Things to do in Malta

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.

Best Malta hotel

To Stay

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.

Malta

To Eat

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.

Malta

To Drink

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.

Malta

To Explore

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.

Fritton Lake, Norfolk

Fritton Lake is a totally unspoilt and wholesome place to visit, on the border of Norfolk and Suffolk. It is a privately-owned, luxury holiday resort with clubhouse rooms, cabins and cottages for rent… there is something for everyone, whether you are a couple wanting a minibreak, a family seeking a summer holiday getaway, or a group of friends looking to celebrate an occasion.

The woodland cabins are, perhaps, the most idyllic option, hidden away amongst trees “in the heart of a pioneering thousand-acre rewilding project”. For something a bit more traditional, opt for the clubhouse, eight spacious bedrooms housed in the characterful 16th century manor house.

The Clubhouse is very much the epicentre of the Fritton Lake offering, with the restaurant and pool facilities both here. You can also find other activities like tennis and watersports all within a few minutes walk from the house.

We spent a couple of very comfortable nights in the homely Herringfleet Boathouse room. Our room was fully equipped with everything we needed for a weekend away; king-sized bed, bathroom with large bath, and the added bonus of verdant views of the estate.

There aren’t many notable restaurants nearby Fritton Lake so we had all our meals at the Clubhouse, from breakfast to dinner. With a very new chef in the kitchen it was apparent that the menu and concept was undergoing some changes and the dishes we chose definitely varied in style and standard. Highlights included recipes that showcased the hyper local produce, a wonderful steak with triple cooked chips, a beautifully presented summery Strawberry gazpacho, and perfectly cooked asparagus with artichoke hollandaise.

Those that are staying here for more than a night or two may wish to consider eating elsewhere for a few meals, as the concise menu (mostly repeated at lunch and dinner) doesn’t offer enough variety to have different dishes for more than two or three meals.

We were blessed with unusually sunny weather for our whole weekend at Fritton Lake, and it showed off the best of the area. When the weather’s good, there is no shortage of activities to entertain you, and I imagine it is a particularly perfect holiday choice for active families. Lake swimming, cycling and trail running are all popular here, and for spa fans you can hire out the architectural floating sauna!

A highlight of our weekend was a foraging tour we did with Matthew, the onsite horticulturist. His passion and energy for all things nature was inspiring and infectious… we spent a few hours zooming round the expansive grounds on a golf buggy as he pointed out interesting plant and insect species, and informed us about the history of the lake. At the end of the tour we even had a special private trip out on the lake, a rare opportunity to spot unique wildlife and see the incredibly beautiful landscape.

Fritton Lake is a fairytale setting for keen adventurers and those seeking an off-grid escape.

I was a guest of Fritton Lake, find more information here.

The Harper Hotel, Norfolk

Norfolk is an area I had often heard good things about, but previously had not had a reason to visit. When an invite to stay at the new Harper Hotel popped up, I decided it was time to explore this unspoilt British county. The after-work weekday traffic meant a two and half hour car journey from London quickly turned into a four hour slog, but when we arrived the staff were relaxed and quick to check us in (something I am particularly appreciative of now I have a baby).

The Harper Hotel opened in May this year, a comfortable bolthole just outside Holt in North Norfolk. The 32 boutique rooms vary a lot in size and design, we were in one of the smaller rooms so sadly missed out on a four-poster bed, but still benefitted from a big bed topped with an award-winning Casper mattress and luxurious Buffy bedding.

There is plenty of colour everywhere at The Harper, wacky artwork and vibrant furniture means that no space is without character. The rooms all feature indulgent bathrooms, but only a few have a bathtub. I was delighted to find Irene Forte products in the bathroom, gentle products inspired by the Mediterranean, they all smelt and felt delicious.

There is a lazy feel about the hotel, guests are very much left to their own devices to explore and use the space as they wish. This unpretentious atmosphere allows all visitors to feel welcome, and I noticed quite a few young families, groups of friends, and older couples enjoying the Harper when we visited.

After months in lockdown in the confines of my own home, it was the swimming pool and spa at the Harper which made me most excited. I spent a blissful hour swimming then relaxing in the sauna, it was such a novel and lovely experience despite the spa being half shut due to Covid restrictions.

I was lucky enough to also try one of the Irene Forte signature facials, a calming treatment that used a range of these natural products to cleanse, tone and deeply moisturise my face and scalp. There was nothing ground-breaking about the facial, but it did really improve my skin’s appearance and feel for a few days afterwards.

The Harper have two food options. Stanley’s is the more upmarket restaurant, on the first floor, where they serve breakfast and dinner. The alternative is an all da- menu that’s available to enjoy anywhere in the hotel, so you can choose to dine in your room, out in the courtyard or even in the bar area.

After our unscheduled late arrival the team kindly arranged  a late-night dinner from Stanley’s. A lavish platter of local Norfolk estate ribeye steak (cooked to perfection on the Josper grill) was demolished in silence, accompanied with grilled seasonal vegetables and moreish chips.

The next day we tried a few classic dishes that came recommended from the all day menu – ‘brisket burger in a marmite bun’ and ‘Lobster mac & cheese’ sounded like the ultimate treats, but sadly this food fell a bit short. I’m hoping with a bit of fine tuning they can improve this menu, as the dishes all have a lot of promise.

There is lots to do in North Norfolk, from wandering round quaint towns to discovering independent bakeries and breweries… not to mention the expansive coastline and impressive historic National Trust properties.

The Harper is a welcome addition to the hotel scene here, and there is just about everything you need for a relaxing weekend away from the city.

I stayed as a guest of the hotel, more information about The Harper here.