5 fabulous city breaks in Malta

  Looking across the bay from Sliema to 2018 European Capital of Culture and Maltese capital, Valletta.

Looking across the bay from Sliema to 2018 European Capital of Culture and Maltese capital, Valletta.

Occupying a prime spot of the sun-soaked Mediterranean, Malta makes for an excellent coastal retreat. Sumptuous beaches, warm waters and Maltese hospitality are all features of this stunning island nation, making it one of southern Europe’s most popular destinations.

But natural beauty isn’t the only string to Malta’s bow. The island is also home to several fantastic cities, all brimming with history and culture.

Valletta

  Just walking around the beautiful streets of Valletta is an attraction.

Just walking around the beautiful streets of Valletta is an attraction.

Malta’s cosy capital seems like an appropriate place to start. Awash with golden-hued buildings, Valletta is packed full of beautiful architecture and fascinating sights. There’s no better time to visit than right now as the city is the European Capital of Culture for 2018, celebrating its big year with a full cultural programme.

St John’s Co-Cathedral houses one of the country’s most beautiful interiors, where every wall and ceiling is adorned with golden decoration and fine art, while the Upper Barrakka Gardens overlook the Grand Harbour and saluting battery, offering superb views across the water.

Sliema

  Sliema isn’t Malta’s number one activity spot, but chances are you’ll be staying here if you’re visiting outside the summer months.

Sliema isn’t Malta’s number one activity spot, but chances are you’ll be staying here if you’re visiting outside the summer months.

Sliema is one of the most popular spots for tourists with an abundance of hotels and picture-perfect views of Valletta across St Elmo’s Bay.

Once a quiet fishing village, it is now the Maltese hub for shopping, cafes and restaurants. You’ll find English favourites like Marks & Spencer intertwined with a fine selection of eateries including Little Argentina with its mouthwatering steaks and Il-Merill, serving up Maltese favourites in an intimate setting.

For tourists, there’s a two-kilometre promenade which is a great place for an afternoon stroll as well as the 18th century Fort Tigné, which was originally constructed to repel French invaders.

St Julian’s

  If you want some nighlife, head to St Julian’s. Image credit:    Riku Kettunen   /   Creative Commons

If you want some nighlife, head to St Julian’s. Image credit: Riku Kettunen/Creative Commons

St Julian’s is one of the liveliest places in Malta and is a hotspot for new and luxurious hotels, many rooms in which have sea views. It is known for its vibrant and varied nightlife, with a good selection of elegant wine bars to choose from such as Rocksalt, which also makes exquisite cocktails.

St Julian’s is home to one of Malta’s best beaches at St George’s Bay, with the nearby Intercontinental Hotel running a beach bar and restaurant, providing excellent service and food to hungry beachgoers.

Birgu

  The Parish Church is both must-see and can’t-miss if you’re visiting Birgu. Image credit:    Hannah Jane   /   Creative Commons

The Parish Church is both must-see and can’t-miss if you’re visiting Birgu. Image credit: Hannah Jane/Creative Commons

Birgu is one of three fortified cities in eastern Malta and one of the oldest on the island. Located across from Valletta on the Grand Harbour, it has a great selection of attractions for tourists.

The Parish Church is a Maltese landmark which stands near the entrance gate and the Malta Maritime Museum exhibits the island’s maritime history, while the Malta at War Museum details Maltese life during the Second World War.

Mdina

  For defensive reasons, the length of Mdina’s streets do not exceed an arrow’s flights, and they are only wide enough to fit a single carriage.

For defensive reasons, the length of Mdina’s streets do not exceed an arrow’s flights, and they are only wide enough to fit a single carriage.

Take a step back in time by visiting incredible Mdina. Perched atop a hill, this fortified city once served as the nation’s capital with a history dating back more than 4,000 years. Wander down narrow, cobbled streets and take in the blend of Norman and Baroque architecture such as St Paul’s Cathedral and the Mdina Gate.

Also known as the Silent City, Mdina is known for its winding alleyways, few inhabitants and vantage points for beautiful views of the island. It is also home to Mdina Glass, one of Europe’s leading glassmakers who open up their factory to visitors, allowing them to watch the spectacular art of glass blowing in person.