Guide to your WOW-weekend in Malta
Lunch in the fishing village
Pick up your rental car and go straight from the airport to Marsaxlokk fishing village in the south-east part of the island. Enjoy a stroll along the waterside, the view of the colorful traditional fishing boats (don’t miss the eyes of Osiris on each boat!) and the atmosphere of the market, before tucking into a Maltese lunch at Ta Victor restaurant. Here you can end up next to a group of Maltese locals or even Mick Jagger and you only pay €25 for a main, from its three-course menu. In Malta, a meal always starts with marinated olives and flat bread with traditional Kunserva tomato spread and if you’re lucky it ends with the dessert Imqaret - fried date-filled pastries - one of the remnants of the Arab world on the island.
Afternoon tour of the capital
After lunch take the short drive to the capital Valletta. The city was founded in 1566 and is both charming and manageable to see by foot. Many consider it to be an "open air museum” with colourful wooden balconies and the famous Grandmaster's Palace, built in 1571 during the Knights of Malta era. Today the palace is home to the House of Representatives and the office of the President of the Republic. If you want to see a “living” 16th century palace, visit the Casa Rocca Piccola (74 Republic Street), which is still run by the noble de Piro family.
The other “must-see” is St John’s Co-Cathedral (Triq San Gwann)
– a gem of Baroque art and architecture built as the convent church for the Knights of St John and considered today to be one of the world's great cathedrals.
On the main street Strada Republika (Republic Street), you will find shopping as well as plenty of restaurants. Stop by for a coffee and a sweet treat at Café Cordina (224 Republic Street) which has everything from great Italian coffee to traditional dishes. The prices however are “touristy.”
Dinner out with live music?
For dinner, one option is the King’s Own Band Club Bar and Restaurant (Republic Street) where there is always live music in the evening, or alternatively take a simple meal at Nenu The Artisan Baker (143 St Dominic Street), famous for its traditional Maltese Ftiras, a kind of thick bread pizza.
You could also try the newly opened Taproom Brasserie & Bar (53a Old Theatre Street), where you can mingle at the industrial bar in the home-style open kitchen or eat a steak in the chic 1930s dining area, while being treated like a king or a queen for the evening by the welcoming staff. Nearby is the lively Strait Street (formerly known as “The Gut”) where British sailors used to spend their money on wine and women. Business on Strait Street is picking up again with several small retro bars and restaurants opening up.
Time for swimming!
Malta is after all, an island, so you can find everything from hidden, unexploited beaches with crystal clear snorkeling waters, to tucked-away bays where you can dive off the cliffs. If you’re in Malta you should spend at least a day enjoying the clear, turquoise waters and the sun.
If you prefer a sandy beach, drive to Golden Bay in the northern part of the island at Hajntuffieha and Hajntuffieha Bay, or another option is Ghadira Beach in Mellieha, one of the largest sandy beaches on Malta, with several kiosks and restaurants for lunch and snacks.
End the day in The Silent City
Spend a quiet evening in romantic Mdina, the capital until 1566, situated on a hill in the center of the island. Known today as “The Silent City,” Mdina was first inhabited and fortified around 700 BC. Today only 250 people live within the city walls, while outside, the village of Rabat is home to over 11,000.
The medieval town offers a mix of Norman and Baroque architecture with the striking Cathedral of the Conversion of St. Paul in the main square. Go to Baccus Restaurant for a fine dining experience or try the Fontanella for a more moderately priced casual dinner with a wonderful terrace view. At the Palazzo Constanzo you find the restaurant Rosmarino, but if you are more in the mood for Lebanese, Maltese, Indian or Chinese, you should try Sharma - they have it all. To top off the evening why not spend the night at the only 5-star luxury boutique hotel, The Xara Palace Relais & Chateaux (Misrah Il Kunsill)?
The Xara Palace Relais & Chateaux
Discover Paola city…
Start out with an unforgettable historic experience by driving to the city of Paola to see the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum (Burial Street). This underground prehistoric burial site is made up of interconnecting rock-cut chambers, set on three separate levels. The earliest remains at the site date back to about 4000BC. Make sure you book online as far ahead as possible, because only 10 people are allowed to enter the temple each hour.
We recommend a lunch stop in the town of Mellieha, where you can choose between various restaurants, such as the local favourite Munchies Mellieha Bay (Triq il-Marfa, Ghadira) offering great burgers and a fine ocean view, or the more upmarket Commando Restaurant (Misraħ Iz-Żjara tal-Papa) where they serve steaks cooked to perfection.
… and swim in the lagoon
Drive north to Cirkewwa harbor and take a ferry or water taxi to Malta’s sister island Comino (ferry runs between June and September, weather permitting) for a swim in the Blue Lagoon. Don’t expect a sandy beach, or any kind of privacy, but the crystal clear turquoise water more than makes up for it. If you get hungry, there are plenty of food stands nearby.
If you are the adventurous type you can go trekking around the island (a 2-3-hour hike) and see the famous watch tower from the film The Count of Monte Cristo. You may even bump into Salvo from the only family that lives on the island full time.
…and the 4th day?
Should you have an extra day – go to gorgeous Gozo.
Text: Sofia Zetterman
Published: February 6, 2017