in elegant surroundings. They generally offer an intriguing mix of Maltese traditional fare, Italian dishes, and classic British grub.

Eating in Malta
One of the most popular meals for the Maltese is fenkata (marinated rabbit in rich wine and garlic stew, served with potatoes or chips or even spaghetti plus salad). Not so much a dish as a social experience, an authentic fenkata involves a big get-together with friends and is usually eaten out of doors.
 Other local Maltese dishes include timpana (a macaroni and egg pie), bragoli or ‘beef olive’ (wafer-thin spicy beef wrapped around a chopped mix of eggs, bacon and herbs, in a wine and vegetable sauce), grilled lampuka fish, fenek (crispy fried rabbit), and grilled swordfish.
  Almost as traditional in Malta as in Britain, the Full English Breakfast is widely available (usually at the bargain price of around €6).
  Maltese snacks especially include savoury filled pastries, among them the classic pastizzi, filled either with cheese or with meat and peas.


Drinks in Malta
Malta produces its own range of white, red and rose wines, from inexpensive table wines to pricier fine wines. Italian wines, especially Sicilian, are widely available.
 Popular local liqueurs, sweet and fruity and served  cold, are Harruba (carob) and Bajtra ("Baitra" - prickly pear).

 Hotels in Malta

Most visitors arrive with an accommodation and flights package booked with a tour operator, and this is usually the most economical way to visit Malta.

Hotels in Malta come in a wide range of styles and in all price brackets:

VALLETA has a big choice of accommodation, but nothing of high quality within the walls - arguably the best is charming but quite basic 3-star Hotel Castille, well-placed next to Barrakka Gardens. Just outside the walls (beside the bus station) is a refined and comfortable 5-star, the Hotel Phoenicia, with pleasant gardens, one of the best restaurants in town, and excellent breakfasts.
SLIEMA, within sight of Valletta and just across Marsamxett Harbour, is a resort area with several upmarket hotels, including Fortina Spa Hotel, one of the world's top spa hotels, with numerous treatments and fully-equipped ‘spa bedrooms’.
MDINA (pronounced Em-deena), as well as adjacent RABAT, has a range of accommodation too - including some smart, stylish boutique hotels.
MELLIEĦA (letter Ħ or ħ is like a slightly guttural H), on the north coast, is the place for good waterside facilities, reasonably priced hotels, family attractions and the best beaches.
BUGIBBA (pronounced bur-ji-ba), also on the north coast, has a budget, downmarket feel and some less expensive accommodation options.

 Must-see

 Valletta 
One of the grandest fortified cities in Europe, with a majestic harbour and handsome paved streets, often climbing steeply, lined with distinctively balconied buildings.
  On the mile-long central thoroughfare Republic Street, visit impressive St John’s Cathedral, with its stunning gilded Baroque interior -
an eye-popping treasure chest of gold and silver decoration and elaborate murals covering every inch of space. A side chapel houses paintings by Caravaggio (himself a Knight of St John), notably his 'Beheading of St. John'.
  The nearby Archaeological Museum displays a remarkable collection of prehistoric artefacts found on the island, a highlight being the tiny but perfect 5000-year-old Sleeping Lady, who appears to be reclining on a couch.
  At the Presidential Palace, sentries stand on guard outside and plaques honouring Malta adorn the front wall. The State Rooms are open to the public when not in use. And don’t miss the Grand Harbour views and noonday gun at Barraka Gardens.

 The Three Cities 
There’s nothing more enjoyable than a boat excursion along the Grand Harbour, enclosed by the majestic Venetian-style architecture of three separate waterside communities - Vittoriosa, Cospicua and Senglea.
www.visitmalta.com/en/the-three-cities

 Mdina 
The fortified medieval inland town of Mdina (pronounced Imdina), on the south-west side of the island, is Malta's atmospheric little former capital. The town has countless grand mansions along narrow, sinuous paved streets, wonderful views - especially from the ramparts - extending far across the island in every direction, and an interesting museum of Malta's history. For lunch or afternoon teas, Fontanella is the town's most popular, crowded outdoor cafe beautifully located on the ramparts, serving legendary cakes - but there are other places nearby if you prefer somewhere more tranquil. Best of all, come in the evening, when Mdina is elegant, quiet and romantic, a perfect place for a drink and a moonlight stroll.
www.visitmalta.com/en/mdina-and-rabat

 Tarxien Temples 
Vast megalithic structures dot the Maltese islands. Arguably the most impressive are  these four megalithic structures dating from 3600-2500 BC. They have rich stone carvings and reliefs, some showing domesticated animals, as well as altars, and decorated screens. Highlight is a chamber between the South and Central temples, with a carved relief of two bulls and a sow.
heritagemalta.org/museums-sites/tarxien-temples/

 Palazzo Pariso 
This grandiose historic palace at Naxxar in the centre of the island is a riot of over-the-top 19th-century interior design, with frescoes, marble, mirrors, gilding and trompes l’oeil. A private house today, it was once the residence of the Grand Master of the Knights of St John.
www.palazzoparisio.com

 Marsaxlokk 
The long quayside of this busy, working fishing village on Malta's southern tip curves around a pretty bay full of colourful, traditional boats. The next-door bay is one of the most industrialised spots in Malta, but that does not detract from the appeal of Marsaxlokk (pronounced Marsashlok). Every Sunday, the whole quay becomes a lively market with a festive atmosphere. Right behind the market stalls, the street becomes, from one end to the other, a long stretch of outdoor restaurant tables offering set menus of fresh fish or seafood or pizzas, pies etc.
Bus X86 runs direct from Valletta to Marsaxlokk (Sundays only).

 Gozo 
A 25-minute ferry crossing links Malta to neighbouring Gozo - properly called Għawdex (pronounced Owdesh) - , a much greener and quieter island, with good walking and diving. Boat excursions visit spectacular sea caverns, especially the Blue Grotto. On the island are among the world’s most ancient sites, the Ggantija temples.
  Gozo's hunting community sparked controversy in 2015 when Malta held a referendum on whether to end the tradition (unique in Europe) of shooting birds in spring while they are breeding, nest-building or migrating: the island of Malta voted to end the practice, but Gozo secured such a large majority for keeping it that it could not be banned. Hunting breeding and migrating birds remains popular in Gozo.
www.visitgozo.com
www.gozo.com
www.visitmalta.com/gozo

 In the Know

Shopping tip: If tempted by pretty Maltese glassware or lace, look out for bargain 'seconds' with greatly reduced prices for almost invisible blemishes.

 Events and festivals

Many villages on the Maltese islands celebrate local religious festivals, key dates being all the Sundays in June and July. Some saint's days are national holidays, such as the feast of Santa Marija in mid August. Fireworks often feature in celebrations. All sorts of landmarks in Malta's history are recalled, such as the annual re-enactment of the the presentation of the George Cross (14 April). A useful online guide to Malta's festivities is here. Events include...

Carnival
24-28 February 2017
Coloured floats, extravagant costumes and high energy entertainment. At Malta’s main nightlife centre, Paceville, carnival goers continue the celebrations in the clubs and bars, many wearing fancy-dress. Main events are in Valletta, but other communities across the island put on their own festivities. At Nadur, carnival has a magical, mysterious feel. In Gozo, carnival is centred on the main square of the capital Victoria.
www.visitmalta.com/en/carnival

Holy Week and Easter
7-16 April 2017
Fascinating religious traditions, pageantry and processions take place around Malta, especially in Valletta, where islanders crowd to mark the dramatic events central to Christian belief.
www.visitmalta.com/en/holy-week-and-easter

Malta Jazz Festival
20-22 July 2017 (tbc)
Malta's International Jazz Festival, on the third weekend in July, brings world-renowned players to play below Valletta's 16th-century ramparts and by the waters of Grand Harbour.
www.maltajazzfestival.org

Malta Air Show
23-24 September 2017
The annual International Malta Air Show, based at the airport, puts on a display of dazzling aerobatics in the blue skies above the island.
www.maltairshow.com

 Buy it

Handmade Maltese lace - beware of imitations and make sure the lace you buy is handmade.
Delicate, colourful little fans with lace trim
Silver filigree
Maltese glass – best producers are Mdina Glass and Imtarfa Glass. Both can be found at Ta Qali craft village, near Mdnina.

 After Dark

St Julians is the place for stylish entertainment and nightclubs. You'll find waterside bars and clubs in Paceville, north of Sliema.

 Flights to Malta

By air - About 30 airlines fly to Malta from cities all over Europe, including several budget operators.
  There are frequent flights from London and UK regional airports as well as Italy and Germany .
  Flight time from the UK is approx 3h15m.
www.maltairport.com

 Malta Basics

Where is it?
 Malta and its neighbour Gozo, with little Comino between them, are  Mediterranean islands 93km south of Sicily.
International phone dialling code:
 00 356 (+ drop initial 0 from local number)
Time zone:
 GMT/BST + 1 hour.
Money:
 Euro
(€).




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
^
Top

 



 

 

 


Search either the Focus Guides website or the whole Web

  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 

Google     
 
  Web Focus Guides  

Malta
Revised and updated January 2017.
All rights reserved worldwide.
Text © Focus Guides and Andrew Sanger.
Pictures © All courtesy of Malta Tourist Authority, except
Republic St, Valletta and Cafe Cordina, Valletta (both © Andrew Sanger).
Permission to use: This guide may be freely PRINTED ONLY for personal non-commercial use. Unless a LICENCE has been obtained it may not, in whole or in part, be COPIED nor used for any COMMERCIAL purpose.
**********
BUY  LICENCE
**********
^


Free one-page online travel guides by Andrew Sanger at Focus Guides (http://www.focusguides.com)
Avignon - Bruges - Brussels - Dublin - Eurostar cities - Jerusalem - The Hague - Lille - London - Lyon - Malta - Marseille - Nice - Oxford - Paris - San Francisco - Tel Aviv - Tunis - Verona - York