To be honest I didn’t really know much about this tiny island before booking flights a few weeks ago. All I knew was that Ryanair could get me there and back for €27 and I had to jump at the chance to visit a new country. Located in the Mediterranean Sea just below Sicily I hoped it would be a warmer winter getaway than other mainland European countries. Living in the south of France you would think the winter would be mild, it’s not, it’s freezing! As someone who is allergic to the cold, seriously allergic, winter is not my favourite season. If anyone else suffers from constantly cold and hands and feet you’ll understand why I needed to escape. Fortunately Malta has a very mild winter January temperatures are around 14/15 degrees which is quite pleasant. Summers I imagine are quite hot but if you prefer to avoid the crowds visiting in winter is a good option.
Malta is of course an Island, a small one and you can reach any town easily from the airport. There’s a good few localities to choose from, we picked Sliema. As we weren’t looking for a beach getaway and we were going out of season I wanted somewhere that would have some life. Valletta the capital, which was pricier, is only 5 minute boat ride away (which costs €3 return) so Sliema turned out to be a good base for exploring. The town has a very British feel, it has a large expat population who have brought their home comforts with them – think Marks and Spencer and English breakfast. We enjoyed spending the evenings in Sliema as it was easy to find food, drinks and a good atmosphere. However during the days we preferred to leave that area and explore the rest of the island.
How to get there?
I had done a bit of research on how to get from the airport to the hotel, a taxi would be €20 and buses were also available. However, in the end we ended up buying our transport tickets on board our Ryanair flight, for €5 each we were be brought from the airport directly to our hotel. We took a minibus with only one other couple so got all the benefits of a taxi and saved money by buying on board.
Where to stay?
We chose to stay in a hotel for this trip so I didn’t look into Air BnB this time. Using booking.com we found Days Inn hotel. It was so central in Sliema so the location was perfect! I hadn’t realised that the hotel is also a sort of residence for students who come to Malta to learn English. There’s definitely upsides and downsides to this. An upside was that the room had a sink, microwave and fridge so if you wanted to make food its easy. There’s also a young atmosphere, there was always lots of students around the lobby so a good place if you like meeting new people on your travels. However if your an older traveller the amount of students may be off putting, we didn’t find the hotel noisy but maybe we were lucky with our room. Overall though the hotel is modern, clean, nicely decorated and the staff were so helpful. WiFi was a bit of a problem, it’s only free in the public areas although the lovely man at reception did give us some passes to use WiFi in our room so we weren’t too put out.
We chose to have breakfast in the hotel, I can’t function without food first thing and my boyfriend is cranky without his morning coffee. The breakfast was basic – cereal, toast, sandwich toppings, coffee and juice. It was perfect for us as it meant we didn’t have to search for food so we were happy.
We paid €160 for 3 nights B&B.
What to do?
We stayed for three nights and had two and a half days to explore the island. We spent the first evening exploring Sliema, there are some really pretty buildings in the back streets off the promenade. We also took advantage of happy hour which lasts from 3pm to 7pm in many bars!
We decided on the Friday that we would look into booking a boat tour for the Saturday. All we had to do was walk down to the promenade where there’s a dozen reps selling bus and boat tours. We chose Malta sightseeing tours and paid €35 each for a boat tour for the Saturday. As a bonus we also got to take a tour of all the harbours around Valletta on the Friday. This was great as it meant we got to see so much of the island and had our Friday and Saturday plans sorted!
After spending the morning on our boat trip later on Friday evening we took a Ferry to Valletta, the capital, and just wandered around the city. It’s really beautiful and the old style buildings have been preserved. We were too late to see the St John’s Co Cathedral but did get to the public gardens which have a Spectacular view of the harbour. Small tip if you take the lift down from the gardens be sure to stay on the lift to go back up. It’s free to go down but there’s a fee to get back up if you get off the lift.
We got the ferry back to Sliema that night, it takes about 5 minutes and the city lit up looks beautiful.
On the Saturday morning we took our boat trip which brought us from Sliema to Gozo, it took about an hour and a half and even though it was January we were able to sit outside and enjoy the sea breeze. On Gozo island we were given a bus tour, this was great as it brought us to the Azure window which is just stunning.
Update: Unfortunately one month after I visited, on the 8th of March 2017 the Azure window collapsed. After heavy storms the entire structure was wiped away. It is a huge loss to the island.
The only problem was that we only got a short half an hour for lunch and the only place we could find was for pretty expensive sandwiches. The stop at the Azure window was only 20 minutes which really wasn’t enough time to fully appreciate the view. We then went over to Comino by boat again. Here we had an hour, which was enough time to explore, relax and take some great photos.
The Blue Lagoon in Comino again is stunning.
We returned then to Sliema and were back in time to have the evening free. For the boat trip we chose to go for the open bar with all drinks included – wine, beer and soft drinks. I’d recommend this as it’s only €5 more and even if you just stick to soft drinks its worth it.
Where to eat?
Along the promenade in Sliema you’ll find plenty of options for lunch and dinner. Our favourite lunch spot was a cafe which did the best mushroom soup, it was so creamy and delicious. My boyfriend who had ordered a pork ribs burger, which was really good, insisted that we come back so he could get the soup again, he was obsessed!
We also had lunch in Valetta in il Kapettili where we got these delicious sandwiches I got haloumi on traditional maltese bread, it was really tasty, nicely toasted and about €6.
For dinner and drinks the Brew bar was our favourite. This bar brews and sells its own beers, a pint is €4.50 which compared to €7 pints here in France was great value! If you’re into beer stick to the bars own brand as anything else works out surprisingly more expensive. To eat we got a mixed platter, which included 4 types of sausage, with 2 sauces and 2 sides. At €22 it worked out at pretty good value for 2 people. For desert we had banoffee pie which was delicious!
Malta turned out to be the ideal destination for a short winter getaway, with cheap flights and relatively inexpensive accommodation, food and drink its a cheerful, easy option. I got the impression that the Island is a different place during the summer. With so many students learning English, plenty of beaches, good weather and open bar boat tours I imagine its a little less relaxed and a little more party centred. That being said there are so many destinations within the island – St Julians and Paceville are more nightlife focused, St Pauls seems to be more upmarket and Valletta as with any capital is more business/ real life centred. There’s no “right” time to visit Malta it all depends on your taste and budget and how much heat you can handle!
Have you been to Malta? Is there anything else that’s a ‘must see’? Let me know your thoughts.
Until next time,