In the best cities in Malta including Valletta, Rabat and Birgu
Holidays in Malta are packed with rich history, art and culture, brilliant bars and restaurants – we take a look at some of the best things to do in Valletta, Rabat, Birgu and more
Image: Getty Images)
Malta’s irresistible islands attract every traveler with their treasure trove of history, vibrant creative scene and laid-back Mediterranean lifestyle.
While some embark on culture-rich city breaks or fly in for festivals and club nights, others lose themselves in the fantasy of escaping to a sun-kissed island, eating local specialties by the sea and lounging by the hotel pool.
A mosaic of colors and cultures, many civilizations have left their mark on this archipelago – that’s what makes it so diverse and welcoming.
Brits see parts of their lives here, from left-hand traffic to the red phone boxes that evoke memories of a bygone time from home. Fluent English is spoken everywhere.
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After getting a taste, some miss it so much that they’re making a new life for themselves in the thriving expat communities here. A famous meeting place for Britons in Malta, The Pub is where Oliver Reed took his last drink and died while filming Gladiator.
When locals leave to see what the rest of the world has to offer, many are drawn back to their homes. After years of investing in creative industries, hotels, attractions and hospitality, their island is in great shape to put down lasting roots.
But it is Malta’s intense history that gives it its unique look and character that forms the backbone of its appeal. A much contested prize for centuries, it has had a succession of rulers including the Romans, Moors, Hospitallers, French and British, resulting in towering forts and watchtowers scattered across the island.
Equally appealing is its art and architecture. Valletta, the UNESCO-recognized capital of Malta, is filled with opulent palaces and ornate churches full of spectacular interiors and important collections.
Painted scenes of the Great Siege of the 16th century can be seen in the state rooms of the Grand Master’s Palace.
St. John’s Co-Cathedral Museum, built by the Knights of Saint John in the 16th century, has exquisite gilded rooms, marble floors and painted vaulted ceilings. The oratorio features two original masterpieces by Caravaggio, The Entheading Of Saint John the Baptist and Saint Jerome Writing.
Revitalized as a center for contemporary art and design, Valletta was crowned European Capital of Culture in 2018 and features a number of pioneering galleries and creative spaces.
Food for thought awaits at MUZA, where interactive multimedia installations sit alongside centuries-old pieces.
Valletta Contemporary is an exhibition space and art gallery set in a 400-year-old warehouse that showcases creative trailblazers like Maltese artist Kane Cali, who explores form through modern glassmaking and ceramics.
Head west to Rabat, just outside the ancient capital of Mdina, where narrow streets lined with ornate churches and palaces have become a magnet for creatives, including ceramics expert Sue Mifsud.
Originally from Birmingham, she fell in love with a Maltese – and the island. In her studio, she works with clay imported from Stoke-on-Trent to create unique yet functional pieces, from flower pots to chess pieces, which are sold in shops across the island (www.suemifsud.com).
Also in Rabat is the Malta-born artist Stephanie Borg, who lived in Florida, Italy and Oman before returning to the island in 2008.
Her bold, collectible pieces and meticulous ink drawings are inspired by everyday Maltese life, from the ornate doors and tiles in towns and villages to the locals going about their routines (stephanieborg.com).
As you travel around the island, you are also likely to see the creations of designer Marco Parascandalo, who hails from the Maltese town of Birgu and is worn by Malta’s fashionistas.
After being taught to sew by a drag queen in London, he returned to the island to create collections of durable streetwear and accessories that incorporate aspects of Maltese culture, politics and environmental issues (parascandalo.net).
At just 14km wide and 27km long, it’s easy to navigate the vast array of sights and attractions.
Tick off historical sights like the Maritime Museum, housed in a former naval bakery in Birgu. It traces 7,000 years of maritime history, houses 20,000 artefacts and is the island’s largest museum.
Game of Thrones fans may want to walk through the Mdina Gate, the entrance to the “Silent City” that was also the gateway to King’s Landing.
For a sumptuous feast in great surroundings, head to the Xara Palace, a 17th-century Relais & Chateaux converted into a palazzo, within Mdina’s city walls. This is where you’ll find Trattoria AD 1530, which serves many must-order Mediterranean flavors like falafel, calamari fritti, burrata, and beef carpaccio.
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During my visit, I stayed at the five-star Hotel Phenicia, which sits just outside of Valletta’s 16th-century bastions and is surrounded by lush landscaped gardens. A Maltese icon with a grand red carpeted entrance, the classic Palm Court Lounge and a lavish infinity pool, it’s the perfect place to plan your days of cocktails and dinners.
Be it excursions to the coast to find dreamy lagoons and dive sites or to explore the cathedral-filled cities and colonized places, Malta is an island of brilliant ideas.
Book the vacation
Stay here: Rooms at The Phenicia Hotel in Valletta, Malta start at around £102 per night on a room-only basis. Learn more at phoeniciamalta.com.
Arrive: British Airways flies from Gatwick to Malta from £46 each way. Learn more at www.britishairways.com.
More information: Go to visitmalta.com.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/travel/europe/inside-maltas-best-cities-towns-26558950 In the best cities in Malta including Valletta, Rabat and Birgu