We had just returned from Nairobi and settled into life in Barcelona when I started itching to go on another trip. With only a few months left in Europe, I am doing my best to use my Schengen visa to its maximum capacity!
I searched on the internet for ideas and one of the recommendations by Google Flights was Malta. Malta has been on my “travel list” (a never-ending list!) since last year when a friend went there. With the promise of warmer weather and sunshine (Malta is situated just south of Sicily in the Mediterranean) we chose Malta. Unfortunately for us, it was a windy and cold weekend.
For those less familiar with Malta, it’s been independent since 1964 and is the smallest country in the European Union. As it was previously under British rule, everyone speaks English. The locals also speak Maltese, which sounds like a cross between Arabic and Italian.
Despite having so much to offer, Malta remains one of the most underrated European destinations. There are plenty of historical sites, natural wonders and cultural experiences. Many places on Malta look straight out of ancient times — which is why parts Game of Thrones, Gladiator, and Troy were all filmed there.
This was what we did during the weekend:
After a 2 hour Vueling flight from Barcelona we arrived at Malta International Airport just after 1 pm on Friday. We had found a stunning Airbnb in Sliema and the host had arranged a taxi transfer from the airport. The drive to the apartment, despite only being 11km, took us a while due to traffic.
Sliema is one of the more modern areas of Malta, situated west of Valetta, with good hotels and dining options. With Sliema having a ferry terminal it is possible to access both Valletta and Gozo over sea too.
After checking into the apartment we headed for a stroll along the Sliema promenade and had a delicious Lebanese lunch at Kebabji.
The apartment was situated next to the Point Shopping Mall (Malta’s largest retail centre) so we stocked up on some basics and spent the afternoon relaxing. We decided to head to Valetta in the evening which was a 20 minute bus ride.
Valletta is the capital of Malta and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It has also been voted the European Capital of Culture for 2018. Valetta is a vibrant hilly city with colorful shutters on the windows of the old, beautifully structured buildings. The architecture transports you back in time and it is also home to St John’s Cathedral, ancient forts and many museums.
Our weekend in Malta coincided with the annual traditional carnival weekend and most of the central events were held in Valletta. We spent some time watching the parades taking place in the streets. There were trucks carrying giant colourful dolls, musical bands and both adults and children dressed in costumes. It certainly was a joyful atmosphere.
For dinner we went to Guze Bistro for some delicious traditional Mediterranean fare. The restaurant is set inside a stunning 16th-century building at the heart of Valletta and although we were fortunate to get a table without a reservation it is advised to rather make one.
Saturday was spent on Gozo – the quieter, lesser-known destination in Malta and the second largest island within the archipelago.
It does however have a lot to see including the Citadel in Rabat (also known as Victoria) – a beautiful fortified city, and the UNESCO World Heritage Ġgantija temples. Gozo was also home to the Azure Window rock formation (featured image of this blog post) – the magical place that everyone sees in photos and would flock to Malta for. Unfortunately, on the 8 March (about a week after my visit), it collapsed after a heavy storm.
After exploring Gozo we had a delicious late lunch at Ta’Karolina a restaurant tucked away in a secluded corner of Xlendi bay, before returning back to Sliema for a relaxing evening.
If you plan to visit Gozo, you need to set aside sufficient time as the traveling time alone is about 3 hours for a round trip (1,5 hours one way). Among the various means of transportation from Sliema is to either:
- Take a boat from Sliema ferry terminal
- Take a bus or taxi to Cirkewwa and then use the ferry
In restrospect, my recommendation would be to hire a car, drive to Cirkewwa and then take the ferry. This will allow you to have your own transport to visit Gozo as waiting for buses wastes a lot of time.
I awoke on Sunday to a very windy Sliema, and after an attempted jog along the promenade headed off to Marsaxlokk. Marsaxlokk is situated on the southeastern cost of Malta Island with a harbor full of traditional painted fishing boats (Iuzzu’s) which are taken out each day by the fishermen.
The bus trip which was meant to take an hour took a lot longer as a result of buses not arriving per schedule and the many stops along the way. Despite this I thoroughly enjoyed my morning in this cute and colourful fishing village.
If you visiting Malta over a weekend, I would recommend going to Marsaxlokk on a Sunday as it’s the only day when fish is sold directly to the general public by the fishermen from stalls. There is also a daily open-air market and some restaurants around the harbor.
I bought some delicious Maltese biscuits from the market and then took the bus to Mdina (via Valetta).
Mdina is an ancient walled city and was the former capital of Malta. It is perched atop a hill and along with its offering of historical architecture, the views are stunning. On my arrival in Mdina I was ravenous and had a late lunch at Trattoria AD 1530.
I rather enjoyed the few hours I spent strolling along the tiny passageways and exploring the city. Along with Marsaxlokk, Mdina was one of my top visits of the weekend, and not only because I had some delicious chocolate cake at Fontanella.
Adjoining, Mdina, the town of Rabat is home to some amazing catacombs which I unfortunately did not have time to visit
We decided to have a relaxed morning in Sliema before heading to the airport for our trip back to Barcelona. Once again, we had a transfer arranged and with no traffic this time it was a rather quick 15 minute drive.
I was rather impressed with the efficiency at the airport and also the selection at both Duty free and other shops for an airport of its size.
I had a relaxing weekend in Malta whilst still managing to see a lot of the island – there is certainly a lot to explore.
- Rent a car as this is probably the most efficient way to navigate Malta without spending too much time traveling from one spot to another. The island is not big, however a lot of time can be wasted waiting for buses. Bus rides are often long with many stops.
- Malta uses the three-pin rectangular plug system, as in the UK
- Great websites I used: