Malta’s capital, Valetta, was our next port of call. For a capital city, it is very small so we decided to do our own walking tour of the best sites. Alternatively we could have headed out on a boat trip or to a local beach but as our first time in the city we wanted to see what it had on offer.
We immediately passed through some beautiful waterfront cafes to the left of the port as you come off the boat but continued on towards a smaller city just outside Valetta called Floriana. Here, we found a small local Sunday market – sounds sweet, but it was quite an uphill climb to get here, and once there, it had a very local, dusty feel – unless you’re in the market for a new DVD collection, I think it can be bypassed..
To avoid this area, when you arrive at the port there is a glass lift in front of the stop that will whizz you straight up to Upper Barrakka Gardens so recommended if you don’t fancy so much walking. There are steps beside it too if you don’t have a Euro coin to spare; and we did actually do this option later in the day to get a bit of a leg session in.
However, doing your own ‘back street walking tour’ to the Gardens does allow you to really soak up the beauty of the town and buildings.
There had been a recent festival so most of the streets were adorned with red and gold banners, with confetti and paper ribbon deserted in streets and alleyways. The main streets in the city were alive with music, street stalls and tourists; but they are wide streets so there’s enough space for everyone to enjoy a leisurely stroll.
The highlight of our trip was the view from Upper Barrakka Gardens. This is a great starting point as from here you can see the city and shoreline stretch out ahead of you. It’s also a central point for the glass lift up and down, and the starting point for the Lascaris War Rooms.
If you do make it here, try and time it for the ceremonial salute of the canons at midday from the Saluting Battery, which is pretty spectacular and worth timing your trip for.
If you like to enjoy local treats too, here we picked up Maltese traditional pastizzi; cheesy filo pastry. I recommend the local delicacy.
As mentioned, from here you’re also at the entrance to Lascaris War Rooms. This had been recommended to us by various people, all with a military background, which seemed a little biased. However I can vouch for this also being a great addition to your trip. It’s a really lovely quant (and quiet) museum with an audio guide – and with the city taking such a hit of destruction through the Second World War there’s a lot of information and anecdotes packed into this small space. Take your own headphones, that way you can plug in and just go for a wander around.
It was almost entirely RAF focused, but so interesting because it was very hands on; with the rooms set up as they would have been rather than words and pictures, so you could really get a sense of how it would have been used operationally.
Having retreated from the midday heat for an hour or so we were ready to explore outside again. We weaved our way through more streets and soon stumbled upon St. John’s Co-Cathedral with its stunning interior. You’re required to have your shoulders and legs covered but they provide scarves and wraps if you’ve not brought your own. We didn’t stay long but enjoyed the beauty and calm of it, and a moment of cooler temperatures while we took it all in.
It was now well past midday and all our walking had given us an appetite so we took a recommendation to try Sotto Pizzaria in the heart of town. We’re big on food and this did not disappoint. I can highly recommend the carbonara pizza bianca (washed down with a refreshing IPA) and the waiter congratulated me on my fine choice too – I didn’t leave a crumb!
We felt we’d covered all the key areas and lunch had set us into a bit of a ‘food-coma’ so we sauntered back to the boat that was now very much our home. We were able to enjoy another gym session with yet another unique view before settling down on our balcony with a glass of bubbles. I cannot tell you how heavenly cruise life is!