Sadly not for public consumption.
This was another place I encountered on my travels round the Floriana District of Valletta (i.e. that area outside the city walls) and I mention it briefly here as the reader will not be able to enter it (as far as I know) but it is worthy of a little observation as you pass by.
This is the Robert Samut Hall, formerly a Wesleyan Church and now named for the composer of the Maltese National Anthem. I suppose this serves to indicate the stranglehold the Roman Catholic Church has on the island, possibly to do with it's associataion with St. Pail but I have not seen a functioning Protestant Church on the island and the ole 19thy century Protestant graveyard that I attmpted to visit was only open for a very limited time about three days a week.
I have only recently discovered what this building is, it looks like a Church and I approached it as such but it was securely locked and seemingly the meeting place for young lovers! As I mention, further research shows this to be a former Wesleayan Church which is now under Governmental control and used as a concet space. Certainly, you will be unlikely to enter unless attending a concert but the building itself is still worthy of a look as you pass by which is why I have putnit in htis category.
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It's not what you might think.
Many people who visit Valletta briefly are hustled round the obvious attractions of the old walled city and possibly a couple of places slightly outside but they really are missing out on a lot of intersting thngs. Take, for example, the subject of this tip, which most people will whizz past on the bus on the way into or out of Valletta to spend their € in the hugely publicized attractions there.
I have mentioned in another tip on his page the great benefit of following the Floriana walking trail, difficult as it is. Floriana is basically the area outside of the old walled city which calls itself Valletta. This was another interesting little place I found whilst trying to navigate round that trail. Certainly, for the visitor, you cannot enter the building but it is interesting to know a little about it's history if you wander past it.
A first glance may suggest that the building has some military connection and, given the islands very militaristic history, that would be a reasonable assumption. However, that is not at all the case. What it is actually is the Wignacourt Tower, named after a Grand Master of the Knight's Hospitaller who occupied the islands for so many years. In truth, it is nothing more exciting than a water tower, part of an aqueduct system bringing water from the higher ground of Rabart and Mdina. Prosaic it may seem to be but in times of military struggle, of which there have been many in Malta's long history, a suppl of water was vital.
As I have said, not a place the traveler with limited time may choose to go and see but if you pass it, have a look and remember what it was and how important it was to the defence of the island.
The images inlude those of a dlosed door, indicating that there is undoubtedly entrance to the place and a horse trough still supplying water to the horses plying the tourist route3s and therefore fulfilling it's original function.
Shou7ld you wish to find it, it is on Triqb Sant' Anna at the Weste end of that street.
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Shall we cage the nurses?
I was on one of my pretty random rambles round Valletta one day and walking round a fairly unsalubrious part of the Barracca Gardens I stumbled upon the "creation" you see in the image. Excusing myself to the young teenage couple who obviously had other things on their mind than a grey-haired old man with a camera, I set about examingin the thing.
The attached information sign indicated that this was in honour of Maltese nurses and midwives, unveiled in 2011. To be honest, I have the greatest respect for nurses and midwives as I suspect most of the world has. They are truly remarkable people and to honour them with something which, to my artisitcally untutored eye looked like like a particularly unpleasant cage from a 19th century circus is quite beyond my comprehension. Situated in a grubby corner of a local "necking spot", it seemed to me not worthy of those very honourable professions.
Well, I have given the information here and, if you want to go and visit, you now know how to do it. I should say that the views over the bay form this portion of the gardens are excellent.
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Floriana is both a town of its own and the suburb of Valletta. It was built as living space for Valletta, but at the last minute it was granted its own name and individual town status. It's surprisingly leafy streets feel much more relaxed than neighbouring Valletta, and has quite an English feel to it, especially the very British Wesleyan Chapel.
Perhaps the best way to experience Floriana is to take a stroll from Valletta's bus station through Maglio Gardens, and the snake your way down to the Waterfront. From here you can take the lift back up to Valletta many stories above.
Directions: Starts at the bus station in Valletta.
Like many Mediterranean cultures, the Maltese share a belief in the evil eye that brings bad luck upon those it gazes. One way of warding off the evil eye is by painting it onto the object you wish to protect, like your house, or in the case of the fishermen of Marsaxlokk: your boat. You'll find these traditional luzzo boats all over Malta, painted in bright blues, and striped in yellows, reds and ochres, but Marsaxlokk is one of the best places to see them. They'll often have two little eyes on the prow of the boat too.
Directions: Buses 81 and 85 run here from Valletta.
Rabat is the bigger than its Siamese twin town of Mdina. It's name derives from the word "suburb" in Arabic, a name it shares with the capital of Morocco, and once upon a time it was exactly that: the suburb of Mdina. There's not a huge deal to see in Rabat, but if you are visiting Mdina (and you should) it's a shame not to make Rabat a little side-trip. The church of St. Paul's in the centre is particular worth a visit.
Directions: Take a bus to Mdina. It's on the left side of the road when the bus stops (Mdina's on the right side).
Mdina is Malta's original capital and a very old city. While Valletta dates to the 16th century, Mdina was founded by the Phoenicians in 700BC. It remained Malta's capital until the island came under the control of the Knights of Malta in 1530. But the Knights didn't abandon Mdina, they just felt the whole country would be better protected with fortifications around the Grand Harbour. The Knights swore an oath to protect the city and country here, and after the city was severely damaged by an earthquake in the 17th century, they rebuilt the city.
Today Mdina is called the "silent city". It is small, and has a population of only 300 people. Cars are mostly banned. Its located on a hill in the centre of the island, and this allows it amazing views back towards Valletta and the coastline. It is small, but home to some fine buildings, especially St. Paul's Cathedral. Combined with its near neighbour, the town of Rabat, it makes a fine day trip from Valletta.
Directions: Take buses 51, 52 and 53 from Valletta or bus 203 from Sliema. Note that Mdina is the walled city on the other side of the park, and Rabat the town on the other side of the car park.
Qawra, along with Bugibba, form a single conurbation along St. Paul's bay about 20 km from Valletta. It has a beautiful coastline that's perfect for sunbathing, but not so good for making sandcastles as it has no beach. For me this area was the most touristic of all I saw in Malta, and to be honest I didn't like it much. I felt I could be anywhere in the Mediterranean - any tourist town in Greece, Cyprus, Spain or Turkey. There was no distinct character, although it was pleasant enough. It was full of big hotels, restaurants, new-build apartments and retired Brits buying rolling tobacco from the local newsagent.
There is one place worth visiting in Qawra if you are interested in cars: It has a fine car museum and it's only a short bus ride from Valletta.
Directions: Bus 12 runs to Qawra and Bugibba from Valletta via Sliema.
East of Valletta on Malta's northern coast is the town of St. Julian's. It's more like a suburb, though, as you can't tell where the town begins and where the adjacent town of Sliema ends. St. Julian's is one of the most touristy parts of Malta, full of English style pubs, British shops and franchise restaurants. There's even a Wagamama's here.
The coastal area is pleasant to stroll along in the evening, and it makes a nice walk from somewhere more central. It's also party central. The beating heart of this haven of pubs, clubs and restaurants is called Paceville. It has a reputation for drunkenness, and occasionally violence, but no more than you'd expect at a night out in England, and probably a lot less.
Directions: Buses 12 and 13 run from Valletta via Sliema to St. Julian's.
Birgu is the original city of Malta's urban sprawl, and its second capital after Mdina. It's older than Valletta. In fact the reason Valletta was built was to protect Birgu from attack: The Ottoman Turks laid siege to Birgu from the peninsula that Valletta now occupies. Birgu takes its other official name, Vittoriosa from Malta's victory in that battle (Città Vittoriosa or "victorious city"). Today it forms part of the history area known as The Three Cities.
The city grew out of a need to protect this Grand Harbour from attack. Fort St Angelo, sitting at the end of the peninsula and jutting out into the waters, was the perfect place for the Knights of Malta to build their new capital; Mdina was far too inland to be practical. Birgu continued to be strategically useful long after capital status past to Valletta, and the British navy made the city its base of operations in the Mediterranean.
Birgu was smashed to pieces during World War 2, but has been partially reconstructed. It's a little off the tourist trail, but combined with the rest of the three cities makes an interesting, and less touristy, day trip.
Directions: Take bus 2 from Valletta to Birgu.
Two Harbour Cruise
A cruise around the Grand Harbour is a must for any visit to Malta, and trips are easy to arrange from the Strand in Sliema where the water taxis go from. In fact you'll have salespeople falling over themselves to sell you tickets. In the off season you can even bargain the prices down a little if you have patience. A typical cruise of the two harbours will take about a couple of hours and cost around 10 and 15 Euros. It can get quite choppy out on the wild Mediterranean when you are switching between harbours, so pick your day and take a bigger boat if you suffer from sea sickness.
Directions: Take bus 12 or 13 from Valletta to the Sliema Ferries stop.
Tigne Point, Sliema
Recently redeveloped, the Tigne Point area of Sliema offers a quiet, traffic free walk along the coast, with the best views of Valletta in town. This is where Sliema juts out into the rough seas of the Mediterranean, so the breezes are fresh and cool. The walk is worth coming twice a day for, and best of all its kid friendly, with high fences, stone walls, and no cars. While they demolished the old barracks to make way from the shopping centre, hotels, cinemas and recreation areas, they left Fort Tigne, which you can visit on your walk around the peninsula.
Directions: Walk along Sliema promenade towards the sea.
There's not really a lot to see in Sliema, but what exists in pretty dramatic and unmissable. The view of Valletta is the best, taking in the spire of St. Paul's Cathedral and the dome of the Carmelite church at the best possible angle. When the sun shines its softened light from the west about an hour before sunset, this is the perfect time to be here and take pictures. It makes the ideal place for posing, and you'll find many people doing just that.
Directions: Take bus 12 or 13 from Valletta to the Sliema Ferries stop, or one of the stops before, and just walk.
With the some of the best views in all Malta, Sliema is a town sitting across the water from Valletta rising up onto a small hill. Here is one of the most affluent regions in the country, and a popular residence for monied Maltese. While the sea front is awash with shops, restaurants and hotels, behind this facade the place feels comfortably lived in. It felt more like a real town to me than St. Paul's Bay, St. Julian's, or even Valletta.
There's not a lot to see, apart from the amazing walk along the waterfront, but it's a great place to stay.
Directions: Buses 12, 13 and 15 run here from Valletta.
SAN ANTON PALACE KITCHEN GARDEN
The historic kitchen garden of San Anton Palace are newly opened to the public.
The garden, has supplied the palace with vegetables since the time of the knights. A large area had been in shambles for quite a long time, before it was decided to restore these gardens to how they were, and open them to the public.
The garden now has modern paving, new garden furniture and modern, artistic lighting for the trees.
There is a playing area and animal pens for a variety of animals including Shetland ponies, donkeys, ostriches, emu, cranes and goats, which children can enjoy.
The gardens, accessible from opposite the rear entrance of San Anton Palace – near Villa Bologna – are open daily between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and 5 pm. To 9 p.m. There is no break during the weekends.
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