Malta is not a very big island so it is quite possible to see much of it in a day.
It’s a lovely sail into the Grand Harbour in Valletta with excellent views of the city from every vantage point. Your ship berths right in the city and the Grand Harbour is at the doorstep of most cruise liners: a fifteen-minute walk to Valletta. There are a lot of cobbles and steps in the old town – pretty difficult with a wheelchair I should imagine.
Due to its small size, quite a lot can be seen in a day stopover. You should have a lovely day out without spending a fortune, lots of easy walking and picture opportunities. Definitely drop into the tourist office they have loads of stuff.
If you are flying into here and want to get to the port quickly and with no fuss. It costs €15 for a taxi to the Cruise Terminal. There is no taxi queue as such; you have to pay at the kiosk inside the terminal. The taxi driver will be at the kiosk.
Outside the port gates there is the usual offer of a HoHo bus at €10 per person and waiting taxi drivers offering tours of the island along with horse drawn carriages with prices varying from €40 – €75 – so worth a bit of a haggle!
There is a modern lift to get you to the battlements and saves a lot if uphill walking. Once you get off the ship, walk to the right past all the HOHO buses, cross over the road and walk until you see a gap where there is a modern lift. The high speed lift cost just €1 each return for adults and children are free. The lift scales the city walls and delivers you right into the historic city by the Upper Barakka Gardens. You exit into a beautiful flower lined square with monuments and fountains and viewing platforms to look down over the city and our ship below. By the way, they fire the cannon with a ceremony, every day at midday. Apart from the lift you could walk, quite steep, or ride in a pony and trap up to the town. In the main square on the hour there is a musical fountain.
Walking through the gardens brings you into Valletta. It’s a very small city and very walkable. A must, if you like churches & history, is the St John Co-Cathedral. Quite plain outside but serious bling when you get in. You get a talkie headset to guide you round. Then there is the Mosta Dome, the history of the building is fascinating. Also, the ‘Palace of the Grand Masters’ is certainly worth the visit. In the War Museum (which is well worth a visit) is the last of the trio of Gladiators – ‘Faith’.
From the Upper Barrakka Gardens, it’s a short walk to the War HQ Tunnels. For €15pp you have a tremendous tour of the tunnels, guided by WW1 re-enactors, which lasts the best part of two hours. It’s pretty tiring, and a long walk with nowhere to rest. Well worth it, though, if you don’t have any mobility issues. And apparently only about 10% of the tunnels have been renovated and opened to the public, so by the time they open the rest a full tour is likely to take a whole day!
For first time visitors – “Malta Experience” is a must and only just down the road from the cruise terminal.
Another option is the HOHO bus. 2 routes, red or blue. Red takes you around the island to Medina and other old towns. Very interesting. The blue route takes round the harbour and the blue grotto.
You can also visit the Popeye village, the water park and swim with dolphins. There is a very large market on Sundays in the centre of Valletta at the bus station.
From the ship, if you walk across the hill to the other side of Valletta (maybe 10 minutes) there is a ferry across to Sliema. Takes 15 minutes to cross and leaves every half an hour €2.60pp return. They have a new shopping centre in Sliema claiming to be Malta’s largest. It’s called The Pointe and is located very close to the Fortina Spa Resort and is about a 5/10 minute walk from the ferry.
You could also head for the bus station in Valetta and take the local bus to Sliema At the bus station in Valletta you go through the main bus station, down the hill and round to the left for the Sliema bus. The fare is €2 each way. Watch when you get off as Sliema is not listed on the bus moving signage. Look out for the M & S shop, or Captain Morgan’s bright red boats. From there take a 2 hour harbour cruise which is a great way to see round the Grand Harbour. €13pp. The cruise boats are across the road.
Book a guided tour to the Three Cities (Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua) or to the “silent city” of Mdina. There is also the Crafts Village in Ta’ Qali to visit. If you get the time take a bus to Marsaxlokk – it is a beautiful fishing village with restaurants on the quayside selling great fish and chips!
For the more adventurous try the helicopter trip around the island. Book it through Malta Air Trips. You will fly to Gozo and then back round Malta. The pilot is knowledgeable about wartime stories etc. One of the highlight is was flying back over the Grand Harbour and buzzing the ships.
On a non-alcoholic note – there is an ice cream place (with bakery attached) near M&S which does orange cheesecake ice cream – delicious.
By Peter Dagnall
See our holiday photos click here.