Malta Love Letter

The immense, fortified harbor of Valletta is the vision most often associated with Malta–and it is there, in all its glory–but there is so much more. Recommend five full days here to explore its charm, history and grandeur.

STAY

  • Xara Palace (Mdina)–Our friend-who-lives-in-Malta describes the XP as “a lovely, old, classic palazzo hotel in the center of the oldest walled cities in Malta (& one of the oldest walled cities in Europe, pre-dating the Knights of Malta by at least 1,000 years).” He says it’s the best hotel in Malta. More important 😉, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie stayed here when in Malta. Big views of the countryside from nice hotel rooms. Lovely to walk around Mdina at night after the tourists leave. Mdina is a 30-minute taxi ride from Valletta. We stayed at this Relais & Chateaux hotel last month and loved it. (17 rooms)
FACADE

Xara Palace

  • Casa Ellul (Valletta)-Despite the tacky art in its lobby, this is an attractive hotel in Valletta’s center, near the main tourist sights. It is a member of the usually-great Small Luxury Hotels group and Mr. & Mrs. Smith like it, too. (8 suites)

SEE THE SIGHTS

Air Malta’s website provides an excellent overview of the sights to see. Here’s what Mimi’s Travel File recommends you do on your fabulous trip to lovely Malta…

Hire a guide to drive you around the beautiful countryside. The Xara Palace can arrange this.

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17th cent. chapel on dramatic Dingli Cliffs (image http://www.viewingmalta.com)

  • Walk along the Dingli Cliffs to see the small farming plots sweeping down to the beautiful rocky coastline…and be swept away to another time
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Hagar Qim Temple (image http://www.viewingmalta.com)

  • Visit 5,000 year old temples, like Mnajdra and Hagar Qim (above)!
  • See the beautiful Blue Grotto (below)…
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Blue Grotto (image http://www.viewingmalta.com)

  • Have your guide deposit you in Marsaxlokk, an old fishing village, for lunch at a restaurant on the harbor, filled with colorful fishing boats.
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Marsaxlokk (image http://www.viewingmalta.com)

  • Mdina-Spend the afternoon wandering around Mdina, the first capital of Malta and small enough to cover in an afternoon.

Mdina is a hilltop, walled, city fortified from as long ago as 1,000 BC by the Phoenicians. The Arabs arrived in the 9th century and named the town Medina (“medina” is Arabic for “walled city”).

Mdina 2

Mdina city gate (image http://www.viewingmalta.com)

Lots of beautiful buildings (17th cent. mansions of Maltese nobility), peaceful streets, serene feel…

Mdina

Mdina (image http://www.viewingmalta.com)

  • Valletta — Explore Malta’s clean, low-crime, very attractive capital city, Valletta (pop. 7,000)
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Valletta’s fortifications (image http://www.viewingmalta.com)

One of the first things you will notice about Malta is its massive forts, especially in Valletta. Due to its strategic location in the  middle of the Mediterranean and its deep, safe harbors, Malta has been fought over, time and again, for thousands of years.

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Valletta’s Grand Harbour (image http://www.viewingmalta.com)

The fortifications that can be seen today come from two distinct periods: those of the Knights of Malta and those of the British era. Visit the National War Museum at Ft. St. Elmo. Malta was awarded the St. George Cross for heroism by King George VI for having withstood over 3,000 air attacks during WWII…a far greater number than the air attacks experienced by London.

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Valletta: Prime Minister’s office building (image http://www.viewingmalta.com)

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Valletta: distinctive enclosed balconies on 16th & 17th cent. buildings (image http://www.viewingmalta.com)

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Valletta: Renzo Piano-designed Parliament Building (image http://www.viewingmalta.com)

Eat, Drink & Be Merry

For the scoop on Maltese cuisine (traditional meals, etc.), go to Air Malta’s website, as it provides detailed background info. The following were our favorites…

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view of Harbour Club from the water

  • The Harbour Club–Sitting right on Valletta’s grand harbor, this restaurant provides beautiful views, good food, attractive interior decor, indoor and outdoor seating, stylish & upscale…glorious!
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view from Harbour Club of the water

  • Trattoria da Pippo (136, Melita Street)-FUN, small, in the heart of Valletta, lots of locals lingering over tables of good food

Recommend five full days, as follows: There is so much more to see and do on the Maltese islands. I have merely scratched the surface of its fabulousness.

Day 1: Tour the countryside (SE & central Malta, including Marsaxlokk, pre-historic temples Hagar Qim and Mnajdra, Blue Grotto, and Dingli Cliffs); wander Mdina after tour

Day 2: Valletta

Day 3: Wander Vittoriosa, the city across harbor from Valletta

Day 4: Tour NE Malta, then hop evening ferry to Gozo & spend the night at either the Kempinski San Lawrenz Resort (Our friend-who-lives-in-Malta says, “I am told that the Kempinski is the best…& most attractive”) or Hotel Ta’Cenc (click through to view website)

Day 5: Explore Gozo (“small, easy-to-reach via a ferry every 15 minutes from mainland Malta; clean, well-managed island with authentic feel,” per our friend-who-lives-in-Malta)

-posted May 2016

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