Christmas Markets within easy reach of Frankfurt

Christmas time in Germany can only be described as magical; twinkling lights abound, full size nativity scenes can be found from town to town and everyone flocks to the market squares to gather in the festive spirit and warm up with a hot snack and mulled wine. It’s hard not to be won over with a buzz as infectious as this. What’s more, there is something for everyone. Children will be tugging at parents’ arms for one more go on the carousels and one more sweet thing from the candy stalls, foodies will love the quality of German food available and the wafting aromas throughout the markets, shoppers will love the craftmanship and variety of goodies on offer. Here are some of the highlights within an hour and a half of Frankfurt.

Christmas time in Germany can only be described as magical; twinkling lights abound, full size nativity scenes can be found from town to town and everyone flocks to the market squares to gather in the festive spirit and warm up with a hot snack and mulled wine. It’s hard not to be won over with a buzz as infectious as this. What’s more, there is something for everyone. Children will be tugging at parents’ arms for one more go on the carousels and one more sweet thing from the candy stalls, foodies will love the quality of German food available and the wafting aromas throughout the markets, shoppers will love the craftmanship and variety of goodies on offer. Here are some of the highlights within an hour and a half of Frankfurt.

Frankfurt Christmas Market

27th November – 22nd December

Throughout the city, with Römerberg as the centre

Incredibly, Frankfurt’s Weihnachtsmarkt dates back to 1393 when stalls and mystery plays helped Frankfurters celebrate the Christmas period. Frankfurt’s sprawling market spans large swathes of the city with a huge Christmas tree in the central square. Römerberg is a good starting point to explore and if you need some help to find the top spots, there are guided tours for the first 3 weekends of December at 11:30am and 1:30pm.

All sorts of treats are available, but something unique to Frankfurt are the “Bethmännchen”, marzipan decorated with almond slices. The four almond slices adorning the Bethmann may represent each of the sons of a well-known banker family of old Frankfurt. Or alternatively the name derives from the word for “praying men” and the almond halves are meant to symbolise praying hands.

From Frankfurt airport: the trains into town are very frequent, then follow the instructions below.

From Frankfurt city: Subway lines (U-Bahn) U4 and U5, exit at Dom/Römer. Tram lines (Straßenbahn) 11 and 12, exit at Römer/Paulskirche.

Mainz Christmas Market

30th November – 23rd December

Höfchen & Domplatz, Schillerplatz, Citadel

Mainz’s market is just half an hour from Frankfurt and a smaller version, well-loved in the region for its atmospheric setting in the market square and draws in many visitors across three main sites. The elevated nativity scene in the shadow of the cathedral is poignant and the impressive 9-metre tall Christmas pyramid in Höfchen Square features famous citizens, including Gutenberg and the cutesy mascots of the local television station.

Mulled wine is from local vineyards in the Rheinhessen region – just look for the longest queues and enjoy it in one of the wine cask huts if you can find some space. All the Christmas market goodies are available here. Gingerbread biscuits from Lebkuchenschmidt are found in a pop-up shop in Gutenberg Square opposite the theatre and the intricate tins and top-notch cookies make them an ideal Christmas present.

From Frankfurt airport: Tramline S8 to Mainz Central Station (Hauptbahnhof) and then a bus into the centre of town, alighting at Höfchen.

From Frankfurt city: The same tram but from the main station (Hauptbahnhof)

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Wiesbaden Christmas Market

28th November – 23rd December

Schlossplatz

Wiesbaden’s Sternschnuppenmarkt, or twinkling star market, is named for its countless fairy lights creating a tent of stars over the town. The effect is best viewed from above and there’s a platform at the Marktkirche (Market Church) to do just that. The market centres around Schlossplatz with almost 130 stalls. There are a variety of activities, such as a ferris wheel, winter tavern and even an ice rink for skating. There’s a sizeable stage where local school children perform festive songs. Excellent local mulled wine can be enjoyed at Weingut Kessler.

From Frankfurt airport: Take the S1, S8 or S9 trams and arrive within 40 minutes

From Frankfurt city: Take the S1 or S9 trams

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Rüdesheim Christmas Market

23rd November – 23rd December, 11am to 8pm, 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays, closed on 26th November

Throughout the Old Town

Rüdesheim is an enchanting cobbled town built into the hilly banks of the River Rhine with tiny alleys and overhanging wooden inns and shops and can be reached within an hour and a half from Frankfurt. The most famous of those alleys is the atmospheric Drosselgasse. At Christmas time, Rüdesheim is also home to the Market of the Nations and that makes for a Christmas market with a real international flavour. With goods and foods from over 20 countries, you can even shop for knitted goods in a Mongolian yurt. However, that doesn’t mean that Rüdesheim isn’t also bringing plenty to the table. A local favourite is Asbach Uralt, a brandy served with coffee and whipped cream. Don’t miss the musical clock once an hour. After all your snacking and slurping, there’s a chance for some fresh air as you take the cable car up to the Niederwald to walk off that whipped cream.

From Frankfurt airport: Take the regional train to Bingen, once every 2 hours and then the ferry across to Rüdesheim. Alternatively, take the S9 to Wiesbaden (once an hour) and change to the VIA train to Rüdesheim.

From Frankfurt city: Take the VIA train direct to Rüdesheim, once an hour.

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Bad Münster am Stein Eberburg Christmas Market

Saturdays from 2pm – 9pm and on Sundays from 12 noon – 8pm

This weekend-only Christmas market oozes romance. Set in the spa gardens of Bad Münster, the delicate lights illuminate gnarly trees and longstanding buildings alike. Even the fairytale castle is lit up, giving the market an atmospheric backdrop. This is a smaller, intimate market, with around 90 stalls but the ambience is unbeatable.

From Frankfurt airport: Take the direct regional train once every two hours and exit at Bad Münster, which takes about an hour.

From Frankfurt city: The same journey

Taking the sleeper train to Scotland

The sleeper train from London to Scotland is one of those gloriously romantic British travel moments from start to finish, whisking you away to your highland (or lowland) adventures in an endearingly (yet accidental?) vintage fashion. It’s the Real McCoy and a wonderful way to travel.

The sleeper train from London to Scotland is one of those gloriously romantic British travel moments from start to finish, whisking you away to your highland (or lowland) adventures in an endearingly (yet accidental?) vintage fashion. It’s the Real McCoy and a wonderful way to travel.

WHERE TO EAT AROUND KING’S CROSS & EUSTON

Depending on your destination, you’ll set off from either King’s Cross or Euston. Luckily, they are close to one another and have great accommodation and eating options before you board. If you’re feeling fancy, the night before book yourself into this AirBnB which is literally in the gothic tower of the St Pancras building or stay at the Renaissance, which if it seems familiar is because it was the set for the Spice Girls’ Wannabe music vid.

For food, you’ve even time for a leisurely three course meal before your departure time, since departures time vary from 9pm to just shy of midnight. Dishoom serves elevated Indian food, fit for the British obsession. The enchanting interiors are covered in nods to Iranian cafes in old Bombay, and you’ll be whipping your phone out moments after arrival to snap them all.  There’s always a wait at this popular spot but the cocktails, the lassis and all the food (I see you, ruby chicken) are worth it.

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The Gilbert Scott is delightfully British in décor and is an educational experience in the food of our land. It’s housed in the grand Victorian dining room of the old station and led by renowned British chef, Marcus Wareing. You’ll pour over the menu but choose anything and you’ll be satisfied.

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If you’re just around for a drink, try out Drink, Shop, Do and maybe make a robot or ice a cookie to look like Lionel Richie (no joke) whilst you’re about it. It’s quirky, fun and a great space. Alternatively, sample the local craft beer at Euston Tap.

Heck, you could even check if there’s an interesting evening event on at the British Library or the Wellcome Collection, with its eclectic mix of science paraphernalia. Also, a massive plus of having time on your hands in King’s Cross at this time of night is that you can indulge your guilty pleasure of a selfie at Platform 9 and 3/4s without having to queue your way into old age.

Still a little time? Wander up to Granary Square, stopping for a swing (and your new profile pic) in the huge birdcage outside King’s Cross and to run through the fountains avoiding the water in the Square itself.

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ALL ABOARD

It’s probably time to board. You’ll be met at your carriage by a welcoming steward, who will revisit you shortly after pulling out the station to make sure you’re comfortable, introduce you to all the train has to offer and ask if you want a tea or coffee brought to you in the morning. If you’re in first class, your breakfast is complimentary as is a sleep kit including a PILLOW SPRAY. Why did we choose standard?!

Now I must set your expectations, Nomads, this is not yet the Orient Express. However, this Concierge hears plans that from the first half of next year, new look trains will bring more of the “hotel” experience to the line, with double beds, ensuites, keycards and sleek new interiors. Oh and did I mention WiFi? All that to say, the present romance is due to the experience and the mode of travel and that people have been making this journey for 140 years. Though I myself adore the current tartan and plaid accents and the fact that the tickets are actually within grasp (I’m looking at you, Orient Express). Here’s hoping that at least stays the same.

Once you’re fully settled and you’ve decadently unpacked and spread out (who can do that on a flight?), head down to the restaurant car without further ado, as you want to ensure you get a seat. This Concierge cannot resist a Scottish cheese plate and Gin & Tonic (Caorunn to be precise) but midnight haggis and a solid whiskey selection are also on offer. The prices are a welcome surprise after London and we retired for the night contented and slept soundly.

SCOTTISH ADVENTURES

Our destination was Glasgow for a glorious family weekend, including a wedding and two Christenings. But it’s a fabulous city even if you’re not there to see my family, worth a weekend to explore all things Rennie Mackintosh and Art Nouveau. Wander down the famous Buchanan Street and be sure to head to the Willow Tea Rooms, decked out with the Japanese obsessions of Art Nouveau. A personal favourite spot, the Burrell Collection, is undergoing renovations until 2020 but part of the collection is on display at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and stop by the Mackintosh Building and his other creations.

If you’re tempted by Edinburgh, start with a hike up to Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano that looks out over the city and be sure to fit in the castle. Or time your trip for the Fringe festival and experience all the sarcasm and wit that Britain has to offer.

If you’re alighting at Fort William, perhaps it’s to climb Britain’s highest peak of Ben Nevis, to hop straight back on the Hogwarts Express (aka The Jacobite) or to visit the mesmerising Glen Coe. Perhaps it’s your launch pad to island hop from Oban or Mallaig. Whatever your Scottish adventures, Nomads, you’ve begun them with the right way to travel.

Now you’ve got the train bug, how about exploring America by rail? Check out my fellow blogger’s post.

Exploring The Cotswolds without a Car

The romantic Cotswolds are a perfect weekend getaway from London, where you can immerse yourself in all that the British countryside has to offer. By which I mean, long walks, cozy pubs and (you know me, Nomads) a local gin. It’s difficult to pick a spot but as we wanted to travel from London by train, Charlbury seemed a great option and it didn’t disappoint.

The romantic Cotswolds are a perfect weekend getaway from London, where you can immerse yourself in all that the British countryside has to offer. By which I mean, long walks, cozy pubs and (you know me, Nomads) a local gin. It’s difficult to pick a spot but as we wanted to travel from London by train, Charlbury seemed a great option and it didn’t disappoint.

Saturday morning began with a direct train to Charlbury from London Paddington and a cheeky sweet treat from Patisserie Valerie upstairs. The train is quicker than driving – just an hour and a quarter. Our first impressions of Charlbury were entrancing; stone cottages and a train station from other age. After leaving our bags at the delightful Bell Inn, we made our way to Blenheim Palace, the grand familial home of Winston Churchill. The stately home is a 15 minute taxi ride away and also reachable by bus.

 

The exhibits on the house, the family through the ages and Churchill himself were fascinating. The UK really does do museums and exhibitions very well, with lovely interactive touches, and Churchill is an inherently entertaining figure with his wit and achievements. I mean, there’s a weird interlude in the middle featuring mannequins and projected storytellers but that’s amusing in it’s own right too, huh? The grand home has rolling gardens, a mini waterfall and the pagoda where Churchill proposed and the front with its mighty columns is a spectacular view to approach from the entrance.

We dragged ourselves away and back to the Bell for a pre-dinner drink in front of the roaring fire, before moving through to the dining room for an excellent meal. After dinner, we strolled through the quiet streets to The Bull pub with it’s fabulous door knocker, great pastels and mood lighting for a nightcap – Cotswolds Gin, no less.

We were wonderfully comfortable at The Bell. The manager made sure to provide us extra heaters and blankets in case it was a cold night and the room was beyond cute.

The next morning, after a hearty breakfast, we pulled on our wellies and set off on a cathartic countryside amble to the local village of Finstock. We’d found a great website for walking routes and spotted a promising looking pub for a spot of lunch. Sure enough, we stopped in at The Plough Inn to eat and were delighted to find a very upmarket country pub with farmhouse décor and a cheese plate to die for.

And our weekend in the Cotswolds was at an end. We hopped back on the train to London, already nostalgic for the countryside. I heartily recommend this getaway, Nomads, and I’d love to hear more of your ideas for city escapes in the comments below.

48 hours in Barcelona

Oh, Barcelona. A weekend here combines romance, style and food to die for… The Holy Trio. A perfect city in which to float between amazing architecture, restaurants and galleries. Your weekend there could be any time of year as this city is always idyllic. But for me, sangria and sunshine go hand in hand, so why not time your trip for late Spring or Summer.

Oh, Barcelona. A weekend here combines romance, style and food to die for… The Holy Trio. A perfect city in which to float between amazing architecture, restaurants and galleries. Your weekend there could be any time of year as this city is always idyllic. But for me, sangria and sunshine go hand in hand, so why not time your trip for late Spring or Summer. Avoid Easter itself, as many things are closed.

A great option for your Barcelona lodgings is one of the many boutique hotels. We chose Casa Mathilda for affordable luxury and it stole our hearts from the moment we saw its well-preserved vintage elevator! First floor, please! The en-suite will bring on tile-lust and the restaurant is a cozy, intimate and yet modern space for breakfast.

We also stayed at the H10 Cubix, which is a little pricier but achingly cool. We’re talking robots in the lobby and a specialist gin bar on the roof. Well worth it.

For your first meal in the city, try Can Paixano (La Xampanyeria), where you’ll be sat almost on top of your neighbours, munching fabulous and thrifty tapas, whilst you sip cava for something bubbly. It’s fun, it’s social, it’s Barcelona.

Situate yourselves over another glass of cava or switch to a pint of Estrella at Bar Oviso, choosing a table outside in George Orwell square for a prime people watching spot.

Saturday morning must start at the beach, then a stroll up to Barcelona’s most famous street, Las Ramblas. Stop for a café con leche at the Café de l’Opera before detouring off to the Gothic quarter to get lost in the streets and stumble upon Barri Gotic, the beautiful partially ruined cathedral with a wild cloister-lined garden.

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Head back towards Las Ramblas and make your way to Barcelona’s premiere food market, La Boqueria, which will soon have you salivating. You can’t go wrong here – bar-hop and grab a snack from each or install yourself on a stool to enjoy hippest buskers and premium tapas. We propped ourselves up at Bar Central and high-recommend. Try the calamari, king prawns, peppers, any of the pintxos, just all of it. In fact, consider a foodie tour.

From here, head over to Park Guell for all the fabulousness and fantasy of Gaudi’s public garden works. It’s a beautiful way to walk off the tapas and make room for your next meal. From here, head to your pre-booked slot at the Sagrada Familia for Saturday afternoon (at least a week in advance). The modern cathedral is simply breath-taking… and it’s a work in progress! We spend hours walking around the exterior alone. Despite the crowds, the vastness and the detail to get lost in provide a serene experience. The mid-afternoon light is a beautiful time to be there.

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You are spoiled for dinner options of course, but Viana is a wise, wise choice. This is gourmet Spanish food with all the right international influences and atmosphere. Again, it mixes cosiness with industrial décor and the tables are crammed in for a buzzy atmosphere. Everything is recommended but the pork was incredible.

On Sunday morning, admire Gaudi’s most magnificent buildings, mixed into Barcelona’s streets like their part of the furniture. Start at Passeig de Gracia and walk down to the wavy-walled apartment block, La Pedrera, before reaching Casa Battlo. If I’ve one top Barcelona tip, Nomads, it’s to GO INSIDE Casa Battlo. Built as a family home, this incredible building is now an incredible museum which uses VR handsets to literally bring the house and Gaudi’s designs to life. I don’t want to give too much away, but this is an unmissable on your itinerary. If it’s lunchtime afterwards, try out Tapas24 nearby for delectable tapas.

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From here, head over to the Picasso Museum to see an amazing display of how the artist’s work evolved from boyhood to old age. My top tip, Nomads, is to skip the main queue and go around the corner to where they sell annual memberships. It’s a fraction more expensive but skips the entire line.

If you haven’t eaten yet, stop in at Quimet & Quimet on your way to Montjuic for some grade A tapas. Then on to Montjuic, for a wonderful Sunday afternoon up on the hills of Barcelona. You take the Barcelona Port Cable Car up with great views across the sea. At the top, you can choose to visit the Olympic stadium and the Palau Nacional. Be back in time for the Font Magica fountains for a wonderous display of light and water. The times vary during the year, so be sure to check.

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For your last meal in Barcelona, I’ve kept a gem for you, Nomads. Jai-Ca is boisterous, family-filled and fabulous. There’s usually a waiting list, so go before you’re famished and get a drink. There are actually two locations close to each other. They’ve been making cheap, melt-in-the-mouth tapas since 1955 and it is FUN with black and white tiles and diner tables. A visit here guarantees you’ll be planning your text trip over the dinner table.

Let us know your plans, Nomads! Did you stumble across some top tips for me? I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

48 hours in Oslo

Oslo is a fantastic weekend city break; even the public toilets radiate style, there’s plenty of pretty town to wander through or fascinating museums to dot into when the cold gets too much. Autumn and winter are chilly but atmospheric times to visit and seem to be how the city was built to be appreciated. Notoriously a pricey location, there is an alternative to make Oslo an affordable getaway without returning to your backpacker days of by-gone. Read on and make your bank manager happy!

Oslo is a fantastic weekend city break; even the public toilets radiate style, there’s plenty of pretty town to wander through or fascinating museums to dot into when the cold gets too much. Autumn and winter are chilly but atmospheric times to visit and seem to be how the city was built to be appreciated. Notoriously a pricey location, there is an alternative to make Oslo an affordable getaway without returning to your backpacker days of by-gone. Read on and make your bank manager happy!

We stayed in an AirBnB because all Norwegian homes are hella chic and having a kitchen meant we could avoid high restaurant costs. The Grunerlokka area of town is young, artistic and where you’ll want to be. Luckily, there are a tonne of great AirBnB options to pick from.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: If you share our dramatically disgusted reaction to the idea of a weekend sans gin, duty free is your best friend as be warned of the high alcohol prices at your weekend destination. [Our current favourites often available at duty free are Bloom and Caorunn, but mini bottles of the major brands are great if you’ve only got hand luggage.]

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An excellent starting point for your Saturday explorations is Oslo’s magnificent and modern Opera House on the waterfront in Bjorvika. After climbing the encircling ramp to the top and making friends with the seagulls, be sure to venture into the lobby and ogle the avant-garde costumes on display. Of course the costumes and set design in Norway are like nothing you’d be able to conjure up. *Sighs at the lowkey coolness*

From the Opera House it’s possible to wander into the delightful city centre, using Oslo’s main shopping street, Karl Johans gate, as your plumbline. The Cathedral and its accompanying coffee shop are worth a brief visit. Don’t hold back popping into a Fjallraven Kanken shop, if anything to admire the rainbow display of bags available. EVERY. DARN. COLOUR.

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From here, we walked up to the Royal Palace, however with experience of numb extremities under my belt, I’d say it would be far more sensible to jump on the tram from Stortinget to the National Theatre, and get a far more pleasant view of the city from the warmth of a carriage. The main attraction at the Palace is all the pomp of the changing of the guards and if you can time it right (1.30pm at time of writing), it’s well worth the trip.

There are many galleries and museums on every topic from the resistance, so choose to suit your taste. We opted for the National Gallery, enticed by the offer of seeing The Scream by Edvard Munch. Once there, I loved the series of paintings by the naturalist artist, Christian Krohg, as well as the diversity of the museum and creative spaces for sketching and trying out displayed techniques.

We also chose the Nobel Peace Prize museum, which now ranks amongst my all-time favourites. The interactive design could keep the attention of someone with only the most of shaky of interests and it was fascinating to read and watch the stories of inspirational peace-makers, some well-known, others brand-new to me. And of course, there’s a fabulous gift shop, which puts to shame souvenirs in all other museums, period. I’m still using my epic Nobel Peace Prize Winners gift wrap.

Did I mention our AirBnB had an awesome TV room, complete with a huge screen with Netflix on? So essentially, we just made food, binge-watched Elementary and drank our imported gin. Ideal.

A perfect Sunday brunch or lunch spot is Mathallen, a foodhall close to Grunerlokka. Though set in a trendy renovated warehouse, Mathallen maintains good natural light and high ceilings, so it’s a relaxed and buzzy environment to wander through. Atelier Asian Tapas, seafood at Froya Sjomat or the confit duck sandwiches at Ma Poule are excellent choices, but really just walk around until you spot something you can’t resist / get too hungry to walk anymore. Alternatively, pick up some deli items for your home cooking. Reindeer sausages with a side of sriracha popcorn, perhaps?

Your Sunday afternoon must include a visit to the Vigeland sculpture park in Frogner Park. Gustav Vigeland was a much-lauded Norwegian sculptor and his work in the park in particular is something to behold. His creations link human bodies in realistic, tender and often comical ways, for their playfulness and reflection of relationships. The bodies don’t just sit on plinths but make up an obelisk, bridge and wheel.

Finish your weekend with another of the plethora of Oslo museums. Wanting a relaxed afternoon, we selected the Doga – Norwegian Centre for Design and Architecture – housed in an old power station. We whiled away the afternoon, geeking out on the kind of well-made documentaries that have you obsessed with a topic you didn’t know existed, and lusting over exhibit rooms filled with design items throughout the modern age. There’s a great little organic / vegan café next door called Funky Fresh Foods.

So there’s your affordable weekend to Oslo on a design-conscious plate! Go, enjoy and give your tips and feedback below!

10 days in Malta [Part 2 – Gozo]

Being on Gozo doesn’t feel like you’re still on this planet, let alone in Europe. So I hope you can butter up your bosses for a few extra days of leave, Nomads, because you won’t want to miss it. I’m trusting your appetite should be suitably whet after last week’s blog on the main island.

Being on Gozo doesn’t feel like you’re still on this planet, let alone in Europe. So I hope you can butter up your bosses for a few extra days of leave, Nomads, because you won’t want to miss it. I’m trusting your appetite should be suitably whet after last week’s blog on the main island.

Boss-buttering dependent, you’ll land in Mgarr, off the ferry from Malta, where you can stock up on wringlingly-fresh fish for the BBQ at the Bugeja market if you’re cooking yourself or head to Tmun Mgarr for a taste of the island’s best restaurants.

We stayed in closeby ix-Xaghra, a pretty little town with a scenic central square for convenient and tasty restaurant options. Our AirBnB was stellar; a serene villa with plenty of zen Asian influences, great communal space for cooking, relaxing and a dainty pool to cool off from the hot Gozo heat. Each room is rented separately, so we got the benefit of great facilities without having to book out a huge space.

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Use your first day on the island to explore and pick out where you want to spend some good quality sunning time. If you thought Malta was small, Gozo is teeny tiny so you can jump in your car rental and feel like a very accomplished Nomad with minimal effort (and fuel costs!)

From Xaghra, drive up to Marsalforn and follow the coastal road until you reach the salt pans at Xwieni Bay. You’ll spot the shallow rectangular pools with a white gleam, slowly drying out into that wonderful artery-clogger, the same way they have since the Knights first established them. From there continue to Wied-il Ghasri for some premium wild swimming in the picture-perfect cove. After winding down the steep staircase, you appear at a narrow shingle beach – enough for just a few people. But from there the heavenly water stretches out into a long corridor towards the sea, flanked by high rocks on either side, making a unique swimming experience. You can clamber up on to the rocks to sun yourselves in between and bask in your cleverness for finding something so beautiful and secluded.

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When you’re ready to move on, head inland along the road to Ghasri, turning off on Triq il Fanal to the Basilica of Ta’Pinu, a huge remote church with 360’ views and landscaped gardens.

Stop in for lunch at Il-Kunvent in the sweet little town of Gharb. Father and son were holding fort on our visit and the local pizza pie filled our starving stomachs.

Carry on towards San Lawrenz and find the Ta’Dbiegi craft village, where you can see the artisans and work and purchase their finest lace, glass and pottery. Our spare room has benefitted from a beautiful hand-woven rug in colours that take me straight back to Wied-il Ghasri. It’s the kind of place with quality souvenirs that’ll finally shame your brother out of buying you the novelty t-shirt from his next trip.

Your last stop is Dwejra, whose geology is straight out of a fantasy novel. In fact, the Dothraki wedding in GoT season 1 was set at the Azure Window, a natural arch at sea. Though it lives on in many people’s DVD collections, the Azure Window is sadly no more, having come to an end worthy of GoT, as it fell crashing into the sea in real life in 2017. You can read the news story all about it. It’s still an incredible area, which well deserves your time though, if only for the Blue Hole underneath, a 25m deep swimming hole for you to float about in.

After the day’s exertions, head back to Xaghra for a well-earned dinner at Oleander on the market square, with great ambience and delectable local food and wine.

Your second day should definitely be a beach day. After a leisurely morning by the pool, call and place your order at Maxokk Bakery for one of the ftiras they’ve been making since the 1930s. You won’t regret it. If you can’t wait long enough to eat it at the beach, the market square in the day is a beautiful spot for a bench-based picnic (and a sneaky ice cream afterwards).

There are a myriad of beaches to choose from for your afternoon jaunt; the rocky red sands of San Blas Bay or the smoother silts of Ramla Bay.

Country Terrace in Mgarr is a wonderful spot for your last dinner in Gozo. Set above the town, a terrace table provides a stunning view across the water, all with the backlighting of Narnia-worthy lamp-posts. The fresh fish and produce makes for a tasty meal… and of course, we didn’t forego the bruschetta.

For your last day on Gozo, a popular day trip is to the island of Comino, sandwiched between Gozo and Malta. The turquoise waters of the Blue Lagoon draw in the crowds during the summer months, with shallow clear waters and white sandy seabeds. Full disclosure, Nomads, that the idea of many people and little shade made us miss out on this particular attraction… so there’s no judgement from me if you spend the time on the beach finishing that novel instead.

It’s impossible to write about Malta and Gozo without it becoming a semi-evangelistic endeavour, but Nomads, you will love it and I can’t wait to hear your tips below.

10 days in Malta [Part 1]

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.

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.

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Your route into the city.

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.

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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!