Malta is the largest of three small islands in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Gozo and Comino are the other two islands. All three together constitute the Republic of Malta. The Republic is tiny but it has many attractions.
Malta’s pleasant Mediterranean climate, proximity to the sea, exciting nightlife and exotic cuisine, an abundance of comfortable hotels, elegant old buildings, various historic sites and – on top of everything – the hospitality of warm-hearted islanders make Malta an enchanting tourist destination.
Epitome of the Mediterranean
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Being under North African and Arabic influences over many centuries and also being close to Sicily, Malta has acquired many unique features which may appear to be almost quirky. It’s this delightful idiosyncrasy that attracts travelers to this island nation throughout the year. There are many other places in Europe and Africa bordering the Mediterranean, but none can match Malta’s inimitable charms.
Maltese Towns and Resorts
Besides Malta’s capital Valletta, other main resorts are St Julian’s, Marsalforn and Xlendi. Medieval fortified towns of Mdina, Cittadella, and Gozo are Malta’s historical towns.
Malta’s Capital Valletta
World Heritage Site:
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Malta’s capital Valletta is a fortified town and looks like an open air museum with many magnificent cathedrals and small elegant chapels. UNESCO has designated it a World Heritage Site. The town’s main historical sights are located around the “pedestrians only” main thoroughfare, Republic Street.
St John’s Co-Cathedral:
The first landmark on this street is the National Museum of Archaeology which has a collection of Malta’s archaeological artifacts. Walk further down and you will find just off the street the most important example of Baroque art and architecture. It’s the magnificent St John’s Co-Cathedral built by the Knights of Malta in 1570s.
The Presidential Palace:
The other magnificent building on the Republic Street is the slightly older Presidential Palace with its opulent State Rooms. It was first built as the Palace for Malta’s first Grandmaster. Subsequent Grandmasters carried out massive alterations and additions to the original structure until it looked as opulent and grandiose as we see it now.
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The enormous Palace complex is now the seat of the Republic’s Parliament as also the official residence of its President. Parts of the Palace are open to the public except on Thursdays and it costs €10 per head to enter.
As you continue to walk along the Republic Street you will notice that massive historical buildings are becoming less frequent after the Palace. The lower end of the street gradually becomes more residential. Few attractions of historical importance can still be found as the street comes to an end near St Elmo Fort. Please look upwards to see the amazing wooden balconies protruding from some of these buildings.
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There are delightful open air cafes in the large Queen’s Square halfway down the Republic Street. Spend some time here, watching people and sipping coffee or whatever you like. Malta’s National Library is visible from here. It’s housed in the last public building that the Knights had built in 1650.
Valletta’s nightlife is limited to a few bars. Go to Jubilee, Trabuxu or the trendy 222 for some evening drinks followed by a delicious dinner in one of the chic restaurants.
There are many hotels. Following are only a few of those. Deal directly with hotels for possible discounts or special package.
Located in the heart of Valletta and close to major tourist attractions. Guestrooms are tastefully furnished and equipped with satellite television and direct dial telephone.
Le Meridien Phoenicia Hotel:
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Located in a central position just outside the city walls with splendid views of Marsamxett Harbor and the magnificent fortifications of the town. It has 136 tastefully furnished guestrooms, all equipped with air-conditioning, telephone, mini-bar, internet connection, and all other amenities expected from a 5-star hotel.
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Housed in a renovated 16th century building that was originally built probably for the use of the Knights of Malta. It has a lot of old-world charms. Its 54 guestrooms are beautifully furnished and equipped with all modern facilities.
Excelsior Grand Hotel:
Another great 5-star hotel facing the sea. It has all the facilities – including a large swimming pool, a fitness center and a Spa – to pamper its discerning guests.
St Julian’s Town
St Julian’s is close to Valletta and takes about 15 minutes by public bus costing half a euro. Taxis are easily available. This is the town which has the largest concentration of hotels and restaurants. Malta’s best and most expensive luxury hotels are located along the picturesque Spinola Bay dominated by the Portomaso Tower, Malta’s tallest building.
The Hilton Malta, on the seafront, is the perfect place to stay. It has its own beach club that remains open in the summer. There are plenty of water sports activities throughout the year. The bustling nightlife district of Paceville and the fashionable Sliema neighborhood are close by.
Paceville, in the heart of the town, is Malta’s nightlife capital. It has a labyrinth of narrow streets lined with great clubs, sushi and wine bars, cinemas and casinos. It’s illegal to keep nightspots open beyond 4 O’clock in the morning. But parties continue in the streets till sunrise.
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Some buildings on the shore and a number of old boathouses that once served the local fishing community have been converted into romantic restaurants serving delectable seafood. Take your companion along if you aren’t traveling alone.
St George’s Beach:
It’s a small sandy beach that foreign travelers love to visit at all times of day and night. There are some upscale hotels here as also a fashionable bar and restaurant called Paranga that’s ideal for starting a night of partying.
Gozo is the second largest Island, separated from Malta by a five kilometer stretch of sea. It’s so close to Malta and yet so different. With its rolling hills and mostly pastoral landscape Gozo looks wonderful. Gotzitans are mostly fishermen or involved in various agricultural activities.
Gozo has 22 spectacular churches. The Xewkija church can accommodate 3000 worshippers at a time, more than the total population of Xewkija village. Its dome is larger than London’s St Paul’s Cathedral. This island is also famous for the site of Ggantija temples which are the world’s oldest religious structures believed to be built around 3500 BC.
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Comino is really tiny and has only eight regular inhabitants. This is a place either to sit back and relax or indulge in varieties of water sports such as swimming, snorkeling, diving – especially at night – and wind surfing. There is no traffic on the island and no noise either except the gentle roar of the sea. There is, however, a modern hotel here for pampering guests who want temporary escape from the vibrancy of the larger Islands. A 17th century watchtower and a few small bays like the Blue Lagoon are the island’s main attractions.
Getting Around Malta
Malta’s efficient road transport agency, known as ADT, has replaced the railway a century ago. You can go practically anywhere you like by bus. There are frequent ferries to Gozo and Comino. Car rentals are available everywhere. Or, if you are a romantic and have the time, take the slow road and travel in a horse-drawn carriage.
Plan your next holiday in Malta and have a wonderful time.