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
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.
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