I’m writing this post whilst observing social distancing as the world grapples with a global pandemic following the COVID-19 outbreak.
Initially I started writing this in response to the blogs and posts I saw tearing Malta down. However finding myself sat inside on a somewhat gloomy Saturday I am switching lanes. The island is currently on a somewhat self imposed lockdown with the suspension of all inbound flights only hours away. Instead I want my post to serve as a reminder and guide for when Malta and the rest of the world returns to its feet. Whether it’s choosing to live on a charming island or considering a visit… continue reading to discover why Malta.
Located 80 miles south of Sicily, Malta, is a small island rich in culture and history. The island is the ultimate place to live if you enjoy the finer arts. Lovers of architecture will appreciate the iconic colourful balconies not to mention over 350 churches scattered throughout the Maltese Islands.
There’s something for everyone here and if the above isn’t for you… perhaps the Mediterranean climate is. Boasting over 300 days of sunshine per year, Malta is the perfect place to indulge in your Vitamin D intake. Sun and sea go hand in hand and there is plenty dotted around. Whether you’re a lover of sand or rock beaches, you won’t be left disappointed. Malta is home to some of the best beaches in Europe.
Maltas’ azure coloured waters are amongst the crystal clearest in Europe. Beaches also rank highly in EU league tables for being one of the cleanest. Is it any wonder Malta has been hailed as a top European destination? Popularity in the Maltese Islands is growing year on year and tourism in Malta continues to boom.
The City or Il-Belt
There are many villages and towns in Malta. From Mellieha in the north to Zabbar in the South. Each place come with its own unique charm and character. One, however cannot discuss a country without mentioning her City. The capital of the Malta is of course Valletta or “Il-Belt” in Maltese literally meaning “city”.
Sliema, Malta with views of Valletta
Valletta was named European Cultural Capital for 2018. Looking at the strong baroque architecture featured heavily – a legacy left behind by the Knights of Malta (and whom reigned for over 250 years) you would have a job on your hands contesting the revered title.
Commissioned by The order of St John in 1556, Valletta is not only the oldest but the smallest capital in Europe. Built between The Masamxett and The Grand Harbours, the capital measures 0.55 sq.km. Despite its small size, Valletta is packed with historical buildings, museums, churches and an array of eateries serving both Maltese food as well as international. The capital city hasn’t gone unnoticed by UNESCO and is described as ‘one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world’. Valletta has been listed as a UNESCO world heritage site since 1980.
It’s fair to say that Valletta offers much more than beauty, it has a bustling personality too! It also happens to be the place I saw in 2020. Surrounded by historical buildings whilst dancing on medieval streets, I celebrated a new year and decade alongside young, old, black, white, Maltese and foreigners alike. Gone are the days when Valletta was known solely as a hub for museums. Concerts, exhibitions, films and markets now occupy the colourful capital. Lively bars, delicious restaurants and quirky shops can also be found along the winding streets of Valletta. On a Friday evening you may well find me at a candlelit table or perched on ancient steps listening to live music at Bridge Bar.
Walking along the rollercoaster streets of Valletta it’s easy to feel lost against its neo classical pastel coloured buildings. Easily walked in 20 minutes, rest assured…it’s near on impossible to become lost.
Things to do in Malta
Spread over three inhabited islands the Maltese Islands is 246 sq km. Whether its during the delightfully long summers or the short mild winter months, you will not be at a lost for things to do. Maltas’ social calendar is full with plenty of things to do. The only question you’ll be faced with is: which event will I attend?
At the pleasure of the Mediterranean Sea, the location welcomes an endless stream of water sports. Activities such as diving, snorkelling, sailing, kayaking, swimming and much more can be enjoyed.
Whilst it’s true I have become quite taken with Maltas history, I haven’t even touched the sides. Recently I visited Hagar Qim and Mnajdra’s Temples – one of the eleven Megalithic Temples on the islands. Malta has the most historical sites in the world and your days could be filled exploring world war shelters, heritage sites, shipwrecks and centuries old medieval buildings. As mentioned there are over 350 churches in Malta, a feat historians and architect lovers will feel a Godsend! St John’s Cathedral in Valletta and St Paul’s Church in Mdina each resemble grand museums. Both are a must see.
Mosta Rotunda, Malta
There are a wealth of street parties, festivals and “festas” celebrated throughout the year. Maltese people have a real sense of community and it can be felt in their party spirit. Festas and carnival are centred around religion and are celebrated in accordance with the Catholic calendar. If you’re thinking quiet and calm. Think again! These events are full on parties with people of all ages taking to the street and getting involved with the festivities.
Umbrella Street in Zabbar, Malta
The island also hosts Birgufest a light festival held in Birgu.
Birgu is a small region in the South of the Island and forms one third of a region collectively known as the “three cities”
The region is one of Maltas oldest and most historic “cities”. During one evening of the festival, the ancient streets of Birgu is lit solely by candles.
Birgufest, Birgu, Malta
Music festivals such as Isle of MTV and Glitch are also held on the island. Notte Bianca— the biggest culture festival is celebrated annually in October. During this festival the doors to state palaces and museums are left wide open to the public. Valletta is lit up and festival goers can expect the best in performance arts, visual arts and literary events.
A thriving community
Expat life isn’t for everyone. At times navigating through a new country (no matter how beautiful) can leave you feeling incredibly lonely. A feeling that left unchecked can colour the view of your new surroundings and turn you into a negative Nellie. Before you know it you’ve become that Brit. The entitled one who complains about the lack of everything non- British! I kid (well half joking, ok I admit I did this. A bit.)
Thankfully, Malta has a large and thriving expat community.
According to Eurostat’s figures, there are over 67,000 non-Maltese people living in Malta. 38,563 of the expats who live in Malta are from other EU member states, while 28,582 are from non-EU member states.
Lovin Malta‘ have recently suggested this number may now have reached 100,000.
Disclaimer: I was unable to find an additional source to confirm this number but between 67,000 and 100,000… it’s safe to say you can expect to meet at least one person!
The Maltese Community
Maltese people in general seem to be fiercely family-oriented, kind and warm-spirited. They’re proud of their nation and it’s rich history – a trait I find endearing particularly for such a small place. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Size doesn’t matter. (Luckily for me) As well as speaking their native language – Maltese, they (nearly) all speak English too.
Before the introduction of buses on the island there was once a railway station, however this stopped in 1931. Nowadays, you’ll find over 80 operating bus routes taking you all over the island from 5.30 am through to 11pm Monday to Friday.
On weekends, there are eight operating night routes and each journey costs 3 EUR.
A single ticket (valid two hours) purchased on the bus costs 2 EUR from July to September and 1.50 EUR from October to June.
A block of 12 tickets costs 15 EUR. This option can be used by more than one person, however if travelling will need to scan the ticket for each person. Once scanned the ticket is valid for two hours.
Seven-Day explorer tickets cost 21 EUR for adults and 15 for children. This ticket is valid for seven days unlimited use, day and night in both Malta and Gozo
Exploreplus Card costs 39 EUR and is valid for seven days unlimited use day and night in both Malta and Gozo. This option also include two ferry trips with Valletta Ferry Service, a days travel with Citysightseeing Malta or a trip to Comino.
If you’re planning on staying in Malta for a little longer, the best option is a Tallinja card. You’ll need to register for one either online or in person at Valletta Bus Station. Your ID details will be required along with your address and a one-off 10 EUR registration fee. A single fare costs 0.75 EUR and a 2.50 EUR on a night bus.
There has been much divided opinion over the reliability of the buses in Malta. The main issue I see with the buses is: they’re quite small and during busy periods maximum capacity is reached shortly after leaving the departing station. Fine, if you’re getting on at the start of the journey. Not so great if you’re in the middle. Generally, there’s more than one bus route serving a particular town or village, although less than ideal, an alternative bus will get you close enogh. Popular destinations such as: Valletta, Sliema, Mellieha and St Julians have several bus routes taking you there. By downloading the Talinja app you can check in real-time when the next bus is due.
Boats rides on this gorgeous sun blessed island are a must and there are a few operational routes to take.Valletta Ferry Services run between Valletta’s Marsamxett Harbour and Sliema. They also run a service from Valletta Harbour to The Three Cities. A single costs 2 EUR per person.
The Three Cities, Malta
A visit to Maltas sister island Gozo can be reached by ferry.Gozo Channel operate a car ferry from Cirkewwa, Malta to Mgarr Harbour in Gozo. Ferries run from 0.00 to 23.15. Prices start from 4.65 EUR for a foot passenger to 15.70 EUR for a car and passenger fare. Click here for a full price list.
Gozo Harbour, Gozo, Malta
Some say, a question should not be answered with a question. In this instance an exception should be made. When asked ‘Why Malta?’ The answer is always… why not?
Wouldn’t you agree?
Where ever you are in the world, please take care. ❤
Love and light,