Malta: Mu­sic, his­tory and gas­tron­omy de­fine this cul­ture cap­i­tal

Malta has never been so di­verse in its out­look and is now at­tract­ing a mixed crowd of youth­ful fes­ti­val­go­ers and older cul­ture afi­ciona­dos. finds out more

Selling Travel - - Contents - Kathryn Lis­ton

The ochre ram­parts of the ‘Silent City’ glow be­fore us as my rental car makes its steep as­cent. Lo­cated high on a hill in the cen­tre of the is­land, the ro­man­tic city of Md­ina is a place I never tire of.

When you pass through the im­pres­sive

Baroque Md­ina Gate you step back 4,000 years to a time when me­dieval knights pa­trolled the nar­row streets of Malta’s first cap­i­tal. The lamp-lit labyrinth is even more mag­i­cal at night.

I weave my way through wind­ing streets ad­mir­ing beau­ti­fully-coloured Mu­rano glass dec­o­rat­ing shop win­dows on the way to St

Paul’s Cathe­dral, whose cool in­te­rior of­fers respite from the scorch­ing sum­mer sun.

Out­side there are palaz­zos to ex­plore, in­clud­ing 13th-cen­tury Palazzo Fal­son which houses an im­pres­sive art and an­tiques col­lec­tion.

My fi­nal stop is al­ways the Fon­tanella Tea Gar­den, lo­cated high atop the city walls, where stuffed ftira flat­breads and slabs of gooey gateau are as gi­nor­mous as the views over the Malta plains to­wards the sea.

City spot­light

All eyes this year are on Malta’s cap­i­tal Val­letta, as it cel­e­brates 2018 as Euro­pean Cap­i­tal of Cul­ture.

But it’s not only cul­ture that is ex­pected to drive vis­i­tor num­bers. New lux­ury ho­tels, a gas­tron­omy trail and flights from Belfast, Manch­ester and UK re­gional air­ports are tap­ping into new mar­kets.

It’s for good rea­son that Lonely Planet has also in­cluded Malta in its top 10 des­ti­na­tions to visit in 2018.

A €48 mil­lion pro­gramme of 400-plus con­certs, cul­tural events and ex­hi­bi­tions will take place through­out the year in Val­letta, whose his­toric sights and warm year-round cli­mate pro­vide an ideal city break lo­ca­tion.

Pe­ter Vella, Di­rec­tor UK & Ire­land, Malta Tourism Au­thor­ity, says Val­letta now stands along­side cities such as Prague as a fan­tas­tic city break des­ti­na­tion. Its suc­cess in win­ter 2016/17 led to a

40% and 20% rise in three- and five-night book­ings re­spec­tively, “and we ex­pect a sim­i­lar trend this year,” he says.

Su­per Break has launched three- - and four-night char­ter tert breaks in May and ndn June from six re­gional egional air­ports with­out di­rect Malta flights. They y are Hum­ber­side, Nor­wich, Durham Tees Val­ley, y, Bournemouth, Ex­eter and Cardiff. Prices start tartt from £549 for three nights (£599 four nights) hts) and in­clude flights, ac­com­mo­da­tion, lug­gage, age,a trans­fers and ex­cur­sions to Gozo and Md­ina. na.n

Julie Pinkney, Cus­tomer Ex­pe­ri­ence Di­rec­tor, ctor,c says: “We have hand­picked air­ports where e we can bring di­rect flights to des­ti­na­tions that are not cur­rently avail­able. This gives agents some­thing unique to sell.”

Pe­ter Cox, Pur­chas­ing Man­ager, Clas­sic Col­lec­tion Hol­i­days, says ho­tels in Val­letta are sell­ing well. The op­er­a­tor fea­tures the Ex­cel­sior Grand, The Phoeni­cia, which re­opened last year af­ter a two-year re­fur­bish­ment, and the newly-opened St John Bou­tique Ho­tel.

The Hol­i­day Place tips Malta as the next xtx hot place for young trav­ellers thanks to its mu­sic usic u fes­ti­vals. An­nie Mac’s Lost & Found dance and mu­sic fes­ti­val re­turns on May 3-6 with

“Malta is great for the youth mar­ket, par­tic­u­larly around St Ju­lian’s. The Isle of MTV fes­ti­val in June will wel­come per­form­ers like Clean Ban­dit and Wiz Khal­ifa”

Lau­ren Ross, Sim­ply Lux­ury by Travel 2

Main pic­ture: a door­way in the an­cient city of Md­ina. This page, clock­wise from top: Md­ina seen from a dis­tance; a retro bus; the Blue La­goon on Camino Is­land

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