Seventy-two hours doesn’t sound like an awful lot of time, does it? Well, after I tell you all the adventures we had on the little island of Malta, you’ll be surprised on how much you can do in three days. It ended up being too much for one blog, so stay tuned for next’s week, Gone Gozo!
Our Flight ~
- Check out flights departing from smaller airports – like RyanAir
- Sometimes the little airlines don’t travel during the winter months to exotic destinations, you’ll need to research and be flexible
- Baden-Baden to Malta offers ~ (low fares in winter months) turns out one of the best times to go to Malta is before the summer months – €120/RT for both of us
- Book Priority Pass on Ryan Air this will boot you to the front of the boarding line and guarantee your carry-on luggage (this is typically €5/person/leg of the trip)
- Ryan Air – a traveler can carry one carry-on and one small backpack or purse
- GPS Baden-Baden Airpark (not Baden-Baden Airport)
- Long-term parking ranges from €9/day to €16/day (depending on your departure – you make the call) we left in super cold weather and saved so much money on our flight we paid the €16/day to be right at the door in P16
- Don’t forget to print and carry your tickets, THEN when you arrive at the airport, check-in first before going onto the gate, (ID/Passport) you’ll board faster too
- Be sure to pack your liquids (only 10 per bag (2 oz. size-allowed) in a QUART size ziploc bag
3 AM WAKE UP CALL – this won’t work for everybody, but our departure was 6:30 AM and we arrived in Malta by 9:00 and had a full day of touring
Although this was a super fast flight, I was able to catch up on some sleep on the flight before we arrived in sunny Malta.
Transportation and more…
I read many, many blogs and asked questions about Malta before going and a common theme was “DON’T DRIVE” if you can help it. One of the smartest things I did for this trip was take the advice of my friend Heather, who said, you need to use these guys, they were AMAZING!! She was right.
Sometimes when you travel on a trip it’s a destination other times its’ a journey. This was definitely an unforgettable journey. I made a reservation for pick-up from the airport with Platinum Cabs prior to our arrival. The ease and piece of mind in having a safe driver around a foreign country, check and check. We didn’t know we would also receive a first class tour guide and make a friend.
Amri, Audrey and their staff are completely professional and made discovering the island so much fun. We met James at the airport, immediately his greeting was warm and welcoming, just like this endearing island. He enchanted us with stories of ancient ruins and “must-sees” of our short visit. We decided to use there services for our whole stay. SUPER SMART MOVE!!
Accommodations ~ Corinthia Palace and Spa Hotel
I know, right? With a name like Corinthia Palace and Spa Hotel you would think we paid “an arm and a leg” for our accommodations, you would be wrong. What a fabulous place! We totally felt like we were living in the “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” Although the room and rate I chose did not include breakfast we decided to add it on so all in all, it was still under €120/night.
The sauna, pool and spa were included and every morning our breakfast was top notch with bacon, eggs, sausages, croissants and more. Julie Ann and Darrell greeted us each day with smiles, welcomes and of course, fresh coffee.
The hotel also has complimentary shuttles that will take you to Valetta or an evening shuttle to St. Julian’s. Located centrally on the island in Attard, the hotel’s location made it easy to get to all the sites we wanted to see. We took the shuttle on Sunday night to St. Julian’s to have dinner by the bay at San Guiliano’s. Wonderful seafood and pasta ~ I’ll add more in the video soon. The nighttime views of the bay reminded me of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor but with a tropical mediterranean feel. Ha!
The 3 Cities – Valletta – Fests
On Friday, after a full breakfast, we gave PlatinumCabs a call and Amri picked us up from the hotel to go to Birgu,(Vittoriosa) the first of the “three cities” of Malta.
He regaled us with stories of the “three cities” and how it was the original home to the “Knights of St. John” and of Valletta and what we needed to see our first day in Malta.
Amri stopped along the way in Senglea, city number two to see the beautiful overlook of the bay and take gorgeous pictures of the boats coming into Valetta. We didn’t make it to Cospicua, city number three, but we have to save something to visit next time. After our lovely walk through the old streets of Birgu, we found the town square alive with cafe’s and a market vibrant and beautiful. We also found this old door on this house where I literally was “knocking on heaven’s door.”
Next, on the suggestion of Amri, we found a “water taxi” to take us across the bay to Valletta (€2.50/person) this was quite a bargain. We met “Bruce” he says he’s the “Captain of Valletta.” Super funny, let me take a picture of him and we were thankful he got this shot of us too.
Valletta is the capital city of Malta, it’s where the St. John’s Co-Cathedral is located, the narrow streets and tall buildings remind you of scenes from “Game of Thrones” and other movies. This city is mesmerizingly tan and brown made from ancient sands and designed to transport you to 16th century.
What, a fest? Yes, a fest for the feast!
It just happens sometimes, your timing is perfect. We arrived in Malta on a national holiday. The “Feast of St. Paul’s Shipwreck” in Valletta. The city was alive with music and magic with people throwing confetti from balconies. The excitement and jubilation of the parade was contagious, you couldn’t help but join in when the band marched by. The parade began with a canon salute at the Upper Barraca gardens and continued through the streets of Valletta, which is where we caught it. Malta is the island where the Apostle Paul was shipwrecked and every year this national holiday is celebrated on the streets of Valletta.
~ Great lunch ~
After walking the narrow streets and enjoying the band, laughter and children playing we walked along St. Paul’s street until we arrived at the Siege Bell War memorial, a World War II memorial set on the sea. I know there was so much more to see in Valetta but our ®FitBits were on overload and we were famished. We found a bayside cafe, the Harbour Club, with great ratings on FourSquare (love that App.)
We enjoyed some fresh vegetables and quail with incredible views of Valletta and the bay.
After our full day in this UNESCO world heritage city, it was time to head back to the hotel for some relaxation in the spa. Oh, wait let me call Platinum and take the easy way home. This time we met, Alex, another sweet young man, eager to help us discover this beautiful island he calls home now too.
On Sunday, we went to the famous fish market in the little village of Marsaxlokk. On this absolutely busy, busy day of the week (I can’t imagine when the weather gets nicer) the colors were spectacular.
This was definitely a fish lover’s paradise. Boats are decorated with eyes (for look out and good luck.) This ancient omen has helped guard fishermen for centuries. We had a lot of fun cruising the market that was filled with lots of fish and really cheap tourist souvenirs. The promenade is lined with great smelling restaurants. This sign made me laugh and think “way to go.” Support local families, right?
I will tell you however, be careful taking pictures, this lady right here, was pretty upset at me for taking pictures and actually yelled, “We are here to sell fish, not for you to take pictures!” Oh, well, win some, lose some – I’m sure she sees some doozies. A little excitement for the day ~
Amri told us about this beautiful blue grotto where we needed to see on our way from Marsaxlokk to Mdina. At this point, whatever he suggested we were all in for ~ We stopped at Dingli Cliffs an overlook on the island that is high up on the upper west coast.
The panoramic views of the blue grotto are unforgettable and transfixing. I wish we could have stayed for a much longer time but we were off to the silent city of Mdina. Amri was nice enough to pull over at the picture overlook and let us snap some shots. There is a parking lot and a walkway where most tourists pop-up to grab a few spectacular shots. Boat rides are available through the grotto as well, where I’m sure the picture taking is also spectacular. So much to do the next time we visit.
The once capital city, Mdina is one of the most beautiful in all the land of Malta. Perched up on hill strategically overlooking practically the whole country and built by Arabs who were in Malta before the year 1000, considered the “Silent City” because their streets are so narrow they are meant to confuse an intruder. From 1090 on Mdina and Malta were a part of European rule and today it is a European vacation hotspot for British royalty and Brad Pitt evidently. The fortress city of Mdina is an absolutely a must-see when you visit Malta, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
Don’t bother with a horse and buggy ride through the old city. We took a ride thinking it would be a neat experience and enjoy a little tour, however, we got taken, it was only about 30 minutes, maybe even less. It was €35 at the gate and our driver “gave us a deal” at €30. Really disappointing, I know we would have received a LOT more history from Amri, but we look good don’t we?
Do have some pastizzi at the Iz-Serkin Crystal Palace, right off the main square in Mdina. This fluffy, flaky pastry that is a local traditional treat is €1.20 for four. Flavors range from cheese, pea (split pea), tuna and the traditional is ham and cheese.
When to go to Malta
I knew it was a little risky traveling to Malta in February, even Lonely Planet cautions against January and February. However, I thought if it ended up being cold and rainy, we could spend the holiday (Valentine’s Day) at the spa and sauna and rest. As it was, we had phenomenal weather between 60-65 everyday.
I chatted with Alex and Amri and they both said early spring and early fall is the best season to visit with great weather and fewer tourists. This family-run business made our time in Malta so special we feel like we have good friends we must see when we return. I can’t thank them enough for a spectacular introduction to this captivating island they call home.
There was so much filled into this weekend I couldn’t fit it all in one blog, so stay tuned for next week’s Gone Gozo!