Mediterranean cruise. What could be more romantic? Endless sun. Incredibly blue water. Fascinating ports with sublime food and lovely umbrella drinks. Malta is an archipelago in the center of the Mediterranean and will be the highlight of your trip.
If you are the independent type, you will find it easy and safe to go alone in Malta. Public transport is ubiquitous, efficient and very inexpensive. Also, the islands are small, so a car is not necessary. English is Malta’s second official language, along with Maltese. Most people speak English, Maltese and Italian.
I suggest spending the day in Valletta, Mdina, Victoria or while visiting Gozo. Picking just one will be difficult. However, my suggestions will help you quickly immerse yourself in Malta and make the most of your day ashore in captivating Malta.
1. Explore Valletta
An urban experience
Valletta is the capital of Malta and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Much of Malta’s human history took place in Valletta and left its mark on architecture, government, art and faith.
Valletta is ideal for sampling sumptuous Mediterranean cuisine, admiring art and soaking up history. Start early for a less crowded encounter. When ships are in port, Valletta can be crowded.
From your cruise ship, walk to Upper Barrakka Lift, about a five minute walk. Then, via fast elevators, you’ll quickly ascend 190 feet to the ancient city of Valletta. The lift is free going up and around €1 going down.
Visit the sleeping lady
The National Museum of Archeology is my happy place in Valletta. House of the Sleeping Lady, a figurine found during the excavation of the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum, the museum beautifully displays the history of Malta. Prehistory, ancient history, Neolithic and early Phoenician periods are illuminated with permanent and changing exhibits.
The museum is quiet and calm. A self-guided tour is offered to you that you can download to your smartphone. Tickets cost between €2.50 and €5.00.
A food tour of Valletta is one of the best 3 hours of walking and eating you can experience. Maltese food is fresh and locally sourced. Timeless recipes are influenced by season and history. Italy, just 60 miles away, has a strong influence on traditional Maltese dishes, as does the Middle East, Africa and Greece.
Offbeat Malta Food Trails is my choice for a food tour of Valletta. You will sample traditional cuisine and learn about the history behind the dishes and Valletta. Ask for Daniela Aquilina as a guide. She is originally from Malta, chef, historian and artisan chocolate maker in her company Oil and More.
A stroll in the shade
Exit Valletta on Republic Street, through the city gates and through Triton Plaza. If it’s early, the place will have few people around. This is the best time to take a picture of the charming Triton Fountain. Walk past the fountain to the street and cross to see the Independence Monument.
From there, stroll through the tree-lined mall. Beautifully carved memorial statues honor Malta’s rulers and heroes through the ages and create a sculpture garden. Stop on a bench and watch the world go by. There are churches, parks, squares, fountains and small neighborhoods along the way. When you reach the end of the mall, turn around and retrace your steps.
Before Triton Plaza, stop at Phenicia for an afternoon refreshment. The 5-star hotel and resort is the jewel in Malta’s crown. You have several choices for food and libations, both indoors and outdoors. A cold drink by the pool or in the gardens will reveal a “secret view” of the ramparts and walls of Valletta on a sunny day.
Inside the hotel and in the gardens you will find a wonderful collection of art. The beautifully curated works span all genres and multiple eras. Ask the concierge for advice when entering the hotel.
2. Discover Mdina
Especially if you like cool and mysterious
Mysterious Mdina, home for centuries of Knights of Malta and wealthy Maltese citizens. Its narrow passageways and winding streets lined with two-story sandstone buildings and walls will beckon you to investigate. The Maltese call the walled city of Mdina the “silent city” in part because of the strict no-car regulations.
From the cruise ship terminal, take a direct bus to Mdina; it takes about 26 minutes and costs about €2. You can also take a taxi which will take half the time but cost several times more.
Pro tips: Use the “trip planning” feature for Malta Public Transport local buses. The app can also be downloaded to your smartphone.
If you opt for a taxi, use the taxi booking office on the Valletta waterfront walkway. You pre-pay for your destination at the regular rate, then give a voucher to the next driver in line.
Things To Do In Mdina
Arrived in Mdina, go to the tourist office (take the 2n/a just inside the city gates) for a map. Then sit in the courtyard and decide which of the many attractions you want to visit. There are churches, chapels, museums, ramparts with stunning views, shops and restaurants. You could do like me and wander the passages with no destination in mind.
Lunch at Bacchus
Bacchus serves the best Mediterranean food I have had in Malta. I have enjoyed the beautifully prepared food, excellent service and historic atmosphere on several occasions. Expect a menu that will change daily depending on the season. Many things are homemade, including creamy burrata cheese and charcuterie. Take your time; this is a place for a long lazy lunch.
3. Immerse yourself in history at the Citadel of Victoria
Victoria is the capital of Gozo, the main island of Malta’s little sister to the north. It is a bustling town of 6,900 people and is Gozo’s largest town. It is a bustling transport hub dominated by an imposing citadel, the Cittadella. The sandstone monolith has protected the citizens from pirates and invaders in centuries past. Today it is a hive of history, churches, museums, restaurants and shops.
Walk to the Gozo Fast Ferry Terminal from your cruise ship, just a few minutes along the waterfront. Take the high speed boat to the Gozo Ferry Terminal. Outside the terminal, board a direct bus to Victoria. The cost is around €2 and takes around 15 minutes. Walk north on Triq That Putirjal to Triq ir-Repubblika. Turn west. The Cittadella is 5 minutes away. It is the highest thing in Victoria.
What to do
Once at the Citadel, go to the visitor information office (follow the signs). A small fee is charged to visit the center, including admission to several other Cittadella attractions. You can also get a map and decide what you want to see.
Don’t miss the “historic house” for a well-presented reproduction of 16e-the life of the century. Gozo Cathedral has a famous painting which depicts a dome that does not exist. Even if there are a few steps to climb, go up to the ramparts. The view is exceptional. You can see Gozo, Camino and Malta.
Walk through the street market
Leave the Cittadella and cross Triq ir-Repubblika, then cross the square where people take refreshments and chat. You will see the street market in front of you. It meanders and wanders through the alleys and squares. It’s a great place to buy locally made goods and souvenirs.
4. Getting around Gozo by tuk-tuk
If you want to get a glimpse of the beauty of Gozo, I suggest a day trip by tuk-tuk to the island. Yippee, a locally owned and operated travel agency in Gozo, organizes chauffeured tuk-tuk tours, quad tours, self-driving e-Jeeps and GoCar explorations. Yippee tour guides and drivers know the culture, geography and history of Gozation.
From your cruise ship, walk to the Gozo Fast Ferry Terminal, just a few minutes along the waterfront. Then take the high-speed boat to the Gozo Ferry Terminal. Your Yippee guide will meet you at the terminal.
On the road
Tuk-tuk tours are a maximum of six people and a driver. Smaller vehicles can go places larger tour buses can’t. You will visit villages, towns, cliffs, terraced farms, salt marshes and a Roman wash house. Stops are made frequently with your comfort in mind.
Day trips include a Mediterranean lunch at an oceanside cafe. It is a wonderful taste of the Mediterranean diet. After your tuk-tuk tour, you will board Yippee’s boat and cruise to Camino Island. There you can swim and walk before returning to the Gozo ferry terminal in time to catch your ferry to the Valletta waterfront.
Why travel solo?
Going out alone is an adventure in a new country. However, if you are willing to give it a try, Malta is ideal. Malta and Gozo are small islands; it’s hard to get lost. Malta is 17 miles long by 9 miles wide. Gozo is 9.5 miles long by 4.5 miles wide. In addition:
- The country’s history and architecture are exceptional.
- Most people speak English, Maltese and Italian.
- While many street names are Maltese, other directional signs are in English.
- Public transit is frequent, efficient and inexpensive.
- Malta has the lowest crime rate in the EU.
- The Maltese are friendly and engaging people. They like to talk about their country and help you enjoy it.
Savor your independent adventure in Malta; it will be the highlight of your cruise. For more information, visit Visit Malta and Visit Gozo.
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