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krisek Valletta - A travel report by Krys
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Valletta,  Malta - flag Malta
13829 readers

krisek's travel reports

Medieval. Romantic. Beautiful.

  9 votes
Page: 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
Malta is truly a very small country. It would all comfortably fit inside a few boroughs of London. It is a great little place though. Its capital, Valletta, is seriously pretty, but really it should be visited along with Floriana, Senglea and Vittoriosa.

The view of Valletta from Sliema.
The view of Valletta from Sliema.
I certainly did not expect too much from my short trip to Malta. Apart from the fact that I always wanted to go to Malta, there was quite little that I could find to justify this willingness. Of course, I have heard about the Maltese Knights of St John and the Maltese Cross, but apart from that, not much else.

The famous view of Valletta, I have seen many times, I have to admit stimulated my imagination. And I have heard many people speaking highly about this island. I even work with a colleague, who grew up on Malta and I have met a few Maltese people.

Malta has always had the worst songs on the Eurovision Song Contest in the entire history of this very popular, much spoken, hated and laughed about festival. However, before the song was sung, they were one the most capable to present their country in the most professional way that would intrigue any medium-curious traveller, I guess.

A minute world, it is, in its insular entirety, not at all larger than a medium size borough of London, the capital cities of Poland, Portugal or Spain. It is therefore the most densely populated island on this planet. Although there are few towns on this island, all of it could be just one big city.

Malta is home of the oldest free standing trace of civilisation, the deepest natural harbour, amazing architecture, yellow buses and the most colourful fishing boats on this part of the planet. There is over seven thousand years to be told about this island. It is truly amazing and it is the only European country with such a long history.

The capital city of Malta is not big. I should say it is rather small, in fact. It is situated on a narrow peninsula and the town is build around one main street going through the centre of the peninsula. The peninsula is about 700–800 meters wide and 2200–2300 meters long. Valletta sits on approximately one half of the peninsula and its suburb city of Floriana on another.

Favourite spots:
Valletta from the sea
Valletta from the sea
The entire city is fortified and therefore it is impossible to get lost. There are no modern buildings within its walls and this is what makes this place unique. No wonder that UNESCO included Valletta on the World Heritage List already in 1980. Valletta has amazing magnetism that attracts hordes of people. I got bewitched instantly by this medieval city, which the Knights of St John built in XVI and XVII centuries. Although there have been some buildings added in the XVIII century, the entire city has not changed much from the day it was founded by the Knights. It is so easy to soak in this medieval atmosphere. Gorgeous architecture dominates throughout the entire Valletta’s peninsula. The dome of the Carmelite Church is the main feature of the Valletta skyline. This is what makes it recognisable abd it stands out gracefully. There are a few large structures, many of which were dedicated as places of worship by the Knights.

What's really great:
Valletta's balconies
Valletta's balconies
Unfortunately, many of the building in the city need some serious renovation. The façades have been thoroughly weathered and a few layers of paint would most definitely bring back their glory. Same for the incredible balconies – they need some serious woodwork and their windows would definitely welcome good glazing.

Lots of streets in Valletta cannot be driven through because they are too narrow. Many of the streets are actually stairways and therefore could not be driven onto. The narrowness of some of the streets does not exceed one adult donkey with its cargo. This makes it quite a nice place to walk about. It is not flat though and with every step, the calories are burnt very nicely. The sun raising the temperature above 30C contributes to this process conveniently and the nasty toxins leave the body with the hectolitres of sweat. It is a peculiar sight of hundreds of people sweating like some kind of fur animal. Oh, maybe it is because there are not many fur animals on Malta.

Valletta's main street
Valletta's main street
Once a home to the Knights of St John and now the office of the Prime Minister, there is a palace almost immediately beside the Upper Barrakka Gardens, the Auberge de Castile et Leon. It is a fair size rectangular building with amazing façade, fabulously decorated with flat sculptures.

The main street of Valletta, half of which is for pedestrians only, Triq ir-Repubblika, offers also other interesting and beautiful architecture. One of the finest, if not the most important, is of course the Grand Master’s Palace. It was added to the town by the Knights of St John as a residence of their Grand Masters. Nowadays, it is the house of Malta’s parliament. It is an imposing building, which stands out magnificently from other structures in the vicinity. It makes a great impression!

St John’s Co-Cathedral is said to be one the most important building on the island and is therefore the number one item on every organised tour’s itinerary. It is superb outside and exquisite inside!

Grand Harbour
Grand Harbour
I checked in into Hotel British overlooking the Grand harbour, which had a rooftop terrace from which the view was almost perfect. I was contemplating for a moment to take a sun bath over there but the photo taking urge was stronger. I started innocently walking from one terrace to another.

The British Hotel should rather be renamed to the Shabby Hotel. It was not nice at all and my room had no view. It was small and dark albeit it had this enigmatic medieval style balcony overlooking a narrow street. This was not enough and I decided to make inquiries in the hotel next door, Grand Harbour Hotel, about a room with the view to the Grand Harbour. I was content to hear that they had one for me starting from the next day. When I checked in, I soon realised that it was the smartest manoeuvre ever. The Grand Harbour Hotel was incomparably a better value! It was cheaper, the rooms were a lot larger, and clean with tiled floors and nice shower! I also had a lovely wooden balcony.

Auberge de Castile et Leon
Auberge de Castile et Leon
Law Courts building and the Casa Rocca Piccola (certain marquis’s home from XVI century) are also on the main tract and definitely deserve a look, and, in my case naturally, a photograph.

As the sun was preparing to go down, I decided to head for a sundowner with a sea view and an evening grab. So, there were three conditions to meet: western side of the peninsula for the sunset; bar at a waterfront with the view serving the products of a local brewery for the sundowner; and an eatery serving seafood for the grab. Preferably all in one! The view was at Sliema, the hype and disco centre of Malta’s. The place I chose was the Cockney's – a small fishermen place serving pasta dishes and fish on the spot. I thought I was happy with the outcome but I got a lot happier when my food arrived.

Sliema is a bustling town, Malta’s nightlife centre, shopping centre and prime holiday resort. Sliema is easily reachable by bus from Valletta, by taxi or better, by ferry (not at night though).

Upper Barrakka Gardens
Upper Barrakka Gardens
As for hangouts, I started with the Upper Barrakka Gardens with a magnificent view over the Grand Harbour. The 'Gardens' is actually quite a big word for this place. It is just a courtyard with a terrace and interesting arched wall surrounding it, couple of fountains and a few benches here and there. Not really a town garden it is, but more like a larger villa garden. The Lower Barrakka Gardens is even smaller! But wait a moment, Malta is a mini country with a mini capital city, so having mini gardens makes perfect sense. I have to admit indeed that it is a cosy place offering plenty of shade. In fact, it is a near perfect place for hangout, proven by a number of couples sitting on the walls holding hands...

Another place I liked to hang out were the banks of the Valletta peninsula overlooking the Grand Harbour and the might forts perched on peninsulas' tips. The views were incredible, also while a certain Hollywood studio was filming a blockbuster with a handful of famous actors.

Filming in the Grand Harbour
Filming in the Grand Harbour
Quite horrible and with absolutely no climate, service appalling, food almost awful and music not from this fairytale – this is how I would summarise my last dinner on Malta. The waiter said to me, after I'd ordered red Cabernet Sauvignon, that he had no more but he brought Merlot because 'it's the same thing'! I almost left crying - 'No, it's not the same thing! It's a different grape, for wine's sake!' I stayed, although soon after my fish soup arrived, I realised that I should have gone to another place. Even the chocolate gateau I ordered for desert must have been seriously unpopular for at least three months.

Next day for lunch, I picked one of the two eateries at the front of the St.John's Co-Cathedral. I ordered pizza, which would be difficult to spoil. The service was horribly slow and lousy but made myself stop caring and ordered a nicely cold pint. I dreamed of the Cockney's! For better places one should try the simple fishermen booths, tavernas in Floriana or go to Sliema.

Other recommendations:
Mdina city walls
Mdina city walls
Pleased and proud of myself I set out to see more of Malta. The direction was Rabat and Mdina, the previous capital of Malta. I made a brave decision to get there by one of the yellow buses. I had absolutely no idea what to do, which bus to take and where to pay for my ticket. I was glad to know where to catch a bus – just outside the gates of Valletta, by the Triton Fountain, exactly where Valletta becomes Floriana. It worked!

Mdina was a truly picturesque place. It was entirely walled on a hill and it made an incredible impression.

I also wanted to see the Blue Grotto and the 7,000 year old monoliths. So, I stepped outside the city walls looking for the bus stop and found a taxi stand. I was contemplating for a minute or two and then decided to take a taxi back to Valletta, which was maybe 7 km away, and try buses from there. But the driver asked me: "why don’t I take you on a trip to several places around the island for half of the day and you pay me 20 MLT (€50)". I agreed.

Published on Friday January 16th, 2009

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Sun, Jan 18 2009 - 08:24 AM rating by orlen

Another great job. Have you considered publishing a travel book, it would sell like hot cakes

Sat, Jan 17 2009 - 03:14 PM rating by basia

I was described in your places. I went back on Malta reading your report. Thanks.

Sat, Jan 17 2009 - 09:42 AM rating by kwongmei

funny report, Krys. brought back quite some memories of my trip to this beautiful island some years ago. The 3*/4* hotel (cant recall) I stayed was quite disappointing too with a weird slogan 'treat your mom in ... hotel' which I dont think i will do that. I found the bus network fantastic though the buses were quite old. Almost everywhere was accessible by bus and it was very cheap at that time. The food were in most cases very good except the breakfast in the hotel.

Fri, Jan 16 2009 - 08:57 PM rating by jacko1

I have a long time friend who resides in Gozo (a sister island to malta) I agree totally with your report having spent several weeks on these islands. I fell in love with the maltese people but the food was,to say the least, very ordinary and the whole place seemed geared totally for English tourists, if it was not for my friend, who showed me the real places, I would have not been able to recommend it to any real traveller, find a friend who knows the real Malta and Gozo, Regards Tony

Fri, Jan 16 2009 - 07:20 PM rating by pesu

And - will the story be continued?
Btw, always thought Germany would have the worst songs on the ESC ;-)

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