Malta is a tiny historic island, south of Italy and north of Libya. Its capital is Valletta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site steeped in history and built largely by the Knights Hospitaller, a Roman Catholic military order who ruled Malta during the 16th and 17th centuries.
What to do
The best way to explore is to walk around its ancient limestone streets. Begin at the City Gate and finish at the Upper Barrakka Gardens for an incredible sunset view of the Grand Harbour below. Must-sees include the National Museum of Archaeology and the Grandmaster’s Palace, but for the most part, just enjoy getting lost in Valletta’s medieval splendour.
Definitely head to Mdina, which is known as Malta’s Silent City. It is home to just a few hundred people and sits on top of a hill. This golden-stone-walled Arabic town is best seen by horse and cart. Make sure to stop at the Fontanella Tea Garden for a slice of cherry and almond cake with an iced coffee on the rooftop terrace, overlooking the bastions below.
If you want to get away from the tourists in Malta, hop on a ferry, past the tiny island of Comino, to Gozo. This sleepy island is where Brangelina filmed their movie By The Sea. Expect to go back in time – think Neolithic temples and farmers’ huts. The water here is green and clear, and it’s the perfect spot for snorkelling, diving and if you’re adventurous, cliff diving.
Where to stay
Hotel 1926 in Sliema, the neighbouring headland to Valletta, is a well-located spot to call home while in Malta. Book yourself into a signature suite on the bright and airy top floor for phenomenal views of the capital and ocean. Sunsets from your own private balcony are truly romantic. Modern and Millennial, the hotel is stylishly decorated with smart and sustainable design technology like pin codes for rooms instead of plastic key cards and a paperless registration process.
Highlights include the 1926 Spa by Swiss company Resense (there is an aquatonic pool, sauna, hammam, tepidarium, four treatment rooms and a fitness area). The Cleanse Body Experience is recommended – enzymatic gel and a terracotta stone are used to exfoliate the body, followed by a massage with amber extract. Most products used are Amala, made of pure plant ingredients farmed organically to promote biodiversity. Perhaps the best thing about Hotel 1926 is that when you stay here you get free daily access to their 1926 Beach Club, with an infinity pool, private gazebos, alfresco dining and DJs. You can literally spend the entire day here, and you won’t get bored or want to leave. Ever.
Where to eat
Many of the best restaurants are in the old town of Valletta. By day, the waterside terrace at Porticello is dreamy. Watch the sailing boats glide past and order fresh seafood – the sea-urchin pasta, lobster fettuccine, clams and seabass are all superb. By night, local gem Trabuxu Wine Bar is always vibey. Sit underground in the cellar, and settle in for an evening of fine local varietals with cheese and charcuterie.
If you want to try something truly authentic, Ta’ Kris in Sliema is a Maltese bistro serving up traditional and affordably priced fare like Maltese sausage and whole-baked fish in tomato and olive ragout. Caffe Cordina is a delightful little cake shop with the best banoffee pie you have ever tasted! Make sure to look up at the gilded ceiling and pretty painted frescoes. And, if you don’t mind the drive to the northern side of the island, spend the day at Baia Beach Club for Ibizan-style, white-washed day beds and a lunch of fish tacos and granita cocktails.
• Blue Grotto
• Grand Harbour boat tour
• St John’s Co-Cathedral
SPOTS TO ‘GRAM
• Blue Lagoon in Comino
• 1926 Beach Club
• Valletta’s Upper Barrakka Gardens
Fly from Cape Town or Johannesburg to Luqa International Airport in Malta (via Istanbul) with Turkish Airlines for about R10 000 return. On arrival, download Bolt, the local version of Uber, and taxi to your hotel.
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