In search of some winter sun, I found myself standing in the Maltese breeze earlier this month.
With its sun-filled days and mild climate in the midst of the northern winter months, it makes an ideal getaway for cold Europeans (or anyone else willing to make the trek!) Here are my tips.
1. Go off-season (northern hemisphere winter) if sun-bathing, sea-swimming and water sports aren’t your priority. We enjoyed beautiful sunny days with the temperature reaching up to about 20C. The main benefit of going now is that you can bag some bargain hotel deals. Booking just two weeks’ in advance, we managed to find a deal in a five star hotel (Westin Dragonara) at a fraction of the peak season price. The other advantage is that everywhere is less crowded as the flocks of tourists haven’t yet arrived.
2. Stroll through (2018 European capital of culture) Valletta, taking in the views at Upper Barrakka Gardens. There will probably be a range of cultural events this year, but they hadn’t yet started when we visited (some building work appeared to not quite be finished…)
3. Stroll through Mdina (which I personally preferred to Valletta) and make sure you visit the Fontinella tea shop. The cake was delicious here, but this is outshone by the view. Situated on Mdina city wall, you can see a good portion of Malta from here. Blue skies, sunshine, countryside and the gentle Maltese breeze – this was probably my favourite part of the holiday.
4. After visiting Mdina, wander over to Rabat, where you can visit St Paul’s Grotto and the catacombs – creepy cool sums them up.
5. Go to the Sliema ferry area to: a) see the lovely view of Valletta, b) enjoy a cake and drink at Giorgio’s (go upstairs for the view).
6. Try traditional Maltese cuisine at Gorzitan (Paceville). I ate Beef Olives which were delicious. Not only is the service good (we often found the service in Malta to be on the indifferent/grumpy side) but the price includes excellent bread and also DESSERT. Yes, complimentary dessert. That’s FREE DESSERT, which consists of a platter of figs, ice cream and halwa. Yum.
7. Lounge / dance at TwentyTwo (St Julian). This is mainly for the view as this bar/club is situated on the (you guessed it) 22nd floor of the Portomaso tower. They were letting groups of women in for free (they’ll say it’s a favour especially for you) but made everyone pay 2 euros to leave coats at the makeshift cloakroom at ground level.
8. Be wary of taxi drivers who helpfully offer to show you a site on the way to somewhere, which you’re not that fussed about but politely agree to, only to find they want an additional fifteen euros…
9. Bear in mind that some bars only get lively later in the evening. Even at about 9.30 / 10pm popular ones can be quiet (this may not be the case in summer).
10. Avoid Cafe Cuba on Spinola Bay. We went there for the amazing location but after about twenty minutes of being ignored despite it being fairly empty, we got up and left. A shame because the drinks looked interesting.
We were in Malta for a long weekend so our time was limited – there are of course other attractions. Feel free to add any other tips below!