To see 5,000 years of history standing proud next to perfect Mediterranean beaches and a club scene that’s seen it dubbed “the new Ibiza”.
The limestone walls of Valletta might radiate history but, as it prepares to be European Capital of Culture for 2018, Malta's small capital has seen an influx of new architecture (by the likes of Renzo Piano) and new bars and restaurants.
You probably didn't know
That the Megalithic Temples of Malta are older than Stonehenge or the Egyptian pyramids, dating back to between 3500BC and 2500 BC.
Earthly Powers (Anthony Burgess, 1980)
Things to do in Malta
Caviar and Bull
Caviar and Bull has views across St George's Bay from its huge windows, and a menu that includes super-soft, luxurious wagyu beef as well as caviar. The daily fish is baked in rock salt and theatrically filleted at your table. A place for Malta's high-rollers.
Electro Lobster Project
A slick bar–restaurant with the word “lobster” in the title is not the first place you'd expect to find vegans but the Italian-influenced menu at Electro Lobster Project includes numerous V-friendly options. The crunchy, quinoa salad is particularly good and cheaper than the lobster, which is €70 per kilo.
The Harbour Club
The lamb patties with grilled figs at The Harbour Club is a sweet, sticky and flavoursome dish. But the real reason to book a meal here on the terrace, beneath a formidable watchtower, is the views across the Grand Harbour and the "three cities" on the other side of the water.
Vegetarian restaurant the Grassy Hopper's spicy bean burger – which almost falls apart in a gorgeous mess of chickpeas as you bite – is far too good to be left just for vegetarians. What was once a kiosk has now expanded into a leafy cafe in Gzira.
So City Club
The Paceville area of St Julian on the east of the island is the centre of Malta's claim to be “the new Ibiza”. One of the archetypal new dance music clubs is So City Club, above the Soho Lounge, which has a crisp sound system and neon lighting inside. There’s a large terrace outside.
Juuls Reggae Bar
More relaxed than most of Paceville’s clubs, Juuls Reggae bar plays everything from Bob Marley to dancehall, dub or ragga. Anything that you can skank to on the large dancefloor, or relax to at the bar with one of their Caribbean-style rum cocktails, basically.
Before buying the colourful glassware at Mdina Glass, you can watch it being made. Experts bend the glowing-hot glass into jugs, vases or abstract shapes. The store and factory is located in the Ta' Qali crafts village, on the edge of Malta's National Park and not far from the National Football Stadium.
The Soap Café
The Soap Café's owner Charlene Mercieca's philosophy is that, "if something isn't good enough to eat, you shouldn't put it on your skin." This does mean that you'd be forgiven for getting confused and eating the products here. The home-made soaps smell delicious and it does have the ambience of a friendly caff but please note: they don't actually sell food.
Hypogeum of Hal-Saflieni
The great arches of Hypogeum of Hal-Saflieni, a buried temple, were carved 5,000 years ago. That this was built before the people had bronze, let alone iron, is incredible. Even more impressive, though, is the "Oracle Hole", a small window between two chambers that reverberates eerily when someone with a deep voice speaks into it.
Hidden among olive trees and meadows of long grasses in the centre of the island, Creativity Vortex is a part of Malta most visitors never see. Founders of the "Why Not?" group have a mission to "Raise The Vibration Of Our Planet" which they do with classes in eco-living within an eight-metre diameter bamboo dome.
The Azure Window
The Azure Window is a geological marvel on Malta's sister island Gozo. The slender arch of limestone rock, cut through by the sea, is all set to tumble into the water. Despite this, visitors with a death wish still regularly walk across the top, despite the warning signs.
Events to look out for
- Carnival – masked balls, bands and fireworks in Floriana (February)
- Malta International Fireworks Festival – Valletta (April)
- EarthGarden – eco music festival in Ta'Qali park (June)
- The Farsons Great Beer Festival – free music festival with local beer in Ta'Qali park (July)
- BirguFest – three-day celebration of culture in Birgu, with 10,000 candle display (October)
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