It is this time of the year again. After a long and dark winter, the sun is making its first appearences, flowers are growing and the general mood improves considerably. It is also the time for long week-ends: Eastern, Labour Day, Ascension Day and Whit Monday all offer great possibilities to travel. You have a long week-end ahead of you and don’t know where to go? Why not discover Malta, the Mediterranean Paradise.
From western Europe, Malta is only a 2 hours and a half flight away. The spring season, when it might still be a bit cold in the northern part of Europe, is the ideal time to escape to the South and its mediterranean climate.
Malta is a small country and, therefore, it is easy to visit different parts by staying at only one place. We decided to stay in a small apartment at Saint Paul’s Bay. From there, we took a rental car to discover the island. We arrived on a Wednesday evening after work. As the Thursday was a holiday, we took the bridge day on Friday and, thus, had four days ahead of us to discover this beautiful country.
Day 1: Mdina, the silent city
On our first day, we did not have to go far for our first visits. The city of Mosta, famous for its Rotunda, a huge Basilica in the centre of the city is situated at a 1O minutes drive from St. Paul’s Bay. The specificity of this Roman catholic parish church is its dome, which is one of the largest unsupported domes in the world. Its architecture is based on the Pantheon in Rome.
From there, only another 10 minutes drive away is Mdina, the silent city and former capital of Malta during the medieval period. It is a beautiful fortified city without cars. As we did not find any parking space, we directly continued to Rabat, former suburbs of Mdina, and its St. Paul’s catacombs, a complex of interconnected, underground Roman cemeteries that were used until the 7th or 8th century.
We parked our car in a small street and after visiting the catacombs we passed by the famous St. Paul’s church before arriving at the Mdina Gate. Passing the gate brought us back in time as we walked through the alleys with its centuries-old noble houses, palazzis and cathedrals. Mdina was built on one of the highest hills in Malta and therefore offers a breathtaking view on the countryside.
In the evening, we decided to watch the sunset at the Golden Bay, only a 15 minutes drive from St. Paul’s Bay away. From up the hill, the view on the beach is beautiful and young people and couples come here to have some drinks while enjoying the sunset.
Day 2: Valletta
On our second day, we decided to visit the capital of Malta, Valletta. From St. Paul’s Bay we had to drive half an hour to arrive at a huge park&ride parking lot outside the city walls. From there, we took a bus to go into the city centre (when coming back in the evening we noticed that it was actually quite easy to walk).
Valletta is the smallest capital in Europe, but still has a lot to offer. We entered the city via the Valletta City Gate and started our tour at the Upper Barrakka Gardens. The view on the Grand Harbour of Valletta is beautiful. We took the elevator down to the harbour area where we found a small boat tour to discover the three cities, Cospicua, Senglea and Vittoriosa. At the end of the tour we decided to leave the boat early in order to have a closer look at Cospicua, one of the cities.
In the afternoon, we visited Valletta with its small and busy streets, its cathedrals, squares and parks.
Day 3: Day-trip to Gozo Island
Today, we took the ferry to Gozo island, Malta’s smaller and greener sister island in the north of the country. The ferry terminal in Cerkewwa is only a half an hour drive from St. Paul’s Bay. Ferries go every 45 minutes and the crossing takes about 25 minutes.
We first visited the capital of Gozo, Victoria and its imposing Citadel which offers a great view on the city. St. Georges Basilica and Square are also worth a visit.
We then continued our road to the former Azure Window, which was destroyed in a storm a couple of years ago. However, the place is still a main tourist attraction.
After visiting the Ta’Pinu Sanctuary, the Xewejni salt pans and the small town of Malsalforn, we ended this beautiful day with a visit of the Ggantija Temples in Xaghra, which are prehistoric temples dating back to 3600/3200BC. They are considered as one of the oldest free standing monuments in the world.
We soon had to go back but if you have more time to spend in Malta don’t hesitate to stay over night on this beautiful island.
Day 4: Marsaxlokk and St. Peter’s Pool
On the last day of our short visit to Malta we went to the famous Marsaxlokk fishing village and its hundreds of colorful boats. Even though Marsaxlokk has only 2800 inhabitants, tourists from all over the island arrive every day and a crowded market with typical souvenir stalls is organized. Unfortunately, the idyllic atmosphere we imagined was not that idyllic after all.
Before leaving for the airport, we had a small stop at St. Peter’s Pool, a public natural outdoor pool with crystal clear water.
We really enjoyed our long weekend in Malta and we could have easily stayed some days longer. But this is life of a part-time traveller.