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Malta – what to see in a winter’s week-end

Malta

Read the Italian version here!

In the middle of cold European winter, a Paradise of sun, sea and relaxation, 2-hours flight from Milan: welcome to Malta! The Maltese archipelago, very popular in summer for its beaches and entertainment, is actually the perfect destination for a long weekend in the cold winter months. Climate is mild, so you can enjoy relaxing walks in the historic centers of Valletta, Medina or Rabat without terrible heat, no crowds of tourists everywhere, and you will also be able to save money.
Some tips about the budget, for a weekend at the end of December. Hotel accommodation in Valletta’s center, on Merchants street (the shopping district), costs 60 euros per night for two people. A dinner in a good restaurant is around 25 euros per person. Car rental for 3 days with Avis costs 50 euros.
About the car: Malta, even in the low season, is the European nation with the highest population density, the traffic is always intense and chaotic and you drive on the left. For an anti-stress holiday, you can rely on the efficient Maltese public transport, renting the car only for excursions (e.g. to visit the islet of Gozo), and parking it in Valletta at the MCP Parking Garage.
Are you curious to discover Malta through videos? Herehere e here you can find my reel on the island!

On the first day, you can explore Valletta’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After visiting the must-see attraction – don’t miss St. John’s Co-Cathedral, a baroque jewel where you can also see two Caravaggio’s masterpieces, the Grand Master’s Palace, Fort St. Elmo with the war museum – you can get lost in the steep alleys descending to the sea.
Houses, with yellow limestone facades, have the typical colored bay windows. You can find pastry shops with typically Sicilian names selling “pastrizzi”, close to British-style signs, colonial heritage such as old Her Majesty’s red phone booths, and if you pay attention you will catch a language with Arabic sounds. A true cultural melting pot, even more intense today, on an island perfect for digital nomadism. For shoppping enthusiasts there is the shopping district between Merchants and Republic Street. History lovers, on the other hand, can enjoy the Archaeological Museum, very useful for better understanding the megalithism on the islands.

I recommend you to enjoy the sunset from Barrakka Gardens: divided into Upper and Lower, they offer a stunning view of the Grand Harbour and the Three Cities. Senglea, Cospicua and Vittoriosa are three walled towns with fascinating history and architecture, perfect for a half-day trip from Valletta. You can reach them in half an hour by bus or taking the ferry under Barrakka Gardens. In Senglea you will find excellent and cheap fish restaurants on the harbour, for a relaxing dinner.

Malta
Malta, La Valletta
Malta
Malta, La Valletta
Malta, Barakka Gardens
Barakka Gardens
Malta
View on Three Cities from Barakka Gardens

Maltese cuisine, bringing together both land and sea, clearly suggests the influence of the different populations that have colonized the island. You can find typical Sicilian desserts and the popular pastizzi, puff pastry rustics filled with ricotta or peas. Peas are the big protagonists of Maltese street food together with ftira, a kind of low pizza, folded at the edges to better keep the filling (potatoes, onions, sausage, tomato, rocket…).

Typically Mediterranean is bigilla, a bean sauce seasoned with garlic, oil, parsley and chilli, served with bread or crackers, as well as the popular goat or sheep cheeses, ingredients of the Gozitan appetizer alongside tomatoes, onions, capers. Wide choice of soups (widow’s soup, a vegetable soup, and aljotta, rock fish soup cooked in tomato sauce), rabbit stew (the national dish, according to many) and biscuits filled with dates’ sauce, typically from Middle East.

Maltese appetizer
Maltese appetizer

After city life, on the second day you can enjoy an outdoor. If Comino with its Blue Lagoon is perfect in summer, in winter the ideal is Gozo, you can reach it by ferry directly from Valletta (the crossing is longer) or going up to Cirkewwa.

10 minutes from Mgarr Gozo cruise port, the megalithic complex of Ggantija will welcome you with its enigmas: built around 3,600 BC as a cult of the Mother Goddess by the first inhabitants of the island, who mysteriously disappeared. Heading north you can see the beautiful colours of Ramla Beach from Calypso Cave, continuing on the coast you visit Marsalforn salt pans. Returning inland, Ta Pinu Shrine cathedral, the Church of Miracles, is worth a visit, then head to Victoria to visit “Cittadella” and enjoy your dinner. If you’ve left early, watching sunset at Ta Cen Cliffs is an amazing interlude before coming back to the city. Don’t worry about the ferries, running late even in winter.

Ggantija
Ggantija
Marsalforn salt pans
Ta Pinu Shrine
Ta Pinu Shrine

Visiting Malta you cannot miss Mdina and Rabat, half an hour’s drive from Valletta: you can visit both in half a day, maybe on the third day of your stay. Mdina, the “Silent City”, the ancient medieval capital, today is a charming fortified town where it is nice to get lost in the narrow streets, listening to the sound of horses hooves, carrying tourists around. Must-see the countless historic buildings, ramparts and the charming Mesquita Square, where scenes from Game of Thrones were filmed.

A few steps from Mdina you enter Rabat, known for the Church and St. Paul’s Catacombs, since according to the legend tha saint lived here after a shipwreck. The catacombs are a large and intricate archaeological park, I found them particularly interesting because they testify to different cultures: there are Christian, pagan and Jewish tombs. If you are not tired of underground mysteries, a real gem – expensive on purpose, to limit tourists’ flow – is the mysterious Hal Safieni hypogeum in Valletta, in Paola district: it is the only prehistoric temple in the world, built on 3 levels between 3,600 and 2,500 BC. On the second level you can admire a fake megalithic temple, totally carved into the rock, right close to the Oracle Room, where a man’s voice at certain frequencies creates a disturbing echo.
Who would have thought that in just a few days on the island you could have come across so many mysteries? Maybe you’ll want to plan another weekend in Malta, to explore the mysteries of the famous Templars…

Malta, countryside around Mdina
Mdina
Mdina
Mesquita Square
Mesquita Square
St Paul’s Catacombs
Malta by night
Malta by night

4 Replies to “Malta – what to see in a winter’s week-end”

  • I moved many times to Malta because my boyfriend lived on the island for some years and so he was like a tourist guide for me.

  • I have been wanting to visit Malta and Gozo for a long time for their beautiful architecture and truly exceptional sea. It reminds me a bit of Cyprus and I believe that these places are truly worth discovering.

  • 10 anni fa esatti ho passato un inverno a Malta, il mio moroso studiava lì ed eravamo agli albori della nostra relazione. Io a Malta mi sentivo a casa. sapevo dove andare a mangiare, dove fare un buon aperitivo, conoscevo supermercati e negozi di tutta Paceville. Tutto mi è piaciuto di quell’inverno sull’isola, soprattutto il mashup di culture che rende questo posto fantastico anche nelle fredde e ventose giornate invernali.

  • We visited Malta three years ago, around summer to enjoy the weather, the beaches and the food. Oh, don’t let me start about the food as you already said everything. It was just amazing and so tasteful.
    Never saw this island as a winter destination but you opened my eyes about it and I definitely want to go back!

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