Valletta, Birgu, and Sliema

We began our journey by taking the bus to the capital of Malta, Valletta. We got there at 8:45am, as we wanted to visit St. John’s Co-Cathedral but heard that the lines to get in are filled rather quickly (the cathedral opens at 9:30am).

Truth be told, even at 9:30am the lineup was very small, but that could be because it was a weekday and no cruise ships were at port yet (cruise ships usually bring mass amounts of tourists for the day, and there are often multiple ships at once). Still, your experience may vary so I would recommend going early to be on the safe side. By 10:30am the cathedral was packed. Oh and one last thing on lineups, while we were there waiting for the doors to open, a man in the front of the line started to complain and tapped his watch as it was 9:30am and we couldn’t go in yet. Countries in the Mediterranean such as Malta are a lot more relaxed than some other Western countries. Sometimes things take a bit the longer (in the end, opening time was 9:34am).

Once inside the cathedral, we were awestruck by the high baroque architecture, the rich flamboyant designs, marble floors, tapestries, and statues.

We used the included audio guide tour (given with the entrance fee), that takes you through 24 sections of the cathedral in great detail. It’s one of the most comprehensive audio guides I’ve ever experienced and I would recommend it over a personal guide. All in all, it took 2 hours from start to finish to complete the temple.

We then found ourselves at the Upper Barrakka Gardens, a beautiful park in Valletta that overlooks the sea. It was a bit crowded due to the cruise ships in port, but nevertheless it was a worthwhile visit.

At noon, a cannon is fired as well and you can witness the loading and firing if you make it on time.

We then proceeded downstairs via lift to the pier where we took a ferry to Birgu (1.5 euros each way), where we spent some time in the Malta Maritime Museum (great for those interested in boats, including ones from Roman and Carthaginian times to the corsairs of the 1700s).

This part of our journey ended at the D Centre Restaurant around the corner for some local beers (Chisk) and Maltese pizza.

While we were fairly exhausted due to the walking and heat, we did want to see Sliema so we hopped on a bus at the main Valletta terminal, and found a bar near the sea where they were offering 2 for 1 drinks. Afterwards, we decided to take more of the city views in and took a 40-minute walk back to our host’s house. 

TIP: Don’t hesitate to stop by McDonald’s for some great iced coffee (including Amaretto flavour among others unavailable in North America).

Compared to the rest of the Mediterranean, we found Malta to be fairly reasonably priced, if not cheap in some cases, when going out. Not once did we feel ripped off, and the service and food/drink quality is very good. In fact, if it wasn’t for the tourist sites in Malta (i.e., the cathedral, churches, temples, etc), it would be easy to spend under 100 euros/day and have a great time and eat well as a couple. If you are in Malta for a full week, you would be better off getting the Malta pass that gets you into all the sights and the 7 day bus pass that gives you unlimited travel.

Finally we spent the night in, having dinner with the new friends we made at our Airbnb flat. Our wonderful host made the BEST homemade pasta and salads we have ever tasted. It was a most unforgettable meal with conversation, laughter, and LOTS of wine. It was a great evening to top off a wonderful day.

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