Home Travel blog City breaks in Malta: the essential guide

City breaks in Malta: the essential guide

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Malta experiences around 300 sunny days a year, so it’s the perfect place for a restorative city break. Its beautiful towns are full of medieval buildings and fantastic restaurants, and their modest dimensions make them ideal for leisurely exploration on foot.

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The fascinating cities of Malta

Valletta

The capital of Malta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has some 320 historical monuments for travelers to discover. With only 80 hectares, it is an easy town to explore on foot, but full of fascinating attractions to discover, from the 450-year-old St.John’s Co-Cathedral to the beautiful Upper Barrakka Gardens, which offer fantastic views of the Grand Port.

Mdina

Malta’s original capital still has its impressive medieval walls, and its origins date back around 4,000 years. The city is dotted with impressive palaces, like the medieval Palazzo Falson, and is home to the magnificent St. Paul’s Cathedral, which is said to have been built on the site of a Roman villa in which St. Paul stayed.

Victoria

Victoria is the capital of Malta’s neighboring island Gozo. It is crowned by the Cittadella, a fortified citadel that dates back to medieval times, although the site has been inhabited since the Bronze Age. The city is home to many theaters and museums, such as the Heart of Gozo, which traces the history of the island from prehistoric times to the 20th century.

The three cities

Birgu, Senglea and Cospicua form Les Trois Cités, right next to the capital Valletta. These walled towns form a maze of narrow streets ready to be explored and full of restaurants, bars and boutique hotels to discover. The towns themselves date back to the 16th century, when they were built by the Knights of St. John.

LGBTQ + Malta

Malta is one of the most LGBT + friendly destinations in Europe – it is ranked number one by ILGA-Europe for its equality laws and policies. At the end of summer each year, Malta Pride Week sees a cavalcade of parties and events across the island. With events on offer including boat parties, soccer tournament, fashion show, cabaret and the Pride concert, as well as the all-important Pride March. Longer term, Malta will host EuroPride 2023

Five must-see restaurants

Panorama, Valletta

As the name suggests, Panorama offers a breathtaking view of the Grand Port of Valletta. You can enjoy an aperitif from the vast collection of whiskey and gin while soaking up the view from the comfort of an armchair in the lounge area; then head to the restaurant itself for a Mediterranean dining experience prepared by Sicilian chef Massimo Marino.

Noni, Valletta

Noni is wonderfully atmospheric thanks to its stone vaults, cast iron doors and unpretentious exterior, complete with a repurposed panel that reminds you that this historic site was once a bakery. Chef Jonathan ‘Noni’ Brincat learned his craft in luxury London restaurants before returning to Malta, and his wonderful menu features Maltese and Mediterranean flavors, with a touch of French cuisine. The restaurant was recently awarded a Michelin star.

Cave Tavern, Mdina

It’s not often that you come across a restaurant nestled in a 2,000 year old cave. Beyond the usual Grotto dining rooms, just deep inside the premises, is an atmospheric candlelit cave where you can enjoy a memorable meal based on modern Mediterranean cuisine.

Patrick’s Lounge and Steakhouse, Victoria

Patrick’s is famous for its fantastic selection of wines, with a cellar containing over 1,500 bottles, and its wine list has won over a dozen awards since the restaurant opened in 2003. Patrick’s is famous for its excellent steaks grilled, but the a la carte menu also covers a wide range of dishes, from quail to fresh fish.

Nenu L’Artisan Boulanger, Valletta

This family business consists of a lovingly restored old bakery as well as a restaurant and bar. The aim is to showcase the art of baking, and the owners take pride in their traditional Maltese recipes, such as the ftira, a sourdough Maltese bread that is often eaten with toppings such as tuna, tomatoes, capers and olives.

Five must-see attractions

St. John’s Co-Cathedral, Valletta

This magnificent Baroque cathedral was built for the Knights of St. John and completed in 1578. The interior is a riot of gold, with apparently all surfaces covered with some sort of ornamentation, but the greatest treasure of the cathedral is undoubtedly his enormous painting of John the Baptist by Caravaggio. And if you’re wondering about the odd title, it was named a “co-cathedral” in 1816 by papal decree to give it the same status as St. Paul’s Cathedral in Mdina.

Falson Palace, Mdina

Mdina is home to many grandiose buildings and historical monuments, of which this medieval palace is just one example. Thought to have been built for the Maltese nobility in 1495, Palazzo Falson is one of the oldest buildings in Mdina and was home to 20th-century artist and philanthropist Olof Frederick Gollcher, who restored the building. It is now home to Gollcher’s art collection, which visitors can explore through a self-guided audio tour.

Birgu, the three cities

Also known as Vittoriosa, Birgu is a wonderful place to take a walk. Even though it’s barely a kilometer long, the narrow streets of Birgu are home to all kinds of curiosities, from the impressive Fort St Angelo – seat of the Knights of St. John – to the Inquisitor’s Palace with its rich history and sometimes sinister. And there are many more churches, historic buildings and museums to discover along its beautiful winding streets.

Cittadelle, Victoria

La Cittadella, sometimes referred to as Il-Kastell, overlooks the town of Victoria on the island of Gozo. This impressive walled fortress dates from around the 15th century, but the site has been built since Roman times and was probably inhabited long before that. Inside you’ll find the Assumption Cathedral along with several museums to explore, but the main attraction is probably the stunning views it offers of the island and the sea beyond.


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