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A Malta city guide – history, tradition, picturesque beaches and a cultural capital

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Malta has three inhabited islands: the biggest and main island, Malta; the rural and rugged Gozo; and the smallest, Comino. While all visitors will fly into Malta and spend time exploring it’s pretty beaches and historic capital Valletta, Gozo and Comino have their own draw. The former is ideal for walking or cycling in untouched countryside while the latter is a retreat from the outside world, and home to one of the Mediterranean’s most breath-taking beaches.

Niki Bilocca

My Destination local expert on

Malta

Valletta

 

The Maltese capital is on the eastern side of the main island with views of the sea from practically anywhere in the city. Valletta is both a modern and historical hub for Malta, with spectacular baroque structures complemented by restaurants, cafés, and shops. What makes this city so unique for a nation’s capital is that the preferable form of transport is by foot; the narrow and steep streets don’t lend themselves kindly to vehicles. Having said this, Valletta is still busy and those wanting a relaxing stroll should head outside the center. The dominant feature in Valletta is certainly St John’s Co-Cathedral, a stunning, sand-white testament to Maltese history. The interior is illuminated golden arches and colourful paintings.

 

Gozo

 

Gozo is largely a rural island and offers a quiet getaway from its relatively busy sibling, Malta. Gozo is an insight into the traditional Maltese rural way of life as many farmers and fishermen still make their living here. This island is not overrun by tourists, which makes Gozo an ideal place to go for a bit of tranquillity, scenery, and sun. The iconic Azure Window is another pull for day trippers to the island, with many snapping photographs as they sail past on boats. While Xlendi Bay is a hotspot for those wanting to soak up some great views (away from the apartment blocks) and sunbathe on the rocks. For history-buffs the medieval Citadella, and the Ta’Pinu Sanctuary are must-see’s.

 

St. Julian’s

 

St. Julian’s is Malta’s best spot for nightlife, with numerous clubs, bars, and restaurants and is subsequently where tourists typically flock to most frequently. Spinola Bay is a picturesque spot and is a lively place during the day, when you can walk by the bay and soak up the boats bobbing in the breeze. Paceville, to the north of St. Julian’s, is the best place to sample Maltese nightlife and boasts a high number of bars and clubs that remain in full swing until the early hours of the morning.

 

Comino

 

Comino is the smallest of Malta’s three inhabited islands and is, like Gozo, a mainly rural area of Malta. So rural in fact, only one family actually lives here. Its pint-size proportions do mean that you’ll have a sea-view from anywhere on the island. The Blue Lagoon is one of the major attractions for excursions from Malta and was used to film scenes form the blockbuster Troy starring Brad Pitt. This is a beautiful clear-water lagoon, which is so pure that the sea-bed is completely visible in the shallows is so called because of its patches of dark, inky blue among the clear, azure waters. Cordoned off from boats this is the ideal place to take a dip, and the surrounding rocks the perfect place to dry off.