The island of Malta, like most Mediterranean Islands, is blessed with a wonderful climate throughout the year and beaches of such beauty that they alone have turned the island into a top tourist destination. However, it’s not just the sun, sea and sand and cheap deals through the likes of Mercury Direct that make holidays in Malta so popular, there’s a lot to enjoy in and around the island, and particularly in tiny capital: Valletta.
St John’s Cathedral
Malta has been inhabited for over six thousand years and has been a staging post for most of the great powers that have sprung up around the Mediterranean Sea since then. Nonetheless, it’s most famous residents were probably the Knights Hospitaller. Having been driven out of the Holy Land after the capture of Acre in 1291, the Knights Hospitaller eventually wound up in Malta where they established a base for the best part of the next three hundred years.
Although the island is covered with Hospitaller buildings, it is St John’s Cathedral that stands out from the rest as the pinnacle of their achievements, and of the Baroque art movement. As one of the best protected sites in Christendom it became the home of many amazing artefacts, all of which can be seen, for free, in the museum on site.
Although not technically in Valletta itself, Valletta is the base for trips to visit the Megalithic Temples dotted around the island which have been named UNESCO World Heritage sites. There are seven temples scattered across Malta and it’s neighbouring island, Gozo, the smallest and youngest of which is no less than 4,000 years old. You can get direct buses from Valletta to the nearest of the temples and entry is less than ten euros and well worth every cent as there are few locations in the world that can boast history as impressive as Malta’s temples. Be wary about visiting on hot days as the temples don’t offer much protection from the sun. For more information, check out the UNESCO web page here.
The locals like to claim that Valletta’s waterfront is the most striking in Europe and you have to admit that they might just have a point. Dominated by the Cathedral, the waterfront is a great place to soak up the history, a bit of sunshine, and to enjoy a drink and a good bite to eat. The best time to visit is in the late afternoon, but keep an eye out for the cruise ships which dock in the harbour and can leave the area really busy.
Malta is a great place to visit, particularly if you’re a history buff. The number of amazing buildings built by the Hospitaller’s alone will keep you occupied for weeks, let alone the marks left by almost all of the Mediterranean’s great empires. Next time you’re considering a holiday, make sure to put Malta high up on your list of destinations.
Image of St John’s Cathedral courtesy of papalars