They say the best things come in small packages, and that’s true of Malta.
Only a two-hour flight from the UK, it’s ideal for a week’s holiday; small enough to see in a short space of time, yet large enough to cover a variety of attractions. Add to that neighbouring Gozo, with its tranquil beaches and pretty farmhouses, and you’ve got an ideal twin-centre destination. Here’s how to do it.
Day 1:The island’s capital, Valletta, is a great place to start. Admire the baroque architecture of St John’s Co-Cathedral; walk around the fortress or rise early for the colourful morning markets. More shopping is to be had on Republic Street or head to the nearby specialist shops, good for shoes, books and jewellery. Set on a pretty harbour front, Valletta also has plenty of restaurants for an alfresco meal.
Best bits: panoramic views from the Upper Barrakka Gardens; a leisurely coffee in the legendary Caffe Cordina in Republic Square with its floral baroque decorations on the ceiling or shopping in the open air markets (every weekday) in Merchants Street.
Staying longer: visit Manoel Theatre. Built in 1732, it’s one of the oldest in Europe, and has a 22-carat gold ceiling. If you get a chance to attend a performance, grab it.
Day 2:Smaller and more rural, the pace of life in Gozo is slower and the scenery greener. Operators offer helicopter transfers (15 minutes) from about £45 per person, or there’s a ferry (one hour), which costs £3, from the harbour. Take a leisurely stroll around the capital, Victoria, and enjoy a coffee in the main square. Check out the imposing Citadel.
Best bits: the view of the island from the Citadel ramparts; experiencing the bustle of the daily market on Victoria’s Pjazza d’Indipendenza.
Staying longer: spend a night at one of the old authentic farmhouses with their open fires and four-poster beds; a perfect complement to the mainstream modern hotels on Malta.
Day 3:Make the most of Gozo’s beaches, which are less crowded than those on Malta. Swim and relax at Ramla Bay (the biggest) or have an ice cream on the beach at Marsalforn Bay.
Best bits: the Azure Window at Dwejra Point – a naturally formed giant rock arch and a romantic alfresco dinner at Brookies, Victoria.
Staying longer: take a boat ride to the tiny Maltese island of Comino. Swim and snorkel in the crystal clear waters at the Blue Lagoon.
Day 4:Now fully relaxed, you can tear yourself away from Gozo to discover more of Malta’s charm. Wander through the narrow streets of Mdina, a short bus ride from the main resorts. Known as the Silent City, its fortified perimeter is a sight to behold. The nearby bustling town of Rabat makes a great end to a day.
Best bits: magnificent views of the island; take a stroll through the lantern-lit streets at night or visit the Cathedral Museum with its collection of woodcuts and paintings by Albrecht Durer.
Staying longer: a short bus ride from Mdina is the Ta’Qali Crafts Village, where you can watch potters and glassblowers at work and buy souvenirs for your loved ones.
Day 5:Take a short bus ride to Sliema for retail therapy. There are more than 600 stores including British chains such as Virgin Megastore. Head for Bisazza Street and The Strand.
Best bits: walking along the front on the new extended promenade with views of the harbour. If you’re up for it, nearby Paceville has dozens of all-night bars and nightclubs.
Staying longer: take a grand harbour tour from Sliema’s waterfront or recover from a night out at Spinola Bay, perfect for a relaxing waterside meal.
Day 6:Enjoy a day of pampering at one of Malta’s hotel spas. Try the Hilton, St Julian’s Bay, with its marine hydrotherapy bath and choice of relaxing body massages. Or if you (or your other half) prefer something more active, spend the day at one of the island’s golf courses – Marsa Sports Club or Royal Malta Golf Club – where day passes are available for non-members.
Best bits: lounging about in the spa, feeling refreshed and recharged.
Staying longer: book yourself into the Fortina Spa Resort in Sliema with its therapeutic spa bedrooms offering spa treatments in the privacy of your room.
Day 7:The pretty fishing village of Marsaxlokk is slightly more than an hour by bus away from the main resorts, but it’s an ideal place to relax on your final day. Buy lace and linen from the market – at its biggest on Sunday – take pictures of the colourful ‘luzzus’ (Maltese fishing boats), and sample fresh fish on the waterfront.
Best bits: a leisurely lunch at one of the waterfront restaurants serving freshly-caught seafood and white wine.
Staying longer: pack your togs and take a dip in Peter’s Pool or at Long Bay to the south and Island Bay to the north.
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