For the past five years, I tried to visit a new country each year. At 37 years old and with 193 countries out there, according to the United Nations, I have to work on this goal so I could at least explore half of the world before I become really old! This year, I’m adding the beautiful country of Malta to my list. That’s country #48 (#49 if you include Taiwan which is not officially recognized by many nations)!
I have to give credit to my husband for taking us to Malta. It would simply not cross my mind as I think of more exotic places in Asia, South America or Africa to add to my list. But as we were thinking of going somewhere for a week during our daughter’s two-week “ski” school vacation (in Switzerland to go skiing once a year is officially part of the school break), my husband suggested why not go somewhere warm like Malta. I didn’t know much about the country’s history and culture, but my husband convinced me by saying it’s a place I’ve never visited before. Me, thinking if I’ll be able to reach my goal before the year ends, jumped on the idea.
And what a beautiful little country! Located in the Mediterranean, Malta is comprised of three small islands: tiny Malta, teeny-weeny Gozo and miniscule Comino. This microstate of 420,000 inhabitants is the 10th smallest in the world, even Singapore is more than double its size. But what Malta lacks in size, it compensates in history and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It has the earth’s oldest megalithic temples, dating back 5,500 years ago, and is home to the Knights of Malta, the most important Christian military order during the Crusades and the Middle Ages. Many of Malta’s cities also maintain their old-world charm, with their fortifications still in tact.
I have to say I was very positively surprised by Malta. The people are incredibly friendly and I didn’t expect such picturesque towns. You could also easily and cheaply travel around the islands with an extensive public bus system connecting one township to the next. A daily bus ticket only costs €2.60! But beware, even though they’re small islands, without a map you might easily loose orientation and, obviously, many of the bus stops won’t indicate the tourist sights. We got lost once so later opted for the convenience of the Hop On/Hop Off bus. Otherwise, there are taxis or horse-drawn carriages. During this six-day trip, we mainly explored the southeastern island of Malta mostly because I was down with the flu for the first 1.5 days, boohoo! But I fret not. It’s a jewel of a place and I intend to go back!
where to stay
Hotel Phoenicia Malta — ♥♥♥♥
The Mall, Valletta FRN1478
* We had a fantastic deal at this five-store hotel, only €135.00/night for an Executive Room. We wanted to stay right in the heart of Valletta to experience the city and it’s surroundings and this hotel was the perfect place. It’s right next to the old town and central bus station, which extensively serves the whole island so you can literally go anywhere in Malta from here. Our room was newly renovated, tastefully furnished, spacious and had a nice view of the harbor. But due to the humidity and the type of metal used in the bathroom furnishings, you can see some rusting already.
Overall, we were very happy with the hotel and found the staff really friendly. There’s a spacious lounge with tango evenings, a brasserie and a fine-dining restaurant. Oh, and not to mention a very large garden! The hotel even invited guests to free cocktails on one evening. But if you’re an Internet junky, there’s only Wi-Fi in the communal areas, otherwise, you connect your laptop to a cable in the hotel room. Getting to the hotel was also relatively easy, only 15 minutes away from the airport. If you don’t fancy taking public transportation, you can reserve an airport transfer service for €22.00 per way or hop on the hotel shuttle for €7.00 per person/way.
where to eat
Tony’s Sicilia Bar and Restaurant — ♥♥♥♥
1a St. John Street, Valletta
* We found this place by accident walking around Valletta. Being in the Mediterranean, we were craving for seafood and our noses led us to this restaurant. As Maltese food is very bland, surprising considering the country is close to North Africa and was of strategic importance during the Middle Ages (but I guess the knights were more interested in Christianity than bringing back spices from the Middle East), fresh seafood is the way to go. I had a delicious hearty serving of grilled swordfish and a giant squid. Both were lightly garnished with garlic, herbs and lemon. Yum! But the best thing about this restaurant was the amazing view!
Hotel Phoenicia Malta — ♥♥♥♥
The Mall, Valletta FRN1478
* Travelling with a three year old, it’s sometimes hard to explore the restaurants. As our daughter is often tired at the end of the day from sightseeing, we often enjoy the hotel facilities anywhere we go. Malta was no exception. We ate breakfast in the hotel, had cocktails every evening in the lounge and stayed there for a light dinner; nothing fancy, we just ordered either a traditional Maltese Ftira, a burger, a club sandwich or the likes. Each was served with salad and fries. The drinks and food in the lounge were nothing extraordinary but the place was very convenient and practical for our needs.
Misto Sliema — ♥♥♥
18 Tigne Seafront, Sliema
* Right at Sliema’s harbor and ferry terminal is this little restaurant with friendly staff, reasonably priced dishes and free Wi-Fi. I had a delicious plate of spaghetti alle vongole that my daughter and I devoured to the last noodle! However, our starter of Asian platter (spring rolls and fried dumplings) was so-so.
Until my next post … take care!
Read: In and out of Valletta, Malta
Read: Glass making at Valletta Glass Factory
Read: Travelling around Malta by bus, boat or horse!
Read: The Megalithic Temples of Tarxien, Malta
Read: Fishing in Marsaxlokk, Malta
Read: The golden city of M’dina, Malta
Read: The enchanting Three Cities, Malta