Wandering In Valletta
Valletta, the capital city of Malta is a treasure trove of historic scenes, café culture and one-of-a-kind shops. This majestic fortress city is riddled with Renaissance cathedrals, Baroque palaces and some of Europe’s finest art work. The Upper Barrakka gardens offer a panoramic view of the Grand Harbor, whilst St John’s Co-Cathedral is a paragon of Baroque design. Valletta is a hub of bustling eateries and wine bars, many of which showcase Malta’s local traditional specialities and distinctive cross of north, east and west Mediterranean influences
St John’s Co-Cathedral
Built as the conventual church for the Knights of St John between 1573 and 1578, St John’s Co-Cathedral is filled with works of enormous artistic value in the forms of donations and gifts from The Grand Masters and knights at that time. It houses some of the world’s most beautiful works of art, including several important works by Caravaggio, including the only painting that has actually been signed by the artist himself.
Hagar Qim and Mnajdra Temples
Malta boasts more UNESCO heritage and archaeological sites per square mile than anywhere else in Europe. Temples and structures that date back to Prehistoric age, Malta’s archaeological sites give a fascinating insight into religion and everyday life thousands of years ago.
The temple of Hagar Qim (c. 3600 - 3200BC) is definitely worth a visit. Various items of interest have been unearthed at Hagar Qim, including a decorated pillar altar, two table-altars and some of the famous ‘fat lady’ statues. Mnajdra, situated within a short distance of Hagar Qim is an atmospheric and isolated temple tucked in a hollow in the cliffs on Malta’s southern coast.
The medieval walled town of Mdina, known as the ‘Silent City’, is just thirty minutes away from Valletta. Mdina was first inhabited by the Phoenicians in 700BC. Two hundred metres about sea level, the views from the fortified bastions of Mdina are as striking as the churches, palaces and noble houses within its walls.
Malta is a favorite among international divers and snorkelers. It is regarded by many as one of the top diving destinations in the Mediterranean. Malta’s safe clear waters – there are no tides or dangerous currents - warm sea temperatures, beautiful underwater wrecks and reefs means that diving is a must-do activity when visiting the islands. Boasting centres with up-to-date equipment, internationally certified instructors and competitively priced dive schools mean that experts and beginners alike will never be disappointed.
Malta’s sister island is Gozo. With mapped out routes that take you past picturesque beaches, historic sites, beautiful churches and quaint villages, Gozo offers something to walkers of all levels.
Ramla Bay, known in Maltese as Ramla il-Hamra (‘Red Sands’) is an expanse of crimson tinged sand on the northern side of the island. Calypso’s Cave, is alleged to be the cave where the beautiful nymph lived, as referred to by Homer in The Odyssey. The village of Saint Lawrence is where you will be able to witness the famous Azure Window, a spectacular natural arch in the rugged coast overlooking the sea. This natural world wonder is expected to disappear in the next few years due to natural erosion.
Malta’s cuisine is distinctive, delicious and diverse. Taking its influences from the many other cultures and nationalities that had visited and settled on the island, Malta’s culinary output combines Mediterranean styles with influences from Italy, North Africa, and the Middle-East.
Visitors will be delighted by Malta’s eclectic mix of award-winning restaurants, al fresco dining, and beautiful locations. St. Julian’s, in particular, is a hub of sophisticated waterfront restaurants and chic and stylish eateries, many of which showcase Malta’s local traditional specialities and distinctive influences, while using modern techniques, styles and the finest ingredients. Other high-end hot spots can be found in the surrounding areas of Portomaso, with exclusive indoor and outdoor venues.
The best way to appreciate the Maltese Islands is by boat. Comino, the smallest of the islands situated between Malta and Gozo, is home to the iridescent blue waters of the Blue Lagoon. Comino is named after the Cumin herb that used to grow abundantly here. There are regular day trips by boat leaving from Malta and Gozo, which give you the opportunity to explore beautiful coves and secluded beaches. Private charter yachts with or without catering are also available for those preferring a more intimate cruise.
The Maltese Islands offer a safe and fun environment for all the family to enjoy. From waterslides and waterparks in Bahar ic-caghaq and Bugibba, to nature reserves, bird parks, train rides through historical parts of Rabat and Mdina, to fun magnificent re-enactments played out in period costumes, everything in Malta is built around the cultural tradition of the family. Traditional festas and several open-air concerts add to the allure of these friendly islands. There is always something to keep the young and even younger at heart very happy. The year 2013 witnessed the opening of a National Aquarium which brings its visitors right up close to several common and rare marine species that live in Maltese waters and throughout the Mediterranean Sea.
Malta and Gozo bring diverse shopping experiences, from village curiosity shops, to the most popular labels known today, at yesterday’s prices. Shopping Malls have also become popular one stop areas, where shopping can be turned into an entire outing for the day, with restaurants, snack bars and juice bars to keep one going. Among the newest malls are The Point in Sliema, Baystreet Shopping Mall in St Julians and Daniels in Hamrun.
Religious and traditional celebrations
Full of history and tradition, Malta celebrates religious events with passion and fireworks. Age-old traditions unfold the characteristic Maltese spirit with numerous festivals, feasts and cultural events throughout the year.
The ‘festa’ season, however, takes place nearly every weekend from the end of May until September. During this time, each town and village takes its turn to celebrate a patron saint, decorating their buildings with flags, statues, pictures, lights and banners. Traditional food, sweet delicacies and wine are abundant. Very often a local family will invite you into their homes. Food, agricultural and other festivals are also held throughout the year.
Easter and Christmas time are also ideal times to visit. Churches and towns go all out to celebrate these auspicious feast days. Malta’s Fireworks festival, which takes place at the end of April over the Grand Harbour in Valletta, is also not to be missed.
Log on to www.visitmalta.com for more detailed information on Malta and Gozo and for a full calendar of events throughout the year.