Malta is a unique experience unlike anything you’ll find anywhere else. The Museums, exhibits, and temples, are all great places to start; but the beauty of travel is in experiencing the living culture that’s all around you.
Walk down the narrow streets of Mdina, follow the band in a village festa along with the locals, watch a concert by local musicians- whether contemporary, or the traditional għana, or just spend an hour or two people-watching from an outdoor café in Valletta. Malta offers you the chance to enrich your cultural horizons at every turn.
As homogeneous as the Maltese population seems, the national identity is still a multifaceted one, influenced as it is by history, religion, the surrounding seas, a unique language, the politics that divide and unite, and bright and optimistic youths; Malta and the Maltese are as fascinating as they are unique.
History: The collective identity of a people is shaped by its history, and the Maltese are no different. In fact, one could argue that on this small island, dense with art, culture, and reminders of times gone by at every turn, the Maltese live and breathe their history. This proximity to the past has produced a nation of people who are, on the whole, more than eager to share an interesting nugget of knowledge. Just ask a Maltese person about the siege of 1565 and watch his eyes light up while he tells you about the vastly outnumbered knights valiantly defending their home. From school children recounting their trip to the Hypogeum, to the elderly who experienced the ravages of bombing during World War 2, the nation’s history and prehistory are a palpable presence in its identity.
Religion: Malta is a predominantly Roman Catholic country, and much of the yearly calendar revolves around special celebrations and festas. They’re taken very seriously, and the rivalries between neighbouring villages reach a fevered pitch in the summer – the height of festa season. Although the number of regular church-goers is decreasing, the majority of Maltese still take their faith seriously. It’s not uncommon for sacraments like baptisms, first holy communion, and confirmation to be celebrated with enthusiasm – usually in the form of a party thrown by the child’s parents where food and drinks are never in short supply.
Language: The Maltese are justifiably proud of their language. This Semitic language is the only one of its kind to be recognised as an official language of the European Union. Throughout its history, the various powers that colonised the island only served to enrich this unique language, rather than extinguish it. In fact, one can detect words of English, Italian, and French origin, on top of its Arabic roots. While both Maltese and English languages are specified in the Constitution as official languages, it is the former that holds sway in everyday life and more official state matters. However, the Maltese pride themselves on being a truly bilingual nation.
The Diaspora: Maltese communities can be found in all corners of the globe; the highest concentrations being in Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. The numbers of Maltese seeking better economic prospects abroad dropped significantly after Independence in 1964. However, following Malta’s joining of the European Union in 2004, the Island started once again experiencing emigration to countries within the European Union. Maltese emigrants tend to hold on to their customs and language, with many returning to their homeland after decades away.
Politics: The Maltese are a passionate nation – whether it’s the celebration of the local saint in a village festa or cheering on the local football team, nothing is done without great enthusiasm. This passion is certainly present with another local obsession – politics. Possibly owing to the fact that the island only achieved independence recently, the political landscape is still highly polarised. The lighter side of this sees supporters of the winning party celebrating with carcades after the elections. Notwithstanding the zeal around politics, violent incidents are practically unheard of, and the political landscape is relatively stable, especially when compared to other Mediterranean neighbours like Italy and Greece.
Malta is a captivating country with a wealth of history, culture and arts that have made it an appealing travel destination in Europe. Spending your vacation in Malta can be an astonishing experience. Whether you are looking for a thriving nightlife, the beach or a cultural discovery, then the Maltese Islands have all that and so much more to offer.
With a plethora of gems to discover, the Maltese Archipelago presents you with a new sense of discovery and experience. Don’t miss out on visiting some of Malta’s charming gems such as Valletta, Mdina and Rabat as well as Victoria in Malta’s sister island Gozo.
With every locality a historic monument in its own right, you won’t be short of ideas of what to do while you’re visiting the islands. From the eerie quietness of Mdina and Rabat to the picturesque views of Senglea, Vittoriosa and Cospicua and the narrow streets of Victoria, Gozo, you will be spoilt for choice.
Valletta is Malta’s Baroque jewel. Set on a peninsula overlooking harbours and creeks on both sides, the city replaced Mdina as the nation’s capital. It has a long and illustrious history as a centre of governance and administration for all those who ruled over the archipelago since its establishment after the great siege of 1565.
Modern Valletta is a thriving city. Thanks to its grid layout and small size, the city can easily be explored on foot, and the intrepid adventurer will be well rewarded with expansive views, quaint shops selling all manner of goods, great restaurants, and above all, stunning architecture.
Valletta is resplendent with rich architecture. At every corner, visitors to this magnificent city are confronted with architectural gems and masterpieces; but it’s the palaces that enjoy pride of place in this majestic city.
The most well-known is the Grandmaster’s Palace, designed by renowned Maltese architect Girolamo Cassar. This opulent palace was used as the official residence of successive Grandmasters. Today, it contains the House of Representatives and the Office of the President of Malta, as well as the Palace Armoury, an unrivalled collection of medieval weaponry and ornamental battle-dress.
Situated on the highest point in Valletta near its entrance, the Auberge de Castille is an impressive Baroque building. Originally an auberge for the Langues of Castille, León and Portugal, the building is now the Office of the Prime Minister. Unlike other palaces in the city, Auberge de Castille features large, wide steps at its entrance, making it all the more imposing as a structure. Recently renovated, the beautiful façade is matched by an equally impressive, Baroque interior.
Housing the National Museum of Archaeology, the Auberge de Provence is situated on Republic Street. Yet another building by Girolamo Cassar, the impressive structure features an opulent Grand Salon.
The Auberge d’Italie is another fine example of an auberge designed by Girolamo Cassar. It currently houses the Malta Tourism Authority and is also used for exhibitions. The building features an impressive stone coat of arms on the façade.
Casa Rocca Piccola is unique in that it is still privately owned and inhabited, yet open to the public for daily tours. The tour includes over 12 sumptuously decorated rooms, walled gardens, and an underground network of tunnels and wartime shelters.
Other palaces certainly worth a visit include Auberge d'Aragon, Auberge de Bavière, Palazzo Ferreria and Palazzo Castellania.
Gozo, the sister island of Malta offers a safe haven from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Only a 30 minute ferry ride away from Malta, Gozo is often mentioned in connection with bliss and pleasure, as conveyed through its name which means ‘joy’ in Castilian.
The second largest island of the Maltese Archipelago, Gozo has ripples of greenery from the south-west to the north-west while the coast is surrounded by cliffs. Its rural and easy leisurely pace has given local residents a simple life that remains rooted in its culture, fishing and agricultural society.
Gozo’s capital of Rabat has a fortified citadel atop of its hill which offered shelter to the old town and security from raiders in the past. The citadel offers an idyllic settling with its old houses and a small cathedral that is enriched with magnificent bastion walls.
Having received its nickname of the Isle of Calypso, tradition has it that it was derived from the location of Ogygia in the Greek mythological poem Homer’s Odyssey. Legend has it that the island was controlled by nymph Calypso who held the hero of the story Odysseus as a prisoner of love for seven years. Gozo is thought to be the modern day equivalent of Ogygia.
Rich in historical locations, one fascinating fact is that the Ggantija temples together with the Megalithic Temples of Malta, are the world’s oldest free-standing structures.
A serene and greener setting than Malta, Gozo is home to the iconic Azure Window, a natural arch that formed millions of years ago when a limestone cave collapsed. Eye-catching and secluded beaches are scattered all over the island with the most popular being Ramla Bay, Marsalforn and Xlendi Bays making Gozo a beloved destination for divers and swimmers.
The Maltese are renowned for their joie de vivre and the sheer number of entertainment venues bears this out. The number also brings with it a healthy diversity, providing something for every age and taste.
Most of the bars and clubs are conveniently located in Paceville/St. Julians and in Buġibba, so if you’re staying in those necks of the woods, a night on the town can include numerous stops without the need for transport.
The Islands also boast numerous clubs and open air discos well off the beaten path – these tend to be well served with public transport and their hosting of international class DJs and entertainment makes them well worth the trip.
Of course, if you’re after a more convivial atmosphere, you can spend a relaxing evening in one of the many fashionable wine bars located around Malta and Gozo, Valletta being the epicentre for this type of evening.
Whatever your pleasure in entertainment, you’ll be able to enjoy it to the full while releasing the pent up stress from those long, arduous hours at the beach.
Due to its limited size, Malta’s beaches tend to be much smaller than what you’d find elsewhere, but as usual with this tiny island, what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in quality. Malta has a number of beaches spread throughout the islands, six of which are Blue Flag rated.
St. Georges Bay – This Blue Flag rated beach is a recent addition to Malta’s list of beaches. Located centrally just next to Paceville, Malta’s nightlife centre, the beach is easily accessed and its sheltered position means great swimming all year round.
Bugibba Perched Beach - Another Blue Flag rated beach, the Bugibba Perched Beach is a man-made sandy beach like St George’s Bay. Its location, along the popular Bugibba coastline, makes it easily accessible for those staying at one of the many hotels in the area. The beach also features seasonal lifeguards, and other facilities such as toilets and showers.
Mellieha Bay – Possibly Malta’s largest and most popular beach, Mellieha Bay beach is a long stretch of sand at the mouth of the large Mellieha Bay. The beach has a large amount of facilities, including snack bars and restaurants, showers and toilets. Thanks to its unique position, this Blue Flag rated beach affords the adventurous type plenty of opportunity for exploration, thanks to the stunning countryside and nature reserves in the vicinity.
Qawra Point – Located just off the Qawra promenade, this small stretch of sand and rock offers snorkelers and divers some stunning marine-life to observe.
Ramla l-Ħamra – Literally ‘Red Sand’, Ramla l-Hamra is the most popular beach on Gozo. Like most beaches on Malta’s sister island, the road leading to the beach is a winding one that snakes through a valley (as opposed to one that runs parallel to the beach). This adds to the feeling of seclusion and puts you more in touch with the surround natural environment. The beach is also Blue Flag rated.
Għajn Tuffieha – Also known as Riviera Bay, this is a sandy beach located in the North-West of the Island forming part of a string of bays that provide some of the best swimming in Malta. But it’s this beach that lays claim to the most stunning views. This secluded beach is nestled in an amphitheatre-like formation of scrubland, trees, and impressive rock formations.
Golden Bay – Għajn Tuffieha’s neighbour to the north, Golden Bay is a favourite amongst Maltese and tourists alike – it’s more spacious and far deeper than Ghajn Tuffieha, and there are far more facilities available.
Malta rewards the intrepid adventurer, so if the above aren’t enough for you, try exploring some of these beaches.
· Fond Għadir
· Paradise Bay
· Anchor Bay
· Armier and Little Armier
· Mistra Bay
· Blue Lagoon
· Peter’s Pool
· Pretty Bay
· St Thomas Bay
· Gnejna Bay
· Daħlet Qorrot
· San Blas
· Xlendi Bay
· Ħondoq ir-Rummien
· Mgarr ix-Xini
There’s something about holiday shopping that’s liberating. Back home, your shopping is a frenzied rush to cross items off a list, the selection is rather predictable, and the places all too familiar. Holiday shopping, on the other hand, presents you with the opportunity to sample exotic foods, try different styles, and buy a souvenir or two.
Valletta: Undoubtedly the most popular destination for shoppers all year round, Valletta is a shopper’s dream. No need for mechanised transport – it’s all within walking distance and the shops cater for every need imaginable. While fashion dominates the selection, you’ll find jewellers, cosmetics shops, toy stores, household goods, and some of the finest textile merchants locally. There’s even the celebrated is-Suq (The Market) – fruit and vegetable vendors, fishmongers, delis, and butchers all under one elegant, colonial style roof.
Sliema: One of Malta’s most popular summer towns, Sliema is second only to Valletta when it comes to retail therapy. The shops here are plentiful and there are a few malls, including Malta’s most popular mall – the Plaza Shopping Complex. While shoppers can find pretty much anything they’re after, the shops here tend to focus on fashion, jewellery, books, and electronics. The numerous cafes interwoven almost strategically between shops will make your day one of leisure, rather than a chore.
Gozo: The best place to bag a bargain on this little island is Victoria. Try the large shopping malls before the town centre, or the variety of smaller merchants hidden in the winding streets. If you’re lucky enough to encounter the daily market in the central square, you’re sure to find interesting gifts, souvenirs and beach wear.
What to Take Home with You: There are some excellent, tasteful souvenirs available in most areas around the islands. You’ll find miniature representations of popular buildings and famous sculptures carved out of the local limestone. Food is an increasingly popular purchase – the increase of typical Maltese gourmet treats in attractive packaging is a great reminder of your holiday. Probably the most meaningful purchase one can make while on holiday on Malta is a work of art from a local artisan. Art galleries are found all over the island, mainly concentrated in Sliema and Valletta and Ta’Qali Crafts Village where you can also see traditional glass blowing.
Restaurants: “To learn the history of a country, visit their libraries; but to truly understand its people, visit their kitchens”. The chequered history of this island nation is amply evident in its cuisine - a history that is at times besieged and isolated, at others celebratory and enraptured – the spirit of this people is borne out in their food. Influences range from Greek to Sicilian, French to Spanish, North African and even middle-eastern. And while many of the dishes tend to be local versions of those found in other countries, the Maltese versions, adapted for the availability of local ingredients, are truly unique.
As a nation that has endured its fair share of shortages, the portions are surprisingly abundant, and while the Maltese know a thing or two about herbs, spices and flavouring, it is the freshness of the ingredients that is the hallmark of good Maltese cooking.
Holidays are meant to be about new experiences, immersing your-self in a new culture, seeing the sights, and meeting new people. Now this is all well and good, but really, who can say that the highlight of any trip abroad isn’t those few hours spent in a great restaurant, at a table with a breath-taking view, tasting food that you’ll never be able to taste when you get back home.
The pampering of a waiter, the smells emanating from bustling kitchens, the sound of the waves lapping against the shore only a few metres from where you sit – that’s what memories are made of.
Malta offers the gastronome an unbelievable selection of restaurants, from breakfast to lunch, dinner to a midnight snack, every craving is catered for.
Spinola bay, located in St. Julian’s, is the go-to place for fresh seafood and incredible views. The bay is one of Malta’s most picturesque, and most restaurants in the area crowd around it in such a way as to guarantee great views. You’ll find a selection of cuisines from around the world, but by far the most popular type of restaurant is Mediterranean, specialising in fresh seafood.
Valletta’s packed with quaint eateries, most of which are housed in some of the most beautiful buildings on the island. Ancient auberges and quaint old townhouses are plentiful in this historic city. Valletta’s most popular during the day, so for a spot of people-watching, try Caffe Cordina on Republic street in the afternoon. For a more romantic meal, try a late night supper at one of the many eateries dotting the side streets – you’ll find a selection at any price-range, and inventive cuisine is the order of the day. St. George’s square opposite the Palace Armoury offers the ideal view from your al fresco table, with fountains set to music on the hour.
Apart from the many coastal destinations where fresh fish is the order of the day, such as Mellieha, St Paul’s Bay, Qawra, Bugibba, Marsaxlokk, Marsascala, and Wied iż-Żurrieq, there’s a wealth of restaurants to explore inland too. Try Mdina for some of the most intimate and romantic restaurants on the island. In fact, the walk to your dinner through Mdina’s silent, cobbled streets, passing some of the most stunning and well preserved architecture is almost as much fun as the meal itself, almost!
And if you find yourself on Malta’s sister island Gozo, there’s an abundance of excellent dining establishments there as well. The ferry boat docks at Mgarr, where you’ll be spoilt for choice. Leisurely lunches are often taken by the locals as they wait for the next ferry boat leaving for Malta. For some of Gozo’s better known restaurants, try Victoria where the main square is surrounded by great restaurants. If you’re more of the coastal type, try Xlendi bay with its dramatic scenery and restaurants perched high above the sea; or Marsalforn, with its laid back atmosphere making it a favourite place for the locals to summer.
Malta is a diver’s paradise: crystal clear waters, fascinating marine life, plenty of interesting wrecks, and an abundance of certified and professional dive schools to choose from.
Whether you’re a beginner just wanting to see what the fuss is all about (you won’t be disappointed), or a seasoned pro looking for some unique diving experiences, Malta has it all. Best of all, because of short distances, there’s never a great deal of time lost in transit from one destination to the other.
The islands offer some great wrecks for divers to explore, accessible from shore and by boat. The rich maritime and military history mean that you’ll be coming across more than just artificial reefs. Military wrecks, mainly from World War Two, include a Bristol Fighter, submarines, minesweepers, and destroyers. There’s even a World War One troopship called the Polynesian, complete with guns and even some of the crockery.
Inexperienced divers normally start off with a dive on the HMS Maori, a destroyer class ship sunk during the Germans’ relentless bombing of Malta during World War Two. Its maximum depth is 14m, resting on white sand that provides excellent contrast and reflection.
The more popular dives include the wrecks Um el Faroud – a Libyan tanker scuttled after a tragic explosion costing the lives of nine dockyard workers, and the tugboat MV Rozi – located in Cirkewwa at a depth of 35m. Both of these wrecks are relatively well preserved and divers are likely to come across some interesting marine life.
Reef and cave divers are also spoilt for choice. Comino – an uninhabited island situated between Malta and Gozo, offers some of the most fascinating network of caves on the archipelago, while cave dives like Ghar Lapsi in the south provide divers with a magical experience of deep blue luminescent seas. For the marine-life enthusiast, you’re likely to spot a wide range of sea creatures, including octopus, barracuda, scorpionfish, fireworms, and seahorses.
Situated on the northeast coast, Bugibba is part of the St Paul’s Bay area and is one of the most popular Malta holiday resorts along with its very close neighbour of Qawra. Hotels, bars, restaurants and nightlife are plentiful and there is also a man-made sandy beach with platform access over the rocky beach edge in summer. Alternatively, direct access to the beautifully clear sea & designated swimming area is available from the main square (Bay Square) in the town centre.
Bugibba is an excellent area for swimming, either in the sea or pools and for water sports & especially for boat trips around Malta, over to Gozo & the Blue Lagoon. (see map below for location of ‘boat trips jetty’. The seafront boasts shops on one side and a beautiful sea view across St Paul’s Island & Gozo opposite. You can choose between 3 or 4 star hotels, all inclusive or self-catering apartments in the area.
It is extremely well served by the buses, taxis and sightseeing tours for access to other places to visit both near & far on your Malta holiday.
Trejqet il-Kulpara, Bugibba
Phone: (00356) 2157 5619, 2157 7129; Fax: (00356) 2158 1573