The historic archipelago of Malta has always been an attractive destination for expanding empires and defending armies. Its location between Europe and Africa guaranteed the now independent country was never short of visitors, from the Phoenicians to the Knights of St John. But now Malta welcomes you to explore the rich tapestry of its history while enjoying all the standards of a city break or a beach holiday.
The capital city of Valletta, known as the Fortress City, is Europe’s southernmost and smallest capital city. Start your exploration by exploring St John’s Co-Cathedral and Museum and if you’re hungry for even more history venture underground at Neolithic subterranean structure, The house of Saflieni Hypogeum in nearby Paola. Back on ground level don’t get a fright if you hear some canon firing, it doesn’t mean the island is under siege yet again. Every day at 12 noon and 4pm the Maltese honour their military significance by shooting cannon from the cannon battery located in the Barrakka gardens overlooking the grand harbour. Across the water from Valletta lie the three cities Birgu, Isla and Bormla. All three are worth a visit but Birgu is most tourist friendly with the Malta Maritime Museum and Fort St Angelo to discover.
Furter inland you’ll find the ancient medieval city of Mdina, known as the Silent City as the only cars allowed are those belonging to its 300 residents. The former capital of the island, Mdina is home to St Pauls Cathedral and is the perfect size city for a walking tour. You will have to get back in your rental car of avail of the island’s excellent bus routes to travel further north to the traditional village of Mellieha, where you’ll also find Malta’s largest sandy beach Mellieha Bay. Kids of all ages might like to make a stop along the way at the Popeye Village Theme Park. Built as the set of the 1980 movie starring Robin Williams as the spinach eating sailor, the park offers rides, shows and playhouses for younger visitors. And after all the excitement, relax on the blue flag beach of Golden Bay, famed for its red sand and naturally formed dunes.
For another hit of history, head for the free standing worshipping megalithic temples of Hagar Qim, part of the larger archaeological park of Mnajdra. Or if you’re after some envy inducing Instagram pics spend an afternoon at the traditional fishing village of Marsaxlokk, where pretty painted boats line the marina. It’s still impossible to escape the history however, as the village is dotted with World War II military outposts, built by the British to protect the harbour from invading forces.
If you want to hit the dancefloor while in Malta, your best bets are the town of St Julians where nightclubs, bars and restaurants line the street of Paceville or the seaside town of Sliema, famed for its wine bars.
And just when you think you’ve seen all there is to see in Malta, there’s a whole other island to explore. Hop on over to the beautiful, smaller island of Gozo, know for it’s rolling hills, country walks and as a favourite amongst scuba divers. For decades the iconic naturally formed rock formation, The Azure Window, was Malta’s calling card to the rest of the world. But sadly it has partially collapsed following a storm in 2017 but it is still a sight to behold, as are the Wied il-Mielah Window and the The Dwejra Inland Sea. A day at sea is a must on Gozo, try your hand at scuba diving in The Blue Lagoon or opt for the less submersive option of a boat ride to enjoy the stunning sights.
And for one last history lesson before you head home, walk in the footsteps of giants at the The Neolithic Gganita Temples. Thought to be the world’s oldest religious structures, local legend has it that the temples where built by giants in 3600 BC.
All that activity is bound to work up an appetite and when looking for a quick and fulfilling snack in Malta, try the local Pastizzi, baked filo pastry filled with ricotta or curried peas. For something a little heartier, the national dish is Stuffatt Tal-Fenek, a rabbit stew promoted by the Romans as the source of beauty for Maltese women.
Malta is fascinating island country with an abundance of historic significance and innate charm. It is the perfect destination for the holidaymaker who wants a little bit of everything within easy reach, a moderate climate reaching low 30s and a truly unique experience.