The island of Malta is taking centre stage this year, as its historic capital Valletta has been granted European Capital of Culture status. The city will play host to a range of events such as the Malta Jazz Festival in July and the International Arts Festival throughout June and July which are situated on its spectacular harbour side.
The island has also been a magnet for great powers throughout the centuries, which have left their mark on its architecture. Malta’s sister island, Gozo a short ferry ride away, is also modern day magnet for divers for its crystal clear waters and warm temperatures all year round.
Malta was featured as one of the 12 destinations to watch in ABTA’s Travel Trends 2018.
So we spoke to Liam Gauci, historian and curator at Heritage Malta, national agency for museums, conservation practice and cultural heritage.
Liam has provided us with his personal recommendations for visiting the island this year.
“Valletta is the hottest spot in Malta this year. New bars, restaurants and events give the baroque setting of the fortress city a different feel from many European capital cities. Travellers can simply enjoy soaking up the city; stop for coffee in one of the piazzas, stroll into a museum, take in the views of the grand harbour, then sit down for lunch at one of many restaurants, after which you can walk to some of the local Maltese designer shops in Valletta.”
“During the Pageant of the Seas, held on 7 June, Valletta’s Grand Harbour hosts a programme teeming with exciting and competitive races, visual demonstrations and water acts. Local communities take part in races on specially designed vessels, constructed specifically for the sport. Other races are held between local swimmers, all competing to outperform each other on marathon routes between the two forts dominating the harbour. After sundown, skies above the harbour are ablaze with spectacular displays of fireworks and light effects.”
“Maltese food is delicious and idiosyncratic, check out its roots at the ‘Taste history’ experience at the Malta Maritime Museum. The museum is recreating recipes from 18th century Malta. Two hundred years ago Malta was home to Corsairs, Mistresses, Knights and Merchants who would be tasting pistachio sorbet, chocolate biscuits, rabbit pies and sweet wines from around the Mediterranean.”
“Heritage Malta is also working closely with the Archaeology department of the University of Malta to retrieve, conserve and display artefacts from a 2,000 year old Phoenician shipwreck in Gozo, a mere baby in terms of Malta’s long history.”
Dive into Gozo
Mr Gauci also enthuses about Malta’s neighbouring island: “Malta’s smaller neighbour Gozo is always a beautiful addition when travelling to the island. Guests can see the greener side of the island, and also enjoy the newly restored Citadel in the centre of the sister island where you can enjoy 360 views of Gozo and Malta. There is also a beautiful audio visual display about the history of the little island within the newly restored water reservoirs of Rabat. This is a show that is not to be missed. Obviously a visit to the beautiful beach of Ramla il Hamra in Gozo is a must and the perfect way to enjoy the beach is by drinking a glass of Chardonnay wine produced from grapes harvested in the valley just behind the beach. The barrel aged local wine Antonin Blanc, is simply the best way to taste and admire the beauty of Gozo.”
Check in with some culture
“Between spring and summer 2018, Valletta 2018 holds its major visual arts exhibition on the theme of Maltese identity, with large installations and performances taking place in both traditional and unexpected locales in Valletta and across the country. The exhibition will see the participation of more than twenty-five established and emerging artists from 15 countries – including Malta, France, Austria, Egypt, Germany, Syria, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Ghana, Spain, and Palestine – who are collaborating with local people around the Island.”
So if you’re looking for a bit of culture as well being close to the sea, Malta can offer you a taste of history, culture as well as a chance to try some diving in Gozo. In our eyes, an all-round holiday experience.
Find out more about ABTA's 2018 Travel Trends report by visiting: abta.com/traveltrends2018.