Seeing Malta in One Day

In recent years Valletta has become a popular port of call with cruise lines, that which gives excellent publicity for the island, previously little known about. Visitors tend to leave with good impressions, often saying Malta was the highlight of all ports visited. Sadly, liners seldom ever stop for longer than a day, and so one needs to make the most of the little time available.

Fortunately, Malta's charms are neatly compressed into an island only measuring 246 sq. km, where the average ride is 23 minutes, making it possible to see a lot in the usually available 7/8-hour day. Small in size but big on history, the island is packed with places of interest, and scenic beauty. After Rome, Malta boasts the highest concentration of Unesco World Heritage sites.

Undoubtedly, the way to see the most in little time, is to book a private tour as part of a small group that shares the same interests. Booking a private tour directly with a guide, is no more expensive than the offered ship group tours. A small group will be travelling on a minivan, which can get in where the big coaches can't, and being chauffeured, no time is lost in looking for parking.

Much of Malta's heritage is owed to the Knights of St. John. The island's present-day capital, Valletta, is a beautiful Renaissance city built by the Knights, shortly after the victory in the Great Siege of 1565. Built to a rectangular grid plan, and standing proud on a peninsula, it is strategically located between two natural harbours, and measuring just over half a square kilometre.

The city was European Capital of Culture 2018, and is full of tourist attractions, all close on each other. Foremost amongst these is the magnificent St. John's co-Cathedral, which served as the Conventual Church for the Knights of St. John, and which houses two Caravaggio paintings in its Oratory.

The list of alternative attractions to choose from is long, amongst which, the Grand Master's Palace where hangs one of two surviving complete sets of Gobelin Tapestries, and the Archaeology Museum, which displays artistic works up to five thousand years old, recovered from the island's surviving twenty Temple sites.

Places of interest outside Valletta are numerous. Mdina, the old capital, is a city lost-in-time, where the only traffic is the clanking of the horse-drawn carriages on the cobbled roads. This gem of a walled city is best appreciated when toured on foot. A massive earthquake had destroyed several buildings, including the Cathedral, but numerous others survived, rendering it an architectural patchwork of medieval and Baroque buildings. A date inscribed above a little window on Palazzo Santa Sofia, reads 1233.

The Cathedral Museum ranks high, boasting a variety of exhibits, for which the highlight is the complete series of 20 wood cuts of 'The Life of the Vergin' amongst works by Albreht Durer.

The views from the walls stretch over countryside and out to the blue Mediterrranean, under beautiful cloud formations that always flail the sky on Malta. All this is best enjoyed over a snack meal on a rooftop terrace for one of a number of restaurants situated on the peripheral walls. Your guide will be able to advise on a stand-out restaurant where the food is good honest cooking, and reflecting the local tradition.

Just outside these battlements is the Roman Domus, a Patrician town house, dating back to the last half of the 2nd century B.C. The mosaic pavement of the Peristyle competes with the finest examples of Hellenistic mosaic arts.

Those with an interest in pre-history, will find a visit to the Tarxien Temples captivating. A multi-temple site, where the oldest temple is over 5,000 years old, Tarxien is the most highly decorated of all the temples. It was here that the over-sized statue of the Deity was discovered.

Vittoriosa, Cospicua and Senglea are often referred to as the three cities for their close neighbourhood, Vittoriosa being the most intriguing of the three, an old maritime city, sitting on the Grand Harbour. The original triple entrance to this fortified city still stands, past which, the Inquisitor's Palace dating from the fifteen thirties. A few metres away, on Vitttoriosa's main Square, a small Crucifix in a little niche, marks the spot where public executions were carried out by the Inquisition. Off the square, an area known as the 'Collachio', was reserved for the Knights of St. John, its enchanting narrow streets bearing traces of beautiful architecture that testify to a splendid past era, whilst the still lived-in, ribboning back alleys, offer a behind-the-scenes tour of a traditional neighbourhood that gives a glimpse into Maltese life.

Historic sites can be balanced out by some delightful sights like that of the fishing village Marsaxlokk, and the amazing view of the Blue grotto from a height. A single day tour would require the visitor to make some choices, which the guide you are booking through, can help you with.

This hidden gem of the Mediterranean is still waiting to be discovered, and a sample short visit from a ship, will certainly serve to convince the visitor that Malta is a destination deserving of a lengthier stay, and one to come back to.

Malta guided tour by Amy Pace
Cruise Liner in the Grand Harbour
St John's Co-cathedral Valletta, Malta guided tour by Amy Pace
St. John's co-Cathedral
Caravaggio Malta guided tour by Amy Pace
Caravaggio's Beheading of St John
Mdina Malta guided tour by Amy Pace
Extended views from outside Mdina
Tarxien prehistoric temples, Malta guided tour by Amy Pace
Tarxien prehistoric temples
Vittoriosa Malta guided tour by Amy Pace
The Maritime City Vittoriosa
Marsaxlokk Bay Malta guided tour by Amy Pace
Blue Grotto Malta guided tour by Amy Pace
Blue Grotto