Bookworm book count: 25
Put Malta on your to do list – immediately.
Beaches (well stony ones – but amazing warm water), history, fabulous weather, great restaurants – it has it all going on. It is the most densely populated country in Europe and the definition of a city here means that you can leave one and enter another without even realizing you have. When given directions, the Maltese will say, “turn left at the tree”. You will think – how will I know which tree, but it will be obvious as it will be the only tree for miles. It’s a lot of rock and it’s hot – hence its nickname the hot rock.
We spent two nights in Valetta, the capital and the hub before moving to St Julians, a more modern resort area.
Firstly Valetta. We had spent a day here already on the cruise, so chose to approach things in a more relaxed manner for our shore based stay. Valetta is a tiny walled city built in the 1500’s by the Knights of the Order of St John. Named after its founder Jean Parisot de la Valette. It is so packed full of history it literally blows your mind. If you love history, then Malta is like an all you can eat buffet. You’ll leave the table absolutely full up.
We stayed at a fantastically located hotel, The Phoenicia (full credit to the husband for selecting it), right at the city gates, meaning you could pop in and out, see what you , wanted to see and return to the hotel and get out of the sun, or swim in the pool. Charlotte has made great used of the pool. I think we clocked 5 hours in the water one day. The pool looks out at the 500 year old wall of Valetta and across to the city of Silema.
Valetta is the home to St John’s Co-Cathedral and should not be missed. It is where you will find famous artistic masterpieces by Caraviaggio (apparently the only one he ever signed) and Mattia Preti. I’m certain that it was completely lost on the small person – but as she would say – whatever. It was however superb and you should not leave Malta without paying the 10 Euro’s to see it – kids are free, so the fact that it is lost on them will at least not have cost you anything.
Malta itself is home to 325 churches (it is almost one church to every 1000 inhabitants) they are all stunning and they are everywhere in Valetta. We stumbled on several lovely examples without meaning to. You can’t get lost as the city is small and very well planned, so aimless wandering is to be encouraged.
Strait Street has the cutest restaurants and is the place to be at night, Republic Street is the main drag and lovely to wander along in the evening – or if shopping is your thing, then that is where you will find the main shops. Make sure you stop at Amorino and get your rose shaped gelato. (they are not unique to Malta – we just discovered them here!). Definitely worth the expense. So much so that we had one each day.
It is best you explore the city on foot – it is not a large space and it is easy to navigate – it is however hot in July – so you need to be prepared for mid 30’s. For that reason, May and September are more popular months to visit. But early starts and evenings are wonderful – another reason to stay nearby.
If you arrive on a cruise ship – you get to the city via elevator and enter the Barracca Gardens. It is a pretty garden and an impressive view back to what is known as the Grand Harbour and the 3 Cities that lie on the other side. (You can take a short ferry ride across to Cospicua for 2.80 Euro return. It’s worth it – even if you come straight back).
Charlotte loved the cats amongst the pigeons when we wandered there in the morning when the collection of resident cats were being fed.
If you are here with children, then you will need to manage the heat and one way to do that is to pop to Baker Street and go to the 5D Malta theatre. It is a full history of the island presented in a unique way that captures their imagination and holds their attention. It isn’t cheap (9 Euros for 24 minutes) but it did help set the scene for where we were and for once Charlotte acted like she was impressed.
Malta has 1000’s of years of history so there is no end of things to see. The oldest is the Hypogeum that dates to 4000BC and was discovered in 1902 during construction works. It is thought to be a temple to the fertility gods. It is entirely underground – but be warned book tickets several months before you travel here – we didn’t so we missed out. Only 10 visitors an hour are allowed inside and it is only open for 8 hours each day. You need to be super organized to see it.
The history doesn’t stop there. Malta has also seen it’s share of brutal battels from the Turks to the Nazi’s but has always held its ground. The fort like structures and walls are evident, especially in Valetta.
The entire island nation was awarded the George Cross for bravery for their efforts during the Second World War – its why you see it on the flag of Malta. Under the town is a network of tunnels where the citizens took shelter from aerial attacks.
Valetta is busy, but as soon as the cruise boats depart, it takes on a whole new life at night. Cooler and lit beautifully, exploring the same places all over again is like entering a new but familiar place. Outdoor tables spring up, music starts and strolling through the stunning alley ways is a fantastic way to discover what Valetta is really all about.
You can head down the elevator (or as we discovered use the free one in the local car park) to the waterfront and there are a series of other eating options. Without the cruise boat blocking the view, it is a stunning place to sit and have a beer or a meal – its touristy however, so expect that to be reflected in the choices and prices.
After 3 days immersed in all that history it was lovely to spend another 2 nights in the infinitely more laid back St Julien’s. This part of Malta is all about resorts, night life and chilling. So, it was the perfect way to reward Charlotte for tolerating so much sightseeing so far. We have spent two days poolside, with a good friend who flew in from London to say hi.
It is not what Malta is all about – but when traveling with small people, it is a pretty good option. You can swim, explore the coast line and catch your breath. Next stop Sicily!
Highlights from small heights
Lets just start with the three things Mum got wrong.
1. How can she say the water was warm when she didn’t even touch it. (Mum – I did!)
2. It was four hours we spent at the pool that day and
3. We didn’t just get one ice cream we got four.
Total failure on Mum’s part.
Anyway I myself don’t recall much history-just a very annoyning 5D video, which kept on shaking my seat and spraying me with water, which I don’t recall enjoying thanks very much Mum.
Mostly Valetta land was just a place where we wandered around streets which Mum called cute and I yawned at. Oh and there was amazing ice cream. Thats pretty much Valetta in two sentences.
Now about St. Julian. Required for relaxation. Thats it in just three words.
St.Julians fun rating: 9 out of 10.
Improvement tip: Cool down so Mum doesn’t make me wear sun block.
Valetta fun rating: 5 out of 10
Improvement tip: Become what Mum raves you are.
Charlotte’s two top tips:
Use the pool so you actually do spend five hours there (Valetta) and go there (St. Julians)