Sharon Jordan, Managing Director of ITTN Group shares her experience of Malta.
Given my job, everywhere I turn, people ask me, “Where would you go for a breakaway?” and my reply is ‘it has got to be Malta!’. Malta is a year-round destination with an impressive 3,000 hours of sunshine and an average temperature of 22 degrees Celsius rising to c.30 degrees in the summer.
Malta Listed as Tops for that Winning Break Away
Late last year a friend and I undertook a whistle-stop girlie breakaway to Malta. My friend travelled there 26 years ago and it was my first time. Having heard Malta is a relatively unknown little gem of a destination, I was excited!
Departing Dublin Airport, security was straightforward with time for the obligatory browse through duty-free. We ordered two chilled glasses of Prosecco and toasted to the next 3 days away, sans-enfants! The pair of us make for great travelling companions. We both like to laze by the pool or sea but also like the cultural element to a destination, so effectively, we get the best of both and it’s a match made in heaven. Although admittedly, I’m more for the lazing these days.
Landing in Valletta then onward to St. Julian’s
After a short transfer lasting less than half an hour, we arrived at The Malta Marriott Hotel and Spa. The five-star hotel in the charming town of St. Julian’s with the lights of the seafront promenade reflecting in the water. While this place attracts many tourists, it is still very much a busy fishing village with a local life to accompany the streets of shops, eateries and energetic nightlife. Modern style and tastes fuse with old-world charm. The hotel, recently refurbished with chic modern decor, frames the spectacular view of Balluta Beach with centuries of Malta’s architecture curving around the horseshoe bay.
Despite the late check-in, the town was alive and we hightailed it out to find somewhere to eat and enjoy an evening drink. Spoiled for choice and all wallet-friendly prices, we sat by the water’s edge, sipping on iced drinks and tasting the local delicacies. The perfect start to a mini-getaway.
Views to the Horizon on a Rooftop Bar
After a restful sleep and some deep inhaling of the sea view from our balcony, we rose bright and early to make sure to take advantage of the hotel’s buffet breakfast. This hotel has incredible 360-degree views of the island from the luxurious rooftop pool. It feels a million miles from normal life as you stretch out on the loungers by the pool, expose toes to the heat of the sun and watch the world go by with a view off to the horizon. For rest and relaxation, this hotel also offers the largest spa on the island of Malta.
Dining in the Marina of Portomaso
Following a recommendation by the concierge, we dined at a wonderful restaurant Acqua Terra E Mare in the marina of Portomaso. We people watched, soaked up the Mediterranean vibes of the area and enjoyed fresh, tasty local dishes. Afterwards, in search of something a little livelier, we were tempted by another tip and headed to the Paceville area of St. Julian’s, a place packed with pubs and clubs, Beware – this area is not for those over a certain age but sure when in Paceville, do as the locals (or tourists do) and just dance!
Guided through Centuries of Maltese Culture
We were met by a local guide, Darrell Azzopardi (and recent star* of the new Jurassic Park movie, some of which was filmed in Malta).
A walking tour of Valletta, the capital city on the island, provided incredible picturesque streets and views on each corner. We visited many of the sites from the first season of Game of Thrones, though the highlight was the Upper Barrakka Gardens. These offer breathtaking views of the surrounding cities, Senglea, Cospicua and Birgu as well as the grand harbour.
Caravaggio & Baroque at their Best
St John’s Co-Cathedral is also definitely worth a visit, originally the church of the Order of Malta, the Beheading of St. John the Baptist”, Caravaggio’s masterpiece, lies in the Oratory. The building dates back to the 1570s but the interior was redecorated in the 17th century in what is regarded as some of Europe’s best Baroque style architecture. It’s well worth the journey.
Afterwards, we took a leisurely journey on a traditional Maltese boat called a Dghajsa (resembling Venetian gondolas) across the harbours, out to the three cities. Running our fingers through the water as we sailed and watching the ancient structures lining the coast – it was truly like stepping back in time.
Rolling on By
We docked at Birgu and discovered the next activity was a Rolling Geeks Tour. These are sizeable beach-buggy vehicles equipped with GPS and an electronic tour guide providing freedom to explore the island. This is definitely something I would highly recommend you do when in Malta – as it combines pure belly laughs with real culture and allows you to view the three cities by electric car. The owners of this tour bring an added sparkle of fun to the adventure.
Medieval Mdina & Mingling
After lunch, we visited the ancient walled city of Mdina, the former capital of Malta. It became known as the Silent City once it lost its status as capital as commerce moved out and it became like a ghost town.
After a short stop at Casa Rocco Piccola, a 16th Century Palace of a Maltese Nobleman, we made our way back to the Palazzo Parisio Hotel for Afternoon Tea. For a special occasion, this is a must-do! We mingled among football stars and wedding guests, then ate the most delicate of sandwiches and cakes. Think of the Merrion Hotel combined with Mediterranean sunshine – divine!
Sushi & Mixology
Hotel guests recommended a sushi restaurant in Valetta called Aki and it didn’t disappoint! Highly trendy and with a mixologist on site to pair your food and cocktails, it is definitely high in my recommendation list.
I have definitely been left wanting to visit Malta again. I would recommend it for anyone who enjoys the sun and sea, culture, sophistication and cocktails! If we had more time, we would have definitely taken a trip out to Gozo so three days may not be enough!
Sharon Jordan flew to Malta for a mini-break with Ryanair, courtesy of Visit Malta. Fly Ryanair direct from Dublin to Malta every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, from January to November making it a great year-round destination. Flight time is just 3 hours 40 minutes.
Pre-book dining – popular restaurants as very high in demand, especially at weekends.