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FOCUS : Malta

The Maltese islands are situated in the central Mediterranean, south of Sicily and east of the Tunisian coast. Malta is the largest inhabited island of this tiny archipelago; a place of gently rolling limestone planes and steep sea cliffs, with an ancient history that stretches right back to 5200bc. It is positively mythic; packed with characterful streets, unique detailing and an undeniably endearing buzz, it’s pretty difficult to not fall in love with the island instantaneously.

The islands are also blessed with some of the most beautiful beaches of Europe, boasting clear blue waters and white sandy beaches, some for adventure seekers and others that are seeking a suitably relaxing retreat. Complimented by the generous amount of sunshine and stunning blue sky, it would seem living in Malta could be a pretty sweet deal.

Fast facts: 

  • The population of the island is 423,282
  • The capital city is Valletta
  • Average life expectancy is 80.75 years old
  • Their climate is unique; midsummer falls between July and August which hits around 45°C
  • Conversely to summer, their winters are colder and fairly rainy, but they experience no snow or ice

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Sightseeing:

By foot you can certainly explore one or two sections of the island over a day, though to completely explore you would need to hire a car or use the very frequent buses and ferry routes on the island, certainly if you were to venture to further beaches and islands. For me, if you’re picking an area and sticking to it, I think strolling on foot is the the most pleasing mode — you’re free to explore any street that catches your eye, or idly meander off for a coffee.

Something specific that caught my eye was the attention to detail that the Maltese pay to their doors — every front door is stunning, ranging in tones of muted greys and peaches, to brighter and more vibrant blues, greens and reds. From the old fashioned to the fancy new entrance ways, they’re all equally seductive on the eye, and many have etched detailing on their door knockers and other pieces — very cute, and very in keeping with the wooden window shutters.

Another quirk I noticed is that all the houses have names, often linked back to religious beliefs as Malta is predominantly a Roman Catholic country, though, they can also link to the Christian name of both the husband and wife of the residents family. But to attain a more in-depth understanding of the Maltease history would be to visit their churches. Very much like their houses, they’re all finished beautifully and there’s a lot to choose from.

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Beaches:

Being an island smack in the middle of the Mediterranean, Malta is outlined with glorious coastline and idyllic little islands. Long summers ensure the bays are adored by sun seekers, though there’s hidden gems too. Here’s just a small selection.

Paradise Bay and Gozo: situated at the northern hammerhead of the island, Paradise Bay is basically as the names suggests, paradise. Possessing beautifully golden sand, clear blue sea and an excellent selection of bars and attracts, it can become very busy during summer months. Though, close by is Gozo; tranquil, slightly more rural, and equally as dreamy as Paradise Bay. Also situated in the north, just a short ferry journey away, Gozo ensures for a luxurious and rejuvenating sunbathe.

Blue Lagoon: although the name sounds like a tacky 2 euro cocktail, it is actually just as stunning as Paradise Bay. Blue Lagoon is an excellent bay for the more sociable and adventurous sun seeker; many people snorkel around the sea, delving into the beautifully abundant under-waters and gliding into the close by caves, meanwhile the sands can become extremely crowded with bathers.

Peter’s Pool: a world away from the sardine like bays of the lagoon, Peter’s Pool is one of the most rural spots you can find. Situated on the south west of the island, it’s a stunning hideaway behind agricultural fields and caper bushes. If you’re going to visit Peter’s Pool then it’s probably best to drive, and ensure you’ve got adequate supplies.

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Foods:

Due to high levels of immigration, Malta has a fairly diverse food scene. There’s a plethora of traditional Turkish kebab houses, many Moroccan restaurants, and a substantial selection of Italian, Maltease and Spanish, with a small selection of standard chain selections (think: Wagamama and Pizza Hut).

  • Ali Baba: Lebanese heaven. It’s the best restaurant on the island — hot and cold mezze, accompanied with Lebanese Chardonnay. What’s not to love?
  • The Taproom: the cutest bar in Valletta, served with a mostly Italian food menu, seductive wine menu (you know the score) and a decent array of cocktails, it’s basically everything you could want on the rock.
  • Gochi: Tokyo comes to St Julian’s Bay — and it couldn’t be any more welcome.
  • Margo’s Pizzeria: for thin, fresh and delicious pizza, this place is pretty much the spot. The staff are very friendly about changing ingredients and helping with any questions. Plus, it’s situated in St Julians Bay — what a beautiful place for an evening dinner.
  • Barracuda: also situated in St Julians Bay is Barracuda, providing a slightly more up-market experience of dining. Not a typical meat-free haunt, this restaurant makes very delicious and well-priced cuisine, and is very easy to navigate if you will happily order starters and side dishes. Side tip: their homemade sorbet and red wine selection is pretty next level.
  • Dolci Peccati: for gelato, dessert or just a general treat, go to Dolci and promise me you’ll never look back — traditional artisan gelato that, it seems, never disappoints. The pistachio happened to seduce me each time, though they all looked equally divine and there was always a queue — a sure sign it’s a consistent hit.

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Though, possibly more impressive than most of the restaurants are their abundant fruit and vegetable shops, street trucks and stalls. And alongside those are their fish vans, tiny bakeries and a few scattered butchers, presenting a very accessible and healthy lifestyle at your door; just take a walk for fifteen minutes in most build up areas and you will be able to find fresh produce at a reasonable price.

The Maltese drinks selection is fairly basic, but amid the basics there are some real hidden gems, with the main gem being their pale ale. I present to you, the Lord Chambray Range — a selection of ales brewed on the tiny island of Gozo — which I would happily claim to be the craft beer of Malta. Really delicious.

Entertainment: 

If you think the island is just for the older demographic and misguided 18-30’s esque package holidays, then think again. For such a compact place there seems to be a very music-driven scene, attracting dedicated party-goers and very substantial line-up’s to suit. A firm favourite is Shift, a boutique house and techno night that runs out of St John’s Liquid Club; curated by Caine and Andrew, Shift has hosted some of the most highly acclaimed names of the scene, Karenn, Jeff Mills, Lucy, Perc and Oscar Mulero to name a few. A must for the techno fiends amongst us.

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Image: Shift

Sleeps:

Hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to the beautiful rock every year, and it would seem there are more than enough options on accommodation to go around. I found a selection of beautiful and typical Maltese homes through air bnb, a diverse selection of hotels and hostels alike. For this short trip I booked in at Hostel Jones; the quirkiest and friendliest place I have ever stayed, situated right in the heart of Sliema. Rooms range from six bunks sharing to double bed en-suite bathrooms, with many providing cosy little hammocks (perfect for a pre-party snooze). Between 10 – 50 euros per night.


Words: Paris Bielby | Images: Paris Bielby

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