Malta was one of those places that was sitting high on my bucket list since we moved to Europe. It just seemed like such a unique place with an interesting mix of cultures and a gorgeous landscape. And, I have to admit, there was just something about those cute balconies. When I finally visited, I ended up being most surprised at how ancient Malta is, how long it has been inhabited and how many empires have conquered it. Hearing the Maltese speak to each other (what I assumed was them deciding where they were going to meet for some cheeselets… more on cheese later) the language sounded like a mix of Arabic and Italian. I most enjoyed the British influences with the iconic red phone booths, pubs and even a Marks & Spencer.
Named the European Capital of Culture for 2018, Valletta was the clear choice for where we wanted to base our weekend stay in Malta. We got settled in our Airbnb in the capitol and my favorite city in Malta. Valletta makes for the perfect base to explore Malta because of its easy access to ferries and the main bus terminal.
Of the many restaurants and cafes in the area we choose Soul Food for lunch. This casual spot had nice sandwiches and a patio space along the pedestrian walkway. No. 43 was also a few doors down with a line out the door, so something good must be going on in there.
With the rest of the afternoon to explore, we took a ferry (less than $3 round trip) to Silema and walked along the waterfront promenade to St Julian’s. This is the resort area of Malta filled with Hiltons and rooftop pools with skyline views. We wandered and stayed long enough to have a drink by the waterfront, but this would be a good area if you’re after more of a resort experience.
We started our first full day by taking a bus over to the Blue Grotto. I don’t know why I wasn’t expecting this to be as big as it was. You know when you see photos of a place and just have an image in mind? Scale is always hard to call.
These huge stocks blooming from the inside of the agave plant are scattered along this area’s landscape. I was fascinated with these until I found out that they actually die after they bloom… and then it was just sad.
Just a short walk up from the Blue Lagoon on a cactus lined walkway you’ll find an ancient temple on the beautiful Maltese cliffside. If you’re not into a pile of really really old rocks (which honestly, I concede falling into this category and much prefer architecture and paintings), keep going on to Dingley cliffs.
It’s a very similar typography with a gorgeous coastline. We also saw a few hikers walk down from the temple to the coastline. I wish I had brought my Nikes.
From there, we continued on the bus to the city of Mdina. I usually tend to use public transportation over taxis or private tour companies. For two main reasons: the price and the people watching. There is definitely a time and place for Uber, but when that’s not an option public transportation is the perfect way to get a glimpse into the everyday life of a local.
If you’re a GOT fan like me, Mdina is a must. The gate of this walled city is where Kings Landing was filmed in the first season. You can also find Little Finger’s brothel inside the walled city. There are several cute restaurants inside with nice outdoor seating for lunch or a drink.
We headed back to Valletta to have dinner. If you do nothing else in Valletta (which would be a shame because the whole place is wonderful) you have to go to Trabuxu Wine Bistro and have the cheese plate. I’m allll about the cheese and if have happen to be gluten free like me, rejoice. Trabuxu had some of the best gluten free bread I’ve had. Their cheese plate was really more like a work of art… with fruit tucked into slices of meat folded like origami.
Our last day in Malta, we spent over on Gozo. Look, I’m not going to lie to you, the main reason we went to Gozo was to see the Azure window (sorry Gozo tourism board). Maltese, tourist and Game of Thrones fans alike mourned the loss of one of nature’s many beauties on the island in March when it collapsed.
These photos were taken just a week before and I’m so glad we didn’t wait to visit Malta. Even though it’s not there anymore, I’d still recommend visiting Gozo. However, I’d only do so if the weather is nice enough to swim or go to the beaches. We also spent some time in The Citadel in Victoria.
If you have time on the third day depending how much of Gozo you see, you could squeeze in one of the three cities or Popeyes Village. We didn’t have time, but I heard you can go on a boat tour around the harbor from Birgu for sights of the area from the sea. I’d feel wrong writing about Malta without mentioning that there’s another little island, Comino, sandwiched between Gozo and Malta. The official population is now only 3 after one person died this year. I get wanting a little peace and quiet, but that seems a bit too isolated. We were warned the island can get crowded in the summer with tourist flooding it’s gorgeous beaches and perfectly blue bay. Guess I’ll have to come back and see it to believe it!