12 min read
After our Head of Operations Sam spending 48 hours in Vilnius and bringing you some amazing travel recommendations, our CEO Greg takes you on a journey to Valletta, the sunniest city in Europe.
If you’re anything like me, this seemingly never-ending period of travel restrictions may have you feeling vay-cay starved. Luckily, Valletta is just the place for the travel hungry! Get your holiday fix by locking in a BRB trip to Malta’s amazing capital and let the good times roll!
Valletta was built upon one of Malta’s peninsulas by the Knights of St John way back in 1566. The tiny capital is only 1km long and 600m wide but don’t let that fool you into thinking there isn’t much to see here. The colourful streets are filled with more churches than there are days in the year, the city’s history is as dramatic as it is fascinating, and in 2018 Valletta was crowned the European Capital of Culture! You can colour me impressed!
Surrounded by crystal blue waters and bathed in an average of 300 days of sun per year, Valletta is the perfect antidote to too many days spent in England’s fair but drizzly land! A two-day visit here will give you that dose of Mediterranean vibrancy we are all dreaming of.
If Valletta is sounding too good to be true, read on and you’ll find out just how many amazing attractions are packed into this compact capital. One wicked 48-hour guide to Valletta coming right up!
After a 3 hour flight from London Stansted, I land at Malta International Airport (the main airport in Malta). I want to make the most of my time in the city so I jump in a taxi and head straight to the 4* Ursulino, Valletta to drop off my bag.
A former family townhouse built in the traditional architectural style that is typical of this grand historic City, now restored to modern luxury standards. This Boutique Hotel is An elegant townhouse promising luxury B&B accommodation to 5-star hotel standards, yet also offering the warmth and the personalised service of a family-run boutique B&B.
With an average rating of 5/5, I'm sure it's going to be a great stay!
Where better to start an exploration of Valletta than at the main entrance to the city? Valletta’s City Gate is a surprisingly modern monument built between 2011 and 2014 and designed by Renzo Piano, the architect responsible for the London Shard. It is the fifth city gate to have been built on this location and the giant limestone slabs are a striking welcome to Malta’s capital.
Photo Credit: @gabselavy
Pass through the gate and you’ll be met with the dramatic and angular New Parliament Building followed by the ruins of the Royal Opera House which was bombed in WW2.
Photo Credit: @blackadder_5
Spend some time taking in all the majesty of the architecture in this area before continuing on your DIY mini walking tour to St John’s Co-Cathedral. You don’t have to be religious to appreciate the glory of this magnificent cathedral. The heavily embellished Baroque interior was commissioned by the Knights of St John to show their fervent religious devotion and was completed in 1666. Those knights weren’t messing around – every inch of the interior has been constructed with painstaking detail. From the images of skeletons and angels inlaid in the marble floor to the soaring vaulted ceilings, you’ll be overwhelmed by the cathedral’s beauty. You can also admire Caravaggio’s painting ‘The Beheading of St John the Baptist’ here. This 510-year-old masterpiece is not only Caravaggio’s largest painting but also the only one he actually signed. You’d be a fool to miss it.
Photo Credit: @endlessartlover
After spending the morning feasting your eyes, start the afternoon with some regular style feasting! Head to the Is-Suq tal-Belt Food Market where you’ll find 4 floors packed with restaurants, delicatessens, cafes, and stalls selling fresh local produce. The market is housed within a remarkable iron-frame building that is over 230 years old and makes for a gorgeous setting. When it comes to figuring out what to eat, you’ll be spoilt for choice. If you want to dive into local culture, try the Maltese national dish of Stuffat Tal-Fenek, a rabbit stew.
Photo Credit: @foodblog.mt
With your energy levels all topped up, its time to hit up Malta’s National Museum of Art, the MUŻA. The opening of this museum was part of the city’s final huzza as the European Capital of Culture. The exhibit features an impressive collection of Maltese paintings and sculptures that gives a glimpse into the country’s culture through the ages. It is laid out in sections grouped into four main themes: The Mediterranean, Europe, Empire and The Artist. Displaying the art in this way reveals fascinating similarities and contrasts between the old masters and contemporary works. The MUŻA venue itself is a site to behold and almost as gorgeous as the artwork. It sits within the Auberge d’Italie, a 16th century mansion house with a picturesque courtyard and an ornate archway.
Photo Credit: @juttaervasto
Is it drink-o-clock yet? It most certainly is! Head to Strait Street, a place often referred to as ‘the gut’ thanks to its reputation for being the place to party when the sun goes down. The charming, traditional houses are filled with a plethora of bars and restaurants and live music can be heard on the warm evening air.
Photo Credit: @siqueiraek
There’s plenty of fabulous places to grab a pre-dinner drink here but the BRB special recommendation is Tico Tico, a bar with a relaxed and fun environment. Just a few doors down from Tico Tico is the homey Pappanis where you can order a spectacular dinner. Devour mountains of homemade pasta, wash it down with delicious Maltese wine and don’t give a care about the calories because you’re on vacation baby!
Photo Credit: @zachgax
For some late-night cocktails with a side of live music, how about a trip to Yard 32. They have over 81 varieties of gin, a boat load of original cocktail recipes, a groovy atmosphere and music that you can get down to every night from 8:30pm until late. What more could you want?
Photo Credit: @yard.32
Rise and shine! It’s day two in Valletta and that means taking to the high seas! Head to the waterfront and hop aboard one of the ferry rides around the Grand Harbour. This is the only natural harbour in the Mediterranean and is simply stunning in the morning sun. Pass superyachts that will fill you with envy, traditional painted dgħajsa boats, and friendly fishermen as you are transported across the warm waters to Cospicua.
Photo Credit: @antoineh2r
Cospicua is a double fortified city that was built up by the Knights of St John to bolster Malta’s military strength. It has been inhabited for far longer however with traces of inhabitants remaining from the Neolithic period (that’s the last section of the Stone Age for those of us who can’t remember our history lessons!). Cospicua is one of three alongside Birgu and Senglea in a trio which is known simply as ‘The Three Cities’. Your tour will transport you past all three cities allowing you to admire their striking skylines composing of baroque churches and domineering fortresses. Relax in the fresh sea breeze and take in all of Malta’s beauty.
Photo Credit: @yunk_h
Back on dry land, make your way to Harbour Club for a delicious lunch in a fabulous setting. Housed inside a warehouse built in 1712 and with interiors crafted from the deck of a ship, Harbour Club oozes shabby chic. You can expect a creative menu featuring the island’s top ingredients delivered with excellence.
Photo Credit: @awaywithdeniz
Appetite satisfied, stroll along the waterfront until you find a glass lift which will transport you from the harbour to the Upper Barrakka Gardens. The gardens were originally created to provide the Italian section of the Knights of St John with a place of rest and relaxation. Now, the picture-perfect area is a peaceful haven for all members of the public. The gardens feature a glorious terrace of arches and are filled with fountains, tropical plants and monuments, including one dedicated to Winston Churchill! The biggest attraction of the Upper Barrakka Gardens though, is its absolutely breath-taking panoramic view of Malta. Bask in the sun and look out over Valletta, across the waters to the Three Cities and beyond.
Photo Credit: @try.to.catch.sara
Try and spot the 17th-century Fort Ricasoli, which you may recognise from Game of Thrones! Whilst you’re in the area, treat yourself to an ice-cream from Gelato Dal Doge Valletta. You are on holiday after all!
Photo Credit: @troubleinparadise__
It would be easy to while away the entire afternoon in these gardens but don’t miss out on visiting the nearby Teatru Manoel. This baroque masterpiece is one of Europe’s oldest working theatres dating back to 1732. The oval-shaped auditorium, with its three tiers of seating all intricately decorated with gold leaf, is sure to impress. Make sure to cast your eyes up and gaze in awe at the pale blue trompe-l’oeil ceiling.
Photo Credit: @wonguy974
Begin your final evening with a glass of the good stuff from the bohemian-style wine bar Maestro e Fresco. Pretend you have all the time in the world, sit back and sip happily on their high-quality wine.
When hunger calls, Trabuxu is a brilliant restaurant just a few doors down the street. An intimate space decorated with vintage signs and serving classic dishes, this eatery is quintessentially Maltese and the perfect place to enjoy your last dinner.
Photo Credit: @rbenarfi
Squeeze the most out of your time in Valletta by putting off your return to the hotel in favour of a harbourside stroll in the moonlight. Valletta looks magical all lit up at night and the reflection of the lights dance and sparkle on the water. If you happen to stumble across Q Bar, it would be an awful shame not to go in for one last drink! Raise a glass to wonderful Valletta and a holiday well done!
Photo Credit: @vallettawaterfront
If like me you love taking short weekend breaks across Europe and spending 48 hours in cities like Barcelona, Prague, Porto, Split, Bologna, Stockholm or Venice, but if like me you hate wasting hours trawling travel sites to plan and research your next weekend break, only to be hit by increased flight prices just before booking, then BeRightBack is for you!
The team at BeRightBack believes that the mission of a travel company should be to save you both time and money.
With BeRightBack, you get three trips a year to three surprise European destinations, all for the monthly cost of £49.99, which includes your return flights and your hotel.
With BeRightBack, creating a trip takes 60 seconds. Simply tell us how you like to travel when you create your account, and our concierge service does everything else for you. You won't have to lift a finger.
Best of all, you always pay the same price for your trips, no matter when you go away and we help you spread the cost of your travel, thanks to our monthly subscription.
I hope you enjoyed my 48 hours city guide to Valletta and do not hesitate to use our website chat or to email us if you have any questions!
Gregory Geny (Founder of BeRightBack)
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