Malta is one of the most underrated European destinations. Located just south of Sicily and north of the North African Coast, Malta enjoys great weather year-round. We visited in August, which meant sweltering days and sweaty nights, but as beach lovers from Canada, the high 30s temperature was a treat.
Going into the trip, I knew little about Malta, and also found less than usual in the way of guidebooks and forum posts, so I was left to my own research. I started by listening to The Great Siege. Malta 1565 By Ernle Bradford on Audible, which I would highly recommend as a way to delve into the rich history of the island.
Upon arriving on the island, I was told that the white taxi cabs are not always trustworthy with their pricing for tourists, so I downloaded their version of Uber - eCabs, which worked fabulously and we had only great experiences. Because English is one of the national languages, it was very easy to navigate Malta.
We stayed at the Corinthia Hotel St. George's Bay in Saint Julian's. The Saint Julian's area was central to all of the sites we wanted to visit, and also had great dining within walking distance which is important to us. The hotel itself also had great dining on-site. I would recommend to book a room with breakfast as well, as the spread included everything you could imagine. I was even able to try the local Pastizzi on their pastry spread, which is basically a savory filled pastry. Our room was large and had ocean views and a large balcony. We also took advantage of the multiple pools and direct ocean access daily to start and end our days and would go back to this hotel just for the unique ocean access and sun lounger areas. Highly recommended for anyone visiting Malta.
There wasn't anything on Yelp in Malta, so I had to go by Tripadvisor, which always makes things harder for me, as I don't think the review system is as accurate. The cuisine here is very much influenced by nearby Sicily. Lots of fresh seafood, pasta, and pizzas. The prices are very reasonable, and I wish we ate more, but alas my appetite is never very strong in such hot weather.
Porticello also came highly reviewed online. We were seated outside and were treated to canons firing across the bay as well as fireworks because it was a holiday. We had missed the midday cannons firing, so it was nice to hear them booming in the evening. We came for the lobster fettuccine, and it did not disappoint. There are some politics surrounding this restaurant if you look on Google- but we were here for the lobster, not the drama – it is vacation after all! Also, cash only.
We also ate at Piccolo Padre Pizzeria, which is a casual Italian spot in Spinola Bay, right on the water. The food was delicious and the ocean breeze was very much welcomed. The restaurant (and actually the area) was full of tourists, but this was no tourist trap. prices were fair and the food was top notch.
We also tried gelato at Amorino in Valetta, which has the most delicious lemon gelato!
Café Del Mar is a chain of cool beachy lounges. We had been to the original Café del Mar in Sant Antoni de Potomany in Ibiza, Spain the summer before, so we knew we liked the music and vibe. When we found out that there was one in Malta, I was curious what it had to offer. This particular night Robin Shultz happened to be in town, so we grabbed our tickets and put on our dancing shoes. This outpost had a beautiful infinity pool that wrapped the edge, an inside and outside bar to grab a drink, and lots of space to enjoy the fantastic sunset from the north end of the island in St. Paul's Bay. I would definitely recommend coming here if there is an event going on.
For after-dinner drinks, we headed to Bridge Bar which is a famous bar for locals, students, and tourists alike to sit and drink on the steps leading up to a bridge in Valetta. It was very unique and we didn't want the night to end. The perfect place to spend the night talking away. We heard there is live jazz of some night, but it was perfect without music the day we went.
For casual cocktails on the water in Spinola Bay, we went to NAAR Restobar, which was literally perched on the ocean, and the patio had a great vantage point to people watch the nearby public beach. Great cocktails and fusion cuisine. We had some Asian flavored mussels which were so uniquely seasoned. It also sat opposite in the Parish Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. It was interesting to see the juxtaposition of old and new in the architecture in this bay, indicative of the changes that Malta has endured throughout the years.
Things to Do
All of Malta is a wonder for your eyes. It seemed as if everywhere we visited had its own character steeped in history and local people excited to talk about it.
Mdina was the highlight of our trip. We visited later in the day to avoid crowds and avoid the heat. The fortified city in the North Region of Malta was like something out of a Disney movie. The taxi drops you off at the gate as there are no cars allowed and as you walk through the bridge through the gates, you are transported in time. Photo ops galore. The street with St Pauls Cathedral was a spectacular sight. Fontanella tea garden came highly recommended and had a beautiful rooftop which offered an expansive view of the area. I especially like that they served a real Sicilian Lemon Granita here. They also had some delicious pastries.
Visit Valetta and more than once if you can. Once an ancient fortress, the walled old city was built in a way that the Knights of Saint John could climb the steps in heavy armor. Although, we nearly had heatstroke climbing with no belongings. St. Lucia's Street in Valetta features some of the most picturesque classical Maltese balconies. Although, they can be found almost everywhere in Valetta. Another beautiful spot in Valetta is near the National Library, there is a street with large archways covering.
Since the days are so hot, shopping at The Point Mall in Sliema was a nice respite. It had a Mango, Massimo Dutti, and Stradivarius inside among lots of other mostly high-street shops. The local Zara was also walking distance away. There didn't seem to be many luxury shopping options here, and I also didn't see the presence of Global Blue and other popular tax-free merchants. We wish we had brought our bathing suits this day, because, under the mall in the bay between Silema and Valetta, students were jumping off the shore straight into the ocean at a really cool spot. There is also a lovelock viewing point here.
We also took our engagement photos in Malta, so below are a few of those :)