Cultural Malta – Sliema, Valletta and Mdina


Hello all!

As some of you no doubt know, Craig and I went to Malta recently for a little summer holiday. We decided to split our week trip into two different halves. We would spend the first few days, Saturday to Wednesday, staying in a hotel in Sliema, located on the North East coast. Then on Wednesday we would go further round to the Island’s party town of St Julian’s bay, where we would stay in a party hostel we had found online which looked great fun. This post will cover the first part of the trip, a more chilled time with more of a couples holiday kind of vibe, taking in the culture Malta has to offer, with trips to Valletta and Mdina. There will be another post dedicated to the second half of the trip, so without further adieu, on to Malta!

View of Valletta from Manoel island

Journey to Malta

We flew at the very reasonable time of 4.50pm from Stansted with everyone’s favourite budget airline, Ryanair, who by the way now charge you £55 per person to check in at the airport, not that anyone still does but didn’t stop my outrage when I saw that email! We hopped on the trusty coach from Victoria and embarked on the 2 hour journey with some sneaky gin tinnies and snacks, with Karl Watson’s new Jordan video to entertain us. Security was as fun as ever, especially when their scanner broke and everyone had to be scanned, but we still made it through with time for 2 pints in the new extended upstairs of the ever trusty British institution, Spoons.

 

We had paid the extra £11 for ‘priority boarding’, so we could take cabin size bags since it was a week, but didn’t fancy the extortion of paying to sit together. It is a 3 hour plane ride to Malta, and arriving at night gave us a pretty cool view of Valletta all lit up at night. Upon arrival, we had a quick look at the bus timetable, but couldn’t see the number of the one we thought we needed so opted to pay the 20 Euros to get a taxi to our hotel since it was late and we were pretty hungry.

Ricotta pasta

Hotel and first night

We arrived at the Labranda Rocco Nettuno Suites, which we had booked as it was not too pricey and had a rooftop pool with a bar, as well as being located right by the seafront. We dropped off our bags and headed straight out to investigate the nearby area and grab some dinner. We didn’t venture too far as we were hungry and most of the places had similar menus and prices, settling on a place called Tiffany’s Bistro, both ordering big plates of pasta. I tried some traditional Maltese ricotta ravioli which was delicious and just what I needed after so many hours of travelling.

Fireworks in the distance

We went back toward the hotel and stopped at a little place called Hammet’s gastro bar, which had a pretty extensive selection of cocktails. As a bonus gift from the Island, there had been a national holiday that day, for the feast of St Peter and St Paul, and there were lots of fireworks going off over the water, which was a rather nice way to end our first evening.

The pool

Pool happy hour

After a leisurely wake up, we headed straight to the rooftop pool for some relaxation time. It was a fairly small pool which was one depth across, but the pool bar opened straight up onto it. It was pretty peaceful until some loud kids came along and took over the pool but alas, we waited for the happy hour to start at 12pm so we could get half price pool drinks. The local beer sold everywhere is called Cisk, so Craig had that whilst I opted for a Pina Colada because its a pool in the sun it would be rude not to have a cocktail!

Delicious lunch stop

Ducks!

Manoel Island

After a nice relaxing happy hour, we headed out in search of some lunch. We planned to head to Manoel island, which sits between Sliema and Valletta, and has a fort which looked cool. We ended up walking all the way there and deciding to have lunch just over the bridge at a place called Paparazzi 29 clubhouse, which had a nice looking terrace overlooking the water, and was surprisingly reasonably priced. The menu was sports themed but they had a large selection of dishes from pizza and pasta to sandwiches, bar snacks and burgers. I opted for a burger whilst Craig went for more pasta, then we headed out on our island adventure.

More ducks!

Fort wall

Randomly they have a duck village with colourful duckhouses just past the bridge, which there were also several cats sleeping in! We walked along in the blazing 33 degree heat and reached a great big barrier blocking off the fort, as it was closed for what we presume was construction and restoration, which was a bit annoying. We decided to go and look at the view of Valletta instead, clambering down the rocks to the edge of the water, where we stayed and took in the surroundings. Some people near us were doing the same with some beers and we decided they had definitely had the right idea, as it was a lovely spot.

Valletta selfie!

Gorgeous view of Valletta

We headed back round past the hotel to have a drink with a view of Valletta again, since we hadn’t taken any with us to Manoel island, and I got far too excited at the place having Mango and Raspberry rekorderligs, plus we both realised that some how we had each managed to sunburn one of our knees.

Enjoying our beers in the pool

We raced back to the hotel to catch the end of the second pool happy hour, from 4-5, so we could cool off again and get a nice cheap beer. Mercifully the children had left and it was nice and relaxing.

Busy Black Sheep bar with sports

Before dinner, we went to a bar called the black sheep, which does lots of craft beers, which Craig tried, while I stuck to the local cider. They had the under 21s football world cup on too so Craig enjoyed the giant screen.

 

We then headed to a standard looking restaurant further down the strip and I had some pizza and a really gross glass of wine which Craig had to finish for me! After some cocktails here, a trip to a ruin bar was in order, which was a bit more lively, and then we popped to Amie’s bar on the way back for one more drink.

 

Exploring Valletta

Typical street in Valletta

Who doesn’t like a classic door pose photo

Really likes all the colourful balconies

 

The next morning we headed down to the ferry to Valletta. These go every half hour from the dock during the daytime, and are pretty large with an upstairs deck. I think it was 1.5 euros for the single journey. Like the Brits we are we queued behind the empty ticket booth, and were rewarded when the ticket person arrived and made everyone crowded around go to the back of the line, managing to get seats near the front up on the top deck for the short 10 minute journey. Note to all, once you arrive you have the pleasure of walking up a very steep hill. Valletta is FULL of hills.

My favourite kind of salad in hot weather

We went for a brief wander and got some classic instagram shots in the narrow streets, before heading to find some lunch. We found a place called StrEat whisky bar and bistro which had seating in the large open St George’s square, and I had my favourite holiday lunch – the caprese salad, which was excellent. After some more wandering we went to the St Pauls pro-cathedral, which is absolutely incredible inside, with every inch of the place heavily decorated. I would advise wearing long clothing otherwise they give you ridiculous coverings to wear, having shoulders covered wasn’t enough since my top was low backed… It was very cool though and I would recommend going and paying the entrance fee.

I looked ridiculous and I wasn’t happy about it

View down the length of the church

Very cool archway ruined by audioguide lemmings

Tarxien Temples

After this we headed to the bus terminal, as we wanted to check out the Megolithic sites of the Tarixien temples and and Hypogeum. It was around a 30 minute bus ride away, on the 84,85 or 88 bus and they are not too bad to figure out, the Malta public transport site is actually pretty user friendly. Plus a 2 euro ticket is valid for 2 hours so you can make transfers easily and cheaply.

Archeological site

Ancient doorway

Always annoying cats

Using the magic of google maps we jumped off by the temples and walked over to them. The entry was 6 euros each. Incredibly, there were only 2 other tourists there, so we had the place practically to ourselves which was pretty cool. We had a good time looking at the temple rooms and intricate carvings.

Ancient carvings

Any excuse for me to get my Indinana Jones groove on and I am happy! The whole thing has a walk way and barriers, so you can’t wander freely which is sad but fair enough since it is a UNESCO heritage site and the largest prehistoric site on the island. We also befriended a cat on the way out which is always an added bonus to any outing.

 

We then headed to the Hypogeum. We arrived to find that the entry was 35 euros per person, and that tours were booked up months in advance and they had no spaces. No idea what is so great that it is so expensive, so we would have given it a miss even if there had been space! But if you want to go make sure you book in advance!

Being Brits abroad

Back to Valletta

Giving up on that idea, we headed back to the bus stop to make use of our 2 hour ticket and went back to Valletta, and going straight for a drink after our mini adventure. We couldn’t resist a British style pub with shady outdoor seating – Malta has plenty of British heritage, with being part of the British territories until the 1960s – the queen even lived here for a while!

Fountain in the Upper Barrakka Gardens

The next place we thought we would explore was the upper barrakka gardens, which seemed like they would offer a good view of the three cities across the water. The gardens didn’t disappoint, offering a stunning view of the three cities and the harbour, which we observed for a while.

View of the Three Cities

After strolling around, we discovered a little cafe in the gardens and decided it would be nice to take in the view and cool down with a beverage. There were several cats here too so I was pretty content to hang around.

 

Eating at Legligin

For dinner, Craig wanted to check out a wine bar called Legligin. We headed there and they explained that they only did a 7 course tasting menu for 30 euros per person. Little pricey and tasting menus are always a risk for fussy people like me, but decided to be brave and try it anyway. We also got some Maltese wine, which was lovely. Top tip: the bread and oil is delicious but you don’t want to fill up on it, you have a lot of food coming your way! I am still annoyed that I forgot to take photos of some of the dishes to put on here, but in summary we had fish soup, tapas, sea bream, octopus, lamb, quail, rabbit and more – I didn’t like all of that so poor Craig ended up eating loads and was very full after – even I was, having not even eaten all of each dish! You can read more about places to eat in Malta here.

Maltese wine

Bread and oils

Tapas

Meat course

Fish course

We took a slow wander back to the ferry, stopping for a rum in a rum bar we passed, making it to the ferry what we thought was 5 mins before it went.

This sign was 100% effective

Sailing away

Turns out the ferry after about 5-6pm only goes once every 90 minutes. Fortunately we were only 20 mins early which wasn’t that bad, but it is certainly worth noting the ferry times if you plan to stay in the evening for some food!

 

We decided to just grab some beers from the hotel from the main bar happy hour, which was 6-7 and 10-11 and then to just chill in our apartment – it had two big sofas and so we put on some music and drank slowly as we complained about how full we were! So much food.

 

Day trip to Mdina

Deserted narrow streets

City gate, famously featured in early Game of Thrones

 

The next day we got up and decided to go to Mdina, the silent city. According to the timetable, there was a bus that would take us from the front just by our hotel straight there. We waited about 45 minutes and the bus we needed didn’t show up, although plenty of others did. We decided it might be a better idea to just hop on a bus to the terminal in Valletta and change there rather than standing unsheltered in the 11am heat with no water, and we could transfer our ticket anyway. A lot of the Valletta buses were very crowded but we managed to get on a pretty civilised one, and we made it to Valletta in about 20 minutes. The bus to Mdina was much longer, but there is one every 10 mins from the bus station so that is handy.

Stunning view for lunch time

We arrived and headed straight into the walled city for a wander, before realising we were actually pretty hungry. We had a look at some of the menus in places we passed and they were very pricey. However we eventually found a place called Fontanella tea gardens, which had gorgeous views overlooking the walled city’s surroundings, and very reasonably priced food, with Craig having lasagna and me opting for a panini.

Pastizzi with ricotta

We also got some ricotta pastizzi, which is a traditional pastry and is so unbelievably tasty! Lots of people around us were just ordering cake, which came in huge slices and I was pretty jealous of so if I ever return I will 100% be having cake for whatever meal it is.

The most instagrammed door in Malta

We walked around the narrow streets which were pleasantly uncrowded, stopping to look at various views, coloured doorways and churches. There were plenty of great photo opportunities, including a beautiful door with purple flowers, which had popped up in my research on the bus on the way there and I was determined to find.

View from the city walls

An old church

Tourist selfie

St Pauls Catacombs

We then thought to walk into the main town, only to discover there wasn’t a huge amount there, and what was there was mostly closed. We had walked fairly near to the St Pauls catacombs however and thought we would check them out. It was only 5 euros each so we went for it, and it ended up being one of the best things we did.

Carvings in a tomb

Tiny doorways

Catacomb fun

There is a giant labyrinthine catacomb which you get to go into and walk around, and then there are about 20 other smaller ones you can explore, with a few info huts around. It felt very adventurous and we definitely got back to Indiana Jones mode, exploring about 14 catacombs before we decided we were tombed out and wanted to return to the world of the living.

Sunset at 1926 beach club

It was rather nice

Eating at Ta Kris

We went back to get the bus and had to wait for a while for one to show up but eventually it did, we again went via Valletta. Once we reached Sliema we changed and headed out for the evening, stopping by a Maltese restaurant both of us had seen during our research called Ta Kris. We stopped by around 6.30 to ask if they had a table later in the evening and got one for 9, as we wanted to go and watch the sunset at the nearby 1926 beach club. The beach club was very cool and I kind of wish we had had time to go hang out there during the day, but it had a good vibe, and I drank some tasty fruit beers.

The menu

Had to try more Maltese wine

More ricotta ravioli for me

The charming rustic decor

We headed back to Ta Kris and got another Maltese wine, with Craig opting for their signature rabbit dish. I picked the traditional ricotta ravioli. We both made great choices and thoroughly enjoyed the food – read more about Ta Kris here!The service was very laid back and Mediterranean and the place was completely packed, and it was a lovely place to spend our last night in chilled Sliema.

I wish I was back here

The next morning after check out we headed upstairs to the roof for one last pool and tanning session, having our final happy hour beers in the wonderfully cooling pool. I was sad to be leaving, mainly because of said roof beers and pool, but very excited to progress on to the party part of the trip! The pool had a shower so after getting ready we headed back down to the strip for a final lunch, were we chose an Italian place that did tasty looking pizzas, before jumping on the bus to St Julian’s bay for the second part of our Malta adventure!

Pizza noms

Stay tuned for the second post where I will talk all about Gozo, the blue lagoon, Marco Polo hostel and lots of partying!

 

 

Categories: Adventure, bars, City break, Eating out, Europe, Food & Drink, Lifestyle, Malta, TravelTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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