The Maltese Islands are a microcosm of all the Mediterranean, reflecting both the rich history of this region and its modern face. With their strategic, central position in the Mediterranean, the Islands have long attracted visitors whether as conquerors, traders or travelers. From mythical names such as Homer’s Odysseus to the more well-documented arrivals of the Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Knights of St John, the French and the British, the Islands have seen so many cultures come and go.
Today, Malta is a thriving, cosmopolitan destination welcoming visitors for leisure and business as never before. It offers both a window onto a vast cultural legacy, tracing some 6000 years of civilisation, as well as contemporary living at its best.
Malta’s greatest advantage for leisure or business lies in its location and size. Lying around 93km south east of Sicily and 288 from Tunisia, its nearest point on the North African coast, Malta is barely three hours’ flying time from most major European capitals and is well connected onwards to long-haul destinations. London is just over three hours, while Rome is just an hour away.
The islands are small – around 30km from southern Malta to the northern tip of its sister island Gozo. But the beauty of small is that you can see so much on just a short stay. Most major heritage sites are within half an hour of each other, and it’s quite possible to take in both cultural sight-seeing and leisure pursuits within a single day. From wine tasting in local vineyards or diving and snorkeling to visiting Unesco World Heritage sites, and from enjoying summer festas to a spot of designer label shopping, your interests are catered for within a short distance of our Hotels and Resorts.
Heritage & Culture Lovers’ delight
It is in fact renowned for its unique blend of sunshine and history and with good reason. Malta is home to a surprising number of Uneseco World Heritage sites given its size and is often referred to as an open-air museum. For culture lovers, it offers limitless excursions with historic and cultural sites ranging from prehistoric temples and monuments to baroque cities, imposing bastions and numerous forts. Malta and Gozo are strewn with fascinating historical and archaeological sites, some of which date back a thousand years before the Great Pyramid at Giza.
Museum lovers will find treasures to discover. Each museum houses fabulous artefacts from various fields and eras from art, archaeology and natural history to Malta in the two World Wars and the Islands’ celebrated maritime history. And more treasures can be found in any one of the 364 churches built on the island!
For those interested in old fortifications built at the time of the Knights of St. John, military and historical parades are regularly staged to allow visitors to be swept back in time. To help you interpret Malta’s history, then visit one of the excellent multi-vision shows which usually encapsulate a specific period in Maltese history and go into more depth than most guidebooks.
Island hopping – Gozo & Comino
No visit to Malta is complete without a hop to her sister islands of Gozo, and tiny Comino. Both offer the chance to explore stunning coastlines away from the bustle of Malta’s beaches and resorts. Gozo, aptly termed the island where time stands still because of the tranquillity it exudes, is greener than Malta and more rural allowing for sweeping views of terraced fields, glimmering shorelines, and imposing churches. Comino, a mile long and uninhabited, is a veritable paradise with a lagoon bluer than turquoise. Don’t miss the views from the 17th century watchtower on Comino, newly restored and open to the public in summer months.
Valletta – a jewel heritage Capital
Malta’s capital Valletta, is the most important ‘must-see’ on the Islands and a jewel among heritage capitals in Europe. The ‘Fortress City’, “a city built by gentlemen for gentlemen”, Valletta has inherited many titles over the centuries, all of which recall its rich historical past. It is however a “modern” city built by the Knights of St John – the first to be built on grid system. Above all though, it is a masterpiece of the late Renaissance and Baroque; a European Art City; and a Unseco World Heritage City. But these are just some of its faces and fortunes.
Valletta is something unique and different for each of us as it has so many faces to discover. And, as Malta’s capital city, it is also a living, working city, the administrative and commercial heart of the Islands. Nowhere in Malta is the life of the Islands reflected more than here. The city is busy by day, yet retains a timeless atmosphere. The grid of narrow streets house some of Europe’s finest art works, churches and palaces and one of the oldest theatres in Europe, the Manoel Theatre.
The city comes into its own though playing host to a vast cultural programme. Street events are staged against the city’s magnificent baroque architecture and floodlit bastions. There is theatre and music and all manner of things to see and join in, from avant garde art to traditional church festas. The city is a delight to shop in: narrow side streets are full of tiny shops selling antiques, maps, books, prints and jewelery. Walking around Valletta, you’ll come across an intriguing historical site around every corner: votive statues, niches, fountains and coats of arms high up on parapets. And when you need to stop and take it all in, the city yields up squares, courtyards, gardens and any number of cafés, right on cue.