VISITING VALLETTA (nicknamed Superbissima — Most Proud)
+ Capital of Malta. A UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’re such a quaint OLD city and essentially Baroque in style and character. Survived WWII and rising from the ashes. Magical Malta I call the island.
I like how it uses the grid system so the streets are easy to navigate since I have NO sense of direction. Valletta is HILLY though. I got a freakish amount of exercise just from roaming the streets.
The city has a bustling busy vibe with pedestrians making their way to work in the morning. We (us 4 travel bloggers) were working too – by starting off with getting breakfast. We were led to Cafe Jubilee which has an ambiance that reminds you of the 1920s and 30s.
+ Orders were to try a local favorite: Pastizzi — a Maltese savory pastry with a flaky crust. It’s usually filled with ricotta cheese or mashed peas.
Verdict? Delicious, fresh & filling + full of carbs for the morning ahead of us. I ate my fill knowing how out of shape I am but I needed the extra calories to survive the walking (sadly).
I took a liking to Cafe Jubilee especially since I returned a few days later to have another breakfast there.
Malta is a Catholic country = LOTS of statues of religious figures everywhere and a visit to the infamous St. Johns Co-Cathedral was necessary. Built by the Knights of Malta in the late 1500s and true to cathedral style- it is all gold + extremely ornate, and over the top. It’s a great example of Baroque architecture and really one of the best Cathedrals I’ve visited.
It’s safe to say that Maltese people know how to pray hard AND party hard. I like the balance.
There are even two paintings by Caravaggio. One depicts The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist — most famous work in the place and one of his masterpieces. The other painting is St Jerome III was previously stolen for ransom but somehow obtained back and restored. Yay!
Another notable feature of the cathedral is the inlaid marble floor which are the tombs of the knights. This was a good time to remember all the Latin I took in high school. I thought this was pretty kick ass. I want to be a “knight of Malta.”
I’m glad we didn’t visit during Mass since it would be pretty hard to look serious & pious while snapping pictures and hearing hushed tourist speeches.
Afterward, we strolled around Valletta and stopped for lunch at the Baia Beach Club. Lunch = scrumptious meats + cheeses with cold white wine. I am not a European but I must have been one in a past life. I drank more wine + beer than the other three bloggers combined during our trip. Granted, I did keep myself together and never got sloshed as it isn’t exactly the most professional thing to do while working + traveling!
This was taken at St. George’s Square. When the weather gets warmer, water fountains are turned on, there are kids playing and splashing around in the water. Fun forum to frolic in, hang out & pass the time. However, It was really windy + chilly the first day for us so I was really pushy in taking “breaks” to warm up in cafes – for hot chocolate of course.
We explored old dusty bridges that seemed abandoned and void of people. Take advantage and explore the hidden + dark alleyways splashed with color by the bright doors and door knockers. You might find a small hidden pub or shop with spices + wines. There is no need to worry about getting lost or finding yourself in a “bad neighborhood” as Valletta is all-around safe.
+ One of the tips while walking around the streets is to LOOK UP. An array of windows of all colors, spacious balconies, and exquisite detail in the architecture. How some of these buildings survived the bombing during the war speaks of its structure and quality. They don’t call it one of the capitals of culture for nothing.
I brought a pair of heels thinking I *might* wear them once (for a night out?) but if you’re in Valletta, I strongly discourage it. You’ll break an ankle or fall & bust your behind, no doubt.
The steps in Valletta are WIDE because back in the day, the knights would be decked out in full metal armor (going to war and all) and could not bend their knees to walk. Instead they walked with…straight legs. Similar to the Hitler stomp and hail thus large steps had to be paved instead.
Nowadays, this translates to everybody having to take one larger than normal step or two smaller steps to get to the next one.
If you visit Malta, there’s one drink you MUST try.
Kinnie – Malta’s local soft drink.
+ It’s bitter with orange and spice flavor. It reminded me of Blue Moon – the beer. Which was funny because when I was shooting with Matthew Iam from Hush Photography, he told me that locals drink Kinnie with ice + a slice of orange. So Kinnie is the non-alcoholic version of Blue Moon (to me).
Doors. Manyyyyy types of doors + fancy door knockers were all around the city. Erik – a fellow travel blogger took 20+ pictures of different colored and styled doors. A crazy hard feat in my eyes! I prefer posing in a few of them for some pictures instead.
I also kept imagining what lay behinds these dusty locked doors. An abandoned haunted crypt? A modern renovated 5-star apartment?
Something I noticed – the city is kept very clean. In the morning & evenings, shop keepers were seen SWEEPING the dust and picking up cigarette butts that were around their door steps to keep up appearances! Everybody doing their part for the city. *thumbs up*
Late in the afternoon, we stopped at a random cafe for a break + I had the chance to try the local beer.
+ It’s called Cisk (pronounced “chisk”) and the lighter version is called Cisk Excel. Not bad at all and I love the local Maltese wines even more.
Most of the restaurants + cafes in Valletta have free accessible Wi-Fi. This was a god send since you can’t roam around the city without doing a little bit of social media and checking in at least once. Then, it was nice to put down the phone, unplug, and simply people watch.
Later in the afternoon, we made it to:
Mdina – the old capital of Malta
It is a medieval walled town situated on a hill in the center of the island. It’s also known as the “Silent City.” It was pretty silent/quiet for us but I’ve heard that many tourists do not respect this rule and can get pretty loud. A travel trip is to visit it twice – once during the day and once at night.
We took a horse carriage ride to get a tour of the city and it’s hidden fortresses. I know it’s a pretty touristy activity but we didn’t have enough time to walk and it was fun to sit back + take photos when the horse stopped or slowed down.
I’m guessing Malta doesn’t have a very high population of Asian tourists so when a young kid (about 8 years old) saw me riding in the carriage, he stared at me among his group of friends and declared, “Chinese!” I’m guessing it was due to the fact that mainland China’s middle class is prospering, starting to travel internationally, and he probably would never be able to guess that I’m Vietnamese and an American at that.
Back in Valletta – we made it to the Barrakka Gardens (there’s two – the Upper and the Lower). These are public gardens and the Upper Barrakka Garden holds stunning panoramic views of the Grand Harbor overlooking the Three Cities. It’s a free attraction too!
If you are below, there’s a nice lift or elevator that will take you up and up to enjoy the views! The gardens had a nice sized crowd in the morning but weren’t nearly as cramped or crowded as I thought. Love it when you beat the crowds!
This little guy got so tired he couldn’t walk anymore! I was pretty beat myself after walking up and down the hilly roads all day. I did get the time to stop at more cafes and imbibe the white wine.
+ Advice for the ladies: bring flat shoes with tread. The paved stones are slippery (especially when wet) and going up/down hill and stairs can be detrimental to your safety at times.
The last stop for the day was in front of the Parliament building. The Prime Minister is very approachable in Malta compared to speaking or even seeing the POTUS (President of the United States). A Maltese citizen is able to meet and discuss issues or important matters as long as an appointment is made.
A fun candid picture sitting on the bridge entering Valletta. A travel blogger must always be on her mobile phone – tweeting, Instagram-ing, & facebook-ing!
+ All pictures of me are by Matthew Iam from Hush Photography. It was a blast collaborating to capture Malta & Gozo at it’s finest!
+ I was in Malta for the Blog Island Malta campaign. The campaign was created by the iambassador team with Malta Tourism Authority and the support of Air Malta. As always, no fakin in the makin – all thoughts and opinions are mine. Many thanks for the opportunity to discover + explore magical Malta!
Click Read More to see the rest of the Valletta gallery!