A WEEKEND IN MALTA
Before my trip to Malta at the end of March, I knew nothing about the country. I couldn't even pinpoint it on a map (it's in-between Sicily and North Africa in case you're wondering).
But after a brief visit over a long weekend, it's fair to say I know a little bit more and if you happen to be visiting this small but pretty island, then hopefully this will be of some guidance for anyone who's planning a short break. Despite it looking sunny and hot in these photos, it was actually super chilly in March - coats were required! If you're going to Malta, I think May onwards is the best time (I also think it's a place best enjoyed with some sunshine warming your backs in truth). Malta is a slow-pace kinda destination - from my personal experience, there's not a huge amount to do but enough to take your time over and spend a long weekend there.
We stayed in Valletta, the capital of Malta (which was recently awarded the European Capital of 2018). A walled city known for its museums, palaces and Baroque landmarks - so if that's your idea of a good dose of culture, then Malta might be for you. If not, then I'd maybe tell you to reconsider your plans. It is after all, a World Heritage Site.
Valletta isn't huge (no where in Malta is) so even after an afternoon, you'll definitely get a feel for the place. The main street in the capital is filled with restaurants, shops and pharmacy's aplenty - none of which really interested us so instead, we headed off on our own down the backstreets to explore and discover. Whilst we didn't find that much, we did see plenty of beautiful streets displaying the iconic Maltese balconies jutted out over the street - I think I photographed nearly every balcony going but they really were charming to see and unlike any architecture I've ever seen before.
Case and point below...
WHERE WE STAYED
We stayed at The Phoenicia which for anyone wanting to explore Valletta, is in the perfect location, just moment's from the city.
Our room was one of the hotel's Superior Rooms (a standard room for the hotel) which was nice enough without being anything to take your breath away. Decor was very simple but the authentic Maltese tiled floor made up for an otherwise minimal design and colour scheme. Beds were wonderfully comfy and the perfect retreat to come back to after long days walking and exploring the island. Room service also did the best chocolate cake you can ever ask for - a crucial test for every hotel from now on, surely?
Grounds were pleasant with a flower-filled walk way leading to a gorgeous pool setting, discreet and secluded, it's the perfect place to catch the sun's rays. It's definitely where we would have been should the weather have been up to sunbathing temperatures!
Breakfast is served in the hotel's main restaurant, Phoenix, which has to be the prettiest spot in the hotel by far. The wallpaper alone will have your jaw dropping. Breakfast is served buffet-style with plenty of healthy options to pick from (meaning that afternoon ice cream is less of a guilty indulgence!).
Being a 20 minute or so drive from the airport and so close to Valletta, The Phoenicia is a great choice for someone wanting ease and comfort in a pristine setting. It's not boutique or filled with a lot of character but certainly a great base for discovering Malta in.
Find out more here: www.campbellgrayhotels.com/the-phoenicia-malta
Dress - old H&M but some great red dress options here
/ Shoes - old (and very worn) Boden - the easiest and comfiest slip-ons that I'm not ready to part with just yet
THING TO SEE / DO
- Explore Valletta - wander the winding streets, dodge the tourists, visit Grand Master's Palace and St John's Co Cathedral (leave it later on in the day and the queues descend!)
- Grab an ice cream - Valletta was full of ice cream shops, you really can't go wrong!
- Visit Gozo - Sadly we didn't get the chance to visit Gozo on this trip (the concierge gave us the wrong information about how to get there which scuppered our plans for the day by the time we found out!) but if you do visit Malta, Gozo is worth visiting for its beautiful coastal landscape. Just make sure you check routes and operating times/days!
- Visit Mdina - Mdina is the old capital of Malta and is known as the Silent City. It's a walled city, quiet, small and very quaint with horse-drawn carriages patrolling the streets. St Paul's Cathedral is a beautiful piece of architecture and free to step inside
A FEW RESTAURANT RECOMMENDATIONS...
Restaurants in Malta can be a bit daunting trying to find a good one so here's a few to get you started. Even on a seemingly quiet time in March, there are some restaurants which you can't just walk in and sit down in (they're not overly big so only seat a certain number of people) so the best thing for you to do is book a day or two in advance, or if it's peak season when you go, plan a week ahead just to be on the safe side.
- Legligin - Cosy, family owned restaurant which serves only a set menu. Food is delicious and wine selection is great. It's also open on Sunday evenings (which isn't all that common in Malta!)
- Rubino - A gorgeous quaint restaurant serving traditional Maltese and Med food which changes daily.
- The Medina Restaurant - located in Mdina, it has a gorgeous courtyard that soaks up the sun. Though it doesn't say online, it's also open for lunch on Sundays
- Guzé - we didn't get to go here but really wanted to, another traditional Maltese restaurant which transports you to ye olde times.
- Fontanella Tea Gardens - a nice little rooftop trap that gets busy. They have every kind of cake going but warning - some are better than others! Perfect for a sugar fix.