If you're thinking about travelling to Malta (which you definitely should) here's how to make the most of your time in 48 hours...
Morning: Maltese balconies & Baroque architecture
Stroll through Valletta’s 16th century sandstone streets, passing underneath iconic Maltese balconies amid an embarrassment of Baroque monuments such as St John’s Co-Cathedral and The Grandmaster’s Palace.
Stop at Lot Sixty One Coffee Roasters for a velvety flat white or indulge in some pure chocolate on tap at Chocolate District. Snack on street-side pastizzi (savoury Maltese pastries filled with ricotta or mushy peas) while examining the controversial ultramodern Parliament House and City Gate renovations–do Renzo Piano’s clean lines have a place in this Baroque city?
Explore the imposing star-shaped Fort Saint Elmo, which divides the picturesque Marsamxett and Grand harbours, and learn about Malta’s diverse heritage at the National War Museum. The Romans, Moors, Spanish, Knights of the Order of Saint John, French and British have all occupied the island over the years, and each empire has left its mark on Maltese culture.
Afternoon: A traditional feast at Ta’ Kris
Catch the ferry across the picturesque Marsamxett Harbour to Sliema, a former fishing village which grew into a lively entertainment district during British rule, to enjoy a feast of traditional Maltese cuisine at Ta’ Kris.
Start with a delicious Maltese platter of peppery gbejna cheese, spicy Maltese sausage and moreish bigilla bean dip. Then try the chef’s signature stuffed beef bragioli and a plate of freshly caught grilled swordfish with juicy tomato and caper caponata.
Sip a Maltese coffee, spiced with aniseed and cloves, and have a chitchat with the lovely staff while working up the appetite to order the superb helu malti sweet pastry plate, a nod to the building’s former life as a bakery.
If shopping’s your thing, make the most of Sliema’s independent fashion boutiques, such as Fly the Fly and Gilda. If not, walk along the promenade to Exiles beach, a popular swimming and rocky sunbathing spot. When the deep azure waters of the Mediterranean turn oily and silver, and a peachy haze forms on the horizon, make your way to Independence Garden to become acquainted with the colony of playful cats that congregate here after sundown.
Evening: Seafood by the water’s edge
Settle down for an exquisite evening of fresh seafood at Barracuda, a fine-dining restaurant housed in an 18th century villa with tables raised directly above the calm waters of Balluta Bay.
Kick things off with some rich red prawn carpaccio with passionfruit dressing and a plate of subtly smoked barracuda carpaccio with chive oil. Then move onto the delicate wild seabass fillet with salty skin and zippy triple citrus velouté before filling up on traditional Maltese calamari, stuffed with more calamari, capers, black olives and tomato. Finish the meal with a red berry and vanilla cheesecake.
Call a taxi or take the night ferry back to Valletta for a nightcap. Choose between a whisky sour at StrEat, a fancy craft beer at Café Society or a pint of lager at The Pub–famous for being the spot where “hell raiser” actor Oliver Reed died of a heart attack while filming Gladiator in 1999.
Alternatively, retire early to boutique hotel Palazzo Prince d’Orange to pour a glass of wine on the terrace and watch a film before bed.
Morning: Ancient cities & Grand Harbour views
Wake up to a dazzling orange sunrise over the Grand Harbour in the gloriously restored 17th century Baroque Palazzo Prince d’Orange. Ease yourself into the day with a cup of tea, toast and marmalade on the terrace; gazing out at the almost mythical Three Cities of Birgu, Senglea and Cospicua on the opposite side of the harbour.
Stop off for an espresso beside the flowers and fountains of Upper Barrakka Gardens, before deciding on a daytrip destination. Head to the colourful fishing village of Marsaxlokk Bay if you’d like to cook some fresh catch for yourself, ride the ferry to Cospicua if you can’t get the Three Cities vista out of your head or visit the Megalithic Tarxien Temples (circa 3150 BC) if you’d like to delve even deeper into Malta’s past.
Afternoon: Mdina, the “Silent City”
Take a taxi to the spectacular walled city of Mdina, which served as Malta’s capital from antiquity to the medieval period. Stroll through the carless “Silent City’s” narrow winding streets, which twist and turn and take you back in time, then visit the Baroque Saint Paul’s Cathedral for a history of the apostle’s life told in glorious frescoes bordered by gilded stucco.
Stop by Mdina Glass to buy a tasteful blown glass paperweight, candleholder or vase before checking in at The Xara Palace Relais & Chateaux to experience the height of Maltese luxury.
Settle down with a flute of champagne in the courtyard of this magnificent 17th-century palace, furnished with antique furniture, classical paintings and Parisian fabrics. Take a book up to your private terrace and see how much you can read before being captivated by the panoramic island vista: green and beige fields stretching to the white cubes of Valletta and the sapphire Med beyond.
Evening: Fine dining at The de Mondion
Dine al fresco on the centuries-old Mdina bastions of Xara Palace restaurant The de Mondion. Enjoy the sunset with an aperitif and an amuse-bouche of crunchy squid ink croquette with fermented cabbage. Let the sommelier assist with your wine selection and listen to the passionate waiting staff as they reveal the gastronomic secrets of each exquisitely crafted plate.
Start with seared Scottish scallops swimming in passionfruit jus with wilted spinach and Maltese sausage alongside a plate of showstopping marinated red prawns served with crispy squid ink, salty pork rind, orange caviar and delightful hazelnut foam.
Gaze at the kaleidoscopic colours of frequent firework displays over Valletta while expert Chef de Cuisine Kevin Bonello prepares the mains. Appreciate the freshness of succulent red snapper fillet served relatively simply with mash, samphire and tomato jelly. Taste tender rabbit loin, spiced with fennel seed and wrapped in rabbit belly to form a sausage, complemented by sweet caramelised onion foam, roast potato lattice and shitake mushrooms.
Finish with a fluffy green apple soufflé with sour apple sorbet and a devilishly rich Venezuelan Valrhona Araguani chocolate cremeaux, before retreating to your private terrace to indulge in a spot of stargazing from the jacuzzi.