Staff Review

A long weekend in Malta & Gozo

Malta and Gozo

28 May 2019

by The Kirker Team

Kirker Holidays

Our flight left early Friday morning which was important, as we only had a couple of nights in Malta to explore this wonderful island, so needed to head off early if we were to see as much as possible. I am already planning my return so I recommend that you leave a minimum of four nights.

We were met at the airport for a transfer to the old town of Valletta, and the comfortable private car journey was well-appreciated as Malta airport, whilst small, is very busy, so it was a luxury to have someone waiting to escort us. Soon after I had my first glimpse of the beautiful yellow-stone buildings that Malta is famous for, with coloured balconies along the harbour. We sat down and had a gorgeous lunch at one of the restaurants I had been asked to sample by the Kirker Concierge (a hard task…) and he surpassed himself with a restaurant right on the harbour front with beautiful pasta and meat dishes as well as a surprisingly palatable Maltese wine.

We then went up to Valletta itself where we had a guided walking tour with a local guide and saw St John’s Cathedral, which was architecturally beautiful and contains the only signed portrait by Caravaggio, displayed in a separate ante-chamber for security reasons. After touring the old town we finished at the dramatically-sited Barakka Gardens where we had a wonderful view down to the Grand Harbour and across to the ‘Three Cities.’

From here it is just a couple of minutes’ stroll to our hotel, The Phoenicia, where we checked-in. I stayed in an executive room which had a balcony and was an extremely generous size, but all the rooms here – refurbished comprehensively in 2018 – are comfortable and some also offer views over the harbour below. The bed was extremely comfortable and it was tempting to sink straight in, but there was dinner to be eaten and we were looking forward to trying out the new restaurant at the hotel – which proved well-worth getting up for. In fact the hotel has not only the smart dinner restaurant, but also a less-formal bistro and the elegant Palm Court where you can enjoy afternoon tea or a light lunch.

The next morning we were up bright and early to catch the ferry across to Gozo, a very simple and quick process, and the ferry crossing only takes about 20 minutes. Our guide met us once we got off the ferry and we began our tour of Malta’s sister island. The highlights were impressive remains from the Neolithic era that the locals felt must have been built by giants when they were first discovered, as well as salt pans and the ‘inland sea’, which were both fascinating examples of the area’s remarkable geography.

Returning to Malta in the afternoon, we visited the old capital, Mdina, where we called at the Xara Palace hotel. Being the former capital of Malta, this beautiful walled city is located on a high point, a key strategic point for defence, which means it now provides fantastic views. As a member of Relais & Chateaux the Xara Palace is a gastronomic gem with not one, but two excellent restaurants serving Mediterranean cuisine including an excellent wine list and homemade pasta.

Our final morning was spent in Valletta’s ‘Three Cities’, and I would highly recommend taking the boat across the Grand Harbour, or a short taxi ride, to see the old town from the opposite side. This area is where the old Royal Navy base was located and also has some wonderful historic streets and fortresses, many of which are being restored at a pace. Before flying home we also paused in the fishing harbour of Marsaxlokk, where I enjoyed a cannoli from the local market and sat and watched the colourful fishing boats in the harbour as the fishermen brought in their catch. This was one of my favourite stops as it felt very authentic with Maltese people going around their daily business and the perfect way to conclude our Maltese adventure. I would recommend a stop here for lunch on the way to the airport as it is only a 10 minute journey

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