I was keen to visit Mdina, the former capital of Malta, after reading about it in Kimberly’s post. I have to say it exceeded my expectations. You can explore Mdina in our photo tour.
In Valletta, the capital city of Malta, you’ll find the Barrakka Gardens; Lower Barrakka Gardens at the south east and Upper Barrakka Gardens on the south west of the peninsula. Both gardens have lots of character and provide a respite from the busy streets. There’s a cafÃ© at Upper Barrakka Gardens and both gardens have free public toilets.
Me in Lower Barrakka Gardens
The Captain Ball Monument in Lower Barrakka Gardens
Sculpture in Lower Barrakka Gardens
View from Lower Barrakka Gardens
View toward Grand Harbour from Upper Barrakka Gardens
The fountain at Upper Barrakka Gardens
Colourful flowerbed at Upper Barrakka Gardens
So if you’re in Valletta make sure you visit the lovely Barrakka Gardens.Â You may also enjoy my photo guide to Malta.
I’ve recorded a podcast summarising some things of the best things to do in Malta based on my Guide to Malta.
There’s more information on the island in these blog posts:
Cirkewwa Beach with boat to Blue Lagoon Beach
See all our Malta photos on Flickr.
Here are my tips for three beautiful, sandy beaches in Malta.
Mellieha beach lies in the north east of the island, just off the road to the Gozo ferry, which makes it very accessible. This was my favourite Malta beach; the water was calm so I enjoyed my swim there, although it was rather cold initially (we were in Malta in late May). It’s a good beach for kids as the water is shallow until quite far out.
I imagine that this beach gets very busy in the high season. I was surprised that we couldn’t find showers or public toilets here.
Paradise Bay is located close to Cirkewwa, where you take the ferry to the neighbouring island of Gozo. It’s easy to reach if you have a hire car, as it’s about one kilometre along a pretty rough road, signposted to your left just as you drive into Cirkewwa. You could walk there from the nearest bus stop but you’ll have to lug all your gear and get a mouthful of dust if anyone drives past. Even if you come by car there’s still quite a few steps down to the beach from the makeshift car park.
There’s a restaurant with views over the beach.
Golden Bay is on the west coast of Malta and you can get there by bus. We visited a couple of times as it was sheltered from the wind. I went swimming here but it was a bit choppy for my liking. The first day we went was a Sunday and it was hard to find a parking space as there seemed to be an event on at the Raddison Blu hotel. It was much quieter on a week day.
There are a few restaurants/cafes and public toilets here. The beach is spoilt a bit by all the black wheelie bins, I don’t think there need to be quite so many.
Boat to Comino from Cirkewwa
I’ve compiled a photo guide to Malta.
You’re guaranteed the lowest prices and free supplier failure insurance with sunshine.co.uk.
The walled city of Valletta, the capital of Malta, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980, has many buildings dating from the 16th century. Come on a walk with us though the streets of Valletta.
We arrived in Valletta on the ferry from Sliema, a ten minute crossing which cost 1.5 Euro per person for a single ticket. This is probably the most scenic way to approach Valletta.
View of Valletta from the Sliema ferry
It’s a quite a steep climb from the ferry up to the main street in Valletta, which was adorned with suspended stars during our visit.
Stars in the streets of Valletta
I liked the water fountain decorated with a horse standing on his back legs. It was a bit gusty to sit in the cafÃ© there though.
One of the water fountains in Cathedral Square
St John’s Co-Cathedral was constructed in the 16th century by the Knights of Malta.
St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta
There are three dials on one of the towers, one for the time of day, one for the day of the week and one for the date.
Three dials on Valletta Cathedral
We continued down the slope to the southern side of Valletta where there were many examples of traditional style architecture.
One of the streets was decorated with red garlands.
Red garlands on the streets of Valletta
There are religious sculptures on many street corners.
Religious sculpture in Valletta
There is a pavement fountain in front of the Grand Master’s Palace, the Maltese seat of government.
Grand Master’s Palace in Vallletta
The Armoury is just behind the palace.
Peaceful courtyard at the entrance to the Armoury in Valletta
View toward Grand Harbour in Valletta
I hope that you’ve enjoyed our photo tour of Valletta. I’ve also compiled a photo guide to Malta.
We stayed at the 4 star Soreda Hotel in Qawra on our Malta trip in May 2011. We didn’t have great expectations of the Soreda Hotel, as it cost Â£18 per person per night on half board, booked through sunshine.co.uk and the guest reviews were mixed, many saying it was more like a 3 star hotel.
Exterior of the Soreda Hotel
We arrived at the hotel one hour before the official check in time of 2pm. I tested the hotel wifi, which is available in the lobby free of charge, on my mobile phone while waiting to check in and the signal was very good. We were allocated Room 105; although I had requested a room on the top floor when booking on sunshine.co.uk, it is made clear that requests can’t be guaranteed.
Lobby of the Soreda Hotel
We were happy with the room size, general condition and facilities. The wardrobe space was generous with plenty of hangers. There was a fridge and tea and coffee making facilities. It did seem a little mean that the tea bags and coffee sachets were only provided for the first day, then you had to either purchase from a shop or at reception. There were a few patches of mould in the tile grouting and some stains at the bottom of the bath under the shower.
Room 105 a the Soreda Hotel
Room 105 is at the back of the hotel facing into a courtyard which was good from the point of view that there was no traffic noise. However there was no privacy on the balcony, as there were no screens between the balconies. Many guests in neighbouring rooms were smoking on their balcony, so we had to keep the French doors shut to keep out the smell of cigarette smoke.
I had a swim at the hotel’s roof top pool on our first evening. We were pretty tired that evening as we had to get up at 3am to reach Edinburgh Airport for our 7am flight to Malta, so we planned an early night. However it was not to be, as we seemed to be directly above the entertainment stage. The music was so loud, we couldn’t talk or watch TV. Now the entertainment did finish at 11pm. Many guests were staying on an all-inclusive basis, so were down enjoying the entertainment at the bar.
Roof top pool at the Soreda Hotel
After the second night of loud entertainment we decided to request a transfer to a quieter room. Reception were very helpful and offered us a two bedroom apartment in a block across the street from the main hotel, at no extra charge. It was such a relief to be away from the evening noise. The apartment had a double and a single bedroom, a bathroom with shower over the bath and a separate toilet with wash basin. The cooking facilities were limited with a small electric oven with 2 rings on the top. That wasn’t as issue for us as we were staying on half board.
Kitchen area of apartment at Soreda Hotel
Some of the electrical wiring in the apartment looked a bit dodgy, as the wires were not embedded in the walls. The cleaning of the apartment could have been a bit more thorough.
The breakfast at the Soreda Hotel was fine with a selection of hot cooked items including omelette, fried, scrambled and boiled eggs, bacon, beans, fried bread and sausages. There was also a selection of cereals, fruit salad (which was fresh fruit some days and tinned others), fruit juice (which tasted like squash), yoghurt, croissants, cake and bread. The tea and coffee machines were a pain, as they dispensed such small servings, a cappuccino and a small white coffee just filled up one cup. On the whole the dinners were better with delicious soups, an extensive salad buffet, various pastas, a carvery meat, one fish dish and a couple of other meat dishes. There was a good choice of desserts.
Dinner salad buffet at the Soreda Hotel
We spent another two nights at the hotel after our return flight to Edinburgh with Ryanair was cancelled on 24 May due to the ash cloud. We were able to stay on in the same apartment at a cost of 32 Euro per night per person on half board. This was quite a bit more than the Â£18 a night we paid when booking in advance on the sunshine.co.uk site but still a very reasonable price for short notice. Again reception were very helpful in printing our Ryanair boarding passes for our re-booked flight; this was only possible during office hours but was free of charge.
In summary, we were very happy with our stay at the Soreda Hotel and would rate it as excellent value for money. I probably wouldn’t be saying that if we’d had to remain in Room 105 with that thumping music for the nine nights. However the hotel did allocate us another room very graciously. I’d agree that it’s more like a three star hotel than a four star. I was able to pick up an excellent signal on my netbook on the free wifi in the lobby. The food was pretty good overall.
Keep It Real Travel Reviews – No Fluff
You can see all my photos and videos of the Soreda Hotel on Flickr.
On a visit to Malta, my family and I chose to base ourselves in the picturesque capital city of Valletta and to make our way around the island on Maltaâ€™s historic and remarkably colourful public buses.
If you’re based in Valletta, travelling by bus rather than renting a car to get around the island, is a viable option. Frequent buses leave the capitalâ€™s main bus depot at regular intervals for points all over the island. Check for updated schedule information at the Malta bus web site .
We found it a convenient â€“ and inexpensive – way to travel around the island, since we didnâ€™t want the hassle of (left-handed and chaotic) driving and we found Maltese taxis insanely overpriced. Our children really enjoyed riding on these colourful old buses and insisted on purchasing a souvenir toy bus before we left Malta.
The disadvantages? The Maltese buses can be crowded, particularly in the summer months and on weekends, and reaching multiple destinations can be difficult. You must often go back to Valletta to depart again for another destination. There was no air-conditioning, although we didnâ€™t find this to be too much of a problem, even in late June.
So decide what works best for your needs when getting around the pretty Mediterranean island of Malta. On our return, weâ€™ll definitely be back exploring the island on the yellow and red Maltese buses.
I’ve wanted to have a holiday in Malta for ages. As soon as Ryanair started flying there from Edinburgh last year, I was on the lookout for cheap flights. In mid December 2010 I saw flights to Malta in May 2011 for Â£65 return per person (hand luggage only and payment by Mastercard prepaid debit card to avoid the Â£5 per person per flight admin fee).
Grand Harbour in Valletta, Malta
At the start of January 2011, I thought it was time to get down to finding a hotel for our holiday in Malta.Â I was looking for half board in a 3 or 4 star hotel with verified guest reviews of at least 70%, which offered free wifi (at least in the lobby) for under Â£150 per person. We’re not too fussy about our accommodation or food and have been quite happy staying at reasonably priced hotels on many holidays.
I started searching on my favourite hotel price comparison site, HotelsCombined, which searches the databases of more than 30 popular travel sites.
HotelsCombined isn’t prefect if you’re looking for half/full board or all inclusive, as most prices are for room only or B&B. However, it’s a good starting point for an accommodation search in tandem with checking out the hotels’ own websites for photos, prices and details about facilities.
The four star Soreda Hotel in Qawra scored an average of 72% from 225 verified guest reviews (guests actually stayed there) and was priced from around Â£90 per person for 7 nights room only with free wifi in the lobby.
The Soreda Hotel
Next I compared the price per person for 7 nights half board at the Soreda Hotel, based on two sharing a double/twin room for 7 nights in May, on three sites which specialise in holiday accommodation.Â Below are the prices on 3 January 2011:
I booked the cheapest rate with sunshine.co.uk. Therefore the cost for return flights and half board accommodation for our holiday in Malta was Â£194 per person.Use the search box below to search for availability and price at hotels in Malta, sunshine.co.uk guarantee the lowest prices and offer free supplier failure insurance.
Now we’re not expecting great things from the Soreda Hotel. We’re realistic in our expectations, bearing in mind that we’ve paid under Â£18 a day per person for a room and two meals. Some reviews say that the hotel is more like a three star. However as long it’s clean, not too noisy, the wifi in the lobby has a decent signal and the food is OK, we’ll be satisfied. We’ll be out exploring the island, as opposed to spending a lot of time around the hotel.
Double Room at the Soreda Hotel
If you put together your own holiday buying flights and accommodation separately, you should to be aware that you don’t have the same protection as when you book a package holiday. You do get more protection if you pay by credit card for the separate elements of your holiday, as long as the price is Â£100 or more for each component. However, there are usually surcharges for payment by credit card.
Ferry to Comino
You’re guaranteed the lowest prices and free supplier failure insurance with sunshine.co.uk.
Iâ€™ve already written about the historical town of Mdina and the tempting swimming at the Blue Lagoon , but Maltaâ€™s history stretches far back, as evidenced by the Neolithic temples scattered around the island.
One of the best examples requires some advance planning, but it is well worth the effort. In the town of Paola, just outside the capital of Valletta, is the Hypogeum. The Hypogeum is an extensive underground shrine spread over three levels and built between 3600 and 2500 BC.
The temple was discovered in 1899, when routine work in the homes above the site revealed one of the templeâ€™s underground chambers. Excavations have revealed that over 7000 bodies were buried here. Artifacts and jewelry were also discovered.
The famous â€œsleeping ladyâ€ statue was unearthed in the tombs and the tiny sculpture is now on display for visitors.
To protect the delicate environment, including original ceiling paintings, only 70 visitors are admitted each day. I highly recommend booking online well in advance in the summer months â€“ tickets go fast.
Note that children under 6 are not allowed to visit. I was disappointed by this, since we had to take the tour in shifts in order to stay with our younger child. However, after visiting, Â I understand that the slippery steps and small, dark enclosures would be difficult to manage with young children in tow.Â The rest of the family will be certain to enjoy this fascinating Malta attraction.
The Hypogeum is open daily, 9am â€“ 5pm. Be sure to book tickets in advance.
Andrew Hunter of TripHunter gives us four European destination suggestions for chasing some warm sunshine in September and October.
“The days are getting shorter in the UK and as we reluctantly pack away the barbecue and mankini for another year and ask ourselves “Do I really have to wait nearly a year before I get some sun?” No you don’t.Â Here are my tips for Autumn sun in Europe.
Malta is far enough south in the Mediterranean to enjoy prolonged summer warmth. In fact, it’s on approximately the same latitude as Tangiers and Tunis, and enjoys the same type of climate well into the Autumn months. Easily accessible from the UK, Malta is a surprisingly biodiverse island with sandy beaches and rolling green hills, punctuated with honey-coloured limestone buildings give Malta it’s unique profile. Only 2.5 hours away from the UK, Malta is becoming an increasingly popular destination for Autumn sun seekers.
San Sebastian, Spain
San Sebastian, Spain
A surfers and cyclists paradise with temperatures keeping their head above 20Â°C well into October. The people are friendly, the bars and restaurants still vibrant in the evenings and the ocean swell begins to kick up at this time of year making it even more appealing to surfers and boogie boarders.
The Greek island of Santorini
Be sure to book your hotel in advance if you plan to visit this Greek island during September festivities Santorini, Greece.Â Captain Nemo from “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” once called Santorini “the mysterious island” and this observation remains true even today. Truly spectacular volcanoes, beautiful beaches (check out Perissa, Vlihada and Red Beach) and outstanding, if not pricey, hotels. You can expect the weather in Santorini in October/November to be a dry 25Â°C+ with most evenings still warm enough to wear a t-shirt. I honestly can’t remember the last time I wore a t-shirt on an English October evening.
Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain
Lago MartiÃ¡nez, en Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife by Robert
For predictable warmth, Tenerife is hard to beat. With only 6 degrees C difference between the average high and average low, you know you’re in for sunny days and balmy evenings. Only 3.5 hours flight away from the UK, Tenerife is accessible from almost every commercial airport in the UK and is serviced by a variety of different airlines.
So fear not, fellow Vitamin-D junkie, there’s sun to be found in Europe after Summer has deserted UK shores. You just have to know where to look!”