Don’t be embarrassed if you can’t pinpoint Malta on a map. It’s not on everyone’s radar, and mostly unheard of by Americans (and many Europeans). Malta is anchored almost in the centre of the Mediterranean Sea, 60 miles (96.6 km) from the Italian island of Sicily, which is linked to Malta by regular 90-minute ferry service.
Located just across the Bay from Valletta, Sliema was once a peaceful village, today Sliema is Malta’s most bustling urban city offering several attractions.
Sliema is also the main commercial centre of the island with an array of accommodation sites, restaurants, cafeterias, shopping centres and other leisure establishments.
The area is particularly busy in the peak season (summer) but everything still remains open in the off season being the main area of entertainment for locals.
Strolling around the main shopping streets, one will come across big international brands. Bisazza Street is the main shopping street.
Valletta - Unesco World Heritage City
Valletta, Malta’s capital city, is located on the east coast just south of Sliema. Valletta was planned on a grid-iron design with straight streets and others intersecting the main ones, creating a unique feel.
The main street leads straight down to Fort St Elmo. Apart from the main streets, most streets in Valletta are quite narrow and on steep slopes.
Open squares were planned to provide areas where soldiers could gather in case of an attack by the enemy and for other activities to be held. A popular square is Piazza Regina with its open air cafes and baroque style buildings.
The south of Malta is characterised by its quiet bays and fishing villages. It represents an authentic portrayal of the more traditional elements of Maltese culture.
The area is less developed than other parts of Malta, however this is starting to change; especially with the cutting edge commercial hub called 'Smart City’ and the new seafront ‘Lifestyle Development’ (with SDA status) of ‘Ta'Monita’ in Marsascala.
Residentially, the south has an abundance of charming ‘Houses of Character’, tucked within the many backstreets, and represents good value when compared to the more expensive areas of the Island such as Sliema.
The hugely historical and fortified ‘Three Cities’ are also located in the south of Malta and are made up of Cospicua, Vittoriosa and Senglea. This is an area that is scheduled for regeneration, but retaining its traditional charm.
For those wishing to enjoy the feel of a true traditional Mediterranean fishing village, then the Marsaxlokk fish market is a very popular attraction for tourists and locals who go to buy fresh fish and seafood caught during the same morning.
Mainly residential, the central Malta is also the “diplomatic” centre of Malta being the home to most of the countries' embassies and is also where the Presidential Palace (San Anton’s) is located. Many of the grand villas and homes are found in this area, some of which represent excellent value.
Nearby is Mosta. Mosta is without any doubt one of the oldest settlements on the islands, with archaeological finds dating to pre-history. Next to Mosta is Naxxar (pronounced Nashar). Naxxar is one of those villages where village-life has survived the order of the day.
Any time you visit you are bound to see a few old men sharing a bench outside the Band Club watching the world go by and the vegetable seller with his truck parked in a corner of the square shouting greetings at passers-by while waiting for custom.
The north of Malta features some beautiful landscapes and sandy beaches such as Mellieha, Ghajn Tuffieha and Gnejna Bay as well as the awe-inspiring Dingli Cliffs with its wonderful views and walks.
Overlooking the entire island is the majestic Mdina (also known as the Silent City) which is the old fortified medieval town and former capital of Malta that dates back to around 700BC.
Residentially, some of the most sought after and expensive locations are situated in this part of the Island including Wardija and the Santa Maria Estate in Mellieha.
Gozo means joy and a visit to this relaxed little sister island of Malta should bring exactly that.
Though separated from mainland Malta by a mere 5km stretch of sea (25 minutes by ferry), Gozo is distinctly different. The Island is a third the size of Malta, more rural and much more tranquil.
Gozo is known for its picturesque scenery, pristine coastline and untouched country trails. Baroque churches rise from the heart of small villages, and traditional farmhouses dot the rural landscape. Its culture and way of life are rooted in tradition and yet open to the present.
Developed just enough but not too much, Gozo is a masterpiece wrought by nature and shaped by 7000 years of culture. Myth and reality meet here on what is believed to have been the Isle of Calypso in Homer’s Odyssey, where the sea nymph held Odysseus (Ulysses) in her thrall for seven years.
The people of Gozo, still numbering just 30,000, have nurtured Calypso’s Island into the beautiful place we know today. Based on the values of sustainability and the need to protect and support the natural environment, the Government of Malta has embarked on an ambitious yet achievable vision of Gozo as an eco-island. The Eco-Gozo project, which runs until 2020, aims to encourage development in ways that protect the environment and social cohesion and retain Gozo’s distinct cultural identity.