Malta is absolutely the destination for your 10 day break if you love a mix of classic beaches, wild swimming and picture perfect towns to get lost in. For anyone like me, who can’t sit still on the beach for an entire fortnight, Malta offers cobbled streets and film-worthy history as well as other worldly landscapes. Best of all, its teeny tiny size means you can base yourself wherever you like and still have countless adventures each day with the aid of a hire car.
1 week on the Island Malta
Malta’s capital is enchanting. You can stay in a whole host of beautiful hotels in Valletta itself, but why not stay in the historic Three Cities, which neighbour the capital and are a delightful ferry ride area. Gliding in Valletta by boat definitely sets the slower holiday pace for your gentle meandering around the city streets and still doesn’t take too long. We stayed in a historic stone townhouse, converted with gorgeous interiors and rented out on AirBnb.
Take at least a day to explore Valletta itself. Grab a map from tourist information and admire the beautiful buildings, instagrammable door knockers and picturesque piazzas. We loved the intimate Manoel Theatre, with all the beautiful opera costumes throughout the ages. I took a million photos on Strait Street, the old red light district, which has preserved many of the vintage signs. There are also a plethora of 5D experiences popping up, which for a novelty fiend like me, is the ideal. Summer is HOT aka the perfect excuse for many iced coffees. Our favourite was definitely Caffe Cordina in the prettiest of the piazzas, where we discovered the Crema Fredda Al Caffe. Friends, it may not look like much, but HEAR ME, this was created by some sort of alchemy (and addition of ice cream, naturally).
Two other highlights were the War Museum and the Upper Barrakka Gardens. Turns out that Malta’s war history is fascinating – tales of resistance, spirit and amazing community. The Upper Barrakka Gardens are accessed by the most picturesque lift (/elevator) I’ve ever seen. The Gardens themselves are stunning and offer some of the best views in Valletta. Spot the cruise ship you’d like to join! If you time your visit for 12pm or 4pm, you’ll witness all the pomp of the cannon firing.
Valletta (and Malta in general) is a foodie paradise. It’s the best of European food with exotic Arabic influences and pasta to die for. Fresh seafood abounds. There are a whole selection of bistros down the back streets. Sit with an Aperol Spritz (perhaps at Artisan Cafe & Craft Beer) and decide on your nightly pick. We went for D’Office Bistro with a charming bicycle outside. The pinnacle of Valletta dining is absolutely Guze Bistro with a cosy interior like you’re in a chic converted wine cellar. We ate Trio of Pork and lamb shank and died a little. Delicious.
You can while away a perfect half day getting lost in the lanes of the Three Cities. Grab lunch at the waterside Tas-Serena, where the Maltese platter is divine. There are plenty of beautiful dinner options too, where you can sit and people watch whilst those on yacht holidays try out dry land for the evening. We loved the ravioli, tortelli and atmosphere at Il-Hnejja.
An easy half-day trip from Valletta is the Blue Grotto at Wied iz-Zurrieq, which is also achievable by public transport (details and timetables at tourist information). As you join a boat trip, you’ll motor out towards the impressive natural arch towering above you, before dotting into different caves where the shades of blue will have you trying to capture each of them in photos, inevitably just emerging as a bunch of very similar looking photos that baffle your friends and family. *Sigh* We stumbled upon el Patron for amazing coffee milkshakes. For those interested, there are neolithic structures close by which would be easy to tag on to a visit.
Another wonderful day trip from Valletta is the ancient walled city of Mdina, the Silent City. Phoenicians, Romans, Medieval Arabs… A day spent wandering the red streets and frozen in time residences is like being on the set of an Indiana Jones film. Lunch on ftiras (Maltese sandwiches) on the rooftop of Fontanella Tea Gardens & Vinum Wine Bar, overlooking the city walls.
If you’ve got a car, start off at Dingli cliffs (where The Cliffs is another great food option for farm-to-table delicacies.) The cliffs are the perfect spot for a short hike. Be sure to stop off at Ta’Qali craft village to stock up on nougat, lace, rugs and hand-blown glass (you can watch them in action). The village is made up of old corrugated iron Nissen huts on a former airforce base, which definitely adds to the charm.
If you’re not hiring a car, you might want to move up towards some of the northern beaches at this point. Avoid Bugibba and St Paul’s Bay, but do stop in at Cafe del Mar (with an advance reservation). Heck, make a day of it. It is delightful – what could feel more luxe than sipping prosecco in an infinity pool with a glamourous soundtrack and poolside snacks like sushi.
You’re due a beach day. On Malta, you don’t have to settle for one beach in one day. They are so close together, that you can move as often as the shade does. Golden Bay and Ghajn Tuffieha Bay are next door neighbours and many rate them as the best beaches on the island. To go further off the beaten track, head up to Marfa Peninsula (stopping in at the iconic Red Tower for a minor detour) and explore Armier Beach amongst others. When you need refreshment, Baia Beach Club is there waiting for you with a cocktail outstretched and even gourmet restaurant fare.
And there you have it. You won’t want to leave, believe me and if you’ve another few days, well don’t worry because I’ve got another post for you on Malta’s second island, Gozo, the quirky little sister who listens to bands you’ve never heard of and wears your clothes better than you do. Read on, Nomads!