When you find a flight with a 24-hr layover in a city — you book it. No questions asked. This is what my husband did on our recent trip to England. We were attending a graduation in Nottingham, and on the way home he found a connection through Malta with a two-night layover that would give us the entire Sunday to explore the smallest capital in Europe – Valletta. And we did not regret this decision for one second.
The harbor city Valletta is probably best known for its colorful covered balconies — at least that was my image of Malta before we came to see for ourselves. Needless to say, it has so much more to show. Valletta offers a medley of British, Mediterranean, and Arab vibe — unique in all regards. The architecture throughout the city is an eye catcher longing to have its picture taken. Another mesmerizing place is the Upper Barrakka – the panoramic view of the Grand Harbor is spectacular and shouldn’t be missed.
We arrived on a Saturday evening and it was already dark out so we decided to get a drink in one of the numerous bars. We ended up at Kingsway Bar & Caffe where we enjoyed fabulous cocktails and a Maltese charcuterie. Just about the most perfect introduction we could have asked for.
Waking up close to 9am on Sunday, I was worried that we wouldn’t have enough time to see all of pretty Valletta. Boy, was I wrong. Valletta is so small that by 3pm we had already walked some of the pretty streets twice. Of course, we could have made it a point to visit numerous museums and churches, but we preferred to roam the lonely alleys soaking up the unique atmosphere.
We started off our day with an ahhhhh-mazing coffee, banana bread, and croissant at Lot Sixty One Coffee Roasters. Heaven almighty, they sure know what they are doing! The atmosphere is welcoming, the barista a lovely young woman with a huge smile on her face, the coffee smooth, and the pastries a dream. We loved the coffee at Lot Sixty One so much that after having it for breakfast in the morning, we came back in the afternoon to get some more.
For late lunch we managed to get a seat in the best steak restaurant, Sciaccia Grill, and had a tasty and hearty meal. Still dreaming about that juicy medium-rare sirloin! What was interesting was how things worked there – you don’t get a fixed menu to choose from but rather step up to the butcher’s counter and select your meat. The cook will guide you through your meat selection so that you end up with something you will truly devour.
In 2018, Valletta will be the European Capital of Culture. Along with the title comes much attention and the promise of booming tourism. Valletta is gearing up for it: Lots of construction is being finalized, and many stories of old abandoned houses being bought up and transformed into modern and stylish Airbnbs. We got to stay in one of them; a 400-year old traditional Maltese house – recently modernized, but with the old Maltese charm still in tact. It was an experience, and we can only highly recommend you do the same.
Twenty-four hours might be enough to visit the stunning capital, but not enough to see the entire country nor get a feel for the contrasts life on an island has to offer. I cannot believe how we could have overlooked this beauty of a country for so long. We cannot wait to return to this lovely place we have truly fallen in love with.