New Year’s in Malta

We welcomed 2016 in Malta, an archipelago nestled between Europe and Africa. Considered the Dubai of the Mediterranean, Malta is incredibly accessible, yet is not a popular destination, at least not for many Americans. It is an off the beaten path destination and one of the smallest countries in the European Union.

Where is Malta?

Where is Malta?

Playing with the statues in Malta

Playing with the statues in Malta

Arriving in Malta

We took the ferry from Pozzallo, Sicily to Valletta. But British Airways and Air Malta have daily direct flights from many major cities in Europe such as London and Zürich. From the ferry port we took a taxi to the center since it was 10pm and we were tired. But taxis can be expensive, a definitely better way to explore the island is using its colorful public transportation, which is very cheap and reliable. We made Valletta our home base and stayed at this Airbnb apartment. The apartment is beautiful, in a great location and fantastic views. So climbing a million stairs to the top floor (no elevator) was worth it.

Climbing the stairs to get to the apartment

Climbing the stairs to get to the apartment

View from our Airbnb apartment

View from our Airbnb apartment

Some interesting facts about Malta:

  • In addition to Maltese, English is also an official language
  • Maltese is one of the most complicated languages to learn. The alphabet contains 38 letters and has a strong Arabic influence. It sounds like Arabic but they use Roman letters. It also has French influence.
  • They use the Euro.
  • Malta has been passed between Arabs, Spanish and British. The result is a fantastic heritage mix that makes this place unique.
  • For Americans, there is no visa requirement to enter.
  • They drive on the left side of the road, like in England.
  • It was the most bombed place during WWII.
  • The Phoenicians got the color purple, which was the color of royalty from Malta.
  • Malta is not an island, is an archipelago. Put all islands together and you’ll get the size of Philadelphia.
  • This archipelago was located in a strategic location for trading for the Romans.
View of Valletta from Sliema

View of Valletta from Sliema

What to do in Malta?
These places can be easily accessed with public transportation, which is less than 1.50€ per person. I wouldn’t rent a car and would avoid using taxis as they can be quite expensive.
Valletta
Go to the churches, walk up and down the old streets, walk along the coast, see the fortifications. Kind of look like Old San Juan in Puerto Rico to me.
Valletta, Malta

Valletta, Malta. It reminds me of San Juan, Puerto Rico

Play with the (many) statues around the city
Alexis having fun with the statue

Alexis having fun with the statue

Take a Day trip to Marsaxlokk. A fishing village. Very colorful and cute. I bought Gyozo sea salt from here.
Marsaxlokk, Malta

Enchanting and colorful fishing village of Marsaxlokk in Malta

Visit St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta which was consecrated in 1578.  and look for Caravaggio’s masterpiece, The Beheading of John the Baptist.
St. John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta, Malta

St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta, Malta

We could not go to Paola or Gyozo because attractions were closed due to New Year celebrations, but I wanted to see at least Paola, so if you go, try to check it out.
Avoid Sliema if you can. This town is filled with English and Irish bars, and a bunch of concrete buildings. It is the most anti-authentic experience you can have in Malta. But from here, it will be possible to take a ferry to Gyozo, excursions included for 35eur per person.
St. Julien has nice views of the ocean, a beach and is good for shopping.
Sunset in Malta

Sunset in Malta

New Years celebration in Valleta, Malta

New Years celebration in Valleta, Malta

What to eat?
Maltese cuisine includes dishes with wild rabbit and lots of fish, especially sword fish. Other delicacies not to miss are the pastizi, the Maltese cannolo (very similar to the Sicilian, not sure what the difference is) and goat cheese.
Maltese cannolo

Maltese cannolo

The most beautiful gelato I have ever seen

The most beautiful gelato I have ever seen

Pastizi filled with cheese and spinach

Pastizi filled with cheese and spinach

Malta is a great place to spend New Years. Yes, most attractions are closed during the 31st and 1st, but if you go a few days before (or stay a few days after) you should be able to see most of the major attractions and still enjoy the celebrations, which by the way are over the top, with free concerts and lots of street vendors selling food and drinks. To save money, we bought the drinks, including the champagne, before hand and brought it with us.

With the hospitality of its people, rich history, vibrant nightlife, gorgeous beaches, and how easy is to access, Malta makes the ideal year-round holiday destination.

Valletta, Malta

The end

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