Day one – north of the island
The best way to get around the island is by car or bus. Public buses can be a little hit and miss, and often very crowded during peak season, however they allow you to travel to anywhere on the island for just €2 and tickets are valid for 3 hours. A Hop on Hop off Bus Tour is also a good option.
At the very north of the island is the village of Mellieha. Ghadira Bay is one of the largest and most popular sandy beaches on the island and an ideal place to partake in water sports including diving, snorkelling. paragliding and jet skiing. A little further north, on the Marfa Ridge is St Agatha’s Tower, also known as the Red Tower, built in 1649. A winding road will take you from the bay into Mellieha’s main village where you’ll find a host of shops, the Sanctuary of Our Lady parish church and plenty of restaurants to stop off for a bite to eat.
A short bus ride from Mellieha will take you directly to St Paul’s Bay. Alive with souvenir and gift shops, places to eat and drink and a wonderful promenade to stretch your legs (and enjoy an ice cream), the areas of Bugibba and Qawra are within short walking distance from each other, passing Malta’s National Aquarium on the way. Qawra is slightly quieter and, if time permits, pop along to the Classic Car Museum. The main bus terminus is situated here with buses going all over the island.
Seen from a distance is Rotunda of Mosta, famous for its huge unsupported dome and for having a bomb dropped directly on it during WW2 and not exploding, leaving the congregation inside completely unharmed. Explore the narrow winding side roads to see traditional Maltese homes, grab a bite to eat in one of the popular restaurants and visit one of the several local artists’ workshops often open early into the evening.
For something a little different, visit the silent city of Mdina by night. Stunningly lit up and even a little on the eerie side, this walled city is, believe it or not, even quieter at night. Enter through the main gates and meander through the dimly lit narrow roads to the sound of the church bells. A Maltese experience not to be missed.
Day two – south of the island
Mornings don’t come any better in Malta than those in the fishing village of Marsaxlokk, which is the largest fishing village in Malta. A daily open-air market takes place, offering everything from Maltese fig rolls to shoes; you’re sure to pick up a bargain or two. Sundays however, are predominantly dedicated to fish that is freshly caught to buy and served in the surrounding restaurants. With harbour views of brightly coloured Luzzus (fishing boats) and St Peter’s pool within walking distance, you can easily spend a full morning in this village.
Nearby Zejtun is the perfect stop-off to experience the tranquillity of a quieter Maltese village. The church of St Catherine was built around 1692 and designed by architect Lorenzo Gafà. Known as the ‘cathedral of the south’, this Baroque church is said to be the architect’s most beautiful and ornate piece of work. Hosting its own annual oil festival (Zetjun is one of the oldest centres for producing olive oil), you could do worse than purchasing a bottle as a souvenir.
Senglea is Malta’s smallest town, one of the three cities, and the peninsula stretches out into the Grand Harbour alongside Cospicua and Vittoriosa. The Look-out Garden (Ġnien il-Gardjola) has outstanding views of not only the harbour, but also Valletta. Dating back to the 16th century, Senglea (also referred to as Isla) still has many buildings constructed by the Knights of St John depicting the wealth of the time. If the views aren’t enough, there’s the Madonna Tan-Nofs statue, a statue erected at the time of the plague to show gratitude for Senglea being the only Maltese town not affected. The Cottonera Waterfront is home to numerous yachts and Senglea Basilica which was completely rebuilt following its destruction during the Second World War.
What better way to end 48 hours in Malta than in the capital? The shops and offices are closed, the crowds have dispersed, the sun has set and Valletta takes on a whole new feel. With restaurants, pubs and wine bars open for business, even the quietest of roads have something to offer. The waters of the Grand Harbour reflect the lights from the Three Cities. Plan your timing well and treat yourself to a show at the Manoel Theatre and end your stay in style.