There is something reassuring about the compact size of Malta, especially in today’s climate, as we ease ourselves back into the world of travel. I have missed European minibreaks more than anything else over the last 18 months, nothing can replace that exhilarating feeling of waking up in a new city, with a whole new culture to discover. Malta’s capital Valletta is just a 3 hour flight from London but boasts sunny weather for much of the year. There is lots to entertain you in town but also many natural sights to see under an hour away by car or bus. Here are my favourite things to do from a long weekend in Malta.
Iniala Harbour House – With an advantageous location on the St Barbara Bastion this luxurious hotel boasts spectacular vistas of the Grand Harbour. There are 23 elegant rooms and suites, a relaxing spa, world-class cuisine and wonderful service. The hotel is housed within four historic Maltese houses, immaculately restored and lavishly decorated inside to ensure you have the most comfortable base while exploring Malta.
Ion the Harbour – The fine dining destination atop the Iniala Hotel. This beautiful rooftop restaurant has recently welcomed one of my favourite chefs, Alex Dilling, to the kitchen. Save time and appetite for the memorable tasting menu, featuring some of Alex’s most iconic creations, such as the divine ‘Hunter Chicken’ with Sauce Albufera. The menu draws on Maltese influences and local ingredients, but is classically French in style. The restaurant was recently awarded its first star, and I predict a second will follow soon. (Other fine dining spots worth visiting include Noni and Under Grain).
Guze – This friendly restaurant serves local Maltese dishes with a twist. Found in a 400 year old historic building, dinner here is atmospheric and special. Expect refined rabbit dishes and stylish desserts from the kitchen of this celebrated bistro.
Legligin – A great spot to get acquainted with the local cuisine. This cosy restaurant offers a tasting menu with a variety of delicious homely cuisine, using the finest Maltese ingredients. Book ahead as it’s always busy.
San Paolo Naufrago – Sit on the steps outdoors and order a pizza and glass of local wine. The pizzas are generous and delicious and the atmosphere is great fun.
Museum Cafe – Established in 1921 the Museum Cafe is the best place in Valletta to pick up the local delicacy of Pastizzi.
Manouche Bakery – Head to this petite bakery (Malta’s first craft bakery) for indulgent viennoiserie and French baked treats.
Lot Sixty One – My first stop in a new city is always a local speciality coffee shop, and Lot Sixty One is the only place in Valletta serving really good coffee. Everyone recommended it to me and it did not disappoint. Open long hours and serving their own roasted beans, the coffee here is strong and delicious. Perch on the al fresco tables with a flat white and plan the rest of your Maltese adventure.
Alchemy – If you are a cocktail fan this is the place to visit. Alchemy is serious about mixology and the knowledgable staff here will create you a totally unique and delicious drink. Open daily from 6pm and found tucked away on the revamped Strait Street.
Bridge Bar – A lovely outdoor spot for an evening drink and a bite to eat while listening to some live jazz, overlooking the Grand Harbour.
Barrakka Gardens – Found at the top of the city of Valletta the magical Barrakka Gardens are well worth a visit while in town. The colonnaded gardens were created in 1661, and were originally the private gardens and exercise grounds of the Knights of the of the langue of Italy, they were opened to the public in 1824. It is a romantic spot to sit and admire the view.
Blue Grotto – There are a number of sea caverns on the south east coast of Malta and the term ‘Blue Grotto’ refers to the collection of them. It is a short taxi ride or bus journey from Valletta, and makes a great half day trip. Head down to the water where you can swim or take a boat ride to see the inside of these incredible caves.
Mdina – This fortified city (and Unesco World Heritage site) is known as ‘The Silent City’ and is 20 minutes drive from Valletta. Here you can wander round by foot, take a charming horse and carriage ride, and enjoy delicious ice-cream from Fior di Latte. Before heading back walk over to the neighbouring town Rabat to pick up traditional Pastizzi lunch from Is Serkin – for just 40 cents you can get a delicious savoury pastry filled with curried peas, cheese or chicken.
Boat to the Three Cities – Take a boat from the Valletta waterfront to explore the Three Cities (Birgu, Bormla and Senglea). I spent most of my time wandering round Birgu and stopped for comforting Italian food at Terrone, run by ex-River cafe alumni.
I was a guest of Iniala Harbour House and Ion – the Harbour restaurant.