The last leg of our European summer ended in Malta, a small country in the Mediterranean made up of little islands. We really had no reason why we decided on Malta, other than that it had two things we wanted: sun and sea. It was kind of refreshing to go someplace we didn’t have any preconceived notions about. None of us (me, Ben, my brother, my mom, & his parents) came to Malta with any plans or expectations… just a handful of recommendations from the few who have actually gone to the little country, which I’ve included below, along with some of the things we did during our time there.
We landed at midnight, so we got a hotel near(ish) to the airport in St. Julian. We didn’t spend much time there as it’s mostly known for its nightlife, casino, and clubbing.
That morning, we checked into another hotel in Valleta called Hotel Phoenicia. We stayed here for 2 nights, but we all wished we had stayed there for 3. The hotel is located at the entrance of the Valleta gates, which made it a great starting point to wander around the capital. The pool itself was enough to make the hotel one of my favorites I’ve stayed at, as it overlooked the harbor and was surrounded by the city’s ancient walls. The first day was spent mostly at the pool and ended at dinner in the city - at Palazzo Preca, a romantic restaurant run by two sisters.
We started the morning at Caffe Cordina, the capital’s most famous cafe. We sat on the terrace, where we ate traditional Maltese breakfast foods (breakfast ftira, pastizzi, & qassata) and drank Maltese coffee. The desserts looked AMAZING - I’m pretty sad that we didn’t go back to try them.
After breakfast, we walked around Valleta, which was strategically built like a fort with ancient walls surrounding the city. For a capital, it wasn’t super touristy, which was such a contrast in comparison to our time in Rome.
Later in the day, we visited Marsaxlokk, a fishing village in Malta (pictured above). It’s popular for its open air market and selection of the freshest fish on the island. From there, we walked to St. Peter’s Pool. The 30 minute walk uphill was pretty tough for our parents, but so worth it for us. Even though it was crowded with people (tourists & locals alike), it was honestly just really nice to see people genuinely enjoying themselves - tanning alongside friends, jumping off the cliffs into the water, and enjoying the sunshine. The water was amazing to jump in after such a hot walk to the get there.
We took a Bolt back to Hotel Phoenicia, where we indulged in a sunset swim. Later that night, we had dinner back in the palazzo in Valleta.
We woke up and had breakfast at Cafe Jubilee - where I sat wishing we had just gone back to Caffe Cordina for a second time instead. Afterwards, we checked out and headed north to catch a ferry to Gozo.
The popular hotel in Gozo was fully booked, so we got a room at Ta’ Cenc. Honestly, I don’t know what was worse - their service or the wifi. For someone who has to work during vacation, not having good wifi is not ideal. I had to sit in the lobby in the middle of the night until 2am to get some work done.
While our parents hung out at the hotel by the pool, Ben, Rickey, and I explored a bit of Gozo with the one day we had. We went to Xwenji Bay, which oddly enough, wasn’t on anyone’s list of recommendations. I weirdly am super into salt pans, so when I saw it in an article as a place to visit, I made it the one thing I wanted to see while in Gozo. It ended up being beautiful. Not only were the salt pans pretty cool to walk on and look at, but the neighboring beach was stunning. It was small, but the limestone cliffs were beautiful to walk around on and take photos. It was also nice to see that the pebbly beach was inhabited by locals and didn’t feel like a tourist destination.
We got breakfast at the hotel and left Gozo before seeing many of the spots that were highly recommended:
Azure Window - an iconic sea arch & Gozo’s most popular attraction… that no longer exists. The arch (which made a guest appearance on Game of Thrones Season 1!) fell into the ocean spring of 2018. Because it was no more, we didn’t bother going to see it.
Comino / Blue Lagoon - a favorite spot for swimming & snorkeling because of its super blue waters. You have to take a boat to get to it, which is why I opted out.
Ramla Bay - arguably Gozo’s best beach, with its “red sand.” I looked at photos and it honestly didn’t look that cool to me. And the sand doesn’t look red…
On our last day, we visited Mdina, the old capital of Malta and known as the “silent city”. It’s also known for having a few set locations for GOT Season 1:
Mdina Gate - the entrance into King’s Landing in Episode 3.
Mesquita Square - Littlefinger’s brothel & where Jamie Lannister & his men attack Ned Stark.
St. Dominic’s Convent (pictured above) - where Cersei famously told Ned Stark, “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.” This wasn’t technically in Mdina, but only 10-15 minutes away by foot. Being there honestly felt like stepping into a page of a history book. While I’m well aware Cersei and Ned didn’t actually exist, seeing the setting of such a pivotal moment in GOT was pretty breathtaking.
When in Mdina, make sure to eat at Coogi’s and order the crab ravioli and then head over to Fontanella Tea Garden for delicious cakes - get the Chocolate Apple Hazelnut. That one was by far the best out of the other hazelnut cakes we tried.
All in all, Malta was good to visit. My mom, brother, and Ben’s parents all loved it - it was pretty walkable, not too crowded with tourists, and fairly reasonable in prices, especially when it came to the food - our meals were delicious, inexpensive, and served in big portions. For some reason, though, I found myself comparing Malta and Mallorca, two European islands that start with M, with another one we’ve been to - Milos. I know it’s unfair, but after the trips to Mallorca and then Malta, I can’t help but think how I’d much rather visit Milos a second time instead.