Malta, Malta, Malta. You sly fox, I almost didn’t see you there tucked down near northern Africa. You’re so small, I had sea views from the balcony of my hotel which was situated in the centre of the island. True story.
When you first strut up to the capital Valletta you realise that the entire island is basically a massive stone fort so you would have to be wacko to try and attack it. Historical naval burn on Germany and Italy. Malta is a funny one, let me tell you.
Get In My Belly
I had it in my head that food would be cheap in Malta as it is in, say, Spain. I am not sure if it is because both countries are located south-ish or because they both contain at least one vowel “a” in their name, but that’s how my mind jumped hard to conclusions with no basis of facts. What I should have realised, was being a 27 km by 14.5 km island, means there isn’t much space to grow those delish avos next to those organic, free grazing, mobile steaks that I so do enjoy. It also means that meals cost as much, if not more than in Amsterdam since everything needs to be imported. Don’t hate me but I was bamboozled into purchasing a kebab doner pita for I can’t believe I am typing this– 5.50 euros. YOU NUTS. That is what they charged in multiple shops so don’t you even tell me oh you got swindled. Ugh, and the supermarkets. I walked through the door-frame and cash just flew out of my pockets in an expensive breeze, smacking the British person behind me. This is where it gets weird. Many things are expensive but then you can find other things for quizzically cheap- Cisk (Maltan) beer for 2 euros for a pint, a rare breakfast in Valletta town centre for 3.50. It don’t make no sense.
For food, be cautious of those Google ratings. I think a lot of the reviews are left by British people who think brown sauce is a delicacy. I am not kidding you, I went to numerous 4.3-star (100+ reviewed) places and most were mediocre at best. I did have a few that were YUM to the MAX though.
Ik- Kartell Restaurant – located in Marsalforn Bay in Gozo. I had sick water views while dining on my salmon. My friend had lamb chops with mint sauce. Both YUM and huge portions. We couldn’t finish our sides, which has happened to me probably twice in my life.
Don Berto– located on the Birgu waterfront, it is a stunner. We ordered the cheese-twisted bread and the Maltese platter to share and both were fab. Excellent Maltese sausage and good portions. I had a little peeky-pook look at the other tables and the pizzas looked good as well.
Pastaus- This is on Old Theater Street in Valletta. Now it is hard to say how good this pasta was since it was the only pasta I tried in Valletta. But by my standards, it was quite good. I had the simple pesto and if you can wow me with a pesto well that is something. Expect pasta for 8 (small size, basic) -15 euros (daily special with truffles).
Piadina– Valletta again has a cute breakfast place where you can sit on tiny chairs and cushions outside. We went here three times for breakfast. It was cheap and really good food and coffee.
The Pulled Meat Company– This is another one in Valletta on South Street. Now, the name alone was what enticed me about the place but the steak I saw on their Facebook cover page is what sold it for me. It is expensive but if I can look past the dollar signs and into my taste buds it is mmm mmm good. We had two starters, the sausage and the pork balls. Both are full of flavour and delicious. My steak was a delight (although when he asked what sides I wanted I didn’t hear so I ended up not getting any). My friend had the cracked pork knuckle. It was quite fatty, as all pork knuckle is but that crackle at the top. YUM.
A word of caution, there were a few places such as Marsaxlokk on Sunday market day and in St. Paul’s Bay Easter weekend where we were hard-pressed to find a restaurant without a reservation. In Marsaxlokk we tried 5 restaurants along the waterfront at around 13:00 and all were fully booked. I am not sure if it was the timing or if locals reserve it all because they know tourists will be there but those are the facts.
My favs yum yums were the Maltese sausage and Twisties which are rice puffed chips like things that are covered in artificial orange cheese. I am aware I just ruined all credibility of my food picks by saying that one sentence.
Locals and tourists alike use the bus system since it is the only public transport on the island. At one point I saw a sign for a subway but I think that was the sandwich joint and not a metro type thing. The bus costs, on the off-season, 1.50 and the ticket is valid for 2.5 hours. In the high season, I think it is 2 euros. I say high and low seasons but from what I experienced, there is only one season. It is droves of people, all the time, everywhere in Malta. On Sunday, I wanted to see the market at Marsaxlokk. We waited for nearly two buses before we called it and took a taxi since we were at the first bus stop/ main station and the lineup was outrageous. We paid 25 euros to Marsaxlokk by taxi but we later found out that there is a taxi stand in the open area near that massive fountain at the entrance of Valletta, that charges set prices (20 to Marsaxlokk), which is more legit. We later, later found out that there is an app called Bolt (Taxify), which is the Uber of Malta. We used this service twice and saved big money (at least a few euros) when compared to taxis.
Back to the buses. The network is quite extensive but you need to be aware of the wait times between buses, the fact that roads are twisty and that the buses don’t exactly drop you off where the tourist site is. One notable moment is when we took a bus to see the Dingli cliffs viewpoint. The stop was called Cliffs. We thought this is a no-brainer, it must be the lookout. It turns out it was about 35 minutes of walking to the actual viewpoint and there was no closer stop. The buses came every 45 minutes or an hour or something so by the time I half peed in a spot that I thought was secluded but was actually just around the corner from the popular viewpoint and we took our 7 photos of the cliffs we had to rush back to the stop, 35 minutes walk away or risk waiting another hour. The buses were on time ish, sometimes 10 minutes late or so for obvious reasons once you are on them (they are required to go down tiny streets and driving seems to not be one of Malta’s strong suits).
To get to the three cities from Valletta, the ferry costs 2.80 return for one person and it brings you into Birgu from Valletta near the base of that one random elevator that you see next to the Upper Barrakka Gardens. They charge 1 euro to go up the elevator, FYI.
To get to Gozo from Malta, it costs 4.65 return by ferry (as a foot passenger) but you pay on your way back from Gozo to Malta.
One thing that I never thought I would say is- have a look at the Site Seeing Red Tourist Buses. They cost 18 euros a day or something but the route is basically all the major points and it would save you taking a car.
Get Your Eyes Checked
Things to see in Malta, things to see… in Malta. Malta sites. Valletta is quite picturesque, looking from the three cities’ side. The many bays with that Mediterranean blue water are also stunning such as at Marsaxlokk. I was itching to go swimming but with 18 degrees in April I wasn’t willing to freeze my titties off for that, as tempting as it was. Mdina is also chill. GAMES OF THRONES was filmed a bit there said every single person. I have actually never seen Game of Thrones and thought it was Game of Thorns when I asked for the book in the bookstore ages ago. I couldn’t get past page 200… you can start throwing your spears or dragons at me now. There is a dome in Mosta which costs 3 euros to enter but you can pay 5 to see it from the balcony and go into the war bunkers.
Malta has some randomly placed rocks known as temples but no one actually knows what they are. Tickets were 10 euros to Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra. In my humble, non-historian opinion, that was insanely overpriced and shouldn’t have been more than 50 cents to enter. I don’t mean to be dramatic but if you put these piles of stones next to the Roman Colosseum you would think the stones were some crap park bench. And rated so high on Google! Who are these stone-loving people? It was rubbish and probably the worst thing we saw on the island. That is saying something since my friend needed to poop real bad and so we paid 6 euros each to enter the Esplora science world for children to use the toilet. It turns out there was a free toilet outside the building. Those ten minutes were a more enjoyable experience than the rocks (for me, probably not for him).
Malta was a cute little getaway that would be better if you went during a time when the water was warm enough to swim in. Would I go back? No. But it was nice to see.