An island with no railways
There are currently no railways in Malta. However, as the postage stamp above commemorates, there was once a single track metre gauge line on the island. It ran from 1883 until 1931 and connected Valletta with Mdina. The railway was known locally in Maltese as il-vapur tal-art (the land ship). Traffic on the line declined in the 1920’s due to competition from buses and little trace of it remains today.
We visited Malta in May 2015. We flew out on British Airways from Gatwick, hired a car at the airport and stayed outside of Valletta in a hotel near Manikata on the west coast.
We liked Malta a lot and even though it is relatively small we found it packed with things to do. We found driving around the main island very easy. On one of the days we took the car ferry across to Gozo and spent a day exploring there too.
Here are 13 things we saw and experienced in Malta:
1.Saw the Azure Window on Gozo
The famous limestone rock formation crashed into the sea and was lost forever in early 2017. We saw it two years earlier when it was still drawing in the crowds. It was one of the symbols of Malta and it was certainly very beautiful to look at.
2. Visited St John’s Co-Cathedral, Valetta
This is certainly one of the most beautiful cathedrals I have ever seen. It was absolutely stunning inside. It was filled with art works and its walls were covered in Gold.
3. Had coffee at the Café Cordina
I love old coffee shops and seek them out in any city I visit. The Cordina is a great example and has a terrific classical interior. It is located right in the centre of Valletta and serves good coffee and tasty local cakes.
4. Browsed at the Fish Market at Marsaxlokk
This fish market is held once a week and is quite an attraction for locals and tourists. The atmosphere was great and the fish was remarkably fresh. We had a good look around and then went for a delicious seafood lunch at one of the restaurants located opposite the market on the quayside.
5. Walked around Valletta
The centre of Valletta is mostly pedestrianised and is just great for wandering around.
6. Had tasty pies for lunch
There is obviously a lot of British influence in Malta. It is certainly evident in some aspects of the cuisine. They have some wonderful savoury pies to snack on including Pea and Ricotta pasties. Delicious!
7. Visited the “Malta at War” Museum
Malta’s role as an island fortress in World War Two is famous. The island was awarded the George Cross for its bravery and the design is incorporated into the current flag. The “Malta at War” museum tells the story of the siege and allows you to tour the air raid shelters and casemates to try to understand what it was like to be on the island when it was under heavy attack.
8. Ate Rabbit
Rabbit is one of my favourite meats and in Malta it is a speciality. We had it a couple of times over the trip and it was quite wonderful.
9. Drove around Gozo
Gozo has an even more relaxed pace than Malta itself. The car ferry is easy to use and, once on the smaller island, there isn’t a lot of traffic to worry about. We had a lovely meal in the quaint little seaside village of Marsalforn.
10. Drank at the British Pub
Whether British influence on Malta was a good thing or not is a question best left to be answered elsewhere. There is a lot of influence though and there are a lot of British pubs on the island. The most famous one is on Archbishop Street and it is where actor Oliver Reed had his last ever drink. It is worth having a beer there just to be able to check out the old naval pictures on the walls.
11. Watched ships entering Valletta Harbour
The harbour is magnificent. It is part of Malta’s history and the main reason for its strategic position in World War 2.
12. Walked around Mdina
The old capital, Mdina, has narrow streets and high walls. The sandstone buildings and huge moat are all beautifully preserved.
13. Drank Kinnie
The local orange soft drink is flavoured with herbs and spices. It has a somewhat bitter taste. It is refreshing though and goes down well with some of the local snacks.