10 hidden gems in Malta

From finding secret beaches on which to enjoy Malta’s stunningly clear waters to knowing the best places to find a cup of coffee with a view or tuck into a late-night pastizzi-fest, this guide has got you covered when it comes to discovering hidden Malta.

1. Valletta
The capital of Malta is, of course, a popular place to begin your visit to the islands. But for the authentic Maltese experience, stray from the busy thoroughfares and get lost in the winding, pretty backstreets of Valletta. Here family-run cafes, tiny restaurants and kitsch little shops are dotted around, just begging to be explored.

2. Ghasri Valley
Malta has no shortage of beautiful coastal spots for a swim, but the Ghasri Valley on Gozo is a must-visit. Here crystal clear, turquoise waters gently run through a steep-sided winding valley to create a secluded, natural s-shaped swimming pool complete with a tiny pebble beach. It’s also a great place for snorkelers and divers, as the creek hides several impressive underwater caves.

3. The Secret Passage at St Gregory’s Church
Malta has its own secret tunnel to rival Paris’ spooky catacombs; the thick stone walls of St Gregory’s Church in Zejtun have a hidden passageway inside, filled with human bones. With the skeletons believed to date back to the 1600s, the passageway was hidden for centuries before being re-discovered in the 1960s. Watch out for holidays and events when the church is open for visitors.

4. Fontanella Tea Garden
When visiting the city of Mdina, there’s only one place to stop for refreshments. The Fontanella Tea Garden is situated up high on the city’s stone bastions, meaning these al-fresco coffees come with the best views across Malta. Oh, and it’s also famous on the island for its delicious selection of home-made cakes – yes, please.

5. Il-Hofra L-Kbira
If you’re looking for a private slice of coastline, Il-Hofra L-Kbira will not disappoint. From the parking lot on the cliffs above, the beach is almost completely hidden below. Shallow warm waters and a flat, rocky beach with a little cave area providing some shade await visitors who find it. It’s not far from the super popular St Peter’s Pool in Marsaxlokk, so you could enjoy its hidden beauty after visiting the touristy site.

6. Crystal Palace Pastizzis
Pastizzi, a soft filo-pastry filled with mushy peas or soft ricotta, is Malta’s go-to snack. You’ll find them on sale pretty much everywhere, from bars to street food vendors, but Crystal Palace Tea and Coffee Bar has become a bit of a pastizzi icon. On the outskirts of Rabat, this cafe is open pretty much 24/7, so you can get your fix any time of the day or night!

7. Mnajdra Temple Complex
Malta has a long and rich history so the country boasts some incredible Roman ruins and beautiful crumbling architectural sites from different periods of its past, many of which get very busy with visitors. One hidden gem amongst these sites is the Mnajdra Temple Complex, near the village of Qrendi, where one of the three beautiful neolithic temples was built and designed around the movements of the sun. If you can, plan your visit during an equinox or solstice when special events are held.

8. The Jesus Tree
Yep, this is literally a tree that looks a bit like Jesus on the cross. Local legend says that the tree changed shape after being struck by lightning and locals now place flowers and gifts in homage at its feet. After being uprooted during a storm, it unfortunately lost its “head” and roots but the trunk was afterwards secured into a concrete base, so its holy shape can still be admired. If you’re after a quirky afternoon activity, set off to find the tree just outside of Mdina.

9. Seafood in Marsaskala
It’s no surprise that the seafood in Malta is famous for making travellers’ mouths water – with a huge array of Mediterranean fish and shellfish caught offshore each day, dishes here could hardly get any fresher! A great place to sample local dishes is in the small, relaxed fishing village of Marsaskala. Tuck into a swordfish steak or try traditional spaghetti with octopus sauce, before wandering along the promenade to spy the colourful fishermen’s houses and the boats that bob in the harbor.

10. Coral Lagoon
This perfectly-circular sea cave with an open roof is B.E.A.utiful. Either swim or kayak through what looks like a small cave from the sea next to Little Armier Bay and you’ll find yourself in a little round lagoon, harboring bright blue, clear waters. It’s worth getting there early before the tourists arrive – this highly Instagrammable hideaway isn’t going to stay a secret for much longer!

Article credits: https://www.ef.com/wwen/blog/language/10-hidden-gems-in-malta/
Marina Terrace Spa Rooms

Take in stunning views of the Portomaso Yacht Marina whilst relaxing in your own private hot tub located on the spacious terrace furnished with sunbeds and dining area. The room features a large king-sized Hilton Serenity bed and an elegant bathroom with walk-in shower or bathtub. Watch a movie on the 43-inch LCD TV or catch up with work at the desk with WiFi access.

Special touches include a fully stocked minibar, a welcome amenity, complimentary bathroom amenities and tea and coffee making facilities.

The Terrace Spa Suits will be completed in the coming weeks!

 

AX THE SAINT JOHN CONSISTENTLY EXCEEDING TRAVELLERS’ EXPECTATIONS

AX The Saint John, a boutique hotel in the heart of Merchants Street, Valletta, is the recipient of Booking.com’s Traveller Review Award 2022 with a score of 9 out of 10!

A Traveller Review Award is won by having an average review score between 8 and 10 with at least three reviews left by Booking.com travellers by 1st December of the previous year. AX The Saint John managed to obtain a fantastic score, rendering the boutique hotel a recipient of this prestigious award.

Once a former merchant’s residence and shop, the accommodation was reformulated as the successful and hospitable setting that it is today but never losing its rich history. Rooms at AX The Saint John combine luxury, technology and style – ideal for the smart and independent traveller.

 

Malta Marriott recognised for ‘excellence in service delivery’ by Marriott International

Malta Marriott Hotel & Spa has been recognised by parent company Marriott International for its customer service delivery through a distinction for its Intent to Recommend score for July 2022.

Marriott International was full of praise towards the Malta-based hotel for the achievement, a sign of a “truly outstanding performance”.  It also thanked Malta Marriott for the service it provides to customers, with a priority on making them feel “safe, secure, and welcomed”.

“Lasting memories are created through great customer service, and we have a team that cares about that as much as you do,” Malta Marriott said.

“We are proud of our associates for their dedication to delivering hospitality and creating experiences that will last a lifetime,” the hotel added.

The hotel launched in January 2020 after an investment of €30 million for extensive refurbishment, and he has since become known for the “joyful experience” it offers its guests every time they visit.

Similar to other hotels, Malta Marriott was forced to halt its operations during the COVID-19 pandemic due to lockdown restrictions just a few months after its launch, before it reopened at the start of September of that same year.

 

Article credits: https://whoswho.mt/en/malta-marriott-hotel-spa-recognised-for-excellence-in-service-delivery-by-marriott-international
7 feasts in one day, all dedicated to the Assumption of Our Lady

The Maltese summer festa season hits its peak on 15th August with the feast of Santa Marija or, to give it its official title, the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, which is celebrated in no fewer than seven towns: Mqabba, Qrendi, Mosta, Attard, Gudja, Ghaxaq, and Victoria in Gozo.

It’s not just a religious feast but also a public holiday marking the mid-point of our long hot summer, when most businesses shut up shop to give employees a breather as the thermometer continues to sizzle.

For festa enthusiasts, Santa Marija is the queen of the season, and the usual competition between the parishes goes up a notch or three as towns vie with each other to produce the biggest, most colourful celebration punctuated by the loudest and most creative fireworks.

In some towns, celebrations start two weeks prior to the big day, and culminate in spectacular fireworks displays on the 14th and 15th of August. One of the best pyrotechnic shows to watch will be the one produced by the St Mary’s Fireworks Factory of Mqabba, which is renowned for its ingenious displays. Get there early on the evening of 14th August to grab a good viewing post, as it will get very crowded. Not to be outdone by its neighbour, Qrendi’s Santa Marija celebrations are drawn out over four weeks from 30th July to 22nd August.

The famous Mosta dome, or Rotunda as the locals refer to it, glows bright as it becomes the focal point for all Santa Marija celebrations, with High Mass celebrated by the Archbishop on 15th August at 9:15am. The mechanised ground fireworks display is held outside the church on the eve starting at 11:30pm, while the procession with the titular statue starts at 6:45pm on 15th August, with the brass band playing the Ave Maria.

The elegant residential town of Attard is also en fête. Make sure to take a peek inside the parish church, which was built between 1613 and 1624 on designs by architect and sculptor Tommaso Dingli and is regarded as the finest Renaissance church on the island. A concert by the brass band La Stella Levantina will be held on the eve at 8pm in the parish square, followed by fireworks at 11:15pm. The procession with the titular statue starts at about 6:45pm on 15th August and finishes at around 10:30pm.

Another church built by Tommaso Dingli is that of the parish of Gudja, which is also celebrating the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady. Completed in 1666, it is the only church in Malta with three bell towers. When it comes to Santa Marija festa processions, Gudja holds the record for the oldest titular statue of the Assumption, sculpted out of solid wood in 1807 by Maltese sculptor Vincenzo Dimech. Sacred music will be performed by the Assumpta Est choir every day from 11th August in the church at 6:30pm, culminating in the pontifical mass on 15th August at 9am. There will also be two concerts by the La stella Band Club and Maria Assunta Band Club on 14th August from 9pm. The procession with the titular statue on 15th August starts at 7:30pm.

Ghaxaq goes to town with its street decorations for the Santa Marija festa, which is documented to have been celebrated in this village since at least the start of the 1800s. Many of its elaborate street decorations, including statues and pedestals, are over 100 years old. Celebrations actually kick off two weeks before on 30th July at precisely 12pm, when the church bells go wild, flags are hoisted up above the rooftops triggered by a 21-gun salute. A powerful siren, a World War II relic, is sounded from the St Mary’s Club in memory of the joyful arrival of the SS Ohio, which quite literally saved the island at the height of the Siege of Malta.

Head over to Ghaxaq on 13th August from 10pm for a street party like no other, where a procession with the statue of Our Lady ends with a confetti and fireworks show followed by a gig by DJ Armani. And on 14th August, bag yourself a vantage point on Valletta Road just outside the town to watch the “pyro-musical” spectacle “The Convoy” from 9pm, followed by mechanised ground fireworks at 11pm. At noon on 15th August, make sure you don’t miss a little tradition dating back to the 19th century when a mini statuette of the Assumption pops out of its elaborate sarcophagus on top of a grandfather-clock-like structure!

The capital of the sister island, Victoria, is also celebrating the feast of Santa Marija. The cathedral at the Citadel is the focal point for this festa, which also features traditional horse races along Republic Street as well as an agricultural fair at Villa Rundle on 14th and 15th August. Don’t miss the concerts by the Leone Philharmonic Society brass band which is based in the Aurora Theatre, one of Victoria’s two opera houses.

Malta’s UNESCO Capital City

The Maltese capital has an instant charm that may remind you of Venice and maybe even Prague in one fell swoop. Dripping with charisma and oozing an undeniable historical vibe, it is a place where baroque charm comes to life before your eyes. The ancient honey coloured buildings and walls perfectly capture the warmth of the Mediterranean light giving the city a glow that heightens the appeal. Here are just a few sights you may want to see during your visit to this beautiful European capital which finds itself, and deservedly so, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

St. John’s Co-Cathedral
The 16th century Co-Cathedral is a masterpiece of baroque workmanship. The somewhat plane exterior hides a glorious internal space that radiates with a golden glow by virtue of its grand and regal craftsmanship. Wherever you look you see beautiful decorative works, whether golden ornaments or marble statues, and don’t forget to look down, as the cathedral floor is every bit as ornate as the ceiling and walls with its delightful stonework and memorials of one sort and another. A must see while you’re in the island’s capital.

National Museum of Fine Arts
For those interested in all things artistic, the National Museum of Fine Arts is not only one of the oldest buildings in the city, but is an undisputed treasure trove of rare antique maps and a host of other works spanning the last 500 years. The 1760s saw the building undergo extensive renovation for the Knight who lived here all those years ago. It’s easy to feel history come to life as you stroll through the exhibits and rooms.

Casa Rocca Piccola
This beautiful example of 16th century architecture makes for a highly interesting visit around its well maintained and preserved rooms. But perhaps the most intriguing feature lies underground in the form of the World War II air raid shelters which have only recently been opened to the public. This underground world offers a truly fascinating insight into island life during the European conflict.

National War Museum
Although a tiny island, Malta’s strategic location in the Mediterranean has seen it caught in the crossfire of many a conflict. The museum presents a glimpse into battles and conflicts dating all the way back to the bronze age up to the relatively recent conflict of World War II. On display you will see the British built Gloster Sea Gladiator, Roosevelt’s famous Husky jeep, and the Malta George Cross awarded to the island by King George VI in 1942 along with his handwritten letter, all of which serves to remind the visitor the island’s history hasn’t always been the peaceful Mediterranean retreat it now is.

A sanctuary
Offering a place of refuge from the hot midday sun are the Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens with stunning views across the Grand Harbour. At noon everyday the tranquillity is slightly punctuated and only momentarily by the traditional canon fire of the Saluting Battery, a feature as old as the city itself. The lower gardens tend to be less frequented by visitors so may offer a more suitable retreat when things get busy.

Eating
The city is awash with options for eating out from places with romantic Mediterranean views to waterside features and subtly lit courtyards. All tastes are catered for from Asian favorites to Italian to local cuisine. You won’t go hungry in Valletta.

Annual Events
Then there are the annual events such as the synchronized Malta International Fireworks Festival held in April, the harbour side Malta Jazz Festival at the end of July, two annual wine festivals held at the end of July and August, and the Catholic Carnival in Valletta with interesting performances and brightly adorned floats sailing through the streets.

As far as European cities go, Valletta can compete with the best. History, charm, elegance are all to be found here in this little cultural oasis in the island of Malta, lying, as it does, firmly in the midst of the Mediterranean.

Article credits: https://www.welcome-center-malta.com/valletta-maltas-capital-city-and-unesco-world-heritage-site/

 

 

Holiday Inn set to land in Malta in 2024

Holiday Inn is set to launch at the heart of St Julian’s, adding to Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) and Eden Leisure Group’s growing list of hotels in Malta.

IHG and Eden Leisure Group are targeting an opening date at the start of 2024, after a management agreement between the two companies was signed in 2019, Eden Leisure Group CEO Simon De Cesare confirmed.

Plans for the 168-room hotel were “put on hold for a little while during the COVID-19 pandemic,” yet after building permits were granted in January, Eden Leisure Group has been “demolishing and excavating since,” Mr De Cesare said.

While Malta already has a high amount of bed stock, so much so that Mr De Cesare would “in most instances” advise against new hotels, this is Eden Leisure Group’s third hotel under IHG’s management, with the two companies already having the three-star limited-service Holiday Inn Express hotel, as well as the five-star luxury Intercontinental Malta hotel.

“This four-star Holiday Inn hotel would allow us significant flexibility and synergy between our brands and our management,” he added.

“The proximity of the properties and the economics of scale will be immeasurable,” Mr De Cesare continued.

Given the wide array of hotels in Malta available for visitors to choose from, establishing a key target market is a must, and while Holiday Inn is “traditionally a family hotel,” through the “synergies mentioned, it will also cater to the corporate market”, he concluded.

IHG Hotels and Resorts is one of the world’s leading hotel companies, with over 6,028 hotels from several brands currently under its control in more than 100 different countries.

Eden Leisure Group has been the “forefront of hospitality and entertainment in Malta” since the country’s early days of tourism more than 50 years ago, and now operates several entertainment and leisure venues, including the Eden Cinemas and the Eden Superbowl.

Mr De Cesare was named CEO of the company in 2018, using his vast experience in the entertainment industry to help Eden Leisure Group progress even more.

Article credits: https://whoswho.mt/en/holiday-inn-set-to-land-in-malta-in-2024
9 beautiful beaches in Malta – Lonely Planet

The beaches in Malta tend to be dramatic, rocky and sea-sculpted, with fewer soft and sandy curves of Mediterranean coastline than you might expect. Despite this, the Maltese make the most of every swimming spot, and on these compact islands, water sports abound, and you’re never far from the sea.

With crystalline waters, historic wrecks, and interesting underwater formations, Malta is also Europe’s best diving destination, but even snorkeling from the island nation’s coastline offers a remarkable insight into an underwater world.

Whether you’re keen on splashing around in the waves, spending an afternoon relaxing on the sand, or enjoying a leisurely lunch of local seafood, here are the beaches to head to in Malta, and its smaller sister islands of Gozo and Comino.

View the Lonely Planet top 9 beaches in Malta here.

A step in the right direction for Malta’s Tourism Industry

Malta Tourism Authority welcomes the great news that the Malta International Airport welcomed a total of 418,473 passengers in September, which also marked the first time, since 1999, that September outpaced August in terms of passenger traffic, and the strongest month, in terms of passenger volumes, since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

Seat-occupancy levels also remained below pre-pandemic levels, as airlines carried passengers to and from the airport at an average seat load factor of just over 70%.

The recent news published by the Malta International Airport is truly encouraging for the local tourism sector. Notwithstanding the challenging times, Malta managed to strike a balance between the lives and livelihoods of the Maltese people. We will continue working hard to assure that the hospitality industry continues to recover and assure that Malta becomes a home of tourism excellence for the years to come,” remarked Minister for Tourism and Consumer Protection Clayton Bartolo.

This is great news for Malta, especially given the circumstances which we all have had to live with in the past months, and naturally, it fills us, as an Authority, with a strong sense of positivity, coupled with the right amount of energy, to look forward to ending 2021 and starting 2022 with further positive results. I believe that our marketing efforts, together with the €20m-strong Tourism Recovery Plan which we have laid out together with the Ministry for Tourism and Consumer Protection, as well as, the excellent way in which the Health Authorities have handled, and are still handling the pandemic, all played a crucial role in the positive results which we have seen for September. This is also another example of just how important it is for all stakeholders to work together for the greater good, when faced with such an unprecedented crisis,” MTA CEO Johann Buttigieg said.

Malta International Airport also reported that the United Kingdom retained its spot as the top driver of passenger traffic as it continues its path of recovery, with over 108,000 passengers departing or arriving from this destination in September, followed by the Italian, German, French and Spanish markets.

A word of thanks must go to our marketing teams at Head Office, and our teams across Europe and the world for being resilient in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, working closely with the management, as one big team, and adapting to the ever-changing situation of the pandemic across various countries and regions. We have used the pandemic to reinvent our marketing strategy, investing in digital media campaigns, to make people feel close to the Maltese Islands, even during the strictest of lockdowns. This has paid off, and is paying off, with the encouraging results which we are seeing. I am sure that with regards to the UK market, we will continue to see further improvement, especially with restrictions being eased further in the UK,” MTA Deputy CEO and Chief Marketing Officer, Carlo Micallef added.

Article credits: https://www.mta.com.mt/en/news-details/327
Pros and Cons to renting a car in Malta

Driving in Malta is seen as challenging at best by a lot of people, not least by the Maltese themselves. This article aims to give you some insight as to what you can expect to find if you choose to hire a car for your holiday.

Let’s start with the pros:

  1. There’s a lot to see and discover within relatively short distances, and although hop on/hop off buses can be a good alternative, you’ll never have as much flexibility as you’d have driving yourself.
  2. Although you’ll have easy access to public transport (a network of bus routes) wherever you stay in Malta, the way that some of the routes are laid out means that trips can take far longer than if you were to drive yourself.
  3. Public transport is reasonably worry-free but often times not too punctual and can make for a hot ride in summer, when air conditioning doesn’t always work.
  4. If you want to see the real Malta, the small quaint and relatively quiet villages and village life, you’re going to have to get out of your comfort zone and get away from the tourist hotspots. If you’re a curious traveller, it’ll be worth it.

And now with the cons:

  1. Traffic congestion – during rush hour mostly
  2. Parking – Lots of cars, not enough spaces in busy areas
  3. Hot-headed or ignorant drivers who are looking to cut off 1-2 minutes from their trip time, whatever the cost may be.
  4. Narrow roads in old city centres. Not the type that will cost you a side mirror, but the type with semi-blind corners.
  5. In Malta we drive on the left hand side of the road. So, unless you’re from the UK that will take some getting used to (as well as driving a right-hand drive car).
  6. Rules and signs are sometimes seen as mere suggestions

Still not sure? Here’s some further advice:
If you’re a confident driver with at least a couple of years of solid experience on the road in your home country, you should be able to drive around by car in Malta pretty easily.
If you’ve driven on motorways in Italy, inside city centres like Naples and in different parts of Sicily,  driving in Malta will feel like a breeze. It’s predictable as long as you expect other drivers to misbehave and anticipate them doing so. If you get worked up and stressed out easily behind the wheel, driving in Malta is probably not for you.
If you’re considering renting a car, you’re probably looking to do some exploring. If that’s the case, Sliema, St. Julian’s, Buġibba, Qawra and St. Paul’s Bay shouldn’t be on your list to consider staying at in the first place. However, if you are staying at one of these places, you’ll be making it difficult for yourself when it comes to driving in and out of these areas as well as to find parking (unless facilities are provided by the hotel or place you’re staying at).
If you plan to spend most or all of your time in Gozo, there’s no need to worry in the first place. Although rules are still not obeyed as closely as they might be at home, it’s a lot more peaceful driving around the island. Really and truly, you’d be missing out if you don’t rent a car in Gozo. It’s a great place to explore on four wheels. Or two, if you prefer.

Read the full article here: https://www.maltauncovered.com/malta-car-hire/tips-driving-in-malta/
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