Malta is gearing up for one of its most exciting summers in years with a scintillating programme of film, music, arts and cultural activities for solo travellers and families.
Headline attractions include the fifth Valletta Film Festival, Malta’s biggest cinematic event, which will take place in various indoor and outdoor venues between June 14-23, and the Malta International Arts Festival provides a dynamic platform for established and emerging Maltese artists to showcase their work and engage with broader audiences.
Paul Bugeja, CEO for Malta Tourism Authority, said many visitors were familiar with the Mediterranean island’s picture-postcard weather and Maltese hospitality – but perhaps less aware of its broad cultural attractions shaped by 7,000 years of history.
“In terms of historical and cultural sites, Malta is second only to Rome,” he said. “We are placing a new emphasis on arts and history which will appeal to Gulf expats and Arab travellers, and this season’s cultural programme is our best yet. Whether you’re a leisure traveller looking to unwind or business searching for an event venue, Malta has truly remarkable settings with the sea, ancient castles, historic gardens and upper Barrakka Gardens overseeing the fortifications.”
The breadth of sites requires some planning. Valletta is the natural focal point with Auberge de Castille guranteeing fine views, located on the highest point of the city. It was originally built in 1574 and remodeled in 1741.
Another fine building in the city is the Auberge d’Italie in Merchants Street, designed by Girolamo Cassar. It has a symmetrical facade, rectangular in plan and surrounded by streets on three sides.
The charming, circular Triton Fountain is a good place to take a break and and another beautiful spot, popular with Instagrammers, is St. Agatha’s Tower, built in 1647, which was the last bastioned tower to be built on the island. Senglea, Cospicua and Vittoriosa, three cities in the Grand Harbour area, shouldn’t be overlooked, with their stunning arch-framed views and pleasant past-meets-present buzz.
Arts lovers can visit The National Museum of Fine Arts, see Caravaggio’s depiction of St. John at St. John’s co-Cathedral and visit medieval Palazzo Falson in Mdina with its collection of antiques. To view more contemporary work, walk around the exhibits at the St. John’s Cavalier Art Centre.
Young children don’t want to spend hours indoors however – and Malta has come up with a new Family Trail highlighting a treasure trove of activities. Youngsters can book quad bikes in Gozo, a Segway tour around Valletta, and enjoy pirate, fairy tale and Maltese Knights fancy dress opportunities at the Playmobil Funpark.
Additional tourist attractions include Esplora Interactive Science Centre – overlooking the Grand Harbour, the 20,000sqm Malta National Aquarium and beaches on Mellieha Bay and Ramla Bay Gozo.
When it comes to gastronomic culture, visitors are spoilt for choice, with Malta serving a diverse range of casual-to-fine-dining venues. Leading authentic restaurants on TripAdvisor include Bouquet Garni, Noni and Beati Paoli.
It’s not just cultural sites where Malta gives Rome competition – the Mediterranean island is renowned for its numerable pizzerias. Don’t miss the freshly baked, disc-shaped ftira bread.
Flagship five-star hotel Corinthia Palace Hotel & Spa has unveiled a fresh lobby and contemporary rooms to coincide with its 50th anniversary, and the Athenaeum Spa is being upgraded.
Beyond the branded hotels are many small, family-run boutique hotels which are proving popular with travellers looking for local, authentic hospitality experiences. La Falconeria, Casa Ellul and Ursulino Valletta are the top three recommended by lovinmalta.com